Rewarding HR leaders in the public service

By David Brown and Asha Tomlinson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 12/20/2002

Since 1992, the Human Resources Council has worked to give HR leaders a stronger voice in the management of human resources in the federal public service. Developing a recognition program for HR professionals has been part of that process.

Originally known as the Personnel Renewal Council, by the mid-’90s the body shifted its focus from promoting HR to developing a more modern, revitalized HR management framework. The council recognized HR had to play a more strategic role in the running of the public service but the HR framework itself had to change.

The council carried out a review of the framework and made several recommendations.

Notably, it was the HR Council’s proposal to upgrade the selection standard for HR practitioners to include a university degree. The standard was introduced in 1999 and today two-thirds of the HR professionals in the public service have a degree.

Other elements of the renewal process include the development of an HR core competency profile, the examination of HR performance measures and the creation of HR leadership awards.

Last month, the HR Council gave out its awards for 2002 to nine HR professionals from across the federal public service.

The awards celebrate leadership and innovation in HR management, said Louise Gravel, executive director of the HR Council. But it is also a way to encourage the sharing of best practices.

Two of the winners talked to

Canadian HR Reporter

about what they have accomplished in the past year to merit the recognition of their peers. (For a list of the other winners and a brief description of their achievements, see page 15. To learn more about the HR council go to www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/HR_CONNEXIONS_RH/HRERC_4_e.html.)

Luc Doyon

Regional director of HR
Canada Customs and Revenue Agency
Quebec Region

Soon after moving into his role as Quebec regional director of HR for the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, Luc Doyon added six people to his HR team whose sole responsibility was to help managers improve recognition practices.

Previously recognition wasn’t a big part of the culture at CCRA — one person administered the long-service programs, that was about it — but the agency was in the middle of modernizing HR and creating a recognition culture was an essential part of that, Doyon says.

For an organization like CCRA the most important elements are computers and people, he says. If CCRA wanted to improve performance it had to improve human resources management.

As much as 30 per cent of the workforce will be eligible to retire by 2008. To attract new people and prepare existing employees for the massive changes such a high turnover entails, it needed to “build something very attractive for employees.”

That’s a fundamental change in the perception of what role HR should play, says Doyon, who won the Michelle Comeau award for his role in the implementation of the new HR management framework at CCRA.

Doyon began working in HR for the federal public service in 1973, but took a non-HR position in 1993 because, at that time, senior management didn’t believe in HR, he says. But when he was offered an HR position with the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency in September 2001 he could see things had changed.

The leaders weren’t just saying they believe in HR, they were making changes to prove they were committed to change, he says.

It was an opportunity to go back to HR and build and change a lot of things because the old HR regime did not have much credibility among employees, he says.

Aside from improving recognition policies, improvements were made to the staffing appeals process and a competency profile for all jobs is being built. A new alternative dispute resolution system is being introduced with a professional mediator available to facilitate disagreements.

One of the more fundamental changes is in the transfer of more power to front-line managers. A group of 75 HR specialists advise and counsel managers but decisions are all made by the managers, not HR.

Doyon’s vision for his public-sector HR department is in part inspired by his brother who runs a large Quebec City company without an HR department or other in-house support. Rather than forcing his managers to use an in-house HR function, they are given the money to spend on whatever external HR expertise they want. While that is not an option for CCRA, Doyon wants his HR specialists to service front-line managers as though the managers have the option of taking their business elsewhere.

The large number of imminent retirements has put pressure on HR at CCRA to improve its staffing practices.

“I’m not sure if we will be able to train our people faster than we need them,” said Doyon. HR will have to prepare managers and they’ve already become much more aggressive in recruitment, he says. They have a much greater presence on university campuses and they’re trying to convince people with years of experience in the private sector that there are very good career opportunities for them at the CCRA, says Doyon.

Doug Spiers

Regional recruitment manager
Correctional Service Canada
Prairie Region

There has been a culture change in the Prairie Region of Correctional Service Canada. What was once a very homogeneous culture has changed into a more diverse, inclusive environment — much of this can be attributed to Doug Spiers, the regional recruitment manager.

He was awarded the 2002 Michelle Comeau Human Resources Leadership Award for his efforts in increasing the number of Aboriginal employees.

In the past, when there was one or two Aboriginal Peoples, it was uncomfortable for them, “you could see them trying to almost hide the fact they were Aboriginal just to fit in,” Spiers says. “But with the representation we have now, there is that comfort level...there isn’t the need to say, ‘I’ve got to hide my roots in order to fit in.’”

With Aboriginals accounting for a disproportionate percentage of the prison population, hiring Aboriginal Correction Service staff is also a positive move for relations within facilities.

A few years back, Aboriginal Peoples only represented about 10 per cent of staff in the Prairie region, today they make up almost 20 per cent of staff.

Spiers’ dedication to the advancement of Aboriginal Peoples means more than just trying to fill a quota.

“It’s seeing the culture change in corrections and it needs that change.”

The change took shape with the creation of a pre-recruitment training program. Spiers and his team of four recruitment officers developed a program that would help Aboriginal Peoples become more familiar with the recruitment process. The team identified barriers to employment and made sure the curriculum of the program addressed those problems.

One obstacle Spiers recognized was that Aboriginal Peoples do not like to talk about themselves or their accomplishments during the interview process. Many do not feel comfortable touting their achievements, he says. “We wanted to make them feel more comfortable when responding during interviews.”

Correctional Service set up partnerships with organizations in Aboriginal communities, which has been important to the program’s success. These groups help in several ways.

“It gives us a source to go to when we need advice on how to retain staff and these organizations have been utilized when performance issues have come up with some of the new hires.

“There is a very strong relationship...they (Aboriginal groups) saw how serious we were about hiring Aboriginal Peoples and it gave us a better understanding and trust in their organizations,” he says. Spiers also advertised in the Aboriginal media and presented information sessions at Aboriginal cultural events and colleges.

The winners are…

Lise Cloutier — chief of staffing, official languages and recognition, Human Resources Directorate, the Department of Justice Canada:

Cloutier has helped launch many departmental initiatives, including the development of a Quick-Reference Guide on Official Languages for Employees, a flexible part-time language training program, and promotional material for the departmental Pride and Recognition Program.

Diane Dinelle — project manager, Compensation Group Renewal Project, Human Resources Community Secretariat, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat:

Dinelle was recognized for her leadership, hard work and dedication to the renewal of the compensation community in the public sector. Through her leadership, the compensation community received substantial funding to support recruitment and renewal for the community.

Colleen Stewart — director, HR Services Branch, Human Resources Development Canada, Ontario Region:

Stewart transformed HR services throughout the Ontario Region to make HR professionals strategic business partners. Stewart has also made remarkable contributions to learning through the development of an e-Learning Strategic Policy, providing timely training and development learning to a region with more than 5,600 employees.

Andrea R. Darichuk (Team Leader) Gloria Candussi, Christina Pidzamecky Carella, and Anna Riccardi — Income Security Programs, Ontario Region, Human Resources Development Canada

: Presented to the team in recognition of the creation of a strong, innovative and articulate HR Agenda for the Income Security Programs, Ontario Region. And in particular, for their involvement in the Achieving Excellence Through People initiative and the application of National Quality principles to the area of Human Resources.

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