1.1 The Review Mandate

The Parks Canada Agency Act requires Parks Canada to develop and apply a set of values and principles in the management of human resources in the Agency. This requirement is established in Section 16 (1) (b) of the Act, which states:

"16 (1) The Chief Executive Officer is responsible for establishing a charter for the Agency that sets out the values and principles governing:
(a) the provision of services by the Agency to the public; and
(b) the management of the human resources of the Agency."

The Act also requires the Agency to conduct an independent review of the consistency with which it applies these values and principles within its human resources (HR) management regime. Specifically, Section 35 (1) of the Act states:

"The Chief Executive Officer must, at least every five years, have prepared by a person or body, other than the Agency or any of its officers or employees, a report on the consistency of its human resources regime with the values and principles that are to govern the management of its human resources."

In October of 2003, Parks Canada (the Agency) engaged Hay Management Consulting to conduct the formal, independent review required by the Act. This report presents the findings of that review and it fulfills the requirement set out in Section 35 (1) of the Act. Our review was a broad assessment of the consistency of Parks Canada's human resource regime with the values and principles that the Agency espouses. Our review was not (and was not intended to be) either a comprehensive audit or an evaluation of the HR function.

1.2 Approach and Methodology used in the Review

This is the first such review to be conducted in Parks Canada under Section 35 (1) of the Act. Therefore, the review team had to devise a methodology for conducting the review.

1.2.1 Constructing a conceptual and evaluative framework to guide the work of the review

The review team first created a conceptual and evaluative framework to guide its work. The team determined that an appropriate framework would achieve the following:

  • Translate the Agency's values and principles into an operational context that would make these values and principles more readily observable and measurable.
  • Provide a roadmap that would focus the work of the review team efficiently and effectively.
  • Indicate to Parks Canada stakeholders how the review would be structured and conducted.
  • Make clear for Parks Canada staff the information and documentary needs of the review team and thus enable staff to satisfy these information needs efficiently and with least disruption to their activities.
  • Provide the review team with a means for organizing its information and findings, and
  • Provide a logical structure for reporting the findings of the review.

The review team believed that values and principles could be observed, measured and meaningfully discussed only if they were placed in a functional and practical context. Therefore we needed to place the HR Values and Operating Principles in an applied context that would allow us to review them with Agency stakeholders and to observe and evaluate them in operation within the HR regime. "HR function" provided a clear and readily understood context for rendering the values and principles more concrete and hence "discuss-able", measurable and observable. By "function" we meant the individual functions (e.g., staffing, compensation, learning and development, etc.) that comprise the basis of a HR regime. Our approach was to use HR functions as one of the basic elements for the framework of the review. Therefore, we constructed a two dimensional grid with "function" on one axis and "values and principles" on the other axis.

1.2.2 Building the Review Template

The review team then proceeded to construct a Review Template. The team identified the "functions" that are relevant and appropriate for the HR regime of Parks Canada. This was done collaboratively with input from Parks Canada staff (HR and the Working Group) to ensure that the framework and template were sufficiently comprehensive in both its scope and detail. We selected the following "functions":

  • Framework for HR Strategy and Planning
  • The HR Policy Framework
  • Employment Equity
  • Official Languages
  • Recruitment and Staffing
  • Learning and Development
  • Classification, Pay and Compensation
  • Managing Conflict in the Workplace
  • Labour/Management Relations
  • Health and Safety in the Workplace
  • Performance Management – Recognition and Rewards

We then cross-mapped the values and principles to each of the selected functions. This required us to analyze each of the HR functions to determine how each of the principles and values would be reflected within that particular HR function and what one would expect to find in a review of that function if the standard of "consistency" was to be met.

1.2.3 Collecting the data

The review team next established data collection requirements and built interview guides designed to capture the information required by the cross mapping. This was a collaborative step in which the review team worked with the Working Group and HR representatives to determine what tests would be reasonable, what information was available, and which stakeholders we needed to consult, interview or otherwise involve in the data collection phase of our work.

The review team ultimately collected data from the following sources:

  • We obtained and reviewed policy documents, program descriptions, program reports, strategy papers and other documentary evidence describing the Agency's HR regime
  • We analyzed the HR components of the Agency's intranet site.
  • We analyzed the results of Parks Canada's Employee Survey
  • We conducted interviews that involved approximately 60 stakeholders from within Parks Canada including:
  • Members of the HR Committee of the Executive Board
  • Ex-officio Members of the HR Committee of the Executive Board
  • Management representatives on the Labour Management Consultation Committee
  • HR Directors at Corporate Headquarters and in the field.
  • HR specialists in specific HR functions and disciplines
  • Members of the Working Group struck for this review
  • Field Managers with significant HR involvement
  • The President of the National Component of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC)
  • The President of UCTE.
  • We conducted 2 focus groups (in Cornwall and Smith Falls) to solicit the opinions of front line staff and to supplement information presented in the Parks Canada Employee Survey.
1.3 The Principal Conclusions of this Review

As a result of its examinations, the review team drew three kinds of conclusions: a general conclusion, several overarching conclusions, and conclusions specific to each value and principle. These are presented below.

1.3.1 Our Overall General Conclusion

Our overall conclusion is that Parks Canada's HR regime is mostly consistent with its values and principles (or is developing in a manner that is consistent with them) but that there are exceptions and areas that require further work. We find that Parks Canada is consistently mindful of its values and principles and that it routinely applies its values and principles in its analytical and decision making processes.

1.3.2 Our Overarching Conclusions

We reached the several overarching conclusions, these being:

  1. That the Values and Operating Principles of Parks Canada (or those of any other organization) are not and cannot be absolute or immutable. Values and principles are not like mathematical formulae; their application cannot always be consistent and nor will their application lead to the same (or for that matter to consistent) decisions and results. To have meaning in the world of work, values and principles such as "fairness" or "simplicity" require context and circumstance, and their application requires the exercise of judgement and interpretation by the people involved. Inevitably, circumstance and judgement introduce variability in actual results as well as variability in how those results are perceived. What seems "fair" or "simple" to one person may not appear to be so to another. Thus determining whether a particular value or principle has been observed is both a subjective and relative exercise, dependent on the perspective of the individual and dependant as well on context and situation.

    This is a fundamental observation. In our work on this review, some people we interviewed commented that the application of values and principles in similar circumstances would lead to "inconsistent" (i.e., different) results. We conclude that such variability and differences in results are natural, to be expected and in any event, unavoidable, and perhaps even desirable. Principles and values are not meant to supplant judgement and discretion, rather they are meant to guide analysis and to inform decision-making. What is truly important therefore is not whether the organization achieves consistency in results through its values and principles but whether the organization in good faith consistently and regularly applies its values and principles in its thinking, analysis and decision making.

    On this fundamental point, the review finds that Parks Canada does commonly, regularly and routinely keep in mind its principles and values in its analytical and decision-making processes.

  2. That the Values and Operating Principles of Parks Canada can and do act at times as interdependent variables. By this we mean that individual principles and values do not always stand independently of each other. The exercise of one principle or value can affect that of another principle or value either positively or negatively. For example, the principle of "Adaptability" (Adjusting to circumstances by encouraging innovation and creativity) and "Simplicity" (Making things as uncomplicated as possible) can at times be competing principles, where one can be achieved but at the expense of the other. Consequently, judgement and circumstance necessarily and understandably come into play. In other circumstances, the values and principles can be complimentary in nature and mutually supportive. For example, in the staffing process the exercise of "Fairness" (Activities and decisions are just, timely, impartial and objective) is a value that sustains and supports another value, "Respect" (Mutual trust, recognition of accomplishment, self-esteem and regard for others). Given that the Agency's principles and values are at times interdependent, this review found no evidence to suggest that Parks Canada, either in its thinking or in its actions, favours one value over another or that it favours one principle over another. In fact this never entered the thinking or the commentary of those we interviewed. We find that the Agency is consistent and balanced in treating its individual principles and values as equally important, that it does so intuitively, and that it strives for balance when principles compete. Achieving balance in values and principles is a matter that the Public Service Commission has commented on for the "core" public service.

  3. That complete implementation of Values and Principles within the HR regime of Agency is a work in progress. Development of the HR regime has been affected in part by the Agency's limited ability to make the requisite investments of time, money and effort. At the time this review was conducted, many of the HR programs that would bring greater life and fuller substance to the Agency's values and principles had just been implemented, were in the planning stage, or were on the verge of implementation (e.g., National Classification Review, Orientation, and Alternative Dispute Resolution). This review does not find fault with this. While some might consider the pace of HR program development to have been slow, we find no evidence of "foot dragging." The review recognizes that at the time of its creation the Agency had virtually no corporate HR infrastructure and very few corporate HR resources. These had to be built essentially "from scratch". The review acknowledges that in the circumstances, the Agency had to make choices on where and how it would invest its limited HR resources and capacities. The review finds:

    • That the Agency has invested those limited HR resources in a logical manner intended to produce the greatest return on investment.
    • That the Agency has attained and sustained momentum in developing HR programs that support a values and principles based HR regime.
    • That the Agency's senior executive has been and remains meaningfully and significantly engaged in the planning, development and implementation of a values and principles based HR regime in the Agency.
    • That the engagement of both management and HR resources in this undertaking is both genuine and sincere.

    1.3.3 Our conclusions specific to each of the values and principles

    Our findings and conclusions specific to each of the HR Values and Operating Principles are presented in summary fashion below. These findings are discussed in more detail in the body of the report.

    Competence: The review found that the Agency does observe Competency as a value but that there is work to be done with respect to this value. The review found that the Agency does in fact recruit, select and promote employees on the basis of competency. However the review also found that the Agency does not yet have in place all of the corporate, workforce-level HR systems and processes that it needs to ensure that its workforce is appropriately skilled, knowledgeable and competent. The review also found that Agency does not yet approach competency in an integrated or systematic manner

    Respect: With respect to "Respect", the review team found a high degree of consistency and a high degree of attention to this value by Parks Canada. We found that the Agency and its leadership (particularly top leadership) are highly active both formally and informally in celebrating the accomplishments of the Agency's people both as teams and individuals. We found that Agency management has taken a keen interest in Recognition and that the Agency works hard "at catching people doing things right." We found that the Agency clearly recognizes and respects employees' rights to union membership, representation and participation in union activities. We found a well-organized and well-structured approach to Labour Management Consultation and an active LMC environment both nationally and in the field. But we also found that many employees do not feel that they can speak openly within the Agency or that they can use the redress processes of the Agency without fear of reprisal.

    Fairness: The review finds that the Agency is reasonably consistent in observing the value of "Fairness." We found policies and processes in place to institutionalize fairness but we found that many employees do not perceive fairness in the results of those processes. We found a reasonably comprehensive policy framework governing functions in which "fairness" could be at issue, e.g., staffing, classification. We found many fora available to members of the Agency at which issues of fairness can be raised and tabled (labour management consultation committees, occupational health and safety committees, etc.) and that there are well-developed redress mechanisms in place that members of the Agency can use to test fairness (grievance processes, ITPRs, etc.). However, many employees are reluctant to use these fora. We found no evidence of political influence in the staffing processes of the Agency. But we did hear from front line employees in the field alleging bureaucratic patronage in the appointment and recall of seasonal and casual employees. We found that while most employees believe that the staffing process is fair, fully a third of the workforce believe that the process is not.

    Accountability: The review found that there is work yet to be done to more fully implement the principle of "accountability." We found the use of HR principles and operating values as an accountability mechanism is well entrenched in Parks Canada. We found that the Agency has embedded accountability in its Accountability Framework for People Management. We found that the conduct of the Parks Canada Employee Survey to be an exercise in accountability. On the other hand, we found that a comprehensive, integrated, consistent and universally applied performance management process is not in place in the Agency and that such a system is arguably the single greatest way to implement the principle of accountability.

    Efficiency: The review found that the Agency fully embraces the principle of efficiency (i.e., making best possible use of human, time and financial resources).

    Effectiveness: That there is little basis on which to comment definitively on "effectiveness" (achieving the expected results) as much of the HR regime has only recently been implemented, or is in the planning stages, or is now in the process of roll-out (including HR strategic framework, learning and development, orientation, alternative dispute resolution, national classification review, etc.) It does however appear to the review team the Agency has been highly effective where it has invested its limited time and attention in the development of its HR regime.

    Consistency: The review finds that the Agency does strive to be consistent in the development and application of its HR regime and that it makes efforts, "to act in a similar manner in similar circumstances." This is evident in several ways, the most notable of which is the National Classification Review.

    Adaptability: The review finds that the results for "Adaptability" are mixed. The Agency has taken advantage of its separate employer status to re-engineer its staffing and resourcing processes and to adapt them to its requirements (e.g. adaptations such as competence as opposed to merit, changes in the concept of area of competition, etc). And the Agency has consolidated grievance and appeals processes where possible (e.g., ITPR). However, the ability of the Agency to innovate in collective bargaining and to develop terms and conditions of employment tailored to the needs of the Agency is limited and constrained by the requirement to have its bargaining mandates approved by the Treasury Board, by its need to maintain comparability to the core public service, and by the requirement that the Agency self-fund the costs of any new terms and conditions of employment that represent significant departures from terms and conditions of employment that prevail in the core public service. The review finds that the constraints on the Agency's ability to bargain place it at a severe disadvantage in exercising the principle of "adaptability."

    Simplicity: The review finds that the Agency has consistently worked at achieving simplicity and that it has been highly successful in streamlining many aspects of it's HR regime. The most noteworthy achievement in "simplification" has been the unification of employee representation under a single bargaining agent (Public Service Alliance of Canada) within two components (Transport Component and National Component of PSAC). This represents a vast reduction in administrative complexity compared to the multiple bargaining agent, multiple bargaining unit environment that existed in Parks Canada prior to it becoming an Agency. As previously discussed, the Agency has also made significant progress in unwinding the administrative complexities of the staffing processes that it was formerly obliged to follow when Parks Canada was part of the core public service. Also as previously discussed, the Agency has made significant progress in simplifying, consolidating, and in some case "informalizing" it's dispute resolution processes (e.g., introduction of Alternative Dispute Resolution, Independent Third Party Review).

    Openness: The review found that that the Agency has structures in place to facilitate open communication and dialogue (like the Parks Canada Employee Survey), and has mechanisms to ensure an honest review of decisions (e.g., labour management consultation, ITPR, and Alternative Dispute Resolution). But we found that many employees do not perceive these processes lead to real openness.

    The Parks Canada Employee Survey reports "employees' general trust in the organization to treat them fairly is not very high, both overall and in comparison to the Public Service (by 20 per cent, the largest single difference between Parks Canada and the Public Service)." The survey goes on to state that "perceived openness to employee feedback (is a) much weaker area."

    If "openness" is tied to "trust," as the review team believes it to be, then there is work yet to be done in implementing this principle. The Parks Canada Employee Survey reports that only "two-thirds (65 per cent) … trust Parks Canada to treat them fairly".

    Subsequent chapters of this report describe how the review was conducted and present the findings, observations and recommendations of the review in greater detail.

     

  4. That acceptance and internalization of the HR principles and HR values of the Agency has been inconsistent and uneven thus far. It would appear that not all management or staff of the Agency have embraced the HR principles and HR values of the organization. We heard much anecdotal commentary from front line employees concerning staffing and management practices that would appear to be in conflict with the Agency's principles and values. Many of these same employees report not perceiving any difference in how HR matters are addressed today when compared to practices in Parks Canada before it became an Agency or before it had a set of HR values and principles. Staff observations made in the Parks Canada Employee Survey reinforce some of these points of view.

    On the opposite side of the coin, we repeatedly heard observations that "management did not live up to its values and principles in this case." We found this an interesting choice of words, as if to suggest that the HR values and principles apply only to management in its interactions with staff and not necessarily to staff in its interaction with management, or for that matter, not necessarily to any member of the Agency in his or her interactions with any other member of the Agency. The review team concludes that many management and staff in the Agency may have come to view the Agency's values and principles too narrowly as either "a management code of conduct" that applies only to management within a narrow context of labour–management relations or human resource transactions. The review team understands that the principles and values were intended to have a much broader and universal application and that they are meant to apply to all in the Agency and across all work of the Agency. If the review team's understanding is correct, then there is still work to be done to ingrain the values and principles to the same extent that the Parks Canada Charter is ingrained in the minds of Agency members.

  5. That the process of institutionalizing and internalizing values and operating principles throughout an organization is necessarily a very long term and continuous process. The process of internalization only begins with their adoption. Reaching the point where values and principles become "second nature" throughout an organization requires years of repeated and consistent modeling by top leadership in its words, behaviours and decisions; it requires their institutionalization in the HR programs and processes of the organization; and it requires the recruitment, selection, recognition and promotion of those individuals who best demonstrate the organization's values and principles in their work. In other words, implementing values and principles and achieving consistency in their application and interpretation is a long and gradual process of assimilation and evolution. This being the case, it is exceedingly difficult to measure the extent to which different layers in the organization have embraced and assimilated the Agency's principles and values but we endeavoured to do this in the review. It appears to the review team that there is strong support for and alignment with the values and principles at the top of the organization but that this support and alignment diminishes in degree as one moves down the organization and away from the centre of the organization. At the front line, it appears that the principles and values of the Agency have less visibility and less impact on the working lives of front line staff than is the case elsewhere in the organization. This may well be a reflection of evolutionary nature of the process. The embedding and reinforcement of principles and values throughout the organization (particularly at the front line) will likely be strengthened as the Agency continues to roll out HR programs and services that are built on its values and principles.

    The leaders of an organization have the greatest impact on shaping the culture of that organization through their words, behaviours, actions and decisions. Constant demonstration and modeling of the Agency's values and principles by its leaders makes clear to the organization as a whole what the Agency truly believes and values. The review finds that top leadership of the Agency does repeatedly and consistently model the Agency's values and principles. Organization-wide acceptance and implementation of values and principles must be a "top-down" driven process. It is a process that will take much time and reinforcement, and a process that is never truly completed and one that requires perpetual reinforcement. Therefore, the review does not find it unusual that alignment with the values and principles of the organization is strongest at the top and in the centre of the organization. The challenge confronting the Agency is how to further and more deeply embed and reinforce its values and principles throughout the organization as a whole. The solution to that challenge likely lies in the areas of performance management; promotion, continued HR program and process roll out, reinforcement through communication, and leadership modeling.