Kelly J. Lendsay

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace aren’t just buzzwords. They’re necessary business strategies.

President and CEO, Indigenous Works

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Kelly J. Lendsay | President and CEO, Indigenous Works
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

Indigenous leader Kelly J. Lendsay talks about real social and economic inclusion for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities. By inspiring government, business, and Indigenous people to overcome exclusion barriers, he shows how we can reclaim our shared values, take responsibility without shame or blame, and recognize our Indigenous workforce as one of our most valuable resources. 

Kelly J. Lendsay is internationally recognized as one of Canada’s foremost innovators of Indigenous workplace inclusion, diversity, and corporate engagements. He has brought his message of the power of relationships and partnerships to more than 250 audiences in Canada and abroad. As the inaugural President and CEO of Indigenous Works (formerly the Aboriginal Human Resource Council), Kelly has worked to grow and engage corporate Canada in Indigenous workplace inclusion since 1998, developing the council into an ISO-certified national social enterprise. He leads the council’s new national charity, Kochita, designed to empower Indigenous youth to reach their resource and career potential. He has also served on more than a dozen corporate, crown, and non-profit boards in Canada and won a 2015 National HR Award for Best Diversity Program. 


“Charisma, intelligence, and credibility are his brand. He is a passionate storyteller, often spontaneous, and captivates an audience’s imagination and attention ... His strong stage presence and demeanor translates into an unforgettable impression and experience. Don’t miss an opportunity to hear this outstanding leadership-in-action speaker.”

— Charles S. Coffey, Officer of the Order of Canada

Lendsay launched the first Indigenous business education program in Canada, which included the first MBA with a specialization in Indigenous Management at the University of Saskatchewan. There, he redefined the role Canadian universities can play in developing an indigenous economy. He was co-recipient of the Canadian Institute of Management’s Around Outstanding MBA Graduate Award, recipient of the Xerox “Excellence in Leadership National Award,” and appointed a Distinguished Lecturer by the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum. He is also an alumnus of the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Tour and a graduate of the Director Education Program, hosted by the Institute of Corporate Directors, Rotman’s School of Management. Lendsay was named one of the “100 Alumni of Influence” by the U of S; his accomplishments have been recognized for influencing the growth and development of the university, the province, and the world during the last century.   


“I attended the NWT Chamber of Commerce Business Conference in Yellowknife and had the pleasure of hearing Kelly Lendsay speak on Inclusion Leadership. I was inspired by his enthusiasm and passion for Indigenous issues. It motivated me to get more involved as I pursue new career options. I believe that all organizations would benefit from Kelly’s message and the important role of the Aboriginal Human Resource Council in nurturing relationships and partnerships with Indigenous people and businesses in the community and workforce.”

Industry Canada

“Kelly’s unique presentation style engages audiences and gets them to think critically. His message is powerful because of his passion and ability to connect to others. Our audience rated him as one of the top speakers at our Annual Conference!”

International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans

Speech Topics

Inclusion Leadership The Power of Partnerships, Who is Leading, and Why

Drawing on decades of work in national and international Indigenous workplace inclusion, Kelly delivers a positive and powerful keynote on how organizations can nurture their inclusion initiatives. He shows how harnessing the power of partnerships can create new social and economic prosperity for Indigenous and Non-Indigenous communities alike.

Using storytelling, humour, and a firm grasp of history to address the negative aspects of Canada’s history of Indigenous exclusion, Lendsay demonstrates how Indigenous communities are adopting a business attitude, and how Canadian companies can provide global leadership for those building pathways toward workplace inclusion. He demystifies what some view as complex issues, bridges understanding, illustrates global connections regarding Indigenous employment and education, and explores customized workplace inclusion solutions for mutually beneficial partnerships.

Although the resource sector has led the charge on building positive business relationships with the Indigenous community, Kelly will showcase how other sectors of the economy are also embracing this business model. Ultimately, he demonstrates how economic resilience is a result of solid Indigenous partnerships—in regional, national, and global economies.

Corporate Culture
The New ROI Discovering the Return on Investment in Indigenous Workplace Inclusion

Today, there are more than 50 corporations aligned with Indigenous Works’s Leadership Circle partner program. In this keynote, Kelly J. Lendsay platforms how a wide range of companies within diverse sectors can create and maintain a competitive advantage—and increase their ROI—through Indigenous workplace inclusion.

He shows how organizations can climb Indigenous Works’s seven-stage Inclusion Continuum to harness the power of a nine-point diagnostic framework, an analysis to review all competencies of an enterprise, including: investments & resources, organizational culture, and employee engagement. And he articulates how they can benchmark their inclusion efforts, accelerate their workplace performance, and create a new ROI—a return on investment, inclusion, and integrity.

Diversity & Race
Indigenous Youth Tapping into Canada’s Underleveraged Human Resource
Since 1998, Kelly J. Lendsay has been instrumental in implementing workforce readiness strategies to build capacity in Canada’s Indigenous workforce. Throughout this talk, Lendsay will share the rich history of Canada’s Indigenous workforce—its assimilation, and its renewal. Today, more Indigenous youth are completing high school and obtaining a post-secondary degree than ever before. Their contribution to the workforce is critical, not only to their economic futures, but to the improved health of our businesses, country, and the global economy. Lendsay will inspire employers to look at meaningful ways young Indigenous employees can contribute to the workforce, and solutions to help grow and access a resilient Indigenous talent pool: Canada’s youngest, and fastest growing, next generation. His talk will include stories and testimonials from Indigenous youth from across Canada who have participated in the annual Indigenous recruitment fair, Inclusion Works—and those who have gone on to have successful careers and do incredible things.