The following are examples of employers who embody leading practice on Indigenous diversity:
- National Australia Bank
- The Australian Federal Police
- More Reconciliation Action Plans (RAPs)
- National Partnership Agreement on Indigenous Economic Participation
- The Australian Employment Covenant (AEC)
- Commonwealth Bank on supplier diversity - click here.
Stephanie Rice, Manager, Indigenous Finance and Development at National Australia Bank talked to Diversity Matters about the bank’s approach to attracting and retaining Aboriginal talent in its latest Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) and the lessons it has learned from its previous RAPs.
What are NAB’s business drivers for attracting and retaining Aboriginal talent?
NAB’s strategy focuses on building access to real jobs that are long lasting and delivered in a sustainable way; providing greater access to financial products and services; and building our organisation’s understanding and awareness of Indigenous peoples, cultures and aspirations.
NAB’s commitment to providing ‘real jobs on the ground’ through our Indigenous employment program supports Indigenous aspirations to work in the corporate world and supports NAB’s Diversity Inclusion agenda. It demonstrates our values as a socially responsible bank, and there is a clear business case for recruiting locally, attracting a broader pool of talent and the associated cost savings.
Indigenous employment helps improve social and economic well-being by providing individuals with a regular income as well as enabling self determination which has a positive flow on effect in the community.
What key activities and programs do you have in place to attract and retain this talent?
NAB’s Indigenous employment strategy involves providing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander candidates with multiple entry points to the bank. We offer traineeships – School-Based Traineeships in our retail branches and full-time traineeships in our Business bank. There are also a number of internships in our Wholesale bank. NAB sponsors an MBA scholarship and also seeks Indigenous graduates, providing a source of Indigenous talent for a diverse range of roles in the bank.
Since the program began, our organisation has become more aware of Indigenous disadvantage, communities and cultures. This has been a key component in attracting and retaining Indigenous talent.
Our cross-cultural awareness program is helping our Branch Managers and branch staff become more familiar with the challenges faced by School-Based Trainees. Support is also available from our centrally-based Indigenous employment program managers who are on hand to assist the Business bank and Personal bank during challenging times. NAB’s retention rate is currently 65%. Our goal of placing those who successfully complete their traineeship in permanent positions at NAB is beginning to come to fruition.
At the launch of our third RAP on 18 April, NAB Group CEO Cameron Clyne and Dr Chris Sarra, Co Chair of NAB’s Indigenous Advisory Group presented four trainees from NSW with special lapel pins recognising all their hard work and congratulating them on gaining a permanent position at NAB.
What about career development and progression for Aboriginal people?
NAB supports its employees with career development and progression through access to a wide range of training programs, leadership and talent development plus a regular Individual Performance Development process. A recent employee survey showed one in five NAB employees identified NAB’s commitment to corporate responsibility as a key factor in deciding to join the organisation. After two years of focusing on Indigenous employment we have gained 118 Indigenous employees on NAB’s books. Our role is to support our employees to provide them with the training, skills and experience to win jobs on their own merit. During the coming years we will see our Indigenous employees continue to build their careers. With some having their eyes on the ‘top prize’ we may even see the first Indigenous CEO of a major financial institution in Australia in the future.
NAB has just released its third RAP – how does it differ from the first two and what have you learned along the way, especially on the employment side?
NAB’s third RAP renews and deepens our commitment to Indigenous Australia and shows the progress we’ve been making. We now have more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees in our retail branches and Business banking centres. We’re extending the reach of our microfinance products in Indigenous communities and we’ve provided Indigenous Money Mentors to help community members better manage their finances and build their financial literacy.
Our third RAP aims to ensure Indigenous programs become ‘business as usual’. Our programs have grown over the last two years from a standing start in 2008 when our first RAP was launched. NAB began with ten trainees and has grown its number of Indigenous employees to over 35 in 2009, and to over 70 at the end of 2010. We currently have 118 Indigenous employees working in head office senior roles, as well as school-based and full-time traineeships.
How does NAB evaluate success?
The University of Canberra has been monitoring the progress of Indigenous trainees over the last two years as part of a longitudinal study. The purpose of the study is to track the career and personal development of Indigenous employees following the Guiding Principles of the Social and Emotional Wellbeing Framework 2004 for Indigenous people.
The research captures the experience of managers, trainees and employees, as well as the trainers and educators. It has revealed the challenges trainees face making it harder to complete the traineeship. The study has shown that, for successful trainees, the program has been life-changing by encouraging them to complete their formal education and consider their future. In addition, the study raises issues each year and provides recommendations, helping to improve outcomes for trainees and employees.
What future plans for ongoing review/further development do you have?
Our third RAP contains an additional strategic focus on the opportunity to support economic and social development through native title opportunities in northern Australia. This ambition will see NAB leverage its strengths to work with traditional owners in the Pilbara, Kimberley and the Northern Territory to take advantage of emerging opportunities. Indigenous employment will be an important outcome in realising these objectives.
NAB’s Indigenous employment program will continue to grow and bring more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in to work for the bank. The profile of our staff is becoming more reflective of the communities we operate in. We have begun to see our more senior Indigenous employees informally mentoring the younger trainees coming through – an indicator that times are changing.
What key learnings would you advise other organisations if they were embarking on similar programs?
Indigenous employment is challenging and appropriate support mechanisms need to be in place. Adequately resourcing the program ensures its long term sustainability and it not being simply the work of a few passionate employees who are at risk of burn out. While challenging, it enables real participation of our people who are keen to support and help make a difference – directly in the communities they operate. This is significant, when for the first time in some of our regional branches there is an Aboriginal person behind the counter serving customers. Our people are proud of what’s changing and how they’re actively making Australia a better place.
Source: DCA's Diversity Matters May 2011.