Report on the Audit of Talent Management

8. Findings, Recommendations and Management Action Plan

This section provides the observations and recommendations resulting from the audit work that was carried out. While the audit was conducted based on the lines of enquiry and audit criteria identified in the planning phase, this report is structured along the following main themes:

  • Governance and Strategic Direction;
  • Planning Processes; and,
  • Refinements and Feedback.

For the list of audit criteria, please refer to Appendix A.

8.1 Governance and Strategic Direction

Finding 1:

TM themes are presented regularly at Management Committee (MC), but the departmental TM strategy and corresponding performance measures have not been developed and communicated.

Additionally, resources and efforts devoted to TM may be further leveraged if the flexibilities provided to the Deputy Head by the Public Service Employment Act were to be considered.

Linkage to: Governance

The Department is transforming its service delivery model to meet the Government of Canada’s guiding principle of enhancing service delivery and value for money. This environment of change and renewal warrants a TM strategy that will help the Department develop the required talent to meet strategic objectives for the current and future/evolving needs of the organization. Performance metrics support the strategy by providing senior executives with evidence to measure success. In light of the strategic importance of TM, senior management oversight is expected to meet the Department’s evolving business needs.

The Department’s governance and strategic direction is comprised of several key dimensions. These include oversight, roles, responsibilities and accountabilities, strategic priorities and alignment of principles with TM needs.


The Department recognizes TM as a corporate priority. This recognition is clearly aligned with principles underscored in Blueprint 2020, such as the development of a proficient, results-oriented workforce that embraces new working methods. Consequently, the Department’s most senior committees, namely MC and Executive Committee (EC), have been providing active oversight on TM. For example, in fiscal year 2014-15, over half of the MC meetings involved TM-related topics. In addition, a two and a half day annual EC retreat was convened by the Deputy Minister in February 2015 to address performance management, succession planning and TM. The focus was on employees of the Executive (EX) and Law Management (LC) groups as well as certain levels of the Law Practitioner (LP) group. The discussions included several items including the readiness of potential successors for key positions with risk of vacancy across the Department in the short-term. As a result, the Department demonstrated sound oversight over TM.

Roles, Responsibilities and Accountabilities

Both documentation reviews and interviews with departmental officials indicated that roles, responsibilities and accountabilities are established and communicated department-wide. For example, the roles, responsibilities and accountabilities of senior managers related to TM activities for employees of the EX and LC groups as well as LPs at levels four and five are established and communicated to senior managers in checklists and presentation decks. Furthermore, a TM framework document for levels LP-01 to LP-03 and other employees of the non-executive cadre explicitly describes the roles, responsibilities and accountabilities of managers, employees, organizational level review panels and departmental review panels.

Strategic Priorities and Principles

As discussed previously, TM is a shared responsibility between the HRB and managers of other portfolios, sectors and regional offices. The HRB is the strategic enabler of desired departmental TM outcomes. As a result, the HRB is responsible for developing a TM strategy, performance measures, tools and advice using a collaborative approach. Meanwhile, managers are responsible for managing day-to-day TM activities. Managers conduct succession planning and knowledge management activities based on their familiarity with operating business models and the available talent. Additionally, managers identify employee strengths and weaknesses to target essential developmental learning opportunities that will develop and sustain relevant competencies.

The achievement of strategic objectives directly depends on the engagement of the right talent especially in environments of on-going transformation. Industry best practices indicate that talent can be an impediment or a key enabler to achieve business goals especially in times of change. Hence, a talent strategy is expected to set the direction and align departmental talent with strategic objectives. Footnote 1 The Department developed guidance and a framework on TM that is aligned with Treasury Board policy to outline key information such as roles and responsibilities. In addition, the Department developed a human resources plan that describes overall human resources management priorities such as workplace well-being and expected results. These topics including the TM process were also communicated to EC and MC members for discussion and comments. Furthermore, information regarding Management Sector’s reported progress on TM framework elements is presented in Appendix B. While TM topics are discussed at EC and MC, a talent strategy has not been formally developed and communicated to all stakeholders. The strategy would convey to stakeholders the desired talent end state and corporate culture that aligns with the departmental vision, strategic objectives and principles of Blueprint 2020. Knowledge of the desired end state will allow stakeholders to work towards a common goal and measure success by developing key performance measures and targets. In addition to a departmental TM strategy that aligns with its strategic direction, the Department would benefit from the establishment of performance metrics to measure the effectiveness of the TM strategy. Together, these tools would serve as a roadmap for collective on-going reviews and consultations at senior departmental committees to promote collaborative strategic discussions and enable course-corrections where and when needed.

Aligning Principles with Talent Management Needs

As the central entity for the provision of legal services to the Government of Canada, the Department employs all legal professionals of the Government of Canada. Employees of the LC and EX groups as well as a small number from the LP group are subject to the assessments and considerations of the Department’s TM process. The process includes LC/EX-01 and LC/EX-02 participation in a leadership development program, a subject that is further discussed in the next section of this report. In light of the Department’s service delivery model, and the substantial efforts and resources that are invested by senior management in the TM process, the Department would benefit from exploring other appointment mechanisms with the Public Service Commission (PSC) that support career advancement decision-making of the TM process. For example, sub-section 30 (4) of the Public Service Employment Act stipulates that the PSC is not required to consider more than one person in order for an appointment to be made on the basis of merit. This authority is delegated to the Department’s Deputy Head and can serve as a potential avenue for discussion with the PSC.

The strategy, performance measures and the exploration of alternative staffing mechanisms have yet to be developed as TM is a newer departmental priority. In 2015-16, TM was declared a core departmental priority to maintain the momentum of the Department’s business transformation and support other government-wide initiatives.

The absence of a roadmap to articulate the TM strategy and its corresponding measures of success may adversely affect the Department’s ability to strategically leverage its talent in support of its strategic objectives. In addition, as part of the departmental TM process, resources and efforts devoted to the development of the Department’s employees may not be fully leveraged if the flexibilities provided to the Deputy Head by the Public Service Employment Act are not considered.

Recommendation 1

  1. It is recommended that the Assistant Deputy Minister, Management Sector, and Chief Financial Officer, in collaboration with direct reports, develop a departmental TM strategy to articulate the desired end state and corporate culture that aligns with the departmental vision and principles of Blueprint 2020.
  2. It is recommended that the Assistant Deputy Minister, Management Sector, and Chief Financial Officer develop TM metrics to measure the success of the strategy.

Management Action Plan

The Department has had a human resources strategy and plan in place for several years. The departmental 2013-16 Human Resources Management Plan clearly identifies TM as a key human resources priority. TM and succession planning have been two areas of focus over the past several years for the senior cadre of the LP group, and the EX and LC communities.

Over the course of the past three years, numerous presentations have been made to first the Strategic Human Resources Committee and more recently, to MC to secure approval of the departmental framework and approach to TM and to provide tools to support senior management in realizing their accountabilities in relation to TM and succession planning. This priority has since been further strengthened with the introduction of the new Treasury Board Directive on Performance Management which broadens TM beyond the senior cadre to all those whose performance has been assessed at a surpassed level. The introduction of the Public Service Performance Management (PSPM) application provides a tool to support broader TM within the organization. In addition, guidelines related to review panels have been developed and communicated which in turn re-iterate the roles and responsibilities of both organizational level and departmental level review panels in relation to performance management and TM, including succession planning. Performance agreements for LCs and EXs also contain a commitment and supporting performance measures in relation to TM/performance management.

Building on the above and the Department’s succession planning framework approved by EC in May 2013 to support integrated succession planning and TM activities as well as the OCHRO TM/performance management frameworks, the Assistant Deputy Minister, Management Sector, and Chief Financial Officer will:

1. Engage senior management in a discussion to develop an integrated document that outlines a TM strategy. The strategy will describe the TM end state as well as the approach for transforming the current state of talent to the end state. The integrated document will capture the existing elements of TM that support the TM strategy.

2. Develop key performance measures and targets. This can be further supported through:

2.1. Establishing business requirements in order to assess system functionality so that existing technologies can be leveraged to support performance metrics; and

2.2. Engaging OCHRO in discussions on the Executive Talent Management System (ETMS) and PSPM application from a reporting standpoint to ascertain how the systems could be leveraged to support our departmental needs, as appropriate.

Office of Primary Interest:

Assistant Deputy Minister, Management Sector, and Chief Financial Officer

Due Date:

Action 1 – Q2 2016-17

Action 2 – Q3 2016-17

Recommendation 2

It is recommended that the Assistant Deputy Minister, Management Sector, and Chief Financial Officer explore alternative mechanisms that will further streamline staffing actions to retain and develop talent, via leveraging the flexibilities provided to the Deputy Head by the Public Service Employment Act.

Management Action Plan

Within the last year, HRB has increasingly taken steps to streamline staffing processes by advising senior management to take TM information in consideration to fill their positions. For example, reviewing ready for movement and ready for advancement lists prior to posting opportunities.

Delegated managers have been and continue to exercise their authorities and to avail themselves of the flexibilities available to them under the Public Service Employment Act. Non-advertised appointment processes are used where feasible and TM information is used to support non-advertised justifications as required under the Public Service Employment Act.

The PSC is currently making changes to its appointment framework which in turn may also provide even greater flexibilities to leverage TM information to streamline staffing actions. The Department will ensure that these flexibilities are utilized as appropriate given the environmental context and operational needs.

Given the above:

The Assistant Deputy Minister, Management Sector, and Chief Financial Officer will:

1. Seek guidance from OCHRO on permissible use of TM information to determine what additional flexibilities can be gained (e.g. streamline the assessment process by leveraging information within ETMS).

2. Consult with other departments regarding use of TM information in staffing processes and explore viability of pilots for certain types of staffing processes (e.g. document acting appointments).  HRB will market the use of TM information collected from TM questionnaires and succession planning exercises to direct reports on a semi-annual basis.

Office of Primary Interest:

Assistant Deputy Minister, Management Sector, and Chief Financial Officer

Due Date:

Q4 2015-16

8.2 Planning Processes

Finding 2:

The Department is actively advancing its succession planning. However, the departmental workforce planning process is not yielding the desired macro-level workforce planning information for decision-making.

Business practices are established to perform integrated succession planning.

Linkage to: Risk Management & Control

As previously mentioned, Blueprint 2020 emphasizes the importance of creating a competent and agile workforce, particularly in light of the demographic trends. Within this context, workforce planning is essential to ensure that the Department has employees with the right skills to attain its objectives and support changing demographics.

The Department is committed to excellence in the provision of legal services and to sustaining a high-performing executive team by harnessing new skills that are essential for operating in a dynamic business environment. The Deputy Minister underscored his commitment to learning and renewal by investing considerable resources in the leadership program for the executive cadre at the LC/EX-01 and LC/EX-02 levels. The objective of the program was to develop the necessary skills to lead change initiatives in support of the departmental transformation priorities. The program offered six English cohorts and three French cohorts of approximately 25 participants since winter of 2014.

The Department is in the process of launching a new leadership program, this time for the executives at the LC/EX-03 level. As of fall 2015, this new program will support the growth needs of senior directors and directors general of the organization. The program aims to define the desired organizational culture and will stimulate reflections on leadership style, self-awareness and transition management, in keeping with the leadership competencies for leaders in the Public Service.

In an environment of constant renewal, workforce planning is critical to sustain excellence in the delivery of legal services.

Succession Planning

The Department devotes considerable effort to advance succession planning practices. HRB developed detailed instructions to support departmental employees and managers in fulfilling their succession planning responsibilities. In 2014-15, employees of the EX and LC groups completed TM questionnaires to self-assess their leadership abilities (e.g. key strengths and areas for development). Furthermore, the questionnaire captured information from these employees on their willingness to advance their career, relocate to other regions as well as their retirement plans.

Managers of EX and LC employees also completed and reviewed the TM questionnaire to provide information on employee strengths and weaknesses, readiness for advancement, criticality of positions and associated vacancy risk.

Each portfolio/sector/region completed organizational succession plans for their respective organizations with guidance developed by HRB that outlines key succession planning components such as required knowledge, skills and leadership competencies for critical positions.

These plans formed the basis of discussions at the EC Retreat where some specific pieces of information were validated. Based on these discussions, HRB compiled a corporate-level succession plan. Moreover, the Department successfully integrated the career planning process into its succession planning process. Information about the employee’s career aspirations was considered for decision-making. For example, an employee may be ready for advancement, but they will not be identified as a potential successor in regional offices if the candidate prefers to remain in the National Capital Region.

It was reported that, as the TM activities are extended to employees below the EX level, the succession planning process will be expanded to also include those employees.

Human Resources Plan

The Government of Canada emphasizes the need to employ the right workforce today and into the future. The Department is maintaining the transformational momentum to support the Government of Canada’s vision of workforce renewal. Changing client needs and environmental trends are transforming the Canadian legal profession which includes developing new skills and work methods for emerging practice areas.

Workforce planning is an exercise that supports human resources planning by identifying the skills needed to achieve departmental objectives. Section 2 of the Department’s Integrated Business Plan captures information on human resources priorities, strategies, performance measures and progress. However, the human resources priorities solely refer to the staffing requirement of a position at a group and level and exclude an identification of the skills required to achieve business objectives. As a result, the content of the Integrated Business Plan and the departmental analysis of human resources priorities do not provide information on the required skills across the various sectors/business lines of the Department. There is currently no inventory or a database of existing skills that will enable the Department to identify potential skill gaps and develop strategies to address those gaps.

The Department tracks workforce data such as the tenure of the workforce (e.g. number of indeterminate or term employees) as well as actual statistics on numbers of employees in relation to workforce reduction targets. While this reporting is beneficial to measure progress against workforce targets, the true value of workforce planning lies in the identification of potential skill gaps to meet current and future organizational objectives.

Recommendation 3

It is recommended that the Assistant Deputy Minister, Management Sector, and Chief Financial Officer, in partnership with senior management from portfolios/sectors/regions, establish mechanisms to support:

  • Department-wide analysis of the characteristics and quantity of desired skills needed versus available skills;
  • Development of essential strategies to address potential skill gaps; and,
  • Monitoring workforce planning information provided by sectors, portfolios and regional offices.

Management Action Plan

HRB will continue to identify skill gaps of potential successors which resulted in the development of our own financial management course as well as the creation of the new Leadership in Action: Executive Leadership Program designed to address and respond to the leadership development needs of LC-03s and EX-03s.

Recent consultation with OCHRO indicates that for 2015-16 the TM questionnaires will be aligned with new key leadership competencies (KLC) enabling macro picture on gaps according to new profile re-commencing for the 2015-16 TM cycle as was done in previous years when more detailed questions on the KLC were included in the TM questionnaires.

  1. Building on these existing practices: HRB will provide macro picture of gaps in competencies as per the newly introduced KLC profile following completion of TM questionnaires in 2015-16.
  2. HRB will consult OCHRO regarding viability of developing a sub-questionnaire for the legal stream which would enable the capturing of information on areas of technical expertise in a standardized manner, tailored to the needs of the Department using the ETMS to support data analysis. This would leverage an existing database to facilitate data analysis.
  3. In the event that OCHRO is not positioned at this time to support the development of a sub-questionnaire for the TM questionnaires in ETMS, HRB will engage the Law Practice Management Division to develop a skills library to support the identification of the top 3 skills for each position, with a view of creating an inventory of skills that will enable on-going identification of:
    • Potential vulnerabilities in the skills inventory over a five year horizon;
    • Required learning plans for potential successors, employees, and other proposed recommendations to MC when required to close identified skills gap(s); and
    • Other consideration to be discussed by MC.
  4. Subject to the outcome of the above consultations, the Department may want to consider investing in the development of a departmental specific system/tool that would serve as a repository of information on the skills and competencies of employees and serve as a tool to analyze skill gaps and inform human resources strategies to address. Given the career nature of the organization for paralegals and counsel, consideration could be given to developing this system to capture information for this specific community.
  5. Review the template for the integrated business planning process with a view to capture information on skills and competencies required to meet planned staffing activities which in turn will inform strategies and collective staffing processes. The responsibility for integrated planning rests with management who are accountable for ensuring that resourcing needs are clearly articulated in the Human Resources Management Plan. Delegated managers will be expected to support the implementation of the strategies developed by HRB.

Office of Primary Interest:

Assistant Deputy Minister, Management Sector, and Chief Financial Officer

Due Date:

Action 1 – Q2 2016-17

Action 2 – Q3 2015-16

Action 3 – Q4 2015-16

Action 4 – Q4 2016-17

Action 5 – Q3 2015-16

8.3 Refinements and Feedback

Finding 3:

The Department is responding to employee feedback related to TM activities. However, there is an opportunity to leverage a TM framework to better monitor the progression of career development opportunities.

Linkage to: Control

The Department seeks and responds to employee feedback related to TM activities. This allows the Department to refine its TM practices in support of its strategic objectives.

As the Department refines TM activities, the Department addresses the human aspect of change in line with the Blueprint 2020 vision by seeking feedback from senior management and employees.

The Department is in a transition period as it transforms and streamlines its business processes. Industry best practices and research report a strong correlation between employee engagement, productivity and retention. These practices also declare the provision of career development opportunities to employees as an effective action to retain and improve employee engagement. Footnote 2 The departmental TM framework conveys processes required by the Treasury Board Directive on Performance Management to develop a TM plan for employees of the non-executive cadre who surpassed/exceeded performance expectations.

Audit interviews indicated that officials from HRB plan to follow up on the completion rates related to planned career development opportunities for employees of the EX and LC groups. Similarly, the recently developed TM framework for employees of the non-executive cadre also conveys the need for managers to monitor the employees’ progress on activities identified in the TM plan. While managers may articulate on the career development opportunities to their employees, monitoring the actual progress on employees’ TM activities may not occur. Given the correlation between levels of engagement and fulfilling career development opportunities, the Department would gain from reports on the actual completion rate of learning and development plans (LDP) for all employees. This report would support informed, effective decision-making to increase employee engagement, and ultimately employee productivity and retention across the Department.

The lack of a monitoring control over completion rates of planned employee development opportunities allows delays or denials of planned career opportunities to go unnoticed which may create an impact on employee engagement and retention.

Recommendation 4

It is recommended that the Assistant Deputy Minister, Management Sector, and Chief Financial Officer develop a risk-based, phased-in approach to establish a departmental mechanism that enables department-wide monitoring on the progress of planned career development opportunities.

Management Action Plan

Efforts on this front are already underway. HRB introduced in April 2015 a new approach to succession planning follow-up in which developmental recommendations are to be included in LDP in the new performance agreements in ETMS for LCs and EXs.

For employees in the PSPM application, a report on TM plans is available, and whether the identified activity was completed. A report on whether the “desired outcomes of the TM plan were met” is also available. These reports would serve as the tools to monitor completion rates for employees under this directive/application. Reports on LDP are also available through the PSPM application, but only if the activity in the LDP was completed. (No link to learning objective.)

EXs/LCs will be asked to update their performance agreements during mid-year review which will include new performance measures to ensure managers commit to and are accountable for TM activities.

Instructions for the launch of the 2016-17 TM cycle will be revised to reference audit recommendations and provide greater emphasis on manager roles.

HRB will provide information to MC twice a year on progress made by portfolio/region/sector, subject to reports available within ETMS and the PSPM application.

Office of Primary Interest:

Assistant Deputy Minister, Management Sector, and Chief Financial Officer

Due Date:

Q4 2015-16:

  • Inclusion of performance measure in EX/LC agreement
  • Revised instruction guideline document

Q1 2016-17 onward:

  • Progress reports as available in ETMS and PSPM application
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