Recruitment Challenges

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Is recruitment important? Quite simply, yes. Recruitment is always a fundamental element in the normal and constant renewal of any organization. It is a major vehicle for any organization to bring in new ideas, new skills and new points of view. It is a fundamental way in which organizations can adapt to a changing external environment.

Is it necessary at this time? Yes, absolutely critical. The Public Service faces an even greater recruitment imperative than most organizations in Canada, as it serves in the public interest and must maintain the values and principles that define this country. Gaps are already obvious. Improved workplace diversity helps to define choices, and the shift in the nature of government work affects who is hired and what they do. All of this takes place in an increasingly competitive labour market for skilled workers.

The Data is Already Clear

We already lack the staff we need to meet operational needs in key occupational groups, such as the regulatory and inspection community and information management and technology community. That threatens to increase as other employers outbid the Public Service and offer more attractive working and career environments.

Current and projected attrition rates point to gaps across the Public Service, not just in specialized fields. Within five years, a significant number of executives and more importantly, their feeder groups, will be eligible to retire. Current recruitment and career development processes are not enough to meet the expected demand. Treasury Board Secretariat estimates a need for an additional 2,000 to 2,500 recruits per year to compensate for attrition.

These facts make it clear that recruitment will have to be considered for all levels of the Public Service, not just the most junior. The low recruitment levels of the 1980s and 1990s, the loss of many junior staff due to downsizing, and the increasingly competitive labour market have created an obvious demographic vacuum, with relatively low representation of people in their 30s.

Diversity and Inclusiveness Must be Part of Any Well-Functioning Organization

We lack a workforce that is representative of the communities we serve, especially in the share of jobs held by members of visible minority groups and persons with disabilities. In 1999, while 1 in 9 Canadians was a member of a visible minority, that was true for only 1 in 17 members of the Public Service. The gap is even greater at the management and executive categories, where the share was only 1 in 33.

The Sub-Committee heard from the Task Force on an Inclusive Public Service and the Task Force on the Participation of Visible Minorities in the Federal Public Service. Both task forces recognized that diversity should be manifested at all levels. This not only makes good business sense, but it shows that an organization truly values differences in people and sees them as a means to fundamentally challenge and enhance what it does and how it does it.

The Sub-Committee was made aware that there is a substantial gap between the general Public Service and departmental commitments to more inclusive recruitment and the actual environment, actions and decisions of hiring managers. Those managers normally have no incentives to alter traditional hiring criteria or practices, at present. If anything, change to meet expectations of a more inclusive Public Service adds work and complexity to hiring processes that are already seen as somewhat cumbersome.

We Face Substantial Competition for Any Recruits

It is critical to point out that the Public Service is just one of many organizations that are looking for new and bright recruits. Demographic factors and a growing economy are leading to the most vibrant labour market in recent memory, especially for skilled young people. Many employers, especially in the public and quasi-public sector, who have hired little in the past 15 to 20 years, face the same need to recruit new staff to replace an aging workforce.

Competition is not even solely domestic anymore. Highly skilled Canadians, whether new graduates in many fields or experienced workers, can consider a more continental and global labour market now. The effects of these and other considerations are that major employers are adopting a far more strategic and aggressive approach to recruitment of workers than ever, especially young workers.

Technology is Changing the Way We Work and the Skills We Need

Electronic communications and information technology is changing the way government employees work and how they provide services to Canadians. E–government represents an important challenge that new recruits will help to address in that their ideas and skills will capitalize on harnessing the potential of new technologies for the future. They also work within a broader frame of reference, as they are much more at ease with tapping into the global arena.

Recruitment of young people and people from other organizations with substantial experience in applying new technologies to service delivery can be important drivers of this change. Younger Canadians are often at ease with new technologies, even if they have no technical expertise as such.

E–government also presents opportunities to reach a broader audience for recruitment to the Public Service. It has the potential to tap into major recruitment centres such as universities, foreign countries and popular Internet sites to attract the best and brightest at a lower cost to the government.

Departments Know They Have a Recruitment Challenge

As part of the work of this Sub-Committee and the two others on Workplace Well-Being and Learning and Development, the Clerk of the Privy Council sent a letter to the Deputy Minister of each department in February 2000. The letter asked departments to report on departmental recruitment, retention and learning plans and actions. The response to recruitment is found in Appendix A.

Responses reveal that most departments believe that they are facing a significant recruitment challenge over the next five years, as they prepare for the retirement of an aging workforce. Forecasted retirements at the executive levels and in the science and technology community are of particular concern. Departments are especially concerned that their organizations are not representative, and they see pending recruitment activity as the chance to right the current employment equity and youth imbalance.

Departments are at different stages; some are conducting leading-edge recruitment, and others know they have to act. They need to play a more corporate role in sharing innovative approaches to develop more strategic recruitment practices for the future.

While the recruitment imperative is generally understood by Deputy Ministers and their management teams, it does not appear to be understood by all hiring managers. This is partly due to workload issues and the focus on such immediate, short-term solutions as hiring casual employees, terms, and previous employees, rather than looking at longer-term strategies.

The Sub-Committee also heard from both the Deputy Minister champion for the human resources community and the Chair of the Human Resources Council. Both have underscored the need for more strategic leadership on human resources issues, recruitment in particular.

Existing recruitment options are not used consistently or optimally. While departments expect to make increasing use of the Post-Secondary Recruitment (PSR) program, that program accounts only for one percent of new appointments each year. The Management Trainee Program and other corporate initiatives exist and are used, but it is not clear that these are linked to concrete, strategic human resources plans.

This non-strategic hiring activity is best evidenced by how student, co-op and internship programs are used as recruitment tools. These programs employ thousands of young people in the Public Service annually but are not being used by managers as part of a long-term recruitment strategy. Opportunities are missed for students to return for full-time careers after graduation. Concerns have been raised by students that the recruitment process does not always ensure a good match between their skills and interests and an appropriate department or manager. They also stated that they are not always provided with meaningful work, thus affecting their desire to return to the Public Service.

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