Five-Year Review of the Human Resources Management Regime of Parks Canada

April, 2015

Table of contents

Executive Summary

Introduction

In December 1998, the federal government passed legislation to create the Parks Canada Agency (Agency) as a departmental corporation under Schedule II of the Financial Administration Act. The Agency is a separate legal entity that reports through the Minister of the Environment and is responsible for the effective delivery of programs related to national parks, national marine conservation areas, and national historic sites across Canada. The Agency oversees 44 National Parks and Park Reserves, four National Marine Conservation Areas, and 168 National Historic Sites of Canada.

In its peak season (i.e. during summer months), Parks Canada employs approximately 2,100 year-round indeterminate employees, 1,900 indeterminate seasonal employees, and approximately 1,100 students, as well as term employees (Source: 2014 Parks Canada Environmental Scan). This workforce is largely unionized and geographically dispersed across the country, operating under a decentralized model, with multiple field units and a national office. The vast majority of its employees work outside of the National Capital Region (during peak season, 85% of its workforce is located outside of the National Capital Region). In addition, the Agency employs individuals in various fields of work such as ecosystem specialists, archaeologists, lock operators, interpreters, asset managers, community managers, wardens, planners, heritage conservation specialists, conservation architects, historians, maintenance workers, etc. The Agency’s geographically dispersed work locations (including remote and rural locations), as well as its substantial seasonal employee base, creates a unique human resources environment for the organization.

As per the Parks Canada Agency Act (Act), the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is responsible for establishing a charter for the Agency that sets out the values and principles governing the management of the human resources of the Agency. In addition, the Agency is also required to conduct an independent review of the consistency of the human resources regime with these values and principles at least every five years.

The current review assesses whether the Agency’s human resources (HR) regime is aligned with the values and operating principles that govern the management of human resources and draws conclusions on whether adjustments are required in order to improve the consistency between the HR regime and one or more of the values.

The HR regime is defined as the management actions, decisions, practices, and results that occur within a framework consisting of policies, directives, guidance, procedures, and tools supporting people management at the Agency.

The Agency’s values and operating principles have been defined as follows:

  • Values: Competence, Fairness, and Respect
  • Operating principles: Effectiveness, Accountability, Consistency, Openness, Efficiency, Adaptability, and Simplicity

Approach and Methodology

The overarching approach applied for this review involved the application of common review methodologies and techniques, supported by HR subject matter knowledge. The approach was designed to be objective, independent, systematic, and evidence-based, and consisted of three phases: Planning, Examination, and Reporting. While the review is not intended to be a comprehensive audit, it did follow a structured audit-like approach.

Core data gathering activities to support this review included documentation review and the conduct of interviews. Based on the evidence gathered, the review team extracted conclusions on whether the HR regime is consistent or aligned with the values and operating principles that govern the management of human resources or whether adjustments are required to improve consistency between the HR regime and one or more of the values and operating principles.

Observations and judgment of the degree of consistency or alignment with Agency values and operating principles are based on multiple lines of evidence gathered throughout the review. Specifically, over 40 people were involved in interviews conducted to collect perspectives from Agency human resource professionals, senior management (i.e. CEO, Chief Human Resources Officer, Executive Management / VPs), mid-management, employees, and union representatives. In addition, relevant files and documents, HR sections of the Agency’s Intranet site, and the 2014 Public Service Employee Survey (PSES) results were reviewed.

This review took place primarily from November 2014 to March 2015, and presents findings with respect to the HR regime in place at the time of the review. When historical events or processes were reviewed, the focus was on activities occurring within the last five years (2009 to 2014).

Review Findings

On an overall basis, it was found that the Agency’s HR regime is consistent with its values and operating principles. The Agency has a well-established set of values and operating principles in place, and, on the whole, the Agency’s HR regime aligns with, demonstrates support for, and reinforces the values and operating principles. While some opportunities for enhancement were identified to support continuous improvement, many of these opportunities were already known by the Agency and, in many cases, management already had related initiatives underway.

Key findings resulting from the review are summarized below, with additional details and supporting observations provided within the body of this report.

Competence

Overall, the review found that the HR regime is aligned with the value of competence. This assessment is based on observations from across various areas within the human resources regime. Of note, the Agency’s legislation provides flexibilities that can assist the organization in employing a competent workforce. The Agency has defined and implemented a set of leadership attributes which are applied in the staffing and performance management processes to help recruit and develop required skills. A formal performance management program and a culture of providing ongoing feedback assist in recognizing and building competency. Based on interview feedback, the Agency’s management and employees believe that Parks Canada appropriately invests in and is supportive of individual development to maintain and build competencies. Furthermore, the PSES results indicated that 67% of Agency employees agree that, in their work unit, the Agency hires people who can do the job (vs 64% in the Public Service).

While it was found that, on an overall basis, Parks Canada’s HR regime is consistent and aligned with the value of competence, the following opportunities for further enhancement should be considered to further enhance alignment:

  • The Agency faces difficulty remaining competitive in some labour markets where there is a limited supply of talent that is required to meet the Agency’s diverse labour needs. Given these recruiting challenges, the Agency should remain diligent in ensuring workforce planning and related recruitment strategies are in place to identify and address gaps in required competencies.
  • At the time of this review, it remained unclear how much of the general training planned to be offered by the Canada School of Public Service will be applicable to the Agency, which has diverse and specialized training needs. As such, the Agency should continue to outline its specific learning and development needs, and as the scope of training made available by the Canada School of Public Service becomes clearer, the Agency should develop a plan to address any training needs that are not met.
  • The Agency should consider the development of a more formal approach to career planning.
  • The Agency should consider whether adjustments are necessary to its performance management program to further assist in meeting the diverse needs of its unique seasonal and trades-related workforce, as well as enhancing the Agency’s ability to address unsatisfactory employee performance.
  • Given the long-standing tenures of many within the Agency’s workforce, significant knowledge and skills reside with individual employees. As such, the Agency should continue to put efforts into developing mechanisms to improve the transfer and retention of corporate memory.
Fairness

Overall, the review found that the HR regime is aligned with the value of fairness. This assessment is based on observations from across various areas within the human resources regime. Of note, governance structures and mechanisms are in place across the Agency, with the values and operating principles being considered and applied in decision-making processes. The process of selecting a person for a position within the Agency is perceived as fair, and, overall, staffing results are viewed as being well communicated. Consistent understanding and application of HR policies is supported through communication of HR policies and processes. Lastly, where employees require assistance or are not satisfied with actions or decisions, a variety of recourse mechanisms (both formal and informal) are available, understood, and accessible to employees.

Respect

Overall, the review found that the HR regime is aligned with the value of respect. This assessment is based on observations from across various areas within the human resources regime. Of note, there appears to be a respectful and supportive culture within the Agency, where employee contributions are valued, and there is respect for employees’ work/life balance, official language of choice, and right to union membership and participation. The Agency has mechanisms and tools in place to support a respectful culture, such as to support impacted employees during transition periods, to support health and safety and to reduce and resolve disputes in the workplace. In addition, the Agency appears to respect, support, and encourage diversity in the workplace, with interviewees indicating that there is a culture of general acceptance of different views and diversity groups. This is further supported by the PSES results that indicate that 82% of Agency employees feel that the Agency treats them with respect (which is a 10% increase from the 2011 results and higher than the 79% in the broader Public Service), and 81% of Agency employees agree that, in their work unit, individuals behave in a respectful manner (vs 79% in the broader Public Service).

While it was found that, on an overall basis, Parks Canada’s HR regime is consistent and aligned with the value of respect, the following should be considered as an opportunity to further enhance alignment:

  • While the majority of the workforce indicate that the Agency endeavours to create a workplace that prevents harassment, given that the PSES results indicated that less than 50% of the workforce are satisfied with how matters related to harassment or discrimination are resolved, as the Agency works though its response to the PSES, the Agency should examine what possible workplace factors are having an adverse impact in this area and work with colleagues in the broader Public Service to explore ways to improve results in this area. Note that, as can be seen through the broader Public Service scores in this area, the Agency is not unique in facing a challenge with employee satisfaction in this area.
Operating Principles

Overall, it was found that the Agency’s HR regime is consistent with its operating principles. While the operating principles are related, and there are sometimes inherent trade-offs required within the suite of values and operating principles (e.g. fairness vs. efficiency), the review found that the operating principles are being considered collectively and in a balanced fashion and when taken as a whole, the HR regime is in alignment with the operating principles.

Additional Findings

Through the course of this review, three additional HR regime-related opportunities for enhancement were identified that were not solely related to a specific or single value or operating principle, as follows:

  • Sustaining the Agency Values and Operating Principles: Given the changing demographics of the Agency workforce and ongoing transformation initiatives, the Agency should take the opportunity to reconfirm the language and positioning of the Agency’s values and operating principles and ensure they are embedded within change management efforts so that they remain relevant as the Agency changes and transforms.
  • HR Strategy and Performance Scorecard: As part of modernizing its HR regime and as support to the Agency’s values and operating principles, the Agency should formalize an HR Strategy and, as planned within its People Management Dashboard Project, develop a corporate level HR scorecard to support ongoing oversight of the organization’s human resources.
  • HR Advice and Support: Given that the Agency is striving to move towards a more principles-based approach to human resources, the Agency should ensure clear communication of HR Directorate roles, and enhance knowledge sharing practices among the HR professionals within the Agency to ensure consistent guidance is provided on a regular basis.

I. Introduction

As context for this review, the following section outlines:

  • The background and objectives of this review;
  • Parks Canada’s HR regime and Framework for People Management; and
  • Parks Canada’s human resources (HR) values and operating principles.

Review Background and Objectives

In December 1998, the federal government passed legislation to create the Parks Canada Agency (Agency) as a departmental corporation under Schedule II of the Financial Administration Act. As per Section 16 (1b) of the Parks Canada Agency Act (Act):

The Chief Executive Officer is responsible for establishing a charter for the Agency that sets out the values and operating principles governing the management of the human resources of the Agency.

Section 35 (1) of the Act also states that:

The Chief Executive Officer must, at least every five years, have prepared by a person or body, other than the Agency or any of its officers or employees, a report on the consistency of its human resources regime with the values and principles that are to govern the management of its human resources.

The last review as required under the Act was conducted in 2009. The current review assesses whether the Agency’s HR regime is aligned with the values and operating principles that govern the management of human resources and draws conclusions on whether adjustments are required in order to improve the consistency between the HR regime and one or more of the values.

Parks Canada’s HR Regime and Framework for People Management

The HR regime is defined as the management actions, decisions, practices, and results that occur within a framework consisting of policies, directives, guidance, procedures, and tools supporting people management at the Agency. Implementation of the HR regime and its consistency with the values and operating principles is a responsibility of all directors, managers and supervisors within the Agency. People management accountability rests with the business unit directors, managers, and supervisors and this accountability is supported by the Human Resources Directorate.

The Agency Framework for People Management (Framework) (see Figure 1) provides an overarching descriptive framework for people management, to explain the interrelationship of the human resources values and operating principles, Agency human resources policies, the collective agreement, and human resources programs, which in whole, represent the HR regime of the Agency. The Framework clarifies the roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Human Resources Officer (Chief Human Resources Officer), and management at Parks Canada as they relate to people management. In addition, the Framework is intended to serve as an informational document for Agency management and employees, other government departments, central agencies, and interested third parties in terms of outlining the human resources authorities and accountabilities of the CEO.

Figure 1: Framework for People Management


[Long description]

The Parks Canada Agency Act (Act) established the Agency as a separate employer and conferred on the Chief Executive Officer many of the authorities for human resources management that in the “core” public service reside with and are exercised by the Treasury Board or the Public Service Commission of Canada. These include the authorities to determine the organization of and classify the positions in the Agency, to set terms and conditions of employment, and to establish standards, procedures, and processes governing many aspects of the HR regime. In doing this, the Agency was exempted from certain provisions of the Financial Administration Act (subsection on Human Resource Management), as well as the Public Service Employment Act (only provisions regarding political activity apply to Parks Canada).

The HR policy and directive framework for the Agency is inspired by Treasury Board policies and national joint council agreements that apply to the core public service, some of which the Agency adopts without change, as well as a number of policies or directives that have been adapted for the Agency context.

Parks Canada’s Human Resources Values and Operating Principles

The Agency’s values and operating principles are the foundation for its human resources management regime and have been developed with input from Agency employees across Canada. Accordingly, the values and principles reflect an understanding of the Agency’s enduring mandate and the distinctive circumstances in which Agency’s employees work. They apply to all employees at all levels of the organization and are brought to the attention of third parties as guidance for their interaction with Agency employees.

The preamble to the Agency values and operating principles states that:

  • “Values are the enduring beliefs that determine our actions, attitudes and the choices we make.”
  • “Operating principles guide the ways in which our values are implemented. Together they are the basis for ensuring the integrity of our human resources policies, practices, and procedures."
  • “These values and the accompanying operating principles ensure that our human resources attitudes and actions reflect the fundamental importance of employees in achieving the mandate of Parks Canada. They reinforce our obligations and commitments to respect and adhere to all relevant legislation.”
  • “Our actions and decisions will be aligned with these values and operating principles.”

The Agency’s values have been defined as follows:

Competence: refers to the knowledge, abilities, personal suitability, and other qualities required to perform effectively in the workplace. Competence resides in individuals, working independently or as a member of a team, and in the organization as a whole. We:

  • Commit to employing competent people
  • Maintain and transmit “corporate memory” (i.e. knowledge, skills and experience developed over many years) as an essential part of organizational competence and renewal
  • Invest in individual development and career planning to maintain the required competencies and to support personal and organizational growth 

Fairness: means that our activities and decisions are just, timely, impartial and objective. We:

  • Ensure equitable treatment of employees both individually and collectively while respecting our diversity
  • Apply equitable processes and our attitudes, acts, and decisions are well reasoned
  • Communicate our practices and decisions openly and honestly
  • Ensure that all staffing decisions and other human resource practices are free from political influence and other forms of patronage

Respect: mutual trust, recognition of accomplishments, self-esteem and regard for others are important elements of respectful working relationships. As a value that is earned and deserved, respect implies that we:

  • Respect individual differences and different points of view
  • Recognize individual and team contributions
  • Respect the need to balance our work and personal lives
  • Recognize the right of employees to union membership, representation and participation in union activities
  • Respect and apply principles concerning official languages, employment equity, privacy, health and safety in the workplace, and protection from harassment and discrimination
  • Foster an environment in which we participate in the organization’s activities and decisions
  • Consult prior to taking decisions that directly affect other employees

The Agency’s operating principles are:

  • Effectiveness: Achieving the expected results (e.g. representative work force)
  • Accountability: The requirement to be answerable for carrying out our responsibilities in accordance with these human resources values and operating principles
  • Consistency: Acting in a similar manner in similar circumstances
  • Openness: Ensuring straightforward and honest communications
  • Efficiency: Making the best possible use of human resources, time, and money
  • Adaptability: Adjusting to circumstances while encouraging innovation and creativity
  • Simplicity: Making things as uncomplicated as possible

II. Parks Canada Overview and Context

The following provides an overview of Parks Canada’s mandate, structure, and workforce, as well as the environment of change and transformation within which it has and continues to operate since the last HR regime review.

Parks Canada Overview

Parks Canada is a separate legal entity that reports through the Minister of the Environment and is responsible for the effective delivery of programs related to national parks, national marine conservation areas, and national historic sites across Canada. Its mandate is to “protect and present nationally significant examples of Canada’s natural and cultural heritage, and foster public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment in ways that ensure the ecological and commemorative integrity of these places for present and future generations.”

To deliver on this mandate, the Agency oversees 44 National Parks and Park Reserves, four National Marine Conservation Areas, and 168 National Historic Sites of Canada. Its organizational structure operates under a decentralized model, including multiple field units and a national office:

  • Field Units – The locations under the management of Parks Canada are organized into geographically based field units. The majority of Parks Canada employees work within these field units which are led by Field Unit Superintendents (FUS).
  • National Office – The national office consists of six directorates (Protected Areas Establishment and Conservation, Heritage Conservation and Commemoration, External Relations and Visitor Experience, Strategy and Plans, Chief Financial Officer Directorate, and Human Resources Directorate) who provide legislative, operational policy, planning, program direction, financial management, and human resources functions and services.

In its peak season (during summer months), Parks Canada employs approximately 2,100 year-round indeterminate employees, 1,900 indeterminate seasonal employees, and approximately 1,100 students, as well as term employees (Source: 2014 Parks Canada Environmental Scan). This workforce is largely unionized and geographically dispersed across the country, operating under a decentralized model, with multiple field units and a national office. The vast majority of its employees work outside of the National Capital Region (in the peak season, 85% of its workforce is located outside of the National Capital Region). In addition, the Agency employs individuals in various fields of work such as ecosystem specialists, archaeologists, lock operators, interpreters, asset managers, community managers, wardens, planners, heritage conservation specialists, conservation architects, historians, maintenance workers, etc. The workforce operates in a unionized environment with 28 different classification groups. The Agency’s geographically dispersed work locations (including remote and rural locations), as well as its substantial seasonal employee base, creates a unique human resources environment for the organization.

Agency employees are supported by a centralized HR Directorate that provides strategic, corporate human resource planning support and formulates national policy, programs, and strategies to support the human resource management accountabilities. Most field units also have locally based HR managers within the field units that serve as HR advisors and business partners for the managers and employees within their respective unit. That said, the successful implementation of the human resources regime, including delivery of human resources practices consistent with the values and operating principles, is the responsibility of all leaders within Parks Canada (i.e. directors, managers, supervisors) who have people management accountability.

Environment of Change and Transformation

Parks Canada’s HR regime has and continues to operate in an environment of significant change and transformation, with initiatives being driven from multiple levels - both government-wide and from within Parks Canada. These initiatives have varying levels of impact on the Agency and were considered as key context for this review.

From a government-wide perspective, Parks Canada has been, and is, fully engaged and actively participates in important initiatives launched by the Government of Canada to transform the Public Service. Recent examples (past and present) of this include:

  • Creation of Shared Services Canada;
  • Deficit Reduction Action Plan;
  • Common Human Resources Business Processes;
  • Blueprint 2020;
  • Pay Transformation;
  • Email Transformation; and
  • Financial Management Transformation.

From a Parks Canada perspective, the Agency has and continues to undergo changes and transformations in how the Agency functions so that the Agency continues to deliver excellence in the services it offers Canadians. These corporate transformations are intended to lead to improvements in the work environment, as well as the adoption of innovative business processes and up-to-date technology. Two examples include the Innovation Labs, which are employee-led think tanks currently focusing on the topics of work life balance, professional development, and the Code of Ethics and Values; and the renewal of the Parks Canada website to improve trip planning tools.

Since the last HR Review five years ago, the Agency has undergone many internal changes, including:

  • Consolidation of National Office and the Service Centres, which impacts reporting structures, organization charts and introduced Vice President led national functional teams;
  • Changes to recreational navigation on the canals;
  • Changes to seasonality of Agency parks and sites;
  • Creation of the Values and Ethics Centre, with the merging of the Office of the Ombudsman and the informal conflict management team;
  • Introduction of the Parks Canada Values and Ethics Code that helps to guide behaviour; and
  • The consolidation of the human resources, finance, asset management and communications functions with the related National Office Directorate.

In addition, looking forward, Parks Canada has several transformation projects underway. The examples outlined in the table below are related to the human resources function:

Service Delivery Model Project

In keeping with the federal government’s efforts to consolidate and streamline where possible, the Agency is looking to position itself for the next wave of consolidation. It is in this context that the Agency is redefining its HR service delivery model (SDM). The objective of this new model is to provide better service and to create more flexibility in decision-making for delegated managers to more effectively exercise their people management accountabilities.

E-Services Project

To achieve more efficient and effective ways of delivering on its core business responsibilities, the Agency believes it must transform the way it delivers internal services. Current staffing and classification processes are viewed as document-based and labour intensive. In order to prepare for the consolidation and automation coming through government-wide initiatives, the Agency is reviewing its processes to determine where they may be streamlined and taking steps to automate a number of staffing and classification HR processes in order to gain efficiencies through reduction/elimination of processes and paperwork.

People Management Dashboard Project

The Parks Canada People Management Dashboard will be a tool that provides senior managers and HR Professionals with quality workforce information to support strategic decision making and long term planning. The dashboard will enable users to compare their workforce information to agency-wide data as well as to other organizational units throughout the Agency. It will present the information with dynamic charts and graphs to allow for intuitive data visualization, and also enables users to customize their view.

III. Approach and Methodology

The following provides an overview of the approach and methodology used for the conduct of this review.

Approach

The overarching approach applied for this review involved the application of common review methodologies and techniques, supported by HR subject matter knowledge. The approach was designed to be objective, independent, systematic, and evidence-based, and consisted of three phases: Planning, Examination, and Reporting. While the review is not intended to be a comprehensive audit, it did follow a structured audit-like approach.

Core data gathering activities to support this review included documentation review and the conduct of interviews. Based on the evidence gathered, the review team extracted conclusions on whether the HR regime is consistent or aligned with the values and operating principles that govern the management of human resources, or whether adjustments are required to improve consistency between the HR regime and one or more of the values and operating principles.

This review took place primarily from November 2014 to March 2015, and presents findings with respect to the HR regime in place at the time of the review. When historical events or processes were reviewed, the focus was on activities occurring within the last five years (2009 to 2014).

Methodology

Within the context of this overarching approach, the following three phased methodology was applied to assess whether the Agency’s HR regime is consistent with its values and operating principles:


[Long description]

The review’s conclusions are based on multiple lines of evidence gathered throughout the engagement. Specifically, the following combination of data gathering procedures were used:

  • Interviews (5) with Agency HR management professionals were conducted to obtain an understanding of the Agency’s HR regime, how values and operating principles are being realized, and key processes, practices, policies, directives, guidance, procedures, and tools in place to support people management at the Agency.
  • Interviews (5) with Agency senior management (i.e. CEO, Chief Human Resources Officer, Executive Management / VPs, Ombudsman) were conducted to gain perspective and context for the HR regime review, to solicit input on particular areas of interest or concern, and to obtain an understanding of the Agency’s strategic priorities with regards to the HR regime.
  • Interviews (30) with Agency middle management and employees were conducted to develop an understanding of how the various elements of the HR regime work in practice, how the HR regime is perceived in relation to the values and operating principles, and the extent to which the actions, results, and processes within the HR regime align with, demonstrate support for, and reinforce the values and operating principles. Interviewees represented a cross section of employees including:
    • National office management;
    • Field unit management;
    • HR managers; and
    • Employees.

    Interviewees were selected in order to provide diverse points of view, and as such included a mix of geographic regions, functions/departments, seasonal and non-seasonal, field unit and national office, and management and frontline employees.

  • Interviews (2) with union representatives (one with each applicable PSAC component) were conducted to collect their input and perspectives on a number of HR regime areas.
  • In-depth file and document review was conducted, including review of existing Agency policies, directives, plans and reports, and the HR sections of the Agency’s Intranet site.
  • The 2014 Public Service Employee Survey (PSES) results were reviewed, including, in some cases, comparisons to previous Agency survey results and the broader public service results. The PSES was conducted in late summer 2014, with results published and made available in February 2015.
  • A case study of the Deficit Reduction Action Plan, including a focus group with key process owners responsible for Agency people-related decisions and activities related to the Deficit Reduction Action Plan process, was conducted in order to better understand how the Agency’s HR regime was applied in practice through this event. (Note: Given the significance of the Deficit Reduction Action Plan exercise from an HR perspective across the organization, the Deficit Reduction Action Plan experience has been profiled throughout this report to illustrate the application of the Agency’s values in the context of this type of event. A more fulsome overview of the Deficit Reduction Action Plan process undertaken by the Agency is summarized in Appendix A.)

IV. Review Findings

On an overall basis, it was found that the Agency’s human resources regime is consistent with its values and operating principles. The Agency has a well-established set of values and operating principles in place, and, on the whole, the HR regime aligns with, demonstrates support for, and reinforces the values and operating principles. While some opportunities for enhancement were identified to support continuous improvement, many of these opportunities were already known by the Agency and, in many cases, management already had related initiatives underway.

This section of the report summarizes the key findings resulting from the review and has been organized as follows:

  • For each value, key findings and opportunities for enhancement (if any) are noted;
  • Findings are provided with respect to the operating principles as a whole; and
  • Additional findings are provided which are not directly related to a specific value or operating principle.

HR Value: Competence

Parks Canada’s Definition

Competence: refers to the knowledge, abilities, personal suitability and other qualities required to perform effectively in the workplace. Competence resides in individuals, working independently or as a member of a team, and in the organization as a whole. We:

  • Commit to employing competent people
  • Maintain and transmit “corporate memory” (i.e. knowledge, skills and experience developed over many years) as an essential part of organizational competence and renewal
  • Invest in individual development and career planning to maintain the required competencies and to support personal and organizational growth
Findings

In reviewing the alignment of the Agency’s HR regime with the value of competence, practices across a breadth of areas were considered, such as:

  • Does the Agency leverage the flexibilities provided by its legislation to meet operational requirements through the employment of a competent workforce?
  • Are leadership attributes used in determining employee appointments to support the development of required competencies in the workforce?
  • Do employees receive performance feedback to help build competency levels?
  • Is HR delegation training provided to build the competency of management in effectively undertaking their HR accountabilities? Is support/advice available to delegated managers and are delegated managers informed of their delegated accountabilities?
  • Do managers have access to tools that support their HR responsibilities and enhance their competence in HR matters?
  • Are generic work descriptions available for staffing actions?
  • Does the Agency invest in individual development and career planning to build the required competencies and to support personal and organizational growth?
  • Does the Agency help preserve, maintain and transmit “corporate memory” to support ongoing competence in the workplace?

Overall, the review found that the HR regime is aligned with the value of competence. This assessment is based on observations from across various areas within the human resources regime. Of note, the Agency’s legislation provides flexibilities that can assist the organization in employing a competent workforce. The Agency has defined and implemented a set of leadership attributes which are applied in the staffing and performance management processes to help recruit and develop required skills. A formal performance management program and a culture of providing ongoing feedback assist in recognizing and building competency. Based on interview feedback, the Agency’s management and employees believe that Parks Canada appropriately invests in and is supportive of individual development to maintain and build competencies. Furthermore, the PSES results indicated that 67% of Agency employees agree that, in their work unit, the Agency hires people who can do the job (vs 64% in the Public Service).

Additional details supporting the above assessment are highlighted below:

Flexibilities: The Agency’s legislation provides flexibilities that can assist the organization in employing a competent workforce (e.g. within staffing and deployment processes). For instance, the Act provides specific HR authorities granted exclusively to the CEO, including authorities for appointment, lay-off or termination of employees; the establishment of staffing standards, procedures and processes; and the organization and classification of positions. Interviewees noted that the flexibilities are a useful tool that have allowed the Agency’s CEO to ensure key HR decisions are made based on Agency values and operating principles. As an example, the Agency leverages its flexibility in the language profile requirement when staffing, where the Agency can make official languages part of the merit criteria, and the applicant must meet the language profile as part of the first screening.

The flexibilities of separate employer status have also enabled the development of Agency-specific HR policies, including staffing policies and strategies which allow for greater flexibility in hiring and deploying employees to meet operational realities, as well as the ability to manage significant organizational changes within the Agency (e.g. the Deficit Reduction Action Plan). Under Agency legislation, Parks Canada leverages a number of policies and directives which allow for flexibility in the staffing and deployment of resources to help meet operational requirements, including the Casual Worker Policy, As and When Required Worker Policy, and Deployment Policy. From a staffing perspective, interviewees noted that managers in the field use a wide range of staffing options (e.g. as and when required, students, terms, casuals, short-term positions for projects, notice of appointment and expression of interest, assignments, interchanges, eligibility lists and appointments, and some temporary staffing) to ensure requirements are met most appropriately.

Overall, interviewees indicated that managers generally understand and leverage the flexibilities well, and that the Agency is generally consistent in its application of the flexibilities. Where there is uncertainty in how to apply Agency flexibilities, there is reliance on the HR managers to provide advice on options to consider.

Application of leadership attributes: An important step in recruiting, retaining, and developing competence is defining what attributes are required and expected. In this regard, the Agency adopted nine leadership attributes after significant consultation with Agency team members from across the organisation. For each attribute, specific behaviours that apply at any level of the organisation were defined. These leadership attributes are intended to “guide the Agency on how it hires and trains staff, as well as conducts day-to-day activities to ensure continued success in the delivery of Parks Canada’s mandate.” Leadership attributes are used within the staffing and performance management processes, and were also used by management during the Deficit Reduction Action Plan process (see text box).

Deficit Reduction Action Plan Illustration: Use of Leadership Attributes

When identifying which employees affected by the workforce adjustment were retained or identified as surplus, the Agency accepted that all employees met the qualifications for their current positions (i.e. education, experience, knowledge). Agency employees were assessed on their demonstrated ability to share the Agency vision, make things happen, exercise sound judgment, communicate effectively, strive for excellence, be team players, and be flexible – that is, the Agency’s Leadership Attributes and Personal Suitability factors.  The Agency’s Leadership Attributes were adopted after significant consultation with Agency team members across the organization and defined the behaviours of leadership, which apply at any level of the organization.

Within the context of staffing, interviewees indicated that leadership attributes are an integral component of staffing and appointments for all levels and that they have seen an increase in their use in recent years. The attributes are used not only in consideration of the current position being staffed, but also to consider a candidate’s future potential as well. The leadership attributes are used within the staffing process in several areas including within the statement of qualifications, in interviews and exams, and during reference checks. To support this process, the Agency has developed and made available supporting tools on its Intranet site related to the leadership attributes, thereby making the attributes easier to use and evaluate within the context of staffing processes. Interviewees indicated that, in a staffing process, the leadership attributes are often weighted more than other competencies and used to help assess the personal suitability and fit of potential candidates. As such, the leadership attributes become an important differentiator, if other aspects are equal among potential candidates.

Leadership attributes are also used within the Performance Management Program (PMP), in which employees focus on one to three attributes as part of their career development within this process. In addition, Executives’ demonstration of the leadership attributes is also assessed in the performance management process.

Provision of performance feedback: Appropriate provision of performance feedback assists in building the competency level of the workforce. The Agency has a culture of providing ongoing feedback, and both formal and informal feedback practices are in place.

Formally, performance feedback is provided within the annual Performance Management Program (PMP) cycle, which includes both a Performance Appraisal and a Personal Learning Plan. Within this plan, in addition to ongoing informal feedback and coaching, a series of formal meetings are also held with employees. To support this process, the Agency has guides for managers/supervisors that include checklists, tips and guidance, and suggested courses to support managers in providing performance feedback.

Interviewees indicated that the frequency and formality of feedback depends on the performance situation, and the individual manager. Interviewees also indicated that they receive ongoing informal feedback and there is a culture of providing timely feedback through mechanisms such as weekly calls and meetings with their manager, daily/weekly feedback on work completed and projects, celebration of milestones and achievements on calls and in meetings, informal recognition programs, recognition of the accomplishments of each group at Directorate meetings, all staff emails of accomplishments, all staff gatherings, and email recognition.

PSES 2014 results indicate that the majority of Agency employees feel that they receive useful feedback from their immediate supervisor on their job performance (72% - which is the same as the broader Public Service results).

Delegation of HR authority: Appropriately informing and training managers on their delegated HR authorities builds the competency of the management level to effectively undertake their HR accountabilities. The Instrument of Delegation of HR Authorities (Instrument) provides for the delegation of HR authorities from the CEO to the various managerial and supervisory levels within the Agency. It sets out the responsibilities and accountabilities of managers and supervisors to whom authority is delegated; provides guidance to managers and supervisors on the exercise of the HR authorities delegated to them; and, ensures that, in exercising their authorities, delegated managers and supervisors understand and adhere to the legislation, regulations, policies, guidelines, and other relevant documents to which the Instrument is linked.

To exercise authority under the Instrument, delegated managers and supervisors must have successfully completed training. This training is mandatory and tracked and monitored by the HR Directorate. Training was delivered when the delegation of authority came into effect, and new or acting employees cannot assume HR delegated authorities until they have completed the mandatory training. An online training module is in place to train managers and supervisors on delegated HR authorities. In addition, support and advice is available and viewed as appropriate, with interviewees commenting that they know where to go for information, and who to ask (e.g. HR manager or advisor) if uncertain about something.

Interviewees indicated that managers are well informed and aware of their delegations. Interviewees also indicated that the delegations are clearly documented and available (e.g. delegations are available on the Intranet) and referred to when required. Most interviewees feel that HR authority is delegated to the lowest practical level.

Access to HR tools: The provision of HR tools to support employees and managers enhances their competence in HR matters, as well as supports them in staffing, developing, and retaining a competent workforce through the application of HR processes.

Deficit Reduction Action Plan Illustration: Building management competency for the task at hand

The Agency took several steps to make sure senior managers (PCX) who had to deliver challenging messages to team members were well prepared and felt supported. For instance, senior managers were coached on how to deliver difficult messages, role play simulations were used to help senior managers practice delivering the message, and templates were prepared for different scenarios to help senior managers in delivering the message. During the rollout of the Deficit Reduction Action Plan, regular conference calls were scheduled with senior management to gather feedback and to adjust as required. On the date when Deficit Reduction Action Plan results were first delivered, support was available 24/7 in case any senior manager had any issues/ challenges which needed a quick response.

The Agency has various formal HR tools available through the HR Portal on the Intranet, including HR forms and templates and information/hyperlinks on elements of the HR regime, staffing checklists, frequently asked questions, reference documents, training calendar, and contact information.

In addition, there are two initiatives underway to provide additional HR tools and information. First, in order to prepare for the consolidation and automation that will result from other government-wide initiatives, the Agency is taking steps to automate a number of staffing and classification HR processes by adopting e-services. The scope of this project includes a number of Human Resources Recruitment actions (HRRA) and Human Resources classification actions (HRCA) undertaken by the Agency. Secondly, an HR dashboard initiative is underway to provide senior management with a tool and insights for more effective people management planning and decision-making.

Many managers commented that they feel they have access to HR professionals (e.g. classification, labour relations) when required. Points of contact are listed on the HR Intranet and the Agency has generic email addresses which are used to submit questions. Field units have an HR resource in their location for efficient support. For questions in a particular topic area, there are specific advisors assigned to each field unit (e.g. labour relations contact).

Interviewees indicated that they are aware of the HR tools available on the Intranet (e.g. forms, templates, etc.) and that HR managers and advisors are also available for support.

Use of generic work descriptions: The value of competence is supported through the knowledge, abilities, and other qualities required to perform effectively in the workplace. Some of the key aspects of expected competency are summarized within generic work descriptions which may be used in different manners to support the application of the value of competence within the Agency (e.g. staffing). The Agency currently has a set of master generic work descriptions which are available on its Intranet by function, title, and by group/level. Work stream grids are also available to distinguish work requirements between different levels and to support quick identification of the applicable master generic work description.

Interviewees indicated that the generic work descriptions are available, accessible, and used within the Agency to increase consistency and simplicity. Interviewees indicated that they are typically used in staffing (e.g. when setting up the competition process, as the base for the staffing poster, tombstone data for a staffing action), and when creating a new position. In addition, the classification program is grounded on the use of generic work descriptions, to the greatest extent possible, to describe the work performed within the Agency.

Individual development: Competency within an organization can be developed and retained through employee development and career planning activities.

In support of employee development, the Agency has established a Learning Strategy, of which one of its goals is to “ensure that the organization identifies and strengthens staff competence throughout the organization, and offers training and learning opportunities to address those needs”. In addition, Employee Personal Learning Plans are completed by all employees within the context of the performance management program, and an assortment of training and development courses are available on the Agency’s Intranet. Other learning opportunities are also available, such as the Employee Learning and Discovery Pass (to allow employees to discover parks and sites) and provision of Educational Assistance.

Interviewees noted that a variety of training mechanisms are in place such as: online training, web-ex, video conference, the Canada School of Public Service general training, assignments, formal training (e.g. manager training), conferences, events, micro assignments, job sharing, and temporary transfers. Interviewees also noted the opportunity for further education outside of the Agency (e.g. Master’s Degree, second official language) and noted that employees are encouraged to pursue designations and certifications. Based on interview feedback, the Agency was viewed by management and employees as appropriately investing in and being supportive of individual development to maintain and build competencies. More specifically, interviewees indicated that the Agency is supportive of developmental opportunities and outside assignments, and looks for opportunities to support employee growth.

That said, the availability of training was noted to be somewhat dependent on various factors such as location, given the cost of travel. With regards to the training that is offered, generally, interviewees feel that the Agency is supportive; though many interviewees noted that the ability to access training and pursue individual competency development is sometimes dependent on the individual manager and employee. Generally, the onus is placed on the employee to identify training through their training plans.

The PSES 2014 results indicate that the majority of employees feel that they get the training they need to do their job (62% - this is similar to the results from the broader Public Service).

Opportunities for Enhancement

While it was found that, on an overall basis, Parks Canada’s HR regime is consistent and aligned with the value of competence, the following opportunities for further enhancement should be considered in order to further increase consistency and alignment with this value:

Recruiting: The Agency recognizes the importance of revitalizing its workforce and is developing recruiting strategies targeting youth and a younger generation of future Agency employees.

Restrictions which historically made mobility to and from the Agency and other federal departments more difficult have recently been removed. This should provide the Agency an opportunity to seek out required competencies and broaden its executive (PCX) leader talent pool. That said, the Agency continues to have difficulty remaining competitive in some labour markets where there is a limited supply of talent that is required to meet the Agency’s diverse labour needs. The remote locations of Agency field units, the seasonal nature of the work, and the many different operational tradespeople roles within the Agency, make recruiting and retaining employees in specific markets (such as the North, and remote or rural areas) an ongoing challenge for the Agency. There is also an added challenge of finding bilingual resources in some of these areas.

Given these recruiting challenges, the Agency should remain diligent in ensuring workforce planning and related recruitment strategies are in place to identify and address gaps in required competencies. More specifically, the Agency should ensure that each business unit, as part of ongoing planning efforts, develops a short, medium and longer term view of their workforce requirements and develops strategies and plans to meet these. If desired, standardized tools and processes could be developed to support local leaders in undertaking this exercise and allow for an Agency-wide roll-up of information. The People Management Dashboard information may also serve as an input to local leaders in this process (i.e. understanding of the current workforce and trends in support of analysis and forecasting).

Training and learning: Competencies, knowledge, technical skills, and abilities required are often obtained through training and learning opportunities. Many positive aspects of the Agency’s approach to training and learning were noted previously. However, some challenges were also raised, including:

  • Decreased training opportunities following the Deficit Reduction Action Plan;
  • Lack of internet connectivity limiting access to new web-based forms of training;
  • Restrictions on travel (impacting ability to attend training); and
  • Ability to access training and pursue individual competency development is sometimes dependent on the individual manager and employee.

The Agency is also in the process of working out how its training offerings will integrate with the Canada School of Public Service. The Canada School of Public Service has been mandated to provide centralized delivery of a common training curriculum to all federal departments and agencies. The Agency intends to leverage this training when available, but at the time of this review, it remained unclear the degree to which the general training planned to be offered by the Canada School of Public Service will address the Agency’s needs. It is also not clear how remote Agency employees will be provided access to the Canada School of Public Service training.

The Agency should continue to outline its specific learning and development needs and, as the scope of training made available by the Canada School of Public Service becomes clearer, develop a plan to address any training needs not met by the Canada School of Public Service.

Career planning: Career planning is a mechanism that may be used to support the development and retention of a competent workforce. The review found that aside from the formal PMP and learning plan discussions, there is no formal, structured and supported career planning program in place. Interviewees noted that they do not always see career planning activities taking place at a Directorate level. In some cases, interviewees noted that some proactive managers take steps to support employees in their career, but this is often addressed in informal discussions without the structure of a more formalized career planning program. Previously, before training budgets were reduced, the Agency had more career development programs available, such as “Aspiring PCX” and “PE Development”. Select interviewees also expressed concern that where career planning discussions take place, without a formal process in place, there may be inconsistent or inappropriate practices which may impact employee engagement in the process.

The Agency should consider the development of a more formal approach to career planning.

Performance management: While the Agency’s current performance management program is viewed as suitable for indeterminate year-round professional and clerical employees who work in an office environment, it becomes more difficult to apply for seasonal, frontline and/or trades-related employees in the field. An example raised by interviewees of a difference in preferences for performance management practices is that many seasonal, frontline, and trades-related employees often prefer to receive regular verbal feedback (which may be viewed as less intimidating or procedural) rather than written feedback (which is a key component of the current approach). Select interviewees also expressed concern that there is a risk that the process becomes a paper-based process and does not fully engage employees in meaningful performance discussions. It should be noted, though, that the Agency’s performance management process does allow for a combination of ongoing verbal and written feedback. Another example noted was that it is more difficult for some seasonal, frontline, and trades-related employees in the field, as well as some at the national office, to relate their role to the strategic corporate objectives that are linked to the Agency’s performance review process. It should be noted that the Agency is currently reviewing its PMP guidelines and is beginning to assess how to adapt the performance review process and requirements to the needs of its diverse workforce.

A second issue identified by interviewees is that the Agency, like many other public sector organizations, sometimes has difficulty addressing unsatisfactory employee performance. This issue was highlighted in the Public Service Employee Survey (PSES) results where only 34% of Agency employees agree that, in their work unit, unsatisfactory performance is managed effectively (similar to the results in the general public service of 33%). Some potential contributing factors to the challenges faced in this area included managers not always feeling that they are adequately trained or coached to deal with unsatisfactory employee performance. In this regard, some managers expressed a desire for more tools to help them manage performance issues. Another contributing factor noted by interviewees was that, given that the process required to adequately document, exercise due diligence, and deal with unsatisfactory employee performance requires significant effort and can often take significant time to complete, there can sometimes be a reluctance for managers to initiate and follow through with the process.

While the review found that, overall, the performance management program is well established, the Agency should consider whether adjustments are necessary to the program to further assist in meeting the needs of its unique workforce, and enhance the Agency’s ability to address unsatisfactory employee performance.

Corporate memory: Corporate memory is the accumulated body of data, information, and knowledge created in the course of an organization’s existence. Maintaining and transmitting corporate memory is an essential part of maintaining organizational competence. Falling under the wider area of knowledge management, corporate memory typically has two repositories: an organization's archives, including its electronic databases (where data and information are most often retained); and individuals’ memories (where knowledge most often resides).

With regards to the former, the review found that Agency is establishing practices to help improve the retention of electronic and paper corporate memory (e.g. documents saved on shared drive and archived, use of Intranet, etc.). Agency employees are encouraged to document electronically and preserve emails, which are often a key source of corporate memory. That said, information management is also recognized by the Agency to be a significant challenge and the Agency is not unique in this regard.

With respect to the second repository of corporate memory (i.e. individuals’ memories), interviewees noted that they felt more could be done by the Agency in this area and a more formal and systematic approach could be established. Individual corporate memory activities generally appear to be ad hoc and rely primarily on the individual to ensure they take place. There is currently no formal exit process when an employee leaves the Agency which would manage the transition of corporate memory resident with/in that employee. There is also limited use of experiential learning, job shadowing and anticipatory staffing. During the Deficit Reduction Action Plan workforce adjustments in 2012, corporate memory was recognized as an issue and management attempted to make provisions for it, however, interviewees noted that the Agency still struggled with the sudden loss of knowledge.

Given the long-standing tenures of many within the Agency’s workforce, significant knowledge and skills reside with individual employees. As such, the Agency should continue to put efforts into developing mechanisms to improve the transfer and retention of corporate memory.

HR Value: Fairness

Parks Canada’s Definition

Fairness: means that our activities and decisions are just, timely, impartial and objective. We:

  • Ensure equitable treatment of employees both individually and collectively while respecting our diversity
  • Apply equitable processes and our attitudes, acts, and decisions are well reasoned
  • Communicate our practices and decisions openly and honestly
  • Ensure that all staffing decisions and other human resource practices are free from political influence and other forms of patronage
Findings

In reviewing the alignment of the Agency’s HR regime with the value of fairness, practices across a breadth of areas were considered, such as:

  • Do Agency governance structures and mechanisms help to enable decisions which are impartial, objective and support equitable treatment of employees?
  • Are staffing activities and decisions communicated openly and honestly?
  • Are HR policies and practices communicated adequately to provide all employees equal knowledge?
  • Does the Agency provide access to recourse mechanisms?

Overall, the review found that the HR regime is aligned with the value of fairness. This assessment is based on observations from across various areas within the human resources regime. Of note, governance structures and mechanisms are in place across the Agency, with the values and operating principles being considered and applied in senior management decision-making. The process of selecting a person for a position is perceived as fair, and, overall, staffing results are viewed as being well communicated. Consistent understanding and application of HR policies is supported through communication of HR policies and processes. Lastly, where employees require assistance or are not satisfied with actions or decisions, a variety of recourse mechanisms (both formal and informal) are available, understood and accessible to employees.

Additional details supporting the above assessment are highlighted below:

Governance: Effective governance structures and mechanisms support the value of fairness by improving the likelihood of equitable treatment of employees and facilitating the application of repeatable processes.

Deficit Reduction Action Plan Illustration: Fairness Framework

Adopted by the Agency on the recommendation of the Agency's Ombudsman, the Fairness Framework is a document built on the feedback of Agency team members and on numerous other social science documents and research to ensure that decisions can withstand the test of fairness. The Fairness Framework is a strategic decision-making tool that helped the Agency implement Deficit Reduction Action Plan decisions in accordance with Agency core values - integrity, engagement, excellence and respect - based on the firm belief that the Agency's greatest asset is its workforce.

Governance structures and mechanisms are in place across the Agency, and interviewees noted that values and operating principles are considered and applied in senior management decision-making. Strategic people management direction is established by the Executive Management Committee, based on Chief Human Resources Officer analysis, advice and recommendations and is grounded in the Agency’s values and operating principles.

The Agency’s people management governance structure is comprised of a variety of management committees, advisory committees, communities of practice and working groups providing advice to the Chief Executive Officer in the exercise of the CEO’s authorities. In addition, there are various other governance bodies helping to establish a consistent and fair HR environment, including the Executive Management Committee (EMC), the Bargaining Agent, the National Labour/Management Consultative Committee, National Occupational Health and Safety Policy Committee, as well as Directorate Management Committees, and management team and bi-lateral meetings.

At an individual level, many roles across the Agency play a key role in HR regime governance, such as:

  • The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) who has full responsibility for the effective management of people at Parks Canada;
  • The Chief Human Resources Officer (Chief Human Resources Officer) who is accountable for providing corporate leadership in the formulation and implementation of human resource management policies, programs and services;
  • The Parks Canada Ombudsman and Director of the Centre for Values and Ethics who ensures the provision of independent, neutral and confidential services to help address issues and concerns that may arise in the workplace;
  • Agency Executives who are accountable for people management and leadership to ensure the fair and equitable application of the Agency HR Values and Operating Principles and adherence to provisions of the collective agreement and to Agency HR policies, directives and other applicable legislative requirements; and
  • Human Resources Professionals who are responsible for supporting delegated managers in their people management accountabilities by providing analysis, advice and tools.

In addition, the Agency’s Policy on Organization and Classification “established a national governance and accountability framework for the organization and classification function” within the Agency. “The policy exemplifies the corporate objectives to fairly and equitably compensate employees, to simplify the classification system, and to enable Agency managers to efficiently and effectively use and apply generic work descriptions to meet organizational needs.”

Staffing and related communications: Fairness in staffing decisions implies that activities and decisions are made objectively and free from political influence or personal favouritism, and that staffing policies and practices reflect the just treatment of people.

To support fairness in staffing activities, staffing advertisements and notifications are posted on the Intranet, including internal job opportunities, notices of appointments, expressions of interest, and PCX competitions, as well as the results of closed competitions. The staffing Intranet portal also includes policies, guidelines and directives related to employment opportunities, forms, references and staffing checklists. The review found that the process of selecting a person for a position is perceived as fair by management and employees.

The Agency has a defined process with clear guidelines for communicating staffing results that is documented (e.g. staffing policy outlines communication requirements). Standard templates are in place to communicate staffing results. Interviewees indicated that overall staffing results are well communicated, sufficient and that communications sometimes go beyond the minimum policy requirements (e.g. managers take the time to talk to employees beyond the formal letter). Interviewees also indicated that there is an effort made to communicate results to successful and unsuccessful candidates at the same time, and managers encourage people to do post-boards in order to understand what they did well and to identify potential improvement opportunities for future competitions.

Lastly, according to the PSES 2014 results, the majority (59%) of Agency employees strongly or somewhat agree that, in their work unit, the process of selecting a person for the position is done fairly, which is an increase over the 2011 results of 55% and is higher than the 52% score for the broader Public Service.

Communication of HR policy: Communication of HR policies helps to support transparency and build consistent understanding and application of HR policies. The review found that HR policies are communicated to employees through a variety of channels including posting on the Intranet, email communications (all staff or targeted), HR advisors/managers, group meetings, and training.

The HR policies posted on the Agency Intranet cover a vast number of areas, a sample of which include: Values and Ethics and Code of Conduct, Employment Equity and Diversity, Employee Rights and Obligations, Informal Conflict Management, Instrument of Delegation of HR Authorities, Organization and Classification, Performance Management Program, Staffing, Training, and Workplace Relations. For each of these, there is further information, reference sources, and contact information provided.

Recourse available: When employees feel that there has been an error, omission or improper conduct, or when they are not satisfied with the fairness of actions or decisions, a variety of recourse mechanisms (both formal and informal) are accessible to employees.

Deficit Reduction Action Plan Illustration: Fairness and Consistency

An approach based on fairness, leadership and suitability considerations. The guiding principle was to make sure all decisions were grounded in the Agency's Leadership Attributes and HR values and operating principles. In order to ensure fairness and consistency throughout the organization, the Agency's overall approach to required reductions was based on the following three considerations: the Fairness Framework, the leadership attributes, and personal suitability.

Consistent HR strategy and messaging. The Agency created an overall HR strategy to support consistency and fairness in the Deficit Reduction Action Plan transition implementation.  Interviewees noted that senior management was committed to the strategy throughout the Deficit Reduction Action Plan process.

Application of a consistent decision-making method. Where a business unit had to reduce a number of similar positions, the Selection of Employees for Retention or Lay-off (SELRO) process was used. This process provided each business unit with a fair and equitable method to decide who was retained in their position and who would receive a notification of surplus status. To ensure fairness for all, the determination was made by a committee that included a member of another business unit. The Agency selection process was based on a combination of leadership attributes and personal suitability criteria and was created so that it would be efficient and could be applied consistently across the Agency. Understandably, not every team member was pleased with the results, but the general feedback received from affected employees was that the process was done fairly and the messaging was consistent.

Formal recourse mechanisms include grievance processes, as well as an Independent Third Party Review process. Related policies and tools are available on the Intranet for employees to access (e.g. Guide to Employee Redress, Independent Third Party Review Policy, Classification Grievance Policy, Toward a Harassment Free Workplace Policy). The Independent Third Party Review Policy provides employees with a process for “certain disputes arising in the workplace that have not been resolved to the employee's satisfaction through internal dispute resolution mechanisms and for which no other administrative procedure for redress is provided.”

Through the Centre for Values and Ethics, an informal conflict management program is in place, as well as access to an Ombudsman. In addition, there is support for alternative dispute resolution processes for staffing, interviewees indicated that they feel they can talk to their managers about issues before they escalate, and there appears to be an open dialogue between employees and management.

The review found that there is a perception that grievances are taken seriously within the Agency and work is done to address them. Interviewees indicated that recourse and dispute resolution mechanisms and tools are in place, accessible, and functioning well. They indicated that there is general awareness of the mechanisms and tools, and knowledge of where to go for assistance. Interviewees also provided positive feedback regarding the support provided in this area from the HR function (e.g. labour relations, dispute resolution team, informal conflict resolution group, values and ethics group).

According to the PSES 2014 results, 45% of Agency employees agree that they feel they can initiate a formal recourse (e.g. grievance, complaint, appeal) without fear of appraisal. While there is still room for improvement in this metric, it is an increase over the 2011 result of 41%, and is higher than the Public Service results (40%).

HR Value: Respect

Parks Canada’s Definition

Respect: mutual trust, recognition of accomplishments, self-esteem and regard for others are important elements of respectful working relationships. As a value that is earned and deserved, respect implies that we:

  • Respect individual differences and different points of view
  • Recognize individual and team contributions
  • Respect the need to balance our work and personal lives
  • Recognize the right of employees to union membership, representation and participation in union activities
  • Respect and apply principles concerning official languages, employment equity, privacy, health and safety in the workplace, and protection from harassment and discrimination
  • Foster an environment in which we participate in the organization’s activities and decisions
  • Consult prior to taking decisions that directly affect other employees
Findings

In reviewing the alignment of the Agency’s HR regime with the value of respect, practices across a breadth of areas were considered, such as:

  • Are there mechanisms and tools in place to support a safe and healthy work environment?
  • Are there mechanisms and tools in place to reduce and resolve dispute in the workplace (e.g. harassment, grievances)?
  • Is diversity in the workplace respected?
  • Are employee and team contributions recognized?
  • Are employees informed of decisions that impact their work unit?
  • Are processes, procedures and tools in place to support impacted employees during transition periods?
  • Does the Agency support work/life balance?
  • Does the Agency have mechanisms in place to consult with employees and are employees solicited to provide input to improve the Agency?
  • Are official communications to employees available in both official languages?
  • Is the right of employees to union membership, representation, and participation in union activities recognized by the Agency?

Overall, the review found that the HR regime is aligned with the value of respect. This assessment is based on observations from across various areas within the human resources regime. Of note, there appears to be a respectful and supportive culture within the Agency, where employee contributions are valued, and there is respect for employees’ work/life balance, official language of choice, and right to union membership and participation. The Agency has mechanisms and tools in place to support a respectful culture, such as to support impacted employees during transition periods, to support health and safety, and to reduce and resolve disputes in the workplace. In addition, the Agency appears to respect, support and encourage diversity in the workplace, with interviewees indicating that there is a culture of general acceptance of different views and diversity groups. This is further supported by the PSES results that indicate that 82% of Agency employees feel that the Agency treats them with respect (which is a 10% increase from the 2011 results and higher than the 79% in the broader Public Service), and 81% of Agency employees agree that, in their work unit, individuals behave in a respectful manner (vs 79% in the broader Public Service).

Additional details supporting the above assessment are highlighted below:

A safe and healthy work environment: A safe and healthy work environment demonstrates respect for employees and their health and safety. Several mechanisms and tools were observed within the Agency that support a safe and healthy work environment, such as numerous policies (e.g. Occupational Health and Safety Policy Framework), programs (e.g. Hazard Prevention Program), training courses (e.g. mandatory OHS training courses), procedures, practices (e.g. Generic Safe Work Practices), and guidelines, amongst others. Interviewees also commented on the active national and local Occupational Health and Safety Committees that are in place, as well as other specific activities such as regular floor inspections, fire drills, ergonomic assessments, and guest speakers on related topics.

Generally, employees reported that they feel they have adequate mechanisms and tools to support occupational health and safety (OHS) and that OHS issues are identified and addressed. Interviewees perceive that workplace safety is a priority for the Agency and taken seriously. In addition, interviewees noted that there is greater consistency of OHS in the field than in the past, with increased codification and standardization of policies. In addition, interviewees indicated that information related to health and safety is well communicated (e.g. bulletin board notices, email updates, training, access to safe work practices, etc.), and when in doubt they know who to contact.

Harassment and dispute resolution: A component of a respectful work environment is protection from harassment and discrimination. In this regard, the Agency has established several mechanisms and tools to reduce and resolve disputes in the workplace (e.g. harassment, grievances).

Employees have access to a variety of formal dispute resolution and grievance processes, including an Independent Third Party Review process. The objective of the “Toward a Harassment Free Workplace Policy” is to promote mutual trust, support and respect, reduce conflict and eliminate harassment in the workplace. To this end, a harassment policy that offers both informal and formal conflict resolution mechanisms has been established in order to address situations where individuals believe they have been subject to harassment. In addition, informal recourse mechanisms are also available (described under “Recourse available”, within the Competence value section of this report).

Based on interview feedback, employees appear to be aware of the tools and support that are in place, and indicated that they know where to go for assistance. Interviewees also indicated that related training is provided (e.g. mandatory harassment and discrimination training), as well as presentations from management and experts on the types of services and support that are available. Interviewees provided positive feedback regarding the support provided in this area from the HR function (e.g. labour relations, dispute resolution team, informal conflict resolution group, values and ethics group).

Interviewees also confirmed that mechanisms and tools to reduce and resolve dispute in the workplace are available and accessible to employees, and there is a perception that grievances are taken seriously within the Agency.

Within the PSES results, 59% of Agency employees indicate that they are satisfied with how interpersonal issues are resolved in their work unit (vs 60% in the broader Public Service); and 59% indicate that the Agency works hard to create a workplace that prevents harassment (vs 56% in the broader Public Service).

Respect for diversity: Another key element of respect is supporting diversity in the workplace. In this regard, the Agency appears to respect, support and encourage diversity in the workplace. This is evident through its Employment Equity Strategic Plan 2014-17, Employment Equity Annual Progress Report, Workplace Accommodation Policy, and Employment Equity and Diversity Steering Committee. It is also evident through the establishment of six advisory or working groups (with executive sponsors) which advise senior management on issues of interest with respect to their particular advocacy role (i.e. Committee for Equal Access and Participation, Aboriginal Working Group, Advisory Committee on Disability Issues, National Action Committee on Women’s Issues, GenerAction, Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgendered Employees Working Group). In addition, there is an Employment Equity Intranet page where employees are able to find information including: reports, policies, guides and tools related to employment equity and diversity.

Interviewees indicated that there is a culture of respect within an open and supportive work environment that has general acceptance of different views and diversity groups, and bias-free staffing. This is supported by the PSES 2014 results in which 73% of Agency employees agree that the Agency implements activities and practices that support a diverse workplace (vs 75% in the broader Public Service), 78% (vs 69% in 2011) of Agency employees agree that the Agency respects individual differences (e.g. culture, work styles and ideas) (vs 75% in the broader Public Service); and 63% of Agency employees agree that the Agency works hard to create a workplace that prevents discrimination (vs 58% in the broader Public Service).

Employee recognition: Respect for employees is also demonstrated through recognition of employee and team contributions. From a formal perspective, the Agency has a Recognition Policy to “ensure that the contributions made by employees are acknowledged”, and to “recognize the contribution of employees at all levels in a way that is meaningful, personalized, fair, transparent, non-competitive, flexible and timely”. In addition, the award policy supports an environment of respect, as it recognizes accomplishments, initiatives, attitudes and behaviours that promote co-operation, mutual respect, integrity, and service excellence. The program consists of promoting three Agency awards (CEO Award of Excellence, People Management Award, and Appreciation Award), and participating in other centrally administered Public Service Awards.

In addition, interviewees noted that there is regular, but less formal recognition taking place through practices such as recognition during team meetings, emails and calls, as well as the provision of group lunches, holiday cards, group coffee breaks, and other informal recognition activities. In support of this culture, individual Directorates also have the ability to recognize contributions, with related policies and guidelines in place to support this practice.

Based on interviewee feedback, recognizing others is viewed as a part of the Agency’s culture and a tone that is set from the top within the organization. This finding is supported by the Agency’s Recognition Policy, as well as the many formal and informal recognition programs and activities noted by interviewees. It was also noted that the PSES 2014 results identified that the majority of employees (63%) indicated that they receive meaningful recognition for work well done (higher than the 2011 results and the broader Public Service results of 56%).

Employees informed of impacts: Respect for employees may be demonstrated through the manner in which employees are informed about decisions that impact their work unit. In this regard it was noted that managers share decisions with employees both informally and formally, with three quarters (75%) of employees indicating within the PSES that their immediate supervisor keeps them informed about the issues affecting their work (vs 74% in the broader Public Service), and almost half (47%) indicating that essential information flows effectively from senior management to employees. While this may still present some opportunity for further improvement within the Agency, it is an increase over the 2011 results and higher than the 45% score for the broader Public Service. In addition, this is often an area where, while further information is desired by employees, this may not be feasible given privacy and confidentiality requirements.

Deficit Reduction Action Plan Illustration: Employee Communication

Provision of in-person communication to all employees. The Agency decided that all news would be provided by the Executive of the affected team member. The Agency decided that every team member would be met, in person, regardless of whether they were affected or not. On the day when the message was delivered, it was done in person. A senior manager, HR professional and representative from the Employee Assistance Program met with team members. Team members expressed appreciation that the message was delivered by their senior manager.

Provision of timely information. The Agency delivered news through a variety of mechanisms to make sure team members received timely and accurate information (e.g. in-person, Intranet portal, email).

Interviewees did indicate that they are made aware of decisions impacting them (often by their direct manager/supervisor) through a variety of means such as emails, webinars, conference calls, and team meetings. The timing of the provision of information was viewed as good, and interviewees noted that the method of communication was customized to the type of change at hand (e.g. more substantial impacts would have in-person meetings, such as in the Deficit Reduction Action Plan).

Employee support during transition periods: A key demonstration of respect is how employees are supported during periods of transition and change. In this regard, several processes, procedures and tools were noted to be in place to support impacted employees during transition periods, such as the Agency Directive on Career Transition for Executives, the Selection of Employees for Retention and Lay-Off (SERLO) Policy (which “provides the foundation for how employees affected by workforce adjustment situations are selected and retained or identified for lay off”), webinars to help employees prepare a resume and get ready for job interviews, Staffing Priority Policy, Guidelines for Priority Management (which “supports team members who are dealing with career transitions due to various life and employment events, such as Workforce Adjustment (WFA), becoming disabled, returning from extended leave or spousal relocation”), and other specific forms of transition guidelines (e.g. Guidelines for Demotion / Termination of Employment for Unsatisfactory Performance).

Deficit Reduction Action Plan Illustration: Employee Support

An HR Support Group was established and some of the preparations included ensuring there was a counselor on site when the message was delivered to help support team members. On the day when the message was delivered, it was done in person. A senior manager, HR professional and representative from the Employee Assistance Program met with team members.

Once the messages were delivered, the Agency ensured that support was provided equally to all team members across the country. Some of the examples of support made available included:

  • Transition Intranet portal
  • Webinars which offered to help employees manage their well-being
  • Dedicated Transition Management Team to support employees who had been impacted
  • A career counsellor
  • A financial planner
  • Toll-free confidential Employee and Family Assistance Program
  • The Office of the Ombudsman and Informal Conflict Management (ICM)

Work/life balance: Respect for employees’ personal time is demonstrated through practices that assist employees in balancing their personal and work commitments.

Support is available and open to employees’ individual situations and the Agency is accommodating and has established policies and tools to support work/life balance. For example, the Agency has various formal programs in place that support work/life balance, such as support for self-funded leave, support for leave with pay in specific circumstances, leave without pay, telework policy, and compressed work weeks. In addition, the Agency is continuing to focus on this area with one of its Innovation Labs being a work-life balance think tank.

Interviewees indicated that the Agency and senior management demonstrate support for work/life balance and that there is a people oriented and accommodating culture within the Agency. Interviewees indicated that management respects employees’ time and demonstrates understanding for family/personal issues. Interviewees did note that application or practices related to work/life balance may depend/vary based on individual Manager’s flexibility, as well as the type of work.

According to the PSES results, the majority of employees agree that they have support at work to balance their work and personal lives (71% vs 70% in the broader Public Service) and that, subject to operational requirements, their immediate supervisor supports the use of flexible work arrangements (e.g. flexible hours, compressed work weeks, telework) (73% vs 70% in the broader Public Service).

Employee input opportunities: Respect for employees may also be demonstrated by soliciting and considering their input with respect to the organization. In this regard, employees’ points of view and input appear to be respected within the Agency. Findings indicate that employees are solicited to provide input to improve the Agency and that the Agency has formal and informal mechanisms to consult with employees. Furthermore, interview feedback indicates that there is a culture of consultation with employees and that there is a sense that the Agency will take action on new ideas brought forward by employees and will attempt to address concerns that are raised. Interviewees indicated that they do not feel inhibited to share ideas and that there are many opportunities informally to provide input and raise suggestions (e.g. in meetings, within peer networks, in response to senior management email requests for input). More formally, two specific examples were noted: Blueprint 2020 (in which the Agency was proactive in soliciting ideas from employees across the Agency), as well as the Innovation Labs that the Agency launched to discover new ideas to improve the operations and the quality of the workplace. In addition, other formal mechanisms were also indicated to be in place, such as the public service employee survey, the Ombudsman, and diversity working groups (e.g. Generaction).

Deficit Reduction Action Plan Illustration: Leadership support of respect for the human element

Early in the process, the CEO and Chief Human Resources Officer set the expectation that there was to be one HR strategy followed during the Deficit Reduction Action Plan, all decisions and actions would be made while respecting the human element, and the Agency would be fair and respectful of its collective agreement obligations.

PSES 2014 results indicate that the majority of employees agree that they have opportunities to provide input into decisions that affect their work (66% vs 61% in the broader Public Service), and that they have access to senior management (64% vs 56% in the broader Public Service).

Official languages: Respect may also be demonstrated by respecting employees’ official language of choice. In this regard, there appears to be a culture of respect for the use of both official languages within the Agency that supports an environment where employees can use the official language of their choice.

Support and respect of the Agency for official languages is demonstrated by the fact that it has an Official Languages Policy Framework which aims to create and maintain a work environment conducive to the use of both official languages, there is an official languages Intranet portal, and there is a Policy on Language of Work. The Policy on Language of Work states that the Agency “creates and maintains a work environment conducive to the effective use of both official languages to enable its staff to use either language and implements measures so that employees use their preferred official language”. The Agency ensures that its senior management team “communicates effectively in both official languages with the employees and that it provides leadership in creating and maintaining a work environment conducive to the effective use of both official languages”. Furthermore, the Agency implements measures to enable employees to use their preferred official language in meetings; and, “any other reasonable measures to create a work environment conducive to the use of both official languages and to enable its employees to use either language.”

Interviewees indicated that the Agency is diligent about supporting official languages and that the topic is taken seriously. More specifically, interviewees indicated that formal email communications to employees are provided in both official languages and that they can speak in the language of their choice at meetings. This is supported by high PSES results in this area with 76% to 97% of employees (depending on the question) agreeing that materials are available in their official language of choice (similar to the Public Service), that they feel free to use their official language of their choice when preparing materials, in meetings or when communicating with their immediate supervisor, and that training offered is available in the official language of choice.

Union membership: Respect at Parks Canada also includes recognizing the right of employees to union membership, representation, and participation in union activities. Interviewees indicated that these rights are recognized by the Agency. Several clauses within the collective agreement support this, such as: the Agency agrees to supply the Alliance with information on new employees, the Agency agrees to supply each employee with a copy of the collective agreement, bulletin Board space is made available for union-related information, the Agency makes specific locations available on its premises for union-supplied literature, and the Agency acknowledges the right of the union to appoint or otherwise select employees as representatives. In addition, interviewees noted several practices that demonstrate that the Agency respects union participation, such as the opportunity to attend union meetings, posting of information on upcoming events, and the fact that union/management meetings take place and minutes are posted. While overall there were positive findings in this area, there was feedback regarding unevenness of labour relationships at the local level.

Opportunities for Enhancement

While it was found that, on an overall basis, Parks Canada’s HR regime is consistent and aligned with the value of respect, the following opportunity for further enhancement should be considered in order to further increase consistency and alignment with this value:

Dispute resolution: The Agency has mechanisms and tools to reduce and resolve disputes in the workplace (e.g. harassment, grievances), and there is generally positive feedback from interviewees regarding dispute resolution mechanisms, as well as strong PSES results related to the resolution of personal issues and working to create a workplace that prevents harassment.

Despite these findings, less than half of the Agency’s employees indicated in the PSES results that they are satisfied with how matters related to harassment are resolved in the Agency (39% vs 35% in the broader Public Service); and that they are satisfied with how matters related to discrimination are resolved in the Agency (43% vs 35% in the broader Public Service). As can be seen through the broader Public Service scores in this area, the Agency is not unique in facing a challenge with employee satisfaction in this area.

While the majority of the workforce indicate that the Agency works hard to create a workplace that prevents harassment, given that less than 50% of the workforce are satisfied with how matters related to harassment or discrimination are resolved, as the Agency works though its response to the PSES, the Agency should examine what possible workplace factors are having an adverse impact in this area and work with colleagues in the broader Public Service to explore ways to improve results in this area.

HR Operating Principles

This section presents findings with respect to the HR Operating Principles.

Parks Canada’s Definitions
  • Accountability: Answerability for carrying out responsibilities in accordance with our HR values and operating principles.
  • Efficiency: Making the best possible use of human, time and financial resources.
  • Effectiveness: Achieving the expected results.
  • Consistency: Acting in a similar manner in similar circumstances.
  • Adaptability: Adjusting to circumstances while encouraging innovation and creativity.
  • Simplicity: Making things as uncomplicated as possible.
  • Openness: Ensuring straightforward and honest communication.
Findings

Overall, it was found that the Agency’s human resources regime is consistent with its operating principles. While the operating principles are related, and there are sometimes inherent trade-offs required within the suite of values and operating principles (e.g. fairness vs. efficiency), the review found that the operating principles are being considered collectively and in a balanced fashion and when taken as a whole, the HR regime is in alignment with the operating principles. A sample of specific practices that demonstrate the operating principles is provided below:

  • The Agency instills accountability within its HR regime through the delegation of HR authorities from the CEO to the various managerial and supervisory levels within the Agency, use of formal governance committees with defined accountabilities, and the application of HR policies that align to the values and operating principles.
  • While there were some comments regarding the lack of efficiency sometimes experienced in the staffing process, on an overall basis, the Agency tries to support efficiency and simplicity by making its HR tools and support readily available for employees and building policies and tools that support efficiency/simplicity, such as the casual worker policy to fill short-term position requirements, and the use of pre-established work descriptions as a base when creating new positions. In addition, the Agency’s e-services project is intended to further enhance staffing and classification efficiency.
  • The Agency supports effectiveness, with examples including the use of leadership attributes in the staffing process to help ensure employees are competent and have the desired skills, the ongoing provision of feedback to employees, the use of a performance management program to manage performance, and the provision of training to develop employees.
  • The Agency supports consistent HR practices through the use of a common suite of HR policies and set of HR tools (e.g. formal and documented PMP with templates to ensure similar information is captured, generic work descriptions, leadership attributes), as well as an overarching set of values and operating principles to guide all of the HR regime.
  • The Agency demonstrates its adaptability through the programs in place to adapt to employee work-life balance needs, and continuing to look for new opportunities to adapt and enhance its HR practices as evidenced in some of the HR initiatives currently underway, as well as the establishment of Innovation Labs to solicit input and ideas from employees.
  • The Agency has created an environment where there appears to be open communications between employees and managers and ongoing sharing of and access to information, such as availability of information on the Intranet (e.g. HR policies, leadership attributes, staffing related information), provision of formal and informal performance feedback, sharing of decisions with employees, and use of a transition portal during the Deficit Reduction Action Plan.

Additional Findings

Through the course of this review, three additional HR regime-related opportunities for enhancement were identified. As they were not solely related to a specific or single value or operating principle, these observations and opportunities are outlined in this section of the report.

Sustaining the Agency Values and Operating Principles: The Agency’s values and operating principles originated over 15 years ago. Since that time, a significant portion of the Agency workforce has grown accustomed and familiar with applying and adhering to these values and principles. Interviewees expressed concern, however, that new Agency employees (e.g. millennials) entering the workforce may not share the same beliefs or use the same language to express similar beliefs as the current workforce that created and shaped the values and operating principles. Interviewees also expressed concern that impending retirements will soon affect the Agency and there will be a significant departure of employees who have become agents of change and champions for the values and operating principles. This creates a potential risk that the Agency will not be able to sustain the values and operating principles in the same manner as it has since their origination. As such, it will be important for the Agency to ensure that the values and operating principles (including the language used to describe them) remain relevant as its workforce shifts. There may also be a need to increase awareness and education with regards to the values and operating principles. The Agency Executive Management Committee (EMC) is aware of this risk.

Given that the Agency is undergoing significant modernization and workforce transformations (e.g. pay modernization, new service delivery models), the manner in which HR duties and responsibilities are performed is changing for everyone, including employees, HR managers, finance managers, delegated managers, and the HR Directorate. As part of the Agency’s change management activities being implemented in relation to these transformations, it will be important for the Agency to stay diligent to ensure its values and operating principles are considered and embedded within the change management efforts used to support these transformation efforts.

Given the changing demographics of the Agency workforce and ongoing transformation initiatives, the Agency should take the opportunity to reconfirm the language and positioning of the Agency’s values and operating principles and ensure they are embedded within change management efforts so that they remain relevant as the Agency changes and transforms.

HR Strategy and Performance Scorecard: A key cornerstone to supporting values and operating principles through an HR regime is having a clear HR strategy and ability to measure success in implementing that strategy. At the time of this review, the Agency did not have a formal HR strategy in place, or a supporting HR scorecard to monitor key HR performance measures. An HR strategy aligned with the organization’s business goals would help to guide and align HR plans across all HR functional areas and initiatives, with a view to supporting the Agency in delivering against its current and future business objectives. Regular reporting and monitoring of key metrics using an HR scorecard provides visibility to the state of human resources within the organization. Trend analysis and leading indicators can provide information and insights to support HR strategy refinement and decision-making.

As part of modernizing its HR regime and as support to the Agency’s values and operating principles, the Agency should formalize an HR Strategy and, as planned within its People Management Dashboard Project, develop a corporate level HR scorecard to support ongoing oversight of the organization’s human resources.

HR Advice and Support: Generally, interviewees feel they receive adequate support and advice from their HR advisors, however, interviewees expressed that some confusion and inconsistency remains in the roles performed by HR advisors and that different perspectives are sometimes obtained from HR advisors on how to interpret and apply HR policies.

While a contact person in the HR Directorate is assigned to the various Agency units, due to staffing changes and reorganization in the HR Directorate, interviewees noted that it has become more difficult to stay abreast of who is responsible for specific HR policy areas. A concern was also noted that the Agency’s HR National Office Advisory Staff / Specialists sometimes do not appear familiar enough with the Agency's business and field unit realities. For example, advisors may develop policies in line with ‘core’/ TBS policy direction and guidance, but sometimes the policies may not adequately reflect or consider the Agency’s operational realities.

A key goal of the Agency is to become more nimble in the application of the HR regime and to enable management to follow a principles-based approach, rather than being overly prescriptive in applying HR policies and procedures. Given this, the Agency should ensure clear communication of HR Directorate roles and enhance knowledge sharing practices among the HR professionals within the Agency to ensure consistent guidance is provided on a regular basis.

Appendix A – Deficit Reduction Action Plan Overview

Background

In March 2012, the Federal Government’s Budget 2012 directed departments and agencies to reduce their budgets by a total of $5.2B. The federal government announced it would eliminate 19,200 positions over three years from government departments and agencies. (Source: Jobs Growth and Long-Term Prosperity; Economic Action Plan 2012)

As part of this review, the Agency was required to implement cost-saving measures to modernize government, making it easier for Canadians and business to deal with their Government and refocus the cost of operations and program delivery. More specifically, as part of the budget, the Government announced that the Agency would reduce its operating budget by approximately $29.2 million. The Agency responded through both reductions and restraint as follows:

  • Consolidating and streamlining service centres and National Office into one decentralized and significantly reduced structure. This consolidation streamlined and focused work on policy guidance and service to the field operations of the Agency.
  • Focusing recreational boating service at canals by aligning the length of its season, hours of operation, and personal service at locks on canals to focus investments on the periods of highest requirements.
  • Aligning the seasonality of the Agency workforce across functions to the work requirements by focusing investments on the periods of highest requirements. This resulted in changes to the operating season of some parks and sites. The seasonality of the Agency workforce was also adjusted to reflect changed work requirements in the areas of visitor services, resource conservation, and asset management.
  • Moving to self-guided visitor activities at select national historic sites while maintaining guided activities at the majority of the national historic sites.
  • Limiting social science research work to focus on corporate reporting needs and otherwise make use of existing external market research done by other organizations. In the future, the Agency will focus and streamline social science work to report on requirements of the federal government management accountability framework, including monitoring public appreciation and client satisfaction.

Implementing this direction meant that the Agency had to reduce its workforce. In order to accomplish the reductions, the Agency noted that approximately 1,670 employees were impacted, through either job elimination or affected status. Many of the affected positions were not eliminated but represented a reduction in work period. As well, approximately 270 who received a surplus letter, volunteered to be laid off. What made this workforce adjustment even more of a challenge for the Agency was that there was no comparable precedence for workforce reduction of seasonal employees.

Implementing these workforce adjustments and reductions was a significant and demanding event for the Agency but was also an excellent example case study to demonstrate how the Agency successfully applied its HR values and operating principles.

In order to develop this case study, the review team met with the key stakeholders and process owners who were responsible for leading, planning, designing and implementing Agency workforce adjustments and reductions. The following section describes the guiding principles used by the Agency to help ground decisions, some of the key implementation steps in the Agency’s workforce transition, and highlights of how Agency HR values and operating principles were applied during this transition.

Agency Guiding Principles

During this workforce transition, the senior management team at the Agency remained committed to a process that supported consistency across the Agency and was respectful of Agency team members. From the outset, the Agency’s senior management team was responsible for making decisions about positions impacted. This occurred within the framework of the Workforce Adjustment Appendix of the collective agreement.

The guiding principle was to make sure all decisions were grounded in the Agency’s Leadership Attributes and HR values and operating principles. In order to ensure fairness and consistency throughout the organization, the Agency’s overall approach to required reductions was based on the following three considerations:

  1. The Fairness Framework - Adopted by the Agency on the recommendation of the Agency’s Ombudsman, the Fairness Framework is a document built on the feedback of Agency team members and on numerous other social science documents and research to ensure that decisions can withstand the test of fairness. The Fairness Framework is a strategic decision-making tool that helped the Agency implement Deficit Reduction Action Plan decisions in accordance with Agency core values – integrity, engagement, excellence and respect – based on the firm belief that Agency’s greatest asset is its workforce. Use of the fairness framework is further described below.
  2. The Leadership Attributes - To ensure the selection process of those who were affected, declared surplus, or retained was equitable in situations where reductions were required, decisions were made in light of the Agency’s HR values and operating principles and Leadership Attributes. The Agency’s Leadership Attributes were adopted after significant consultation with Agency team members from across the organisation and defined the behaviours of leadership, which apply at any level of the organisation. Five leadership attributes were used to make this determination:
    • Shares our vision;
    • Makes things happen;
    • Exercises sound judgement;
    • Communicates effectively; and,
    • Strives for excellence.
  3. Personal Suitability - The determination also took into consideration the personal suitability factor of “flexibility” as well as one of the following two factors, depending on the nature of the work: “Team Player” or “Thoroughness”.

Implementation

The Agency created an overall HR strategy to support consistency in the Deficit Reduction Action Plan transition implementation. The objective was to deliver the HR activities needed to proceed with the required reduction of the Agency workforce, while minimizing impacts to Agency team members.

To begin the reduction, each business unit was asked to review and adjust, where necessary, their respective organization taking into consideration the required program changes to achieve financial reductions. Once approved, each business unit was responsible for taking steps to achieve this new organizational model.

Next, the Agency asked if any team members were willing to identify themselves for ‘consideration for lay-off’ in order to minimize the number of other team members who would be “involuntarily” laid off. Over 270 team members volunteered.

Where a business unit had to reduce a number of similar positions that were under the same generic work description, the Selection of Employees for Retention or Lay-off (SELRO) process was used (described further below). This process provided each business unit with a fair and equitable method to decide who was retained in their position and who would receive a notification of surplus status. Given that this assessment was against an employee's current substantive job, it was assumed that everyone was qualified for that job, so selection was not based on an assessment of what a person does, in terms of experience, knowledge, education, etc. The selection was made on merit, with the review based on the Agency’s own leadership attributes and clearly identified personal suitability factors. The Agency SERLO process assessed how people contribute to the Agency. To ensure fairness for all, the determination was made by a committee that included a member of another business unit.

In addition to the above steps, each business unit was required to make other decisions that align the season of employment with the visitation season and corresponding work requirements (e.g. reduce a full-time employee to a reduce strength, for instance 0.8 FTE). This also resulted in employees receiving a surplus letter or a reduced season of work.

After considering all of the above, a business unit arrived at a list of employees who were retained as well as those who were declared surplus. Once these decisions were made, the review team was informed that the Agency formally notified the union at least 48 hours in advance of employees being notified in accordance with the collective agreement.

After employees were notified that their position was affected (no longer required because of workforce adjustment), the Agency followed the collective agreement and moved as quickly as possible to provide a reasonable job offer to those affected. This was facilitated by the development of a priority system which was managed nationally. Priority employees received first consideration, in accordance with the provisions of the Collective Agreement and the Agency values and operating principles, as positions were posted for competition. A streamlined staffing process where all competitions were posted nationally helped to ensure the greatest possible effectiveness and transparency.

Highlights

Although this was a challenging and strenuous event in the history of the Agency, there were some highlights and achievements that are of note in the context of this review:

Leadership from senior management

Senior management, namely the Executive Management Committee (EMC) was recognised as having devoted significant time to the planning and implementation of the transition. The EMC recognized their role in having to provide answers to tough questions and, early on, decided collectively that this transition would be the Agency’s and EMC’s top priority. EMC was regularly informed and actively involved in key decisions. The Agency senior management team also recognized that it was important to instill “one-voice” across the Agency and to communicate that the senior management team was all moving in the same direction. All EMC members were instructed to return to their respective areas with the same message. Employees noted that this was felt to be reassuring to team members in that they received consistent messaging – “even in chaos, employees felt there was a plan”. To further enable the process, a new position was created in order to lead the workforce adjustment implementation.

The CEO and Chief Human Resource Officer (Chief Human Resources Officer) were recognized as having provided strong leadership and setting the tone from the top. The Chief Human Resources Officer was responsible for engaging and preparing Agency HR managers for the changes. Early in the process, the CEO and Chief Human Resources Officer set the expectation - there was to be one HR strategy followed during the Deficit Reduction Action Plan, all decisions and actions would be made while respecting the human element, and the Agency would be fair and respectful of its collective agreement obligations.

There was very little time to prepare and plan for the adjustments; therefore, it was essential that there was strong teamwork and not a competitive environment. Among senior management, there was a common understanding that this was a monumental task and agreement that all issues were to be thoroughly discussed by management and that there should be a culture where management felt they could build on the ideas being put forward.

The Fairness Framework, developed by the Ombudsman, was used to guide decision-making. The Fairness Framework was presented to EMC and was immediately accepted. Employees noted that this spoke loudly about the quality of the Agency leadership.

Common messaging and communication

As a communication approach, the Agency avoided using the word “staff” and adopted the term “team members” as a sign of respect that indicated that everyone at the Agency was involved in the transition. The Agency also decided that all news would be provided by the executive of the affected team member. The Agency decided that every team member would be met, in person, regardless if they were affected or not.

A common database was developed for management, which was a repository that had the most up to date and current information. This database was used as a single source of information to help ensure consistency in the messaging and information being shared.

Throughout the process, the Agency delivered news through a variety of mechanisms to make sure team members received timely and accurate information (e.g. in-person, Intranet portal, email). The Agency also put in place mechanisms and processes to quickly escalate and resolve issues. The Agency was thereby able to quickly receive information, discuss, and answer questions that were raised. This was felt to allow Agency senior management to adjust and change course on a timely basis, if required.

Lastly, there were clear timelines established for the rollout of communications. This was quite challenging given that the Agency’s operations are very decentralized and spread across multiple time zones. The goal for the Agency was to notify team members quickly as information became available.

Selection of Employees for Retention or Lay-off (SERLO)

The Agency Selection of Employees for Retention or Lay-off (SERLO) policy and guidelines provided the foundation for how Agency employees affected by the workforce adjustment were retained or identified as surplus, which may have resulted in lay-off. Unlike many other departments and agencies that underwent deficit reduction workforce adjustments, affected Agency employees were not asked to interview for a position. This was a unique aspect of the Agency SERLO process.

The Agency made the decision not to question the competencies of the workforce and it was accepted that all employees met the qualifications of their current position (i.e. education, experience, knowledge). Rather, the Agency assessed how people performed their work and how they contributed to the Agency in order to meet the current and future needs of the organization. Agency employees were assessed on their demonstrated ability to share the Agency vision, make things happen, exercise sound judgement, communicate effectively, strive for excellence, be team players, and be flexible.

In order to do this, the Agency selection process was based on a combination of leadership attributes and personal suitability criteria and was created so that it would be efficient and could be applied consistently across the Agency. While it was the senior manager of the work unit who was responsible for making the final decision on the SERLO process, the decision was made based on the recommendation of an assessment committee that included a member of another business unit. The committee assessing employees used the following assessment and selection criteria:

Five leadership attributes:

  • Shares our vision;
  • Makes things happen;
  • Exercises sound judgment;
  • Communicates effectively; and
  • Strives for excellence.

Two personal suitability factors

  • Flexibility; and
  • Team player or thoroughness.

The SERLO Approach used by the Agency was received favorably in part because it was considered to be a ‘made in Parks Canada’ approach. The leadership attributes used in the assessment were developed by Agency employees. Understandably, not every team member was pleased with the results, but we understand that the general feedback received from affected employees was that the process was done fairly and the messaging was consistent.

Support for management

The Agency strived to implement the changes while keeping a ‘human face’ and treat all team members with respect and compassion. The Agency was proactive in determining that there would be a need to provide support to the executives (e.g. how to deliver the results) and to employees (e.g. how to draft a good resume). The Agency worked closely with counterparts in other departments to identify what support courses and material were available.

The Agency took several steps and made preparations to make sure senior managers who had to deliver challenging messages to team members were well prepared and felt supported. There was discussion at EMC meetings where senior management were asked to “put themselves in the shoes of the person receiving the news” and this was felt to help provide clear direction and compassion in the delivery. It was viewed as critically important that no senior manager felt alone or not supported. The Agency PCX Forum was one mechanism used to share and deliver updates. Senior managers were also coached on how to deliver difficult messages. Role play simulations were used to help senior managers practice delivering messages. These sessions were reportedly intense but provided a great opportunity to show how team members may react to bad news. In addition, templates were prepared for different scenarios to help senior managers in delivering the message.

During the rollout of the Deficit Reduction Action Plan, regular conference calls were scheduled with senior management to gather feedback and to adjust as required. On the date when Deficit Reduction Action Plan results were first delivered, support was available 24/7 in case any senior manager had any issues/challenges which needed a quick response.

Support for employees

The Agency spent a lot of effort preparing and supporting team members. An HR Support Group was established and some of the preparations included ensuring there was a counselor on site when the message was delivered to help support team members. On the day when the message was delivered, it was done in person. A senior manager, HR professional and representative from the Employee Assistance Program met with team members. These meetings were held in a separate and private office location or dedicated floor. Team members expressed appreciation that the message was delivered by their senior manager. Another thing appreciated by team members was that the results were delivered quickly.

Once the messages were delivered, the Agency ensured that support was provided equally to all team members across the country. Some of the examples of support provided included:

  • Transition Intranet portal - was updated regularly to ensure that all employees had access to the most recent information.
  • Webinars - offered to help employees manage their well-being, including tips for controlling stress and getting through periods of change as well as a series of webinars to help employees prepare a resume and get ready for a job interview. There was no cost to participate in these sessions and course material was also available online.
  • Dedicated Transition Management Team - to support employees who had been impacted.
  • Career counselling – a career counsellor was made available to help team members get a clear perspective on their qualifications, experience, strengths, and weaknesses and to help develop strategies to find a new place in the job market based on salary expectations, interests, and desired location.
  • Financial planning - a financial planner was made available to help choose the option that best addressed individual financial goals.
  • Toll-free confidential Employee and Family Assistance Program - to quickly direct employees to the best sources of support.
  • The Office of the Ombudsman and Informal Conflict Management (ICM) - was available to help with conflict-related concerns. The Ombudsman heard concerns confidentially, and was a neutral source of advice or help.

In addition, during the implementation, the Chief Human Resources Officer and EMC had regular discussions with the Ombudsman to discuss and listen to what the Ombudsman was hearing from employees. Employees reportedly also felt comfortable enough to contact the Ombudsman to get advice on how they should react if their colleague had been affected.

Summary

Ultimately, the Agency workforce adjustment had a direct impact on close to 1,700 team members, with minimal grievances. The review team was informed that there were many cases where senior management received positive feedback from affected team members on how the process was managed and viewed to be fair. The Agency also noted that some of the senior managers were thanked because employees felt that the Agency’s values and operating principles were respected in HR decisions and actions taken by the Agency.