Sixteenth Annual Report to the Prime Minister on the Public Service of Canada
Table of Contents
This is my fourth report on the public service since I assumed my duties as Clerk of the Privy Council, Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the Public Service of Canada in March 2006.
I am submitting this report in an economic environment in which the challenges facing the Government of Canada and Canadians are dramatically different from what they were a year ago. At no time has the Government needed a professional, non-partisan public service more than today, as we face the most difficult international economic circumstances in recent history. The world is experiencing the first synchronized global recession in more than 60 years, exacerbated by severe strains on international financial markets. In such circumstances, the Canadian economy is also in recession, with increasing job losses, and reduced confidence on the part of business, investors and households.
Working with other countries, the provinces and territories, and the Canadian business community, the Government of Canada has responded with budgetary measures aimed at stabilizing the financial system and providing stimulus to support the economy. In this process, ideas, advice and implementation experience from the public service – from every department and agency with policy or program capacity relevant to the difficult situation facing this country – are essential. I am proud of the contribution being made by so many of my fellow public servants.
It is my job as Clerk of the Privy Council to see that Canada's public service is both responsive and responsible in providing professional advice and support to the Government. This is why, when I took up my duties in 2006, I made public service renewal my top management priority. It was clear that if the public service was to continue to play its essential role in the country, we would need to place a significant, long-term focus on renewal – not only in attracting new recruits to replace people retiring, but also in developing and renewing the capacities of those continuing their careers, and in looking for new skills and new ways of doing things to meet the future challenges.
In my travels across Canada over the past 12 months, and in dozens of meetings with public servants and with groups from outside government, I have stressed that renewal is not just another human resources initiative. It is, above all, about the business of government. It is about enabling public sector institutions to do a better job for Canadians.
The business of government has become markedly more complex than in the past. Today, almost every department and agency must deal with global challenges, using new tools and asking people to work in new ways – in integrated teams, often across organizational boundaries.
In tackling these new challenges, our goal is not to make the public service more like the private sector. Government has a different purpose, different values and different measures of success. The bottom line for public servants is not profit, but service – making a difference to Canadians. Think, for example, about the concept of “service excellence” for the people in the Passport Office. For them, good service means not only providing a timely, affordable product to the person at the counter, but also providing a document that benefits all Canadians by protecting the security of Canada.
We should all take pride in the fact that what we do in our various jobs is difficult, often in ways that are unique to the public sector, and important to Canadians.
As we enter 2009, we are several years into a renewal effort that will continue for as far ahead as can be foreseen. I would like to use this report to highlight what has been accomplished over the past 12 months, and at the same time to point to areas where we may not have done as much as was envisaged. The report will provide in Annex A a demographic snapshot of the federal public service, and will also set out specific objectives for renewal for the coming year.
In Section II, the report describes the progress of renewal in 2008 against the objectives set in last year's report. Section III discusses the specific challenges of renewal in the current environment. It also addresses the reciprocal expectations and obligations that unite managers and employees throughout the public service, as a way of clarifying both expectations and opportunities for change in the workplace. Section IV sets out the themes and specific objectives of the renewal agenda for the coming year.
As we move ahead, we should remember that public service renewal is above all a collective effort. Across government, people are learning from one another about where change is needed; about what works and what doesn't; and about how best to join their efforts in creating a public service in which dedicated employees can fulfill their potential as servants of their country.
That's an extraordinary opportunity for all of us.
On February 6, 2009, the Prime Minister announced important changes to improve the management of human resources in the Public Service of Canada. Those changes respond to the recommendations of the Prime Minister's Advisory Committee on the Public Service, in its 2008 report. The Committee found that the existing human resources governance regime was “overly complex, with multiple players and a resulting burden of duplicative and often unnecessary rules.” It recommended changes in the human resources governance structure to make it simpler, more streamlined and more coherent.
This is what the Government has done with the changes it recently announced. Effective March 2, 2009, the Canada Public Service Agency (CPSA) and the elements of the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) that deal with compensation and human resources matters were consolidated into a new office headed by a new Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO). The new office is being housed within the Treasury Board Secretariat, in much the same manner as the Office of the Comptroller General. Henceforth, the central agencies responsible for human resources management will now focus only on activities that must be carried out corporately.
These organizational changes reflect the fundamental responsibility of deputy ministers for people management in the public service. They will provide deputies and their management teams, working with the support of human resources professionals, with clear responsibility to manage their people fully and effectively, and the flexibility to do so.
Additional details on the new human resources governance structure can be found in Annex B.
Progress Against Commitments1
In my 14th Report, in 2007, I set out the four pillars of public service renewal – planning, recruitment, employee development and enabling infrastructure. These themes were joined in last year's report by the over-arching theme of employee engagement, about which I will say more in Section IV.
In looking back on what we have achieved to date, I want to emphasize that there are no “magic bullet” solutions to the challenge of public service renewal. The key to success is sustained progress over time. And overall, I am pleased to see progress in all categories of activity.
Much of this is to the credit of deputies and other senior managers who have been working at a departmental or system-wide level. But as renewal broadens out, we are increasingly seeing progress at the branch or unit level within departments and agencies, and also by groups of employees working in functional communities, regional councils and employee networks. These public servants are taking charge of their future in a very constructive way.
The key to effective human resources planning in departments and agencies is integration with overall business planning. This was why we created the Expert Panel on Integrated Business and Human Resources Planning, under the chairmanship of former Ontario Cabinet Secretary Tony Dean. The panel was asked to review the 2007-08 integrated business and human resources plans prepared by departments and agencies and to identify best practices and lessons learned.
In its November 2008 report,2 the panel made four key recommendations on integrated planning that will be guiding the work of deputy ministers over the coming months. The panel pointed to the need for:
- top-level affirmation of the importance of integrated planning in shaping a full range of choices for delivering on key business goals;
- having deputy ministers drive integrated planning and model integrated behaviours;
- sharing experience and learning from existing successes in integrated planning; and
- central agencies to support and facilitate integrated planning by departments and agencies.
This is common sense of a high order, and we are very grateful to the panel for its work. We intend to use this report as a yardstick for our assessment of progress in integrated business and human resources planning over the coming years.
I am pleased to see that, as the panel observed, integrated planning is becoming better established across government. Since 2007-08, deputy heads have been required to develop integrated plans and make them available to employees on departmental websites. These plans are to include employment equity strategies. The quality of the plan and progress against commitments are evaluated by the TBS in the annual Management Accountability Framework (MAF) assessment exercise.
While we have clearly made essential progress in improving human resources planning, the challenge now for every institution is to deliver on those plans in ways that make a demonstrable improvement to the business of the organization and the working lives of employees. This will be the future focus of our attention.
Two commitments on recruitment were set out in last year's Renewal Action Plan. The first was that deputy ministers and deputy heads would make offers to at least 4,000 post-secondary graduates for indeterminate positions in their organizations. This goal was exceeded; by March 2009, offers had been made to more than 4,200 graduates.
The second commitment was to strengthen the public service “brand.” One proposed initiative in this regard was to develop a website friendly to job-seekers, to be operational by the end of 2009. This project is moving forward, though proceeding slower than we might have hoped.
Another promising initiative we undertook was holding career fair pilots at four universities. These events were held at Waterloo, Dalhousie, Victoria and Sherbrooke in the fall of 2008. Deputy ministers of hiring departments and agencies were there, with their managers and human resources professionals, to meet with prospective employees. The job fairs also had a branding element, showing graduating students that Canada's public service is a committed and interesting employer, offering a wide variety of attractive careers. They also demonstrated how the universities and the public service can be effective partners in developing career opportunities for graduates.
Effective recruitment means more than just getting good people on our roster. It's really about getting the right people in the right jobs at the right time to meet the business needs of public sector organizations.3 It is also a matter of reaching out across the country to ensure that the public service benefits from the widest possible spectrum of future talent, and that it reflects the true diversity of people, skills and ideas in this country.
In recent years, we have made significant progress in increasing the representation of members of all four employment equity target groups – women, Aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities and members of visible minority groups.
But there is more to be done, especially in terms of ensuring adequate representation of Canada's diversity at executive levels of the public service. This issue has been discussed by the Prime Minister's Advisory Committee, where we have benefited greatly from the ideas of interested people from inside and outside government.
To add practical impetus to our efforts, I have asked an experienced deputy minister, Monique Collette, President of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), to develop new and pragmatic approaches to improve diversity, and to foster full recognition and usage of Canada's two official languages in the workplace. Next year's report will present the results of her work and how they should shape our approaches in the future.
Last year, deputies and deputy heads were asked to ensure that supervisors hold feedback sessions with their employees on performance, career development and related learning needs. They were also asked to expand the talent management approach already implemented for assistant deputy ministers to their entire executive cadre by March 2009.
With only a few exceptions, both of these commitments have been met. The challenge now is to make these performance tools more effective for managers and employees.
Another commitment was to strengthen our management development programs. Here too, progress was made.
- Deputies have approved a comprehensive framework for leadership development programming in the public service, and are now considering specific measures to strengthen and refine development programs.
- Our commitment to place a second group of 25 promising senior leaders into the Advanced Leadership Program (ALP) was also met. The ALP is a new initiative that combines classroom learning with on-the-ground exposure to major issues in Canada and the world.
- To engage younger public servants as future policy leaders, we have asked 150 employees to prepare an assessment of the principal challenges facing Canada in 2017 and their implications for the public service. This exciting project, aimed at Canada's 150th anniversary, is well under way.
Deputy heads were asked to apply a rigorous performance management approach to their senior executives, including clear, assessable commitments, mid-year feedback on progress, and specific action plans to address all performance issues. With a few exceptions, this has been done throughout the government. This more rigorous approach to performance assessment is meant to mirror the revised deputy minister performance evaluation model, which is summarized in Annex E.
Last year, we also made commitments under three headings – governance, effectiveness and benchmarking. Major progress was made on governance, as described above and detailed in Annex B.
In the area of effectiveness, the Treasury Board Secretariat has taken preliminary steps to reduce the “web of rules” constraining the effective delivery of services. TBS has reduced central oversight on high-performing departments and has also reduced the administrative and reporting burden on its clients by at least 10 percent. This remains a priority going forward.
Progress has also been made in the area of benchmarking. We have agreed on key indicators for central tracking of the state of the public service and of people management within it and will launch an annual on-line survey to better track people management including employee engagement starting in 2010. The CPSA, through Statistics Canada, has conducted the fourth public service survey of all employees, and results from the survey will be ready this spring.
Finally, deputies and deputy heads were asked to establish departmental service standards for key human resources services, including staffing, classification and pay, and to communicate these to their employees. Here, while work has been done, we are not yet where we need to be.
We are entering a new stage in the renewal of the public service, as we begin to see new ideas and initiatives emerging in departments and agencies, and from employee-driven networks of all types. Functional communities and professional groups, as well as a number of regional councils, have shown energy and imagination in addressing the challenges facing their members.
Their initiatives and the many others like them around government are not “top-down” endeavours. Rather, they show how committed groups of public servants are taking action to renew their own professional communities. We should give full credit to all who are engaged in these sorts of worthwhile activities.
We will increase our focus on functional communities. To date, they have supported renewal through capacity building, with the identification of learning priorities and the development of long-term strategies to address specific challenges identified through demographic studies.
Several communities have also been working at simplifying human resources management processes by adopting generic approaches to job descriptions and competency profiles in support of better targeted development and more effective and efficient staffing and recruitment. For example:
- The Human Resources Council has collaborated with key partners in developing “PE” Group Generic Tools to be piloted in early-adopter departments.
- The IM/IT Community has developed IT generic organizational models, pre-classified work descriptions, and job competency profiles for implementation in departments and agencies and is developing an organization model and generic job descriptions in information management.
Other communities have developed and implemented tools for community engagement and information sharing. For example:
- The Science and Technology Community is developing and implementing a collaborative intranet site with community-wide wiki-discussion capability.
- The Communications Community created student networking cafes to provide venues for exchange between new or potential recruits and more experienced communicators in government.
The national managers' community, which includes approximately 50,000 public service employees in all public sector organizations and areas of specialization, has a key role to play in public service renewal. Its annual national conference in April 2008, included “e-polling” of almost 1,000 managers from across Canada on topics related to public service renewal. This was followed by extensive consultations across government to gather additional insight on priority areas for action which included:
- strengthening capacity for performance management;
- more systematic succession planning; and
- broadening employee engagement on public service renewal.
In pursuing work on these priority issues, the Managers' Community worked with other like-minded communities to explore opportunities for collaboration on public service renewal initiatives. This was aimed at putting in place the necessary tools and support to manage employee performance, support cross-community networking and engagement, and exchange ideas on renewal and best practices.
The regional federal councils are made up of senior federal officials in each province working under the chairmanship of a designated senior executive. A number of councils have been active in moving forward the agenda for public service renewal. Several have developed regional action plans for this purpose, and I expect they will take even more of a leadership role in renewal in coming years.
- The Quebec Regional Council has conducted a comprehensive review of departmental/agency integrated business and human resources plans to identify regional capabilities, needs and common issues, as well as best practices and tools.
- The Alberta and Pacific Federal Councils commissioned a study of labour market trends in Alberta and British Columbia to assess their possible impact on public service renewal efforts. The study informed their Public Service Renewal Action Plans.
- In fostering broad learning and engagement, the Nova Scotia Federal Council has encouraged inter-generational exchanges through varied activities and events.
I believe what is perhaps most encouraging about these initiatives, and the many to come, is that they demonstrate how public servants are showing imagination in working horizontally, in developing practical solutions and in learning from one another about how to strengthen their organizations.
Canadians recognize the essential contribution of the public service to addressing the difficult problems facing the country and to tackling global challenges. Public service renewal is about having a public service that can respond creatively to the complex challenges of today and tomorrow.
In recent years, many departments and agencies have been adding new skills and capacity; they have started to invest in training and retraining existing staff; they are reducing red tape and smoothing the delivery of grant and contribution programs; they are adopting new technologies for networked policy and program development; and, they are now tackling, in a much more rigorous way, the issue of performance management.
These changes speak to the renewal effort that is well underway and that will have to continue over the coming years. Public service renewal is motivated by inevitable demographic change and the imperative to re-equip the public service as a vital national institution for the complex and new challenges of the future. That is what we've been doing, and what we will continue to do.
In this changing environment, it is important to be clear on the expectations that managers are entitled to have of their employees, and what employees are entitled to expect of their managers in return. I see this as a relationship of mutual obligation that carries with it specific responsibilities on each side.
Public servants, at all levels, share and are bound by the same Code of Values and Ethics. The most important of our shared obligations is, of course, to provide non-partisan and professional advice and support to the elected government of the day. This is the essential feature of the public service in our Westminster system of government, and it distinguishes us clearly from other democratic systems.
On this foundation, the values that define the public service must find daily expression in the workplace. Managers, at whatever level, have a duty:
- to treat those reporting to them with fairness and respect;
- to give employees clear direction and constructive feedback on performance;
- to work with employees in developing learning plans and in providing appropriate opportunities for professional development; and
- to consider their views.
For their part, every employee has a duty to their manager:
- to work diligently and produce work of high quality;
- to accept direction and deliver results that accord with that direction;
- to provide frank professional advice in support of the mission of the organization; and
- to make a constructive contribution to the workplace and the team.
The issue of performance management is all the more important today in a period when we are asking ever more from the public service. I noted above that employees have a right to effective management. They also have a right to know that if they perform well, this will be recognized, and if they (or their colleagues) perform poorly, problems will be addressed by managers. Meeting this fundamental expectation requires regular, open dialogue between managers and employees.
In my view, good performance management is as much a matter of fairness to people as it is of organizational effectiveness. This is why the more rigorous performance management regime first developed for deputy ministers will be implemented throughout the executive community. Deputy ministers will be asked to report on the steps they have taken to extend the new performance management regime to all executives in their organizations.
Going forward, we will need to take effective steps to expand our approach to performance management throughout the public service. If unaddressed, problems of poor performance damage morale as well as efficiency. Effective mechanisms for performance management are one of the best ways to equip the public service for sustained success as an institution and will benefit employees at all levels.
As public service renewal moves forward over the coming year, my deputy minister colleagues and I will be paying particular attention to the middle management community as the carriers of the “management ethos” in every department and agency, and therefore as a continuing focus for the renewal effort. Managers have a major influence on how employees see their jobs and on their degree of commitment to departmental objectives. We want to continue an open, active dialogue with managers, and equip them with the tools to lead their organizations into the future.
In the coming years, I will be looking to deputies and agency heads to ensure that newly recruited public servants can benefit from the accumulated knowledge of their more experienced colleagues through more effective programs of knowledge management and knowledge transfer. This is another area where departments and agencies have much to learn from one another.
I am very conscious of the need to reach out to younger public servants and to new recruits through such events as the highly successful recruitment fairs launched in 2008. Indeed, I would encourage every senior manager to take the opportunity to be an active participant in the recruitment process. It's a great learning experience, and it invariably reinforces one's enthusiasm for a public service career choice.
The Third Report of the Prime Minister's Advisory Committee on the Public Service was released in February 2009. Its key recommendations are: the importance of designing and implementing a “whole-of-government” principles-based approach to risk management; the imperative of modernizing key internal systems such as the pay system; and maintaining a management focus on recruitment.
I appreciate the Advisory Committee's validation of the crucial importance of renewal, both to the public service and to Canadians. I also value the Committee's commitment to help ensure the federal public service remains a dynamic and adaptable institution, dedicated to serving Canadians with professionalism, non-partisanship and excellence.
Its recommendations, which we strongly embrace, will allow us to more effectively deliver on results and better adapt public services to the uncertain economic times confronting Canada. Risk management, and the innovation it can engender, will require us to accept more risk. It will also require public service managers, government, oversight bodies and the public to tolerate potential mistakes.
We need to urgently modernize our pay systems, which are decades out of date, but such investments are not without cost or without risk given the current state of the systems. We are also committed to continuing our external recruitment efforts over the coming year. We will report next year on progress on these timely and challenging recommendations.
As in the past, we will set specific objectives for senior executives in pursuing renewal efforts for 2009, grouped under familiar themes.
On planning, the November 2008 report of the Expert Panel on Integrated Business and Human Resources Planning sets the direction for how departments and agencies should be doing their business and human resources planning. It sets out practical steps to equip departments for progress in this area. The report also gives a clear idea of the success measures that will enable both employees and the central agencies to evaluate that progress.
In the coming year, deputy ministers will be asked to report on what they have done to give effect to the principles and lessons set out in the expert panel report. We will be looking for integrated plans that emphasize clarity, simplicity and a true business focus. We also want to see evidence that these plans are serving to guide the program work of the organization.
With respect to recruitment, we will ensure it continues in 2009-10, targeting the strategic human resource requirements of the public service when it comes to post-secondary recruitment. There will also be more efforts to recruit mid-career professionals who will bring new professional experiences to the workplace.
Our engagement in 2009 with universities and colleges through mechanisms such as the career fairs, will continue. This year, the focus will be on the implementation of a revised career fair model to support effective post-secondary recruitment with clear branding of the public service.
Achieving a fully representative workforce in the public service remains an important goal. Our objective is to create a public service workforce that is truly representative, at all levels, of the diversity of Canada's population. Many have argued that if we can make real progress with respect to gender representation, as we have, we can surely do the same for persons with disabilities, Aboriginal peoples and members of visible minority groups. We accept this challenge.
Development remains a core objective. For 2009, it will relate to the broad issue of leadership development. Deputies have paid considerable attention to this issue over the past year, and they have concluded that we need a new focus on learning opportunities in the workplace, on continuous learning programs for employees, and on the development of leaders skilled in line management. The new leadership development framework will serve as the foundational piece on which the full panoply of leadership development programs will be reassessed – from recruitment, to mid-career, to the most senior programs for executives.
There is also a need to make improvements in recognizing the place of Canada's two official languages in the workplace. This goes beyond representation of francophones and anglophones at all levels of the public service, where in fact we have been quite successful. Rather it means ensuring that we are operating a public service that uses and respects both official languages in the workplace and in services to the public.
Enabling infrastructure is about people as well as systems in providing excellence in advice and service. With the changes to human resources governance, accountability for the management of people now clearly rests with deputy ministers. Deputy ministers will be asked to report that they have put into effect a human resources management regime that acknowledges this responsibility at every stage of the human resources management process – from recruitment to staffing to learning, promotion and leadership development.
I began this report by acknowledging the extraordinary economic times in which we are living. Now, more than ever, a high performing public service is crucial to Canada and to Canadians. That is why public service renewal matters, regardless of the times.
Renewal is not something to be associated with a specific government, or a particular head of the public service. Rather, it is a challenge that we public servants must embrace as an enduring responsibility if we are to continue to be relevant to Canadians and their national government. Nor is public service renewal a time-limited initiative. Rather, it is a process of deliberate evolution and innovation that must continue, because no national institution can stay static and hope to succeed.
If there is a single key to the success of public service renewal, it is the personal engagement – the ideas and the commitment – of the 260,000 men and women across Canada and abroad who have made a career in the federal public service. As we move forward on renewal, it is important to have a shared understanding of what public service is about, and why it is important. Without that shared understanding and a sense of personal ownership, it will be more difficult to sustain the process of renewal into the future.
Renewal belongs to you. Indeed, many of the most important consequences of public service renewal will be seen in the workplace and where programs directly touch Canadians. Renewal will succeed because public servants see it as a path to a better workplace and better results for their organization.
I urge you, my fellow public servants, to take up the opportunity to make a difference in your organization. Canadians are counting on you.
- See Annex C for a statement of results from the Public Service Renewal 2008-09 Action Plan.
- See Annex D for a detailed account of Integrated Business and Human Resources Planning.
- This is sometimes described as going from a supply-driven model to a demand-driven model of recruitment and staffing.
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