Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee, for your invitation to provide a briefing on the current state of public service hiring. You have rightfully honed in on a key issue, at least the way I was briefed: the length of time it takes to appoint someone to a job.
I'm pleased to be joined here today by Michael Morin, who is responsible for the staffing policy at the Public Service Commission, and Véronique Gaudreau, who is responsible for our central recruitment programs.
Canada's public service is built on the foundation of merit and non-partisanship. I am proud that the Public Service Commission has been safeguarding these two principles for over 110 years now. As you know, Canadians and governments alike have been well served by our professional public service. This is recognized here and abroad, with Canada's public service ranked first in last year's Civil Service Effectiveness Index.
One key aspect of public service hiring is that departments and agencies operate under a delegated model. Deputy heads are responsible for the hiring practices within their departments. They have a great deal of flexibility when it comes to how employees are hired. This is recognized in the Public Service Employment Act and in the Public Service Commission's policies and practices.
Reducing the time it takes to hire someone is something that I'm personally seized with and that the entire Public Service Commission is working on. In fact, the number of days to complete an external recruitment process is the very first indicator listed in our departmental plan.
Based on the most recent data, we have established that it takes, on average, 197 days to hire a new employee using an external advertised competitive process. This is from the time the opportunity is posted on our GC Jobs site to the day that employee reports to work. It includes such steps as second language testing and obtaining the necessary security clearances.
We can agree that 197 days is unacceptably long and that this makes for a frustrating experience for applicants, hiring managers and HR advisers alike. We lose many good candidates along the way, and positions remain unfilled for long periods, impacting service to Canadians.
I should clarify that this measurement does not apply to a number of other mechanisms, such as lateral moves, appointments from inventories, student hiring, non-advertised appointments, and appointments of individuals with priority such as our veterans, all of which are much quicker ways to hire.
Nonetheless, as we want to see more external staffing in the public service and to provide opportunities for the best and brightest from across the country, this is a baseline that we must and that we will significantly improve.
And I'm convinced, Mr. Chair, that we can modernize and speed up the hiring process while maintaining and in fact strengthening merit, transparency, fairness, diversity and regional representation. Flexibility, creativity and merit are not and cannot be seen as mutually exclusive.
Two years ago, we took important steps to reduce the administrative burden placed on departments and agencies when it came to staffing, with what we called, and still call, the new direction in staffing.
The number of Public Service Commission policies was reduced from 12 to one. We have encouraged departments and agencies to simplify their job ads. Deputy heads have been exercising their discretion to hire based on their own circumstances. We recognize that the employees needed to protect Canada's borders are different from those who work in a call centre or those working in a medical lab.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to hiring. However, hiring decisions continue to be based on merit and non-partisanship.
The cumbersome staffing culture that has developed over time will not change overnight, and it is something we are committed to improve in every way. There has been noticeable progress in many areas, but there is still much room for improvement when it comes to simplifying staffing and we will continue to exert our influence across the hiring system. For example, I have recently had discussions with some deputy heads who now consistently succeed in staffing positions externally in less than 100 days.
We know that the right policy framework and the commitment of deputy heads is not enough to turn this ship around. Not when we are relying on antiquated recruitment programs, tools and systems. Since my arrival at the Public Service Commission a year and a half ago, I have placed a priority on modernizing our recruitment toolkit starting with bringing GCJobs into the digital era.
We have engaged with job applicants, hiring managers and HR professionals from across the country to make sure their needs are understood and form the basis of changes we are making to tools, systems and procedures. The result we are seeking is leading-edge technologies based on user testing, user-centric design and modern prototype development.
This work has provided us with the detailed user requirements to allow us to move forward and start working on creating a modern, digital recruitment platform to replace the current system, which has been in use for decades. This includes improved communications with candidates and managers. It will be highly intuitive and easy to navigate. I'd like to think that it will be an experience much like that offered by large companies such as Amazon, which offer convenient, efficient and quick online shopping experiences. Imagine, for example, a “one-click apply” user experience.
We want a system where a candidate's profile—education, qualifications, official language results, confirmation of security levels and accommodation requirements—follow them so they don't need to provide it every single time they apply or are hired for a Government of Canada job.
A system where they apply once and the information submitted can be used multiple times for similar jobs.
A system that provides real-time regular feedback on the status of an application.
A system that provides hiring managers up-to-date labour market information, to help educate their choice of recruitment strategies.
A system that provides access to state-of-the-art assessment tools such as unsupervised Internet testing.
And one that is inclusive and accessible by design.
We are also experimenting at other points in the hiring process. For example, we are piloting changes to the second-language evaluation process and looking at an employee referral program. Other departments are also doing innovative work. The talent cloud pilot project and the free agents program are two examples.
Although we recognize that we need to continue to improve our recruitment and hiring practices, I should note that an impressive number of people from all parts of the country, from all walks of life and with a wide range of educational profiles, experience and skills, including language capacity, apply to our various recruitment programs every year.
In fact, last year, 325,000 unique applicants demonstrated their interest in the public service. Almost 16,000 applied through our post-secondary recruitment program. When it comes to students, 47,000 applied and nearly 13,000 were hired. The number of students hired has increased in each of the past five years.
I know we will have additional opportunities for ongoing conversations about progress on changing the staffing culture and building the tools needed to modernize staffing.
We expect that Statistics Canada will release the results of our Staffing and Non-partisanship Survey in the coming weeks. These results will be used to further identify staffing trends and inform improvements to staffing policies and practices. Our 2017-2018 Annual Report to Parliament will be tabled later this fall, as will our Departmental Results Report. Both these reports will be referred to you for examination.
By simplifying staffing, we will support efforts to improve diversity and inclusion within the public service. We're on the right track. We've improved the policy framework and we are modernizing our tools. Ultimately, these will work together to help change the culture, which in many ways is still risk-averse and focused on short-term needs. It places too much emphasis on internal staffing rather than recruiting the best talent from wherever it may be, and it may come from across the country.
Rest assured that the Public Service Commission maintains a strong oversight role, including our audit and investigative functions, which are important in safeguarding merit and non-partisanship.
Thank you once again for your interest in public service hiring. We would be pleased to provide further information and answer your questions.
Thank you very much.