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Government of Canada Innovation Series: Innovation in Human Resources (TRN2-V01)


This event recording features a discussion with public service leaders and innovators on emerging challenges in human resources, including technological shifts, labour shortages and the ongoing requirement for innovation skills.

Duration: 01:04:59
Published: January 27, 2023
Type: Video

Event: Government of Canada Innovation Series: Innovation in Human Resources

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Government of Canada Innovation Series: Innovation in Human Resources

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Transcript: Government of Canada Innovation Series: Innovation in Human Resources

[The CSPS Logo appears on screen]

[Vanessa Vermette appears on screen]

Vanessa Vermette: Hi everyone. My name is Vanessa Vermette, and I'm the Vice President of Innovation and Skills Development here at the Canada School of Public Service. I would like to begin by acknowledging that the land on which some of us are joining from is the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe people. I recognize that our participants today are from various parts of the country, and therefore, you might work on a different indigenous territory. I encourage all of you to take a moment to think about the territory you occupy today, and more specifically, the actions that you can take to support reconciliation.

So, first of all, welcome to the GC Innovation Series. This is a new series that explores innovation across the many communities of practice that we have here in the Government of Canada. Our goal with this series is to share new ideas and help expand innovative practices related to public service management across the government. So future additions of our series are going to include themes like communications, grants and contributions and policy among others.

And it's important to highlight that the term innovation has over 75 citations in the last Federal budget. And this means that Public Servants really need to be continuously challenging their practices, finding new ways to improve them, and really focusing on how we can deliver better and bring value in new and novel ways for program delivery to Canadians.

We here define innovation as a new method or program or policy that can be adopted and implemented at scale. While innovation can be big and should be big for an organization like the Federal government, it starts really small with finding novel solutions to our identified business problems. So as those solutions gain widespread adoption, they become true innovations and unlock value for organizations, for employees and for citizens.

So, with that, I am really pleased to introduce today's event, which is entitled Innovations in Human Resources Management.

So, on behalf of the school, I'd like to welcome all of the participants to this event. I am very pleased to present today's event, entitled "Innovations in Human Resources Management."

So, we'll meet our panelists in just a few moments, and I'll just introduce them really quickly verbally. We have Francis Trudel, who is the Associate Chief Human Resources Officer, two weeks into the job, and he's already so excited to talk to us today about innovation in HR.

[Vanessa Vermette and Francis Trudel appear in video chat panels]

Vanessa Vermette: We have Anna Wong, who is the Director of the Digital Community Management Office at TBS. We have my dear friend, Wendy Bullion-Winters, who is our DG here at the School of HR, and we have Aaron Feniak, who is the Executive Director of the HR Council. So, through our dialogue with our panelists today, you are going to learn how HR is assisting in working on recruitment and retention issues and overall improvements to our business practices.

[Vanessa Vermette appears full screen]

Vanessa Vermette: So, before we dive in, just a few little housekeeping items for all of you on the line today. You are going to be able to submit your questions at any time by going to and entering the code HR23. And to optimize your viewing experience, we really recommend that you disconnect if you can from your VPN or use a personal device to watch the session if you're unable to disconnect from the VPN. So also today's event is going to be bilingual throughout. We have simultaneous interpretation and live captioning available. So, to access those features, just click on the icons available on the webcast interface or check out the reminder that you would have received from the school via email just very recently.

So, a quick reminder that today's event will be in both official languages. Simultaneous interpretation and communication access real-time translation (CART) are available. To access these services during the event, you can click on the icons available on the webcast interface or check out the reminder that you would have received from the school via email.

So, with all that out of the way, we're going to get started with today's event. This is going to be followed with a discussion with our panelists in a live virtual Q&A as mentioned where you will be able to submit your questions directly to the speakers, and just a reminder to our speakers as well as our participants who will be submitting questions that you can submit and intervene in the official language of your choice throughout today's event.

So, we'll start with our first segment, which is with Francis. So, it's my great pleasure to welcome you, Francis, to our chat today. So, I'm going to let you kick things off with maybe a reflection about why this is so important for the HR function.

[Vanessa Vermette and Francis Trudel appear in video chat panels]

Vanessa Vermette: HR, in my view as a businessperson, does not have a reputation as being the most innovative corporate function in the GC. So it's really exciting to be here today to talk about some of the things that are happening in the back office in this important space, because if you can't have the right people in the right places doing the right things, you can't really deliver. So, can you talk to us about why innovation is important for HR?

[Francis Trudel appears full screen]

Francis Trudel: Well, first of all, thank you for the invitation and, and thank you for the couching my two weeks in the job as a starting point, which I hope will give me a little bit of latitude just as I'm reflecting a little bit. I've been in the business for a long time with the community, so I certainly have a few thoughts. As you were introducing me you talked about the 75 citations that there is about innovation. I actually thought you were going to say there were 75 definitions of it, which is probably not too far off as you think of what innovation can look like in the different businesses.

So, if your question is why is it important in the community of HR or as far as a discipline?

Probably I would start by saying that for one thing I actually believe that HR is a discipline like no other. I don't mean more important, I mean it is fundamentally completely different than any other types of business that we do. The reason I say this is because that's probably going to be my trail of […]

My common thread in our conversation […] It's the fact that it's one of the only businesses, if not the only business that either affects everyone or everyone affects it. So we think of HR practitioners, of course there are key stakeholders, and then you go down the list. You're a manager and you're delegated HR issues, and then you are a recipient of HR services, or you are an employee benefitting or receiving services again, or you are a union representative, and you can go on and on about even a user of data that HR produces.

If you accept this notion that HR is kind of at the centre, or the people are at the centre of pretty much everything we do, I would probably argue and that's just me thinking off the cuff here, if we were collectively in the public service ask, if you were going to innovate in only one place in the public service and you only have one crack at it, I probably think that we would say in the area of HR, because the return on investment would be the greatest. You are either influencing the business or you are being influenced by the business.

So, that's my instinctive reaction to why is it so important in the business of HR . Then, the easy answer is should we? Of course, yes, we should. Then the question becomes what's the sequence? Where are the limitations? What's the appetite actually for change? So, all those things that I maybe can extrapolate on future questions, but so the answer is because we're all touched by it would be my first my first instinctive answer.

[Vanessa Vermette and Francis Trudel appear in video chat panels]

Vanessa Vermette: Thank you, Francis. I love that as an answer, and it's actually making me reflect about how in parallel we're having so many conversations about technology in the Government of Canada and IT, and we'll talk about that a little bit more with Anna later on, but really at the heart of it is a conversation about talent, and it's about people. And getting the right people in place to be able to deliver on these massive changes that we need to implement at scale. And this was even very much a focus of recent committee appearances before our Members of Parliament. So, this is really top of mind for everybody, and I think people are starting to understand exactly what you're saying, that people are at the heart of this, and HR touches everything, even if you see it as separate, it is embedded and woven through everything.

So, you mentioned in your remarks that you might have some reflections about the limitations of innovation. And I want to go directly to that because that's something that people come up against very regularly and they get discouraged.

So, could you tell us a little bit about the limitations with respect to innovating in the HR space, and maybe also how some of those limitations can be circumvented or managed or just put into perspective?

[Francis Trudel appears full screen]

Francis Trudel: Yes, so I think that's a comment, that's the realistic person in me […]

I really think that when you consider that we are such a huge institution—the biggest institution in the country—that when you start thinking about a few components of innovation, obviously, the implications are so broad that you encounter certain obstacles and challenges. In my opinion, I think we make a mistake when we start projects or initiatives, and we try to cover 100% of all the angles of everything we do before we start moving forward. I think the school of thought that would say that it's better to start with a central core and add components is probably a better school of thought in an institution as big as the federal public service. The alternative results in us being continually blocked.

My answer might surprise you a little bit, if you're touching on the idea of what do we do and what are the kind of sequencing, which is a part of the of the issue of the limitation. Let me categorize a couple of buckets. The first bucket I would say is as an HR community, I think that we need to accept that there's no contradiction between being innovative and doing the basics right. And for some reason we seem to think in parallel about those two.

Let me just bring this as an example. As an employer, as an HR organization, the basic, basic service we need to provide to people is the basic contract we have with them when we're asking them to do work, we're actually paying them for that work <laugh>. We have been collectively as an institution failing at that for many years now. A lot of work is being done, a lot of adjustments being made, and there's some light at the end of the tunnel.

But in that very basic operational reality are huge opportunities for innovation. Innovation on the technology front, on the business process side, go as far as you want, what kind of negotiation at the bargaining table you're doing to facilitate those processes. So innovation can come, and it's not in contradiction with doing the basics right. First bucket.

Second bucket, I would say is the Public Service needs to keep up with the evolution of society and the expectations that the public has with its Public Service. And in that bucket, no bigger opportunity than really working and doing some progress on inclusion and diversity. I mean, think about it. We're probably the best country in the world to facilitate that process. We are diverse in nature as a society. We need to take advantage of that and build on that. On the representation front, but I would say most importantly on the inclusion angle. Diversity is kind of a fact. As a society, I'm talking about, the inclusion part needs to be worked on. I firmly believe in this agenda, I actually think that it speaks to the relevancy of the Public Service. If we fail at that, the Public Service become less and less relevant. I truly believe that.

The last bucket that I could—and I will just mention small things because I could talk about this for an hour—is to review our employment model.

There's tons of things to innovate or just quite frankly, just bring up the speed.

Whether it's future skills, including, Vanessa, those you certainly referred to—the organization of work, the opportunities that are offered to us at the moment due to the issues—among others, hybrid issues, and what we have learned from that. Rethinking the employment contract, I'm not sure we're not creating obstacles to getting people from the private sector—for example, crown corporations or people who work in our academic institutions. If you go to work in the United States, there are think tanks in which knowledge can be shared smoothly. Our system doesn't work like that; we have to review that component. I would even say, the individual employment contracts that we have—I always smile at the thought of saying that we think we are so good at recruiting and that we anticipate that the people we hire will still contribute and be relevant and competent in 35 years. So we give them a job offer. We need to review these ideas. Obviously, the last point would be about our work environment.

Do we have a sufficient supportive system for the employees themselves in the organization? Psychological health and everything that we've learned around that requires our attention as well. Those are great opportunities for innovations.

[Vanessa Vermette and Francis Trudel appear in video chat panels]

Vanessa Vermette: That's fantastic, Francois! I really like how you start by reflecting on the importance of moving ahead on all the issues and not stopping for one issue because we think there may be an obstacle. We must continue to move ahead on all the issues, including basic skills, operations, pay, and so on. We have to do everything at once. I wonder if you could elaborate from your perspective, now that you have an overview. What do you think is the central area where we should focus our efforts in terms of innovation? What is the greatest opportunity we really have for change?

If you had to choose one with your "magic innovation wand."

Francis Trudel: Without meaning to say something that seems a little too simplistic and redundant, I can't help but talk about the culture of the federal public service.

[Francis Trudel appears full screen]

Francis Trudel: Here I am mainly talking about the culture of human resources management in the federal public service. First of all, it's a system that, in my opinion, is not very well understood. Human resources does not own the field of human resources.

That's probably one of the biggest mistakes. HR doesn't own HR. HR is our discipline, our business, managers own HR.

So, we have a construct in the public service that is built that way. We delegate to deputy heads who delegates down the chain. So that construct is quite often not necessarily well understood often by a practitioner of HR. Some of them would be more at the junior level when we are starting to learn the business. We're more in the world of policing a little bit because that's the comfort zone, but also on the HR Manager's side, who actually doesn't want to own that responsibility necessarily, and would never do anything different than what is recommended to them. So that's the risk as well.

My reflection on culture is, as long as you don't ask me what's the solution of it after, I think we are extremely set in a comfort zone. I think we learn our legislation and we celebrate those who know the legislation better than others. Not how they apply it, those that know it. We celebrate knowledge. We get to learn our jurisprudence, if you're a Labour Relations Officer, and you're celebrated as a good Labour Relations Officer if you apply jurisprudence properly. Well actually, jurisprudence in the past. I'm not sure that we shouldn't be in the business of updating what the jurisprudence should be, but that's just me.

[Vanessa Vermette and Francis Trudel appear in video chat panels. Text on screen "To access CART services, please refresh your browser. / Pour avoir accès aux services des sous-titres, veuillez rafraîchir votre navigateur."]

Francis Trudel: We hate our HR systems, yet we've learned to operate them, and we get very comfortable with it.

I could go on and on into how we are sometimes our own enemies, I think, to innovation, I guess is the point I'm trying to make. It's like a big family. It's like when someone starts to innovate, all of those who are comfortable in that comfort zone will bring into the rank back the person who goes a little bit sideways. I think it's human nature. I don't think it's public service, and I don't think it's HR.

I really think we're kind of our own enemies because we take so long to learn about a complex field that, once we understand it, we go into application mode; we don't go into changing mode about anything.

So that would be my thoughts.

Vanessa Vermette: That's a great segue, I think, to the next portion of our agenda. You mentioned labour relations, and we'll have Wendy speak to some of the innovations her team has implemented in that area, which is really exciting. So, Francis, are you going to be able to stay with us for the Q&A period at the end of the event? Awesome. So, we will bring you back then in a few minutes.

[Vanessa Vermette appears full screen]

Vanessa Vermette: We're going to move to our presentation with Wendy, who is going to talk to us about the virtual career fairs that her team has been hosting as a means of recruitment, as well as the development and application of a predictive analytics tool for labour relations. I understand that I would never have thought that I would see those terms together in the same sentence, predictive analytics and labour relations. So, I think this is a really great example of innovation in the HR space. So, over to you, Wendy. Tell us about the business problems that you've solved, how the ideas came up, and walk us through the process and tell us about what happened.

[Vanessa Vermette and Wendy Bullion-Winters appear in video chat panels]

Wendy Bullion-Winters: Yes, sure. Thanks so much, and thanks for having me today to speak.

I think Francis mentioned the whole conundrum of innovation, especially in human resources.

I think we often have a tendency to see these problems as ginormous. We see a gap, it's system wide. We see a problem, it's ginormous, and it's just little old me over here working in my corner, going, mm, how can I innovate?

[Wendy Bullion-Winters appears full screen]

Wendy Bullion-Winters: So, I really encourage my team. One of my principle guiding leadership kind of mantras is, break it down into bite size portions. Break it down, like what Francis mentioned, get to that seed and start with that seed, a pilot, an MVP, a minimum viable product.

[Vanessa Vermette and Wendy Bullion-Winters appear in video chat panels]

Wendy Bullion-Winters: Let's just innovate in our little corner of the world on this one particular staffing process, on that one particular LR case, and let's see how it goes. Because with innovation, we must be willing to accept failure. There's not one without the other. With experimentation, we have to be willing to fail sometimes.

So, it's with that, I've created a couple of different things. I wish I had time to talk about all of them. For example, getting reliable, real time HR data continues to be a problem. So, we created an interactive data metrics dashboard that provides accurate people management data in real time.

[Wendy Bullion-Winters appears full screen]

Wendy Bullion-Winters: Recruitment. Fast, timely staffing processes can also be an issue. Onerous and complex labour relations case management.

So, I'll start with the virtual recruitment fair that you made reference to. What was the business problem? Well, when we were asked to look deeply, to dig deeply into our employment equity information and really into that desegregated data, we noticed immediately gaps in our entry level recruits, particularly from the BIPOC communities.

So, when we did the HR trends analysis, we started to see, well, what's the trigger? Why are there such gaps at this entry level, EC-2, CS-1, PE-1, why are there these gaps? And we traced it back and we started to notice some trends, like new entry level recruits were coming from the same universities, or from their same networks.

[Vanessa Vermette and Wendy Bullion-Winters appear in video chat panels]

Wendy Bullion-Winters: So, our President at the Canada School of Public Service is the champion for York University, and we'd been involved in the coordination of their annual career fair. It was an in-person career fair, which if you've been involved in this, they're complex, they're resource heavy, they're time consuming.

[Wendy Bullion-Winters appears full screen]

Wendy Bullion-Winters: A lot of people don't show up on the day. If there's a snowstorm, you don't get the participation you were hoping for. So, we started to think. It was 2020. We were in the full force of the pandemic at the time. We had access now to MS Teams, ZOOMs, people were getting more comfortable with virtual recruitment methods, and that's when the light bulb went off for us. And we thought, okay, we have this issue with recruiting, with ensuring diversity amongst our entry level recruits, and we have an opportunity here to maybe do something different. Innovative in our little corner of the world. So, we decided to create an entirely virtual career fair, similar to what our experience was with York University, but bigger.

So, I thought, if we are experiencing this gap amongst our entry level recruits, maybe other departments are. So, I reached out: Public Service Commission; Public Safety, RCMP, DND, et cetera. And before we knew it, we had other departments who said, "I'm interested in that. What's the purpose of this virtual career fair? How can we do this?" And sure enough they signed up for it too. So, they said, "we'll work with you, we'll do this."

So, we had 12 different departments and agencies from across government work with us. We did outreach to 16 different universities and colleges across Canada. And in a very short period of time, it took us about three months to organize with just two PE full-time resources. On the actual day of the event, we had about 12 moderator and facilitators that were in various breakout rooms. But the great thing about this innovative model was that we started with that seed, and then as we started working on the logistics of it, the coordination, the planning, people started saying, "I want in on that. That looks cool. Let's try that."

And the results were just outstanding. We had 2,700 CVs. We had 900 candidates invited to a four working-day, a four day career fair, that was targeted to the BIPOC communities. We held it on Zoom. It was a live platform that matched managers to recent graduates and ongoing students from, like I said, universities and colleges across Canada for potential opportunities in 12 departments.

So really, there was two objectives to the career fair. One was, yes, let's get some new recruits into government from demographics that maybe hadn't been accessed before. But it was also about advocacy and outreach, because the other thing we thought to ourselves is, why aren't more entry level recruits applying from Alberta? Why aren't more entry level recruits applying from Saskatchewan? Maybe they just don't think about the Federal Public Service as a natural career path, so let's get out there and showcase the Federal Public Service as an employer of choice to students who maybe never considered a career in Federal Government.

And as a part of the fair, we invited several senior leaders, including the President of the Canada School and our CHRO to speak openly about their career paths, to share their personal experiences. And to answer one question: why did you want to work for the Federal Public Service? And that's the same question we asked, hiring the candidates to answer. So, the method, this was in May of 2021, the method, the way that it went, and I'm willing, if anyone wants to contact me, I can share our "Virtual Career Fair in a Box", was that each candidate came on to the Zoom, put their camera on and their microphone, and they had three minutes to introduce themselves in a kind of speed bio, speed biography. We wanted to make it fun. We wanted to make it creative. We told them, talk about anything you want, your work experience, what you're studying, your interests, whatever. We said, "you've got three minutes, be creative and you just have to answer one question. Why do you want to work for the federal public service?"

And do you know, what was unique, and what we didn't expect, was that so many of the candidates spoke from the heart. Some of them used poetry to express themselves, one person did a rap. We had these young excited new graduates who just really thought outside the box. And not only that, they opened up, a lot of them, about their family background, about their lived experience. They knew that the recruitment fair was closed to the BIPOC community, so many of them spoke about themselves, about their lived experience. And I mean, honestly, there were tears, there were tears in the events. So, it was a really special, unique, extremely positive, very, very inclusive experience. And I would absolutely do it again.

Sometimes we think about recruitment, and we have a static approach to it, and this just showcased how we can kind of blow the roof off when we start to think differently.

[Vanessa Vermette and Wendy Bullion-Winters appear in video chat panels]

Vanessa Vermette: That's, fantastic, Wendy. I just want to really highlight a few key things that you said there. From an innovation perspective, you talked about building your coalition, your coalition of the willing, finding who your allies would be in the system that also saw this as an opportunity and had the same problem that you did, and wanted to join forces to bring this forward. So that's a really important thing, I think.

The other thing that you mentioned is that we hear a lot in innovation is, show don't tell. Do the thing, and then show people the value, and then they will get on board, and they will come. And that's one way to sell your innovation or your pilot to upper management or others who may be a little bit skeptical about where the value is. So, do the small thing, show them the thing, and then get people excited about it.

And the next thing, which I'm sure Anna will touch on as well, is about what sets us apart as an employer in the Public Service, really connecting with a sense of mission that we have here in the Public Sector with those applicants who are searching for the right fit for them. I think that's something we need to do better in terms of communicating our value proposition as an employer of choice, so I'm really glad that you touched on that.

And the last thing is really in our recruitment efforts, is giving people the space and the opportunity to really shine and showcase who they are and what they bring to the table. I think in our efforts to standardize and really be consistent with our processes, we take all the magic out of it. You get the robotic sort of box checking responses that you can then apply to your templates, but you don't really get the kind of mystery, sort of wow factor coming across from people, because they don't have the space to be creative with their answers. So, I love how you went about that.

I'm really sorry to do this, but I'm going to give you only two minutes to talk about predictive analytics and just give us the high-level view, and then we will send to all the participants the recording of the demo that we did last year with the company that we worked with. So, go ahead, Wendy.

[Wendy Bullion-Winters appears full screen]

Wendy Bullion-Winters: Yes. So the business problem, Francis again, made reference to this. Our LR advisors spend countless hours just scouring through case law precedents and jurisprudence in order to advise management on how we should navigate in complex labour relations cases. And the tools that we have, the existing tools are similar to a Google search, like Google search words in a Wikipedia type of interface, so it takes hours. It can take hours and they can miss things. So, that was the business problem. We had heard about a University of Toronto Faculty of Law professor who had created a tax law software that leveraged machine learning and AI to scour through pages and pages and hundreds and hundreds of jurisprudences for tax law for CRA, and it was already in use.

So, with a couple of phone calls, we invited them at the School, and said, hey, come to the School, we think there's a transferability here to the labour relations arena. Use us as an incubator or test lab. You can produce this software, which you've already got the algorithms because of the tax law, you can transfer that into our labour relations, and my team can be your real-time iterative testing ground with real end users, which are our labour relations advisors.

So, everybody salivated over that opportunity because it was real-time feedback loops, they could draw it. So, what we created was what's referred to as the Blue J, that was the company, this professor's company: Blue J Legal Employment Software, employment and labour software. It is available on license now. It took us about a year to perfect the program. And essentially what it does is it creates a very much more efficient interface for labour relations officers to find relevant jurisprudence. It unifies all of the information that you find. It produces a really holistic result that you can save all within a Protected B environment, and bilingual, where you have no specifics about the case that would be identifiers. And the model boasts a 90% accuracy rate because it uses predictive analytics as well to predict what an arbitrator, mediator or a court tribunal might rule.

I know that's a little technical, but if you're in labour relations, you'll understand what I just said <laugh>

[Vanessa Vermette and Wendy Bullion-Winters appear in video chat panels]

Wendy Bullion-Winters: But essentially…

Vanessa Vermette: Yes, you want the answer. How likely is it that we're going to win or lose this, right?

Wendy Bullion-Winters: That's right. If I take this course of action, for example, if I discipline or terminate this employee's employment due to the behaviour that was misconduct, what is the likelihood that the court would overturn, or be in agreement with my decision based on case precedence and jurisprudence?

[Wendy Bullion-Winters appears full screen]

Wendy Bullion-Winters: And that likelihood boasts a 90% accuracy rate.

So, this is really how we can leverage cutting edge technology. It does not replace the humans. It does not, because what Francis was getting at as well is that sometimes we need to test that jurisprudence. In the 1980s and today life has changed. Jurisprudence in case law from the eighties or nineties might no longer be relevant. And that's the other piece is that you can go into this program, tick on the ones that you want relevant, get rid of the ones you don't. You can also look at specifics like mitigating or aggravating considerations on the case.

So, all this to say, it allows us to work smarter, not harder, and it allows for us to maximize our resources. We know LR advisors, it's one of the highest turnover areas in human resources because of the onerous complexity and time-consuming work. That's quite stressful.

So, leveraging technology and that arena in particular is super important, so that's what this is.

[Vanessa Vermette and Wendy Bullion-Winters appear in video chat panels]

Vanessa Vermette: Yes. And you're making the jobs in LR so much more interesting by freeing up those people to focus on the insights and the advice and the strategy around labour relations, rather than the drudgery of the research and the combing through all of the jurisprudence. So, that's a great example.

Wendy Bullion-Winters: So just one last plug which is, the School built this with a little seed there, and now 26 departments are using this software. So, that's just a really good example of how you can start somewhere small with an idea, a little light bulb, and start to build it. It took us about eight months to a year. And boom, within three years, we've got 26 departments leveraging this.

[Vanessa Vermette appears full screen]

Vanessa Vermette: Awesome. Thanks Wendy. And we're going to move now to Anna Wong. We're going to talk about digital talent management in the context of innovation as a success story.

So, Anna, talk to us about the history of this initiative. How did it come about? Why did people think it was so important, and how is it serving our IT professionals?

[Vanessa Vermette and Anna Wong appear in video chat panels]

Anna Wong: Yes, absolutely. So first of all, thanks so much for having me. I feel a little bit honoured because I'm not formally part of the HR community. Right now, I am working in a digital space, but I think

Vanessa Vermette: HR is about all of us. You heard process earlier, HR touches everything, and everyone.

Anna Wong: I think that was a perfect context that Francis said, because it's saying, this is part of everyone, and no matter which domain that you're in, if you're not about people at its centre, I think we're missing something.

[Anna Wong appears full screen]

Anna Wong: And so, in our digital community, those that we generally define as being in IT, information management and data,

We are the largest functional community in the public service. We comprise almost 10% of our population of public servants, and only a few years ago we made a big decision to change our way of management—our talent, that is.

Before about 2017, 2018, we really did not have an active management of our community. So, if folks were looking for a place to find out, well, how should I develop, if I'm an IT-1, how do I move forward in my career? Or equally, if I'm an executive in a junior role and I aspire to be a CIO, what are the steps that I could take to get there?

So, there was really no central place to provide this kind of guidance or tools that was across government.

Of course, each department has human resources and directors.

So, all those tools existed in your own place, but not this holistic view. And, as we know, we want folks to be able to move around in government, to move from small departments to large departments, from providing external services to internal services. So, we really lacked this kind of context. And there was a cost to it. If we looked at any given year across the GC, we would run a few hundred individual recruitment processes for IT. That made no sense, right? An IT-1 in Shared Services, probably very similar to one in Immigration, for example.

On the executive level, we knew that was a huge issue, like Francis was saying, in our diversity and inclusion. The numbers that we saw in this domain are pretty terrible, is what I'm going to say. And so we know that there is a real cost to it. And financially speaking in the IT classification, there's a high vacancy rate, it's hard to find. And today there's many places like this, but certainly in our domain, it's very hard to attract and then retain. We don't have the same compensation measures, in some ways, as in the private sector. We also spent a lot in external professional services to maintain our core.

So, we have partnered industry, and we always should, but it was to a point where we're paying external professional services to maintain our core government services because we didn't have the capacity internally to do so.

So, that's the context. And it really started quite small. It's sort of like what Wendy was saying. We took a business problem that was specific to our community, which is big, but it was specific. And then the ADMs at the time decided to just try a couple of things, very small scale. So, we ran a collective recruitment process for IT on behalf of the GC. We decided to look at an enterprise approach to talent management. So instead of only having talent management done per Department, we would run and we would prepare all the information, collect all the data, work with HR departments and business owners across the GC to bring together, well, what are the best talent? We started with executives because it was a smaller number. And how do we help make sure these thousand executives that we have in a digital space have mobility opportunities, have professional development opportunities?

[Vanessa Vermette and Anna Wong appear in video chat panels]

Anna Wong: So, it was really moving from a model where it was a little bit, depends on where you are, depends on if perhaps you had a good boss who looked out after you, to a very active management where there was a place you could go, somebody you could call.

[Anna Wong appears full screen]

Anna Wong: Basically, to be, well how can I help you progress in your career? And that's not just moving up, but it's also at a horizontal level. What are those skills and competencies that I can develop? And most importantly, how do I do that?

[Vanessa Vermette and Anna Wong appear in video chat panels]

Vanessa Vermette: Thanks Anna. So, a question for you, just as a follow up. Sometimes when people hear collective staffing process enterprise-wide, they think, oh Lord, this is going to take forever and I don't want to be part of it, I want to do my own thing. And that's kind of how you end up with the fragmentation and people trying to advance on their own fronts.

So, implementation is always the most difficult stage of innovation and we're all kind of trying to close that knowing-doing gap. So, what was it like to actually put this forward and scale it?

Anna Wong: Yes, I think that's a really excellent question. And I think it gets back to some of the points that both Francis and Wendy touched on, and it's that one of partnership.

So, we recently ran a very kind of high-profile campaign because we were recruiting tech experts, [INAUDIBLE] experts, individual contributors to help us advance some of our major priorities in areas like cloud adoption and AI et cetera.

[Anna Wong appears full screen]

Anna Wong: This was a need everybody needed across the GC. It was known. So, we took that, we had active participation from various departments and we, together, ran it. So it was our team that did the heavy lifting but they were very much part of it. And I think when you have that kind of buy-in and that common goal, you move a lot faster. First of all, we could launch that within a couple of weeks, and you see the results right away.

I don't know if there is an easy way to do it, if that makes sense. I think it really comes down to defining that business problem, getting the key people on board and then having very realistic, but short-term goals, like Wendy was saying, putting them in bite-sized pieces. And it's really interesting for me because, for example, these collective processes, we didn't have to change the system, but we changed the rules that we had. We worked with that. So, people hate posters that you don't know what it says, right? Like I think we've all been there and so we wrote things in plain language. We posted them on our external website. So, our community has a Canada dot GC dossier page. Just like little things like that actually make a big difference. So it's like, wow, somebody is speaking my language. I know what this job is about.

And then we used, for example, the role of "headhunters" that you would say sort of in the private sector, but essentially, we had recruiters who were actively trying to attract candidates instead of us always just waiting to see who applies. And that gets to the diversity question in terms of as we're trying to target certain folks who perhaps never considered a career here,

[Vanessa Vermette and Anna Wong appear in video chat panels]

Anna Wong: because they never saw themselves reflected in the Public Service, using these techniques, which are actually available to us all. You don't need more authority, you don't need to change our policy. It's already here.

Vanessa Vermette: That's great. And that's such an inspirational and motivating message I think for people to hear to understand and internalize that there is more opportunity maybe within the current rule set that we have than you may think to actually do things differently. And some of the learned helplessness that we have is actually just cultural, back to Francis' point, is this is the way we've always done things, so this is the way we're going to do it this time. But actually, there's more flexibility there than we might think.

Thanks so much for that, Anna. We're going to move on now to Aaron who is, as mentioned, the Executive Director of HR Council.

[Vanessa Vermette appears full screen]

Vanessa Vermette: So, talk to us, Aaron quickly if you might, and then we can get to questions about what HR Council is and what it does and what role HR Council can play with respect to driving innovation in the HR community.

[Vanessa Vermette and Aaron Feniak appear in video chat panels]

Aaron Feniak: Thank you, Vanessa. And yes, I'll be quick because I know we always run into issues on these events and we could probably, as Francis said, spend all day chatting about human resources, it's so diverse and so vast.

So, it's great to join you today representing the Human Resources Council. So the Human Resources Council, for those that don't know, we've been around for about 30 years. I've been in the job for about seven months. That was a bit of a shock to me too, to think about 30 years was back in the 1990s. So I know it's shocking to all. We work very closely with the community, the very broad community. We put on numerous amounts of Smart Shops, events, basically look at the building of support and power, nurture and mobilize the community as we move forward.

[Aaron Feniak appears full screen]

Aaron Feniak: So, I'm sure most people on the call have heard of us and have worked with us closely. So Vanessa, in the interest of time, I'll try to condense down, but I wanted to leave three key messages today with the community, that I learned through my journey within human resources, which now is into over 20 some odd years.

The first is to be curious, the second is to be active, and the third is to be proud.

I think as we've talked a lot in our group here the message will be pretty well similar to what others have said. But I think it's important when we talk about innovation for these areas.

The first: be curious. Francis, Anna, and I think, Wendy have all talked about the federal family. The federal family is bigger than a department, it's bigger than an agency, so reach out, spend time, go meet with other organizations either through your career or through your own network. Be curious, find out what other organizations have, because they have innovations. As Wendy had said, they're doing innovation there. And a lot of times I think, as Francis said, we try to say, well, we're not going to adopt this because it doesn't align to our realities. And, one of the heads of HR very nicely said, sometimes you need to adapt to adopt. And I think because you adapt your processes to adopt them, at times that's more effective and more efficient than building your own solutions that you have.

So, you need to be curious. You need to reach out to your organizations to learn about the different mandates and the different innovations that are going on. For example, within some organizations that started introducing robotic process automation into staffing and classification processes. So what that does is it automates the very simple processes to allow us to dedicate resources to more complex problems. And as we all face the significant labour market shortage, these types of solutions, innovations, are critical moving forward.

And I just want to also say that innovation doesn't have to be this complex. It can be in your day-to-day processes. Anytime you take calculated risks, and you ask the question why, I think that's the innovation. During the pandemic, the human resources community has really risen to there. We started in March 2020 asking very complex questions like, how do you do onboarding when you can't have people into the workplace? How do you deliver training? When our training was based on in-person presence, how do you conduct interviews? Managers wanted to see people in there.

So, we didn't have a playbook. And, and I think sometimes we don't give ourselves enough credit that we innovated at a very, very quick rapid rate. And leaving here on being curious is, continue to be that curious, continue to innovate, it doesn't have to be so massive. Think back when we were in the pandemic, it wasn't great, but we had to think on our feet, and we had to go, Francis said, hard-core. We didn't have a fully baked solution. And I think that's the important part that we need to still hold on to.

Second one: to be active. A little-known fact: for the HR community, there's about 20 plus communities of practice, and I want to give them a shout out because they stem from Labour Relations Council, Heads of Learning Forum, I can't list them all, but we do have them on our GC exchange page for HR Council, so a little plug there. But get active with your communities of practice.

We rely on them so much for the innovation, for the contributions, the passion that arises from our communities of practice. I always encourage everybody to take advantage. And equally, reach out within your regions. I've had the opportunity to work across this country in human resources and the Regional Federal HR councils are a huge source of collaboration, networking, and innovation as well. So, I do encourage you to take advantage of that as well.

One point on being active, if I leave you with one thing, is really nurture your network. Spending your time within human resources, your network is going to be invaluable to you. Francis and I knew each other again, sorry Francis, about 20 years ago at National Defence. And to this day we're working closely advancing for human resources. So, you never know where your network's going to take you.

[Vanessa Vermette and Aaron Feniak appear in video chat panels]

Aaron Feniak: Last one, be proud. I think that's the one that we don't focus in enough on,

[Aaron Feniak appears full screen]

Aaron Feniak: as Public Servants and as Human Resources. If you think about the Public Service right now, the huge issue that is facing Canada and the world, is being navigated by the Public Service. Climate change, immigration issues, response to the pandemic, and the Public Service is delivering on that. And the Public Service would not be where it is without the Human Resources Community.

I think Francis has said that quite well in articulating that HR touches every fabric of it. We may be the stewards of HR, but without that support of the community, the managers would not have what they need to deliver on their mandates.

[Vanessa Vermette and Aaron Feniak appear in video chat panels]

Aaron Feniak: So, I know we're running into time, so I think I'll shut it off there, but I just want to reiterate be curious, be active, and be proud.

Vanessa Vermette: Thank you so much, Aaron. And we'll be sure to share some of those links including to the GC Exchange portal with participants as a follow up to the event.

[Vanessa Vermette appears full screen]

Vanessa Vermette: So, we'll go right into questions. We've had some questions coming in from the audience. Just a reminder, you can still enter your questions using the code HR 23 on wooclap. And even the ones that we don't get to today, we will share with all our participants to make sure that they at least have a sense of the areas of interest from the participants at today's events for the future.

So, the first one is going to go to you, Francis. I also want to make the most of your time since it's such a treat to have an Associate DM with us today.

[Vanessa Vermette, Francis Trudel, Wendy Bullion-Winters, Anna Wong, and Aaron Feniak appear in video chat panels]

Vanessa Vermette: So, the question is you referenced in your remarks the need and importance to start small and not try to find and solve for the entire solution or solve all the problems all at once.

How do we convince management and decision makers of the need to do this and that this is the right approach? I imagine you've been part of those conversations many times.

Francis Trudel: Well, like many of you, I've also been a manager. So we've been on both side of that equation. Back to my point about being touched by all angles to this.

[Francis Trudel appears full screen]

Francis Trudel: My initial reaction would be to say I would just continue on the constructive trend of discussion about trying to find the core and build from the core rather than covering. Also, if you apply this notion to that question, I would say, managers don't always know where to start. They know a destination. In fact, that's always the question that I love when a manager approaches an HR practitioner and says, that's where I want to go. Just tell me how to get there. That's the best question an HR practitioner can get. You hate when a manager comes to you with the actual answer, because then you actually need to understand that. That's what I would say, I would start with having conversations with managers about what are their areas of accountabilities. They don't always understand what they're delegated for. They often receive advice thinking it's actually direction rather than advice.

So, that's the core I would start with. It's hard to answer the questions very specifically because I don't know to which area of the challenge we're talking about, but I would not leap two or three questions later. I would actually start at the base. What do you want to accomplish? Tell us where you want to go. We'll tell you how to get there and we'll flag the risk along the way. And by the way, Manager, you're delegated, so my advice, you can take it or not.

If you build from there then you'll start creating that bond and building from the core, rather than just trying to either just service what is being asked of you or taking too much of a bite to begin with.

[Vanessa Vermette, Francis Trudel, Wendy Bullion-Winters, Anna Wong, and Aaron Feniak appear in video chat panels]

Francis Trudel: Not very clear of an answer, I would need to understand a little bit more specifically what kind of manager resistance we're referring to in the question.

Vanessa Vermette: There's so many different kinds, right?

Francis Trudel: Yes.

Vanessa Vermette: Yes, I would just add to that, that you have to figure out which kind of management challenge that you have. Do you have somebody that requires social proof as in this is an innovation and somebody over here has already done it and we just want to apply it here and there's that social proof? Or do you want to be first at something and you need different contexts and success factors for each of those? And the first one might be a little bit easier place to start to say like, here's an example: Wendy did this great pilot in her organization, and we want to apply it here.

Question two is also going to go to you, Francis, because I know that there is a mandate letter item in our Minister's mandate letter around skills.

[Vanessa Vermette appears full screen]

Vanessa Vermette: And the question is around the need for talent and skills. What are the most needed skill sets in your view? And how are we looking to upscale or re-skill or recruit for those important priority skill sets?

[Francis Trudel appears full screen]

Francis Trudel: Well, the bureaucratic answer of someone two weeks in the job would be, yes, it's in the letter and I know where it's assigned. I don't know what the outcome of that product would be, but the direction in the letter is actually quite revealing. The President of Treasury Board is actually asked to work with PCO, with the Public Service, with the unions in order to establish that "skill sets of the future" thing. So, right in the tasking, there is a recognition that the actual outcome of whatever that future perspective of skill set needs to come from all different angles.

So, I don't know what the product of this is, sorry, the outcome of that product is. One of our ADMs here, Jean-Francois Fleury,

[Vanessa Vermette, Francis Trudel, Wendy Bullion-Winters, Anna Wong, and Aaron Feniak appear in video chat panels]

Francis Trudel: is leading that and is consulting throughout the communities. If I were interviewed in that process, or if I were to share a few thoughts,

[Francis Trudel appears full screen]

Francis Trudel: I would go back to something I said a little bit earlier. I alluded to a lack of humility that we collectively have, thinking that we can anticipate 35 years in advance exactly what we know. Sorry, I don't think it was really possible 35 years ago. I think it's completely impossible,

[Vanessa Vermette, Francis Trudel, Wendy Bullion-Winters, Anna Wong, and Aaron Feniak appear in video chat panels]

Francis Trudel: 35 years down the road, like things are accelerating. So, if you accept that notion, then I think what we're talking about is

[Francis Trudel appears full screen]

Francis Trudel: adaptivity, resilience, ability to adapt. So, I think what I'm trying to say is I would downplay anything that speaks to knowledge in the future. The ability to acquire, to sustain, to apply knowledge, yes, maybe, but to actually anticipate the future as a fact of I will hire this 20 year old with this knowledge because I know that when they're going to be fully operational in 10 years, they'll be able to apply it. Maybe people have a much bigger brain than I give them credit for, but I don't think is a successful endeavour. <Laugh>

[Vanessa Vermette, Francis Trudel, Wendy Bullion-Winters, Anna Wong, and Aaron Feniak appear in video chat panels]

Vanessa Vermette: I share your skepticism on that one. Thank you. And I'm going to let Anna just jump in quickly on that question because there is a special nod to digital skills and the mandate letter paragraph with respect to the skills strategy. So, anything you wanted to add there, Anna?

[Anna Wong appears full screen]

Anna Wong: Yes, so our teams work so closely with Francis and Christine's teams on this and on the digital side, I think it's really looking at what are those behavioural mindsets that we want folks to have? So for example, like Wendy had alluded to, how do we rethink the problem? So how do we think with that kind of design thinking in mind? And that's something no matter what you're doing in the Public Service that we should have. And on the more technical side, for example, to give a very concrete one, while we don't all have to be data scientists, we have to have a capacity to understand and be data literate.

Most of us, no matter if you're in Finance, HR, Procurement, you're working with information. So how do we best understand, digest and be able to use that in our day-to-day work? So that's the kind of research that we are currently doing. And so if folks are interested we are doing a series of engagements, so I've love to connect on that. It's really exciting work.

[Vanessa Vermette, Francis Trudel, Wendy Bullion-Winters, Anna Wong, and Aaron Feniak appear in video chat panels]

Vanessa Vermette: Wonderful. Thank you Anna. And we just have a short couple of minutes left, so I want to give each of you an opportunity to give some closing thoughts on one of the questions that came in with respect to what we can do to improve the incentive system in our culture and encourage people to move outside of the comfort zone. Francis, you talked about that culture piece and how people get comfortable and the world around us is just so, so comfortable. We kind of go into this complacency space. How do we motivate people and incentivize them to move out of that comfort zone and innovate? So I'm going to start with you, Aaron, on that question, then go to Wendy and Anna and we'll close with Francis.

[Aaron Feniak appears full screen]

Aaron Feniak: You know, thinking about it, I think it's going to be less active. I think we really have no choice. I think we're getting to a point where that's going to be the situation. We try to institutionalize people when they come into the Public Service. In the old days, you come in your cubicle, you'd have your little thing, and we would institutionalize you in the Public Service. That ability to institutionalize the next generation, we can't do it. We look at people coming in who are used to Google, they're used to different realities.

If we want to be competitive within the labour market, we can't institutionalize people. We have to adapt within our current frameworks to be able to attract people, to change our institutions to them. I think for us it's being forced upon us and that's what's going to force us to have the questions.

[Vanessa Vermette, Francis Trudel, Wendy Bullion-Winters, Anna Wong, and Aaron Feniak appear in video chat panels]

Vanessa Vermette: Thank you, Aaron. Wendy, how about you?

[Wendy Bullion-Winters appears full screen]

Wendy Bullion-Winters: Yes, I would agree. I think the inertia is there. It's organically happening with the new generations that are joining our workforce. Generation Z and soon Generation Alpha, my children, will bring with them an outside the box, question the status quo mindset. I think these things will happen. So, it's about us adapting and it's about ensuring that the existing, to use Aaron's word, institutionalized mindset of folks adapts rather than, I think that inertia, that momentum has started, we saw it certainly take to light speed in the last two years. And I think those more experienced and senior Public Servants see, as well, the positive impacts of those changes.

So, I don't think maybe as much as others that there are inherent resistors. I think people are always uncomfortable with change, but when you showcase the value, you explain the efficiencies and you make sure they're not threatened so that people don't get defensive.

[Vanessa Vermette, Francis Trudel, Wendy Bullion-Winters, Anna Wong, and Aaron Feniak]

Wendy Bullion-Winters: I think it's about how we introduce those innovations and bring it to the day-to-day work that we do every single day. Because at the end of the day, if Canadian citizens aren't satisfied, then we aren't going to have jobs. So that's the other piece. We bring that value to Canadian citizens and they expect a digital government. So, I think the inertia is there and it will happen more and more organically.

Vanessa Vermette: Thanks, Wendy. How about you, Anna?

Anna Wong: So, I think it comes down to that collaboration and taking away that divide we often see between HR and business domain.

[Anna Wong appears full screen]

Anna Wong: We have a shared goal and it's working together in multidisciplinary teams to address real business problems. I think that's the best way, because when you have buy-in, and when you have that sense of shared accountability and purpose, you'll be motivated.

[Vanessa Vermette, Francis Trudel, Wendy Bullion-Winters, Anna Wong, and Aaron Feniak appear in video chat panels]

Vanessa Vermette: Fantastic. And Francis, last word goes to you, Monsieur.

[Francis Trudel appears full screen]

Francis Trudel: So, I watched a documentary not too long ago, and this is not an endorsement at all, but it was about Elon Musk and his time when he actually shocked the culture of NASA, when he actually collaborated with them. And it was fascinating to hear how this private mindset was clashing with the Public Service mentality, if you could make the link with NASA and the Public Service. And he was explaining to these bureaucrats that actually crashing a few of those experiments was actually not expected, it was actually welcome. And so this whole notion made me think about this whole notion of accepting failure as an outcome of innovation. I know we talk about this all the time, but that documentary was kind of interesting when someone was actually putting millions of dollars of his own money into actually practising this thing.

So, how does that translate in shocking our own culture? I don't know. Again, let's talk small and build small. I think we should listen to the new cohort coming into the Public Service. I think the young generation coming have something to say about the Public Service they're creating and how HR will be conducted. I don't know.

[Vanessa Vermette, Francis Trudel, Wendy Bullion-Winters, Anna Wong, and Aaron Feniak appear in video chat panels]

Francis Trudel: Aaron, maybe we should have something very creative at an award ceremony with the with the HR Council where we recognize innovation not only in the success it brought but celebrate the attempt rather than celebrating just the outcome.

Vanessa Vermette: Celebrate the learning.

Francis Trudel: Yes, I just want to think small a little bit to anchor and nurture the culture of this. It's probably something that could have value, but we would need to think more about that.

Vanessa Vermette: Thank you, Francis. I think that's an excellent point with which to end our session today. So, on behalf of the school, I would like to thank our speakers once again for participating in today's discussion, and also thank our participants who joined us online in large numbers today.

[The CSPS Logo appears on screen]

[Vanessa Vermette appears full screen]

Vanessa Vermette: So, thank you so much to everybody for being part of today's discussion and your feedback is really important to us. I invite you to complete the evaluation that you will receive in the coming days. And also as mentioned before, we'll be sharing a series of resources with all of you. And I encourage you to visit our website to keep up to date and register to future learning opportunities,

[Text on screen “Browse the learning catalogue! It includes courses, events and other learning tools. Visit / Consultez le catalogue d'apprentissage!”]

Vanessa Vermette: including the rest of the GC innovation series. And I think probably today we planted the seeds for future events on HR innovation specifically because there is so much to talk about, as you can see having gone already six minutes over time. So apologies for that My apologies and we'll see you again very soon, I hope. Thank you, everyone!

[The CSPS Logo appears on screen]

[The Government of Canada logo appears and fades to black.]

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