Thank you, Madam Chair, for the opportunity to appear before the committee to share what we have learned as we have explored the use of anonymized applications and its impact on the screening and recruitment of visible minorities within the Canadian public service. As you said, I'm accompanied here by colleagues from the Public Service Commission, whom you introduced, but I also want to note that I'm pleased to have Carl Trottier here.
The Public Service Commission and the office of the chief human resources officer work closely together on many files. Mr. Trottier has been involved in this pilot project since day one. I would also be remiss if I did not acknowledge the help and support of the many departments and agencies who participated in this pilot. It is through these types of partnerships that we can get a government-wide perspective on important staffing matters.
The Public Service Employment Act states that:
Canada will continue to benefit from a public service that is based on merit and non-partisanship and in which these values are independently safeguarded;
It goes on to recognize that:
Canada will also continue to gain from a public service that strives for excellence, that is representative of Canada's diversity and that is able to serve the public with integrity.
These are powerful words, and it is because of them that the Public Service Commission of Canada considers diversity and inclusion as fundamental components of its mandate. Therefore, we are always exploring innovative ways to improve recruitment methods. This pilot project is one of the many activities we have undertaken in our attempt at doing so. For example, over the years we've implemented a series of tools in support of barrier-free recruitment. Some of these include universal design for testing of candidates; employment equity targeted recruitment programs; machine-scored testing to eliminate subjectivity; training to avoid bias during selection processes;
a recruitment system that offers automated screening and random selection of candidates; policies that provide the option to restrict recruitment to members of employment equity groups, to improve representation where gaps are identified; and an attestation form—which I've attached—that is signed by all managers with staffing delegation.
At the Public Service Commission, we believe in the power of experimentation to drive evidence-based innovation. Our work on anonymized application is an example of this experimentation.
You will note that I am stressing the “anonymizing” aspect of our work. While we originally referred to this as “name-blind recruitment”, because this was the term recognized internationally, it is our view that the idea of anonymizing better reflects the approach we have taken. In other words, it is the removal of all personal information that could lead to the identification of a candidate's origin, as opposed to merely the removal of an individual's name.
I will take a moment to quickly recap the features and findings of the pilot.
It included 27 positions advertised to the public from 17 departments and agencies. This resulted in a sample of over 2,200 candidates, of which 685, or 31%, self-identified as visible minorities.
In keeping with research standards, our pilot project was reviewed by three external experts—two members of academia and an expert in methodology. In addition to complying with research standards, we considered peer review essential to ensure that the conclusions from our project were warranted and reasonable.
Overall, the pilot found that there was no net benefit or disadvantage to using the anonymized screening method for visible minorities. It also showed that the anonymized method reduced the screen-in rate for all other applicants. Not surprisingly, the results showed a strong correlation between previous government experience and screen-in rates for all candidates.
There are always limitations when it comes to research methodology. Being open about these is considered a professional obligation, and so you will notice that our final report identified several limitations related to this particular project.
It should be noted that when we designed our methodology, we tried to specifically address some of the limitations reported in previous research papers on the subject, such as using fabricated resumes and fictitious staffing processes. We also recognized that our pilot would shed additional light on anonymized recruitment and that further research or work would be necessary.
Our report was clear that the findings provided one additional source of evidence, but would not provide the complete answer on the applicability of anonymized recruitment in the federal public service. In other words, this pilot was never intended to be a silver bullet solution; rather, it was developed to contribute to, and complement, the existing body of evidence.
With regard to next steps, the Public Service Commission is undertaking a formal audit to examine the success rate of employment equity groups at key stages of the recruitment process. This approach will provide us with additional evidence while addressing some of the limitations—namely, that managers were aware of their participation in the pilot project and that we were dealing with organizations who had volunteered to participate. The audit will also examine hiring practices to identify areas that may contain potential barriers or that may, for one reason or another, be more inclusive.
The Public Service Commission will also share its methodology with departments and agencies who may decide to anonymize applications for their staffing processes.
We will also explore how anonymizing principles could be included in the design of any future technology changes to our recruitment systems.
In conclusion, Madam Chair, I want to assure this committee that the Public Service Commission is fully committed to diversity and inclusion, and will continue to take steps to keep these values at the forefront of public service recruitment and staffing. As an example, we will continue to provide targeted recruitment programs, such as the indigenous student employment opportunity, which offers indigenous full-time students work experience in the federal public service.
We would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.