Staffing/Resourcing Function
June 2011

2. Observations – management framework

2.1 Governance and Strategic Direction

Corporate Programs has developed a number of documents that provide strategic direction and priorities for the staffing/resourcing function, and responds to the requirement of oversight bodies.

Treasury Board’s Management Accountability Framework (MAF) considers internal coherence, corporate discipline, and alignment to outcomes essential for providing effective strategic direction, supporting the Minister and Parliament, and delivering results. The requirements of oversight bodies are reflected in the staffing/resourcing governance process.

The audit team identified a direct link between departmental priorities and HR plans in place. The Department of Justice’s Corporate Risk Profile, prepared in 2009 by the Office of Strategic Planning and Performance Management (SPPM), identified a shortfall in legal skills and capacity as one of the major risks facing the Department. The Corporate Risk Profile notes that difficulties with recruitment and retention of staff require targeted HR strategies developed in partnership between departmental managers and staffing practitioners. The Department of Justice’s HR Management Plan was first developed by the Corporate Programs Division in 2007 and has since been updated three times (May 2008, October 2008, and June 2009). The latest version expired April 2010. The HR Management Plan identified the unique challenges facing the Department of Justice and proposed a number of strategies that emphasized the development of effective ways of attracting and retaining workers. The audit team noted that work is under way to prepare a new HR Management Plan, which is to be published in the spring of 2011 Footnote 1.

In line with the Clerk of the Privy Council’s Public Service renewal priorities, the Corporate Programs Division also developed a 2010-11 Renewal Action Plan, which was updated in the fall of 2010. Corporate Programs staff informed the audit team that the 2010-11 Renewal Action Plan will serve as the Department of Justice’s interim HR Management Plan. The 2010-11 Renewal Action Plan focuses on the integration of business and human resources planning, thus ensuring a link between the two. It also discusses a number of programs currently in place to address departmental resourcing issues, such as the Legal Excellence Program, which provides articling students with the opportunity to develop the essential knowledge, skills, and experience for practising law.

In addition, the Corporate Programs Division recently published its 2010-13 Employment Equity Plan. The Employment Equity Plan notes that while the Department of Justice exceeds the Public Service’s overall employment equity objectives, improved representation in the executive group is required. The audit team found clear linkages to departmental priorities throughout the Employment Equity Plan.

It is the opinion of the audit team that the Corporate Programs Division provides strategic direction and priorities for the staffing/resourcing function and responds to the requirements of oversight bodies.

2.2 Planning

HR planning is integrated into the departmental integrated business planning process.

Planning is used by successful organizations to identify initiatives and activities that address issues and contribute to the achievement of stated objectives.

SPPM is responsible for coordinating the departmental integrated business planning process. The Corporate Programs Division plays an active role in this process by providing functional direction and guidance to departmental managers for the development of the HR plans that are included in annual business plans.

In 2007, the Corporate Programs Division published a “Manager’s Guide to Developing Human Resources Plans”. The guide’s stated objective is to align HR strategies with business strategies. The audit team found the document to be practical, as it guides managers through a number of steps and checklists prior to finalizing their HR plans.

The Corporate Programs Division also participates in the Integrated Business Planning Functional Partners Committee where, according to SPPM staff, it plays an active and valuable role.

Up until the completion of the audit, the Corporate Programs Division provided hands-on guidance to departmental managers on the development of HR plans, with some assistance from Client Operations and Senior Management Services Division staff. While the Corporate Programs Division is responsible for functional direction, the responsibility for direct HR planning assistance to departmental managers rests with the Client Operations and Senior Management Services Division. To help increase the involvement of the Client Operations and Senior Management Services Division, Corporate Programs staff will provide coaching to Client Operations and Senior Management Services staff to enable more active participation with clients in the upcoming 2011-12 planning exercise. Corporate Programs will continue playing its role as HR planning functional authority.

It is the opinion of the audit team that the Corporate Programs Division’s planning processes are adequate.

Staffing plans are not being used as reference/monitoring instruments when a resourcing action is initiated, nor are they regularly updated.

As part of the integrated business planning process, departmental managers develop staffing plans in conjunction with their HR plans. The purpose of the staffing plan is to provide a forecast of expected staffing needs based on expected changes such as retirements, departures, new positions, and the resulting planned staffing actions. The staffing plans are developed on an Excel-based template currently administered by the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Branch Footnote 2. The majority of departmental managers interviewed indicated that the template was somewhat inflexible and difficult to use and, as a result, was not always used in the resourcing process.

In order to improve the 2011-12 planning exercise, the CFO Branch made a number of changes to the staffing plan template. The template is now pre-populated with information from the Department of Justice’s Salary Forecasting Tool to create a more direct link between staffing actions and their financial impact. In the audit team’s opinion, this change should strengthen managers’ accountability with regard to staffing actions. It allows the staffing plan to become a monitoring instrument for managers to ensure that staffing actions are in line with the approved salary budget. In addition, more choices were added to the drop-down menus of the staffing plan template to make it more flexible for users. However, the staffing plan is still considered a static and inflexible tool, and improvements such as real-time updates would be beneficial.

We found differences of opinion among departmental managers as to the usefulness of the staffing plans. Staffing plans evolve constantly because of staff attrition and some managers consider that updating the plans is an administrative burden. Managers who use the plans found them useful in that they provide an internal control and a baseline from which to track changes in an ever-evolving environment.

In our view, staffing managers and advisors should promote the use of staffing plans as documents that need to be updated regularly and consulted at the initial step of any resourcing process. It is our understanding that steps have been taken to promote a more proactive use of the staffing plans in the resourcing process.

Annual measurable objectives and related work plans are not consistently developed in the Client Operations and Senior Management Services and Corporate Programs divisions.

An important element of Treasury Board’s MAF is that expectations are clearly stated and linked to results. High-level departmental plans are expected to translate into concrete and measurable objectives and work plans for staff.

The audit team observed that the annual goal-setting and work-planning process is not well structured in both staffing divisions. Formal objectives for the 2010-11 fiscal year were not in place by the completion of the audit team’s fieldwork in October 2010, more than six months into the year. A delay in the publication of commitments was the reason for the delay in establishing formal objectives.

Although managers indicated that they had discussed objectives and plans with their staff, when asked to provide current objectives and work plan documents, the results varied significantly. Most objectives and work plan documents submitted did not display all expected elements: clear deliverables, timetables, measurable indicators, activities, and a dated and signed document. As a result, the link between objectives and results was more difficult to identify. Furthermore, staff stated that while they are familiar with broad HR priorities, they are unable to clearly see the link between their individual work and the achievement of overall priorities.

Recommendation and Management Response

1. It is recommended that the Director General, HRPDD encourage the use of the staffing plan as a reference/monitoring instrument at the initial step in the resourcing process. (Low risk) Footnote 3

Agreed. The HR advisors in the Client Operations and Senior Management Services Division were provided with a training session, led by their Client Service managers and assisted by Corporate Staffing, on how to use staffing plans in their discussions with managers. In addition, a roll-up of all the individual portfolio/sector/branch staffing plans in the NCR was developed in May 2011 using SharePoint technology, which allows HR to have a bird’s eye view of staffing planned for the current year. This allows HR to play a more strategic role in assisting management with their projected staffing. This tool was presented at a special meeting of the Business Planning Network in June 2011 and served to reiterate the importance and use of the staffing plans. HR Client Service Managers have met on an ongoing basis with portfolios to support the use of staffing plans. To ensure a more comprehensive approach, they will, as part of the annual integrated business planning process, meet with all their respective Portfolio contacts to ensure the establishment of an ongoing process for the use of staffing plans. Completion: December 2011.

Recommendation and Management Response

2. It is recommended that the Director General, HRPDD ensure that concrete and measurable annual objectives and related work plans are developed. (Medium risk)

Agreed. Annual concrete and measurable performance objectives and work plans continue to be developed and staff continue to be assessed against these. Completion date: October 2011.

2.3 Organizing

2.3.1 Client Operations and Senior Management Services Division

The roles and responsibilities of the Client Operations and Senior Management Services Division are clear.

The Client Operations and Senior Management Services Division provides resourcing services to the National Capital Region and is mainly composed of staffing advisors who are responsible for assisting departmental managers in their staffing activities. Advisors provide managers with advice on the preparation of selection process advertisements, examination questions, rating guides, and final reports. Through interviews we found that staff working in the division understand their role.

It is the opinion of the audit team that the roles and responsibilities for the Client Operations and Senior Management Services Division are well understood by staff.

The Client Operations and Senior Management Services Division’s current organizational structure supports the staffing/resourcing function.

The Client Operations and Senior Management Services Division acts as the National Capital Regional Office, delivering staffing services for regular (non-executive) and executive positions. Three client services units provide services for regular positions to portfolios and other management sectors. A Staffing Advisor is specifically assigned to a number of portfolios or other corporate organizations, and as a rule, all communications are channelled through the assigned advisor. A fourth unit within the division is responsible for executive and senior complement staffing. Despite frequent turnover, both staffing advisors and departmental managers indicated that the mandate of the division is clearly understood and that this structure provides some level of stability and allows a rapport to be established between clients and service providers. Departmental managers have confirmed that they interact almost exclusively with their assigned contact within Client Operations and Senior Management Services and that the single contact approach works well.

It is the view of the audit team that the Client Operations and Senior Management Services Division’s current organizational structure effectively supports the staffing/resourcing function.

2.3.2 Corporate Programs Division

There is a need to clearly define the mandate and core activities of the Corporate Programs Division and to align the organizational structure accordingly.

The mandate of an organization is its raison d’être. It sets the tone for the organization’s activities, structure, and resources. When an organization establishes its mission, vision, and values statement, this valuable process sets the cornerstone upon which to build key activities and expected outcomes. The TBSMAFalso requires that an organization effectively reflect departmental priorities through its program activities architecture.

From our interviews with Corporate Programs staff and managers, we found that there is confusion about the organization’s mandate and certain of its activities, some of which may not be considered typical of a national functional authority for staffing and resourcing. Examples of these atypical activities identified by management and staff include:

  • recruitment under the Legal Excellence Program (recruitment of articling students through this program for the National Capital region is also coordinated and managed by this unit, which would usually be part of staffing operations);
  • handling complaints under the Public Service Staffing Tribunal (handled in some other government departments by Labour Relations units or in a separate unit within HR).

A clearly defined mandate, including core activities, is essential for ensuring that resources are allocated to the most important functions. Corporate Programs needs to better define its mandate and core activities, assess their relative importance, and determine and secure the resource levels required to deliver services to clients and to fully comply with central agencies’ requirements.

Based on staff comments, the current organizational structure has led to confusion and is not effective. There is a need to revisit the manner in which the various activities are allocated and managed and realign the organization with a revised mandate to optimize the use of resources.

The audit team’s limited benchmarking exercise with other federal departments found that other organizational models could be considered.Several other government departments are in the process of revisiting their corporate staffing mandates and organizations. In our opinion, the Corporate Programs Division could benefit from consulting with these departments.

Recommendation and Management Response

3. It is recommended that the Director General, HRPDD define the mandate and core activities of the Corporate Programs Division, align the organizational structure, and secure the appropriate funding. (Medium risk)

Agreed. Some progress in this regard has been made since the audit. The Corporate Programs area has been renamed the HR Policy, Planning and Systems Division to better reflect its mandate. The Director position has been reviewed and updated and came into effect in December 2010. Further refinements will be made throughout the fiscal year. The Director General will ensure that the necessary steps are taken to secure funding for this Division. Completion date: March 31 2012.

2.4 Controlling

The Corporate Programs Division needs to implement the recently developed Staffing Monitoring Framework.

One of the major elements of the PSC ’s Staffing Management Accountability Framework is the requirement to monitor results. The Corporate Programs Division is responsible for monitoring and reporting on staffing activities within the Department of Justice. We found that the division had initiated a number of ad hoc monitoring activities such as a 2009 study of long-term acting situations and an ongoing review of staffing advertisements. The results of the 2009 study were forwarded to regional staff and interviews indicated that corrective action is under way. However, the lack of a formal monitoring framework has prevented a structured approach to monitoring.

Corporate Programs management advised that they had recently developed a departmental Staffing Monitoring Framework based on identified risks. The framework was endorsed by the Department of Justice Human Resources Management Committee, and as of the completion of this audit’s fieldwork in October 2010, was awaiting approval from the Department of Justice Executive Committee. The implementation of the framework will require that an organizational unit responsible for the monitoring function be created and funded. The audit team supports this initiative.

The Client Operations and Senior Management Services and the Corporate Programs divisions do not conduct regular formal reviews of ongoing activities.

Managers of both divisions monitor ongoing activities through regular bilateral meetings with direct reports and monthly all-staff meetings. From interviews with managers and staff, we found that directors are aware of ongoing activities and emerging issues in their respective areas.

An effective accountability regime requires regular formal progress reports against established objectives and work plans. As previously discussed, objectives and work plans are not developed consistently throughout the two divisions. There is currently no formal and regular progress reporting, with the result that there is no baseline against which to assess progress. In addition, there is no documented history of changes in the approach to delivering work plans and/or any reassessment of priorities that may be agreed to by the parties involved. In the audit team’s opinion, accountability needs to be strengthened with more regular performance and progress reporting with respect to established objectives for all staff members.

Recommendation and Management Response

4. It is recommended that the Director General, HRPDD take the necessary steps to implement the Staffing Monitoring Framework. (Medium risk)

Agreed. The new Staffing Monitoring Framework has been endorsed by Senior Management. The new framework outlines ongoing monitoring activities (e.g. area of selection), cyclical activities (e.g. appointment file reviews), directed (e.g. acting appointments over 12 months) as well as thematic (e.g. delegation, priority administration, etc.) monitoring activities as well as the frequency of each. Completion date: Implementation of the approved framework has commenced and the completion of the current monitoring cycle and its associated activities is March 2013.

Recommendation and Management Response

5. It is recommended that the Director General, HRPDD ensure that regular reviews of ongoing activities and formal progress reports are conducted, once objectives and work plans have been developed. (Medium risk)

Agreed. A framework has been developed to ensure progress on work plans is reported and discussed at bi-weekly Chiefs meetings and during regular bi-lateral meetings with the Directors. Completion date: Completed and ongoing.

2.5 Leading and Communicating

Management of the Client Operations and Senior Management Services and the Corporate Programs divisions exercise leadership, communicate with staff, and provide functional direction.

The PSC provides a number of instruments to help assess leadership. On the PSC Web site, the page entitled “Assessing Leadership and Management Talent” lists the main abilities of good leaders:

  • to provide direction
  • to delegate
  • to face conflict
  • to show initiative
  • to make decisions
  • to communicate with and motivate staff
  • to develop effective interpersonal relationships

Based on interviews conducted with managers and staff and a review of some communication instruments and minutes of meetings, the audit team found that leadership is exercised in both the Client Operations and Senior Management Services and the Corporate Programs divisions. Regular bilateral meetings between directors and their direct reports are held every two weeks. In conjunction with monthly staff meetings, these meetings effectively provide direction and keep staff informed of relevant developments. In addition, staff reported that their supervisors have implemented an open-door policy that enables them to discuss emerging issues in a timely manner. Staff also confirmed that they are generally satisfied with communications and the direction provided.

The audit team is of the opinion that management of both divisions exercise leadership, communicate satisfactorily and provide staff with functional direction.

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