The Public Service Hiring Process
On October 4, 2018 I made a presentation to the Government Operations Committee of the House of Commons about the current state of the federal public service hiring process. This was very timely, as the government had just released its own study of the issue.
Along with colleagues from other unions, I identified a number of flaws in the current staffing process, and suggested ways to improve the situation.
My first point, which members have regularly raised with me, was that the staffing process simply takes too long. It is lengthy and cumbersome, often taking 6 months to a year to complete. Administrative delays over sequential security clearances, combined with screening and interview bottlenecks, result in unacceptable delays and wasted time.
Hiring should be merit-based, but also timely. While there have been some attempts at solving public service staffing issues through the use of new platforms, e-recruitment and increased flexibility, in practice it doesn’t appear that much has changed. As Former Privy Council Clerk Kevin Lynch noted, the federal government will not be successful in recruiting Canada's best talent if it clings to slow and bureaucratic hiring processes.
I also brought up the matter of staffing pools. As our members know, candidates have to go through a hiring process in order to be included in a pool that qualifies them for a position at that classification and level. Then, when the Department needs to fill a position at that level, it can draw from that pool. Getting your name in a pool can be a long and burdensome process and may not even result in a job in your near future.
Finally, I told the Committee that staffing is a key reason why the government suffers from an over-reliance on contracting out. Not only does outsourcing cost taxpayers billions of dollars every year that would be better used on improving services to Canadians, it has a very serious impact on public service morale, accountability and productivity. Unfortunately, no official (or at least public) estimate exists of the total number of outsourced federal government workers, who constitute a “shadow public service”.
To address these issues, I recommended the following solutions to the Committee:
- New government projects and initiatives should take their staffing needs into consideration right from the start. Training, staffing and recruiting for a new project need to happen at the beginning of its development. Taking these steps early on in the process will ultimately save the government money down the road, and managers will not be forced to go to outside contractors and temporary help agencies because they need people quickly.
- The government needs to create skills inventories and a mechanism for organizations to access them even in the short term. This will ensure access to the skills already available in departments and agencies. Again, relying on in-house resources will save the government money.
- Create government-wide hiring pools for all departments and agencies to draw from, because individual organizations are often unwilling to “share” their department-specific pools with their counterparts. Government-wide hiring pools will also help to create a standardized hiring process. This is a recommendation that we have already raised with the Treasury Board.