Summary of recent Service Advisory Committee meetings

From: Employment and Social Development Canada

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The views expressed in the summaries of recent meetings are those of some of the Service Advisory Committee (SAC) members and do not necessarily represent those of Employment and Social Development Canada or the Government of Canada.

April 3, 2023

Future of Service Canada (Part 1)

Objective: Discuss the current service landscape, modernization and service improvements that are emerging as top Government of Canada priorities and seek feedback from Service Advisory Committee members on Service Canada’s approach to addressing these priorities.

Recognizing and eliminating barriers to service access

  • The SAC discussed the importance of recognizing and eliminating barriers in access to services. Service design and transformation must consider the specific challenges faced by vulnerable, marginalized, and hard-to-reach individuals.
  • SAC members also shared on the important to identify the long-standing barriers and biases that certain population groups may experience, such as systemic racism and colonialism. From a service improvement perspective, investments must also be made to reduce these barriers and biases.
  • Engaging with communities or partner organizations working with vulnerable and hard-to-reach individuals can help get a better understanding of obstacles faced when trying to access services. SAC members emphasised that obtaining data on barriers can help understanding how to address them in a service delivery modernization context.
  • The SAC also discussed how crucial it was to engage and consult with people with disabilities from the start of the service transformation process, to ensure that services are accessible and meet the needs of clients.
  • The Committee recognized the importance of prioritizing mental health in the context of service transformation. This includes recognizing mental health issues as a barrier to accessing services from the perspective of both clients and front-line staff who interact with them.

Service channels, digital tools, and service modernization         

  • SAC members reiterated the importance of making online services user-friendly and accessible. Simplification of processes and user interface is a key element in that regard.
  • The Committee recognized that while digital tools and services are likely to play an important part service modernization, equal efforts must be invested in improving in-person services, since some individuals prefer and need human interactions in the context of service delivery.
  • The SAC mentioned that access to online and phone services need to be more intuitive for clients. When possible, the information should be centralized on one webpage or phone number to make the information easy to find.
  • Artificial intelligence and automation should be considered as potential tools to make service delivery more efficient and accessible. For example, automation tools could be used to check the status of a benefit application over the phone instead of having clients wait on the phone to speak to an agent.
  • The Committee underlined the importance of engaging employees throughout the process when introducing new technology in service delivery.

Service delivery partnerships to improve access to service

  • The Committee discussed how partnerships for service delivery could improve access to services and benefits.
  • SAC members specified that some individuals do not distinguish between different levels of government (municipal, provincial, territorial and federal). Therefore, Service Canada should engage with other levels of government to deliver integrated services.
  • Service Canada could work with other departments, such as the Canada Revenue Agency or Transport Canada, to centralize services in one accessible location.
  • Partnerships with the private sector, such as the banking sector, could be considered to improve the efficiency of service delivery.
  • The Committee suggested partnering with community organizations and resources such as food banks, schools, or health clinics to reach help individuals registering for benefits or other government services.

Communications with the public

  • The SAC reiterated the importance of communicating with Canadians to earn trust and informing them on ongoing service transformation and modernization initiatives.
  • For example, communications with the public should include progress made to date and expected next steps while highlighting positive stories related to service delivery issues and initiatives.
  • The Committee suggested increasing transparency by providing an overview of application processes and main steps to the public.
  • Service Canada could work with communities and organizations to communicate with individuals in a way that makes sense for them and that meets them where they are.

January 19, 2023

Passports: Lessons Learned

Objective: Discuss the initiatives implemented by Service Canada in response to the passport service surge and the long-term vision for improved client service. Seek member feedback.

Regaining the trust of Canadians

  • The SAC emphasized the importance of regaining the public trust following the passport situation. They advised that Service Canada should continue to be transparent and take accountability about the passport situation
  • Effective communication with the public is important in order to regain public trust. The SAC suggested that Service Canada could use social media and the Service Canada website to inform Canadians about initiatives taken to improve passport services and how Service Canada will move forward
  • The SAC recommended that Service Canada strive for continuous improvement and continue to seek feedback from Canadians on how it can improve service delivery

Ensuring the re-build of the Passport Program is client-focused first

  • The SAC emphasized centralizing the client’s experience in every step of the process when rebuilding the passport program. Ensuring extensive and ongoing communication and feedback from clients is crucial for improving service
  • Because it is important to ensure people with disabilities are at the centre of design and consulted, the SAC suggested that Service Canada look to leverage partnerships with community organizations as a means of extending service delivery
  • The application process for a Canadian passport can be onerous for certain people, and it can discourage them from applying. There could be opportunities to review and streamline processes and immigration policies to grant a passport upon obtaining Canadian citizenship or a Social Insurance Number (SIN)

Digital and automation solutions to consider

  • Members pointed that there are opportunities to consider the automation of processes in order to reduce hand-offs and manual workload, while improving the general process efficiency
  • The transition towards digital services could also help reach more individuals, especially those who are using technology on a regular basis
  • Service Canada could consider implementing tools for tracking the status of a passport application. This would increase transparency and efficiency on passport application processes and service delivery
  • The passport situation demonstrates the importance of strengthening the predictive capacity of service delivery to ensure there are sufficient resources in place during expected peak periods

Potential partnership options

  • Members suggested that Service Canada consider establishing partnerships with the private sector, such as travel agencies or service points where passport pictures are taken. Those partners could direct clients to the appropriate resources for the timely renewal or application of passports
  • Partnerships could improve access to passport services by increasing the number of service points outside of passport offices and Service Canada centres
  • Partnerships could improve passport service delivery in remote communities
  • Using partnerships to improve the efficiency and access to passport services would need to be balanced with the protection of the integrity of the

April 13, 2022

Using Data to Accelerate Client-centric Transformation – ESDC Data Strategy

Objective: To seek advice and recommendations from committee members on optimizing the use of data in large-scale transformation initiatives. How can data be used to enhance client and employee experience, direct our focus, guide the transformation process, and evaluate progress?

Enhancing the client and employee experience

  • Communities that have been historically disadvantaged or excluded from government programs may not trust government programs and initiatives. SAC advised presenters to acknowledge that the use of data without understanding context can and has perpetuated disadvantage for some client groups, and that building relationships and trust is critical in reaching and engaging with these populations
  • The department should work on creating a nexus between government and citizen networks to reach people and increase overall prosperity. There is an opportunity to increase access to service by collaborating with community partners and third-party organizations. SAC members recommended identifying influential community organizations and leaders who already collect useful data, and developing and leveraging these partnerships to reach marginalized and underserved populations
  • Considering the importance of diversity, inclusion, and representation in both the department’s internal workforce and in external engagements was highlighted. This helps engage communities and can facilitate the collection of data
  • Despite best efforts, there will be issues and challenges as clients access a service. Clients need a clear point of contact to engage when they have an issue. The department should ensure that internal operating processes clearly lay out how to respond to and support clients
  • Analyzing analog conversations between clients and call centre staff can help identify recurring issues and develop solutions. Committee members discussed how digitizing analog conversations using speech-to-text technology has led to successes in improving the client experience within their own industries
  • It is crucial to gather clean and accurate data from frontline service points. Departments should communicate the importance of data to employees, particularly frontline staff who are gathering data, and ensure that employees understand how the data they collect is used, how it leads to improved client service, and how analytics drive transformation. SAC recommended training and supporting employees on data fluency, and emphasized the importance of providing the time to collect data. Employees need to understand the importance of their role and how they fit in the flow of data through the organization. This will help employees feel involved and empowered during this journey

Directing ESDC focus

  • The department should strive for simplicity in what is trying to be accomplished with data, and focus on agility. Organizations that have thrived throughout the pandemic have been flexible in the data and technology used to support needs at the time. A flexible data framework allows for data to show different perspectives. Solutions that are developed today will need to be adaptable for tomorrow
  • SAC emphasized the importance of always considering the purpose behind the data that is being collected and how it will go back to the communities from where it is being collected. Data collected should be meaningful, impactful, and effective in advancing towards goals
  • A one-size-fits-all approach to supporting distinct groups of Indigenous peoples is not appropriate. SAC members encouraged departments to communicate and engage directly with distinct communities and groups, and to work with organizations within Indigenous communities
  • Organizations should use FAIR and CARE data principles when supporting marginalized and underserved and populations. FAIR principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable) focus on finding and using data, and CARE principles (Collective benefit, Authority to control, Responsibility, and Ethics) support Indigenous peoples’ rights and interests related to data. The department should consider what rights and ownership groups will have regarding their data
  • SAC highlighted that some groups cannot or do not want to access services online. Organizations should consider their role in addressing the digital divide and how inequity may be increased as more services are available online

Guiding the transformation process

  • To put a data strategy into action, data is needed at a more granular level, and needs to be properly contextualized. This will support guiding operations to align with the goals of the strategy
  • Successful implementation of the strategy requires clear recourse plans. When there is an issue related to data, leaders of organizations should have clear connection to the experts who can deconstruct the issue, mobilize staff, and respond
  • SAC recommended involving people with lived experience in the design and delivery of programs and services early and from the start. This will help define data points that should be collected and validate data
  • There is strong competition for tech talent and resources. Departments should have a strategy to address this, and consider disciplines outside of computer science and engineering with skill sets to interpret and analyze situations, such as social scientists, ethnographers, and designers, etc
  • SAC recommended leveraging the student labour force, including Indigenous and racialized students, in increasing participation within and engaging with marginalized and underserved populations, including through data collection
  • Advancing digital identity nationally can support data sharing and maximizing data. Government departments should look to countries such as Singapore and Estonia who have established a national identity and navigated data ownership challenges

Evaluating progress

  • SAC suggested using journey mapping to visualize the process data goes through, paying specific attention to the various human handlers of data and how data may change as it passes through non-human handlers and back. The journey should be analyzed to identify potential points of security breaches, and to put mitigation measures in place
  • Committee members recommended creating effective governance on data and including members with privacy, legal, media, and risk expertise. The committee should provide direction on collecting new information or data to avoid duplicating work and help prevent issues
  • Departments should ask employees who work with data for their input on potential gaps and issues in the process

January 31, 2022

Using data to support the transformation of operations: The Integrated Service Coordination Centre

Objective: To examine lessons learned from the Integrated Service Coordination Centre pilot, and seek advice and recommendations on optimizing the use of data for managing operations and processes.

Getting started and setting expectations: defining the problem

  • Develop a concise problem statement on what you are trying to achieve or improve with data. This will point you to the data sets you need to focus on
  • Be clear about what you are trying to achieve; the decision you are trying to make; the criteria you are using to make those decisions; and what you will be doing with the data; this will inform what kind of data is worth collecting. Knowing what data you are collecting and for what specific purpose will help support a rationale for organizational effort and investment in collecting data. When it is understood which data sets are needed, reach outs to people and departments can be made for more information and to discuss how to bring data sets together safely (for example, hardware, software, experts, security etc.)
  • Have organizational and architectural structures and people in place for data science and artificial intelligence activities. This will help you to know how to connect data and operational people together to find out details about your projects, answer questions, and solve problems as they come up
  • It is important to begin your project (collection of data) with pilots. This way you can learn what does and does not work, and show your success. Then you can move your project ahead in a bigger way

Data governance, centralization and standardization

  • Centralizing data hubs and moving away from operational data silos is key to arriving at a better, more holistic understanding of your clients
  • Give clear reasons for what and why data should be shared and centralized. Explain how sharing data will help both clients and staff
  • Build a common language when using data so that people connect to each other and have a common understanding. It is important to standardize and have procedures in place to collect data the same way each time
  • Strong data inputs will help make sure the system works at its best. If employees do not have dedicated time to produce strong data inputs, or sufficient training and encouragement, data collection and quality may be impacted
  • Ensure governance and other mechanisms are in place to respect client’s privacy when collecting and using their data

Types of data

  • With "real time" data, it is important to understand what the term means and why you need this type of data. Collecting and analysing real time data can be very expensive and might not always be worth the cost
  • Data that you may already have, such as unemployment triggers, can help you decide where to route a client or how a process should work
  • Collect both quantitative and qualitative data. Pay attention to the experiences of clients and the staff who help them. Sometimes ways of doing things can be better without having to be faster
  • Data is often gathered based on issues related to time (e.g., what are wait times? How long is the client service process?). Consider how to measure quality overall or opportunities to combine quality and timing measures

Data sensitivity and biases

  • It is important to be sensitive to concerns with data sharing and aware of differences between groups while also working to be inclusive
  • Think about issues around bias when you work with big data sets. Are the client experiences of particular groups shown in the data more than others? Work with experts to make sure there are no built-in biases in any of your pilot projects or other activities
  • Algorithms and artificial intelligence are not always good at understanding complex social and health issues. Use different ways to analyse those data sets to make sure vulnerable client groups do not get lost within the bigger set

The client and employee perspectives

  • Think about how collecting and analysing data will help clients; also consider what data and information employees need to see in order to best serve clients
  • Think about consulting people who live the client experience daily to help with "meaning making" - understanding what it is that your data analyses is showing
  • Use story-telling and other tools to help front line staff better understand and use data in meaningful ways for their day-to-day reality
  • Make sure you have the right process in place to get the data you want from your clients. Ask clients about their experience giving you data and the kinds of questions you are asking to collect the data
  • Think about how the approach to collecting data might affect employees.  Responsibilities for gathering data may add a burden to already heavy employee workloads, and may require additional training and supports

Consider what is realistic

  • Data is important to improve service delivery to clients. However, not all points of service delivery (that is, in-person service centres, phone, or web) can do all things. Organizations should be aware of this when analyzing and reviewing data. They should also have preference on what points of service are better for certain kinds of client interactions

November 29, 2021

Service Canada transformation storyline

Objective: To provide an overview on the Department’s transformation storyline and seek committee members’ insights on client persona work. This is an opportunity to discuss innovative ways to engage employees on complex transformation.

Client persona development

  • Creating client personas helps organizations understand how service transformation may impact clients. Using personas can also help to show the organization opportunities for making services better
  • Personas need to seem like real people, with the right level of detail given. Each persona should be unique
  • Personas should not be a “perfect person”. Client personas should have struggles and challenges, and be realistic to employees who work with them. Employee personas should also be complex and deal with clients in different ways
  • Base vulnerable client personas on the groups that that the federal government is striving to support
  • Consider personas that do not speak English or French as a first language, or who have lower reading levels. Work with these groups to show their realities

Including context

  • It is important to show the reality that a persona may live in. Examples are an isolated adult living alone with complex service needs, or a new Canadian who does not know what services or documents they need
  • Think about problems that a persona might have when trying to access services. For example, how will people react if information is too hard to understand
  • Make sure employees know that you understand the realities they work in. Recognize past challenges and new ones that may arise. This is important before talking about new goals

Employee engagement

  • Work with staff in small groups to find out how they see personas. This will help people understand your message. This may also help staff relate to the personas and understand their stories
  • Find out what front-line service workers see in personas. For example, do staff think the persona is realistic? Do they care about the persona’s issues? What might staff think the persona is doing wrong, such as applying for services too late? What would staff tell the persona about how to do things differently as they seek services
  • Show the realities of employee in transformation and put their ideas in place. This will be encouraging to staff as they go through the transformation process. Design employee personas who have the outcomes and experiences you want your staff to have
  • Not all employees will be ready for change. Resistance may lead to poor client interactions. Be aware of obstacles and develop small stepping stones to support employees

Further considerations

  • Use tools to show how to solve problems and meet goals. User Journeys can show pain points, solve problems, and identify solutions in line with the transformation journey. Use process mapping to show different views of complex processes and where things can be made simpler
  • Think about using animation, infographics, and stories that build characters and follows them over time. The characters should grow and change, and face challenges that they and your employees can solve
  • Do not hesitate to direct clients to the best way for them, and for you, to get the right kinds of service outcomes. This may change the types of interactions and staff training needed for in-person services
  • Many people do not see the service system as user-friendly or welcoming to them. Work to ensure Indigenous people and communities are represented and have a higher profile in the transformation process
  • Consider how to sustain objectives and plans, such as the ones tied to the Accessible Canada Act, in the long term, and make sure they remain current

September 27, 2021

Part II: Engaging employees in support of client experience and transformation change management

Objective: Seek insights and recommendations from the Service Advisory Committee members on how to drive large-scale transformation initiatives across an organization while promoting employee engagement, improving service delivery, and nurturing client satisfaction.

The vision

  • When you are engaging employees in transformation, it is important that employees understand and can connect with the vision
  • The leadership team must clearly understand what the organization is trying to do. Make sure they listen to their staff and turn feedback into real change. This is critical to cultural change

Seeking feedback

  • When engaging employees in transformation, focus on short blocks of time of 12 to 24 months. Longer time spans are harder to manage. It is also harder to know what will happen further in the future
  • Ask for employees’ ideas and feedback on specific topics where you plan to make changes. Be clear on what you will or will not do, and why. This also helps you to deliver more on the feedback you got

Understanding employee realities

  • Large transformations are hard and take time. Use transformation methods that let you plan but also be flexible. Keep change simple and easy. Focus on technology and ways of doing things that help this
  • Treating change as a “side of desk” issue is too hard for employees. Employees get discouraged and things either move too slowly or not at all. Use teams of change experts who can focus on the transformation process
  • Change can be hard physically, mentally, and emotionally. Start or promote well-being activities at work to help employees deal with change
  • Find champions your employees can relate to who have gone through transformation processes. They can help share with employees how changes will affect them

Clear communication

  • Too much change all at once can be overwhelming for employees. Plan for changes to happen one after the other, not all at once. But combine messages to give employees a clear picture of what is happening
  • Tell employees why changes are happening and how they impact them. For example, does it make their jobs easier, and how?
  • Employees will take different paths to change. A newer employee may adapt to change faster than a longer-term employee with strong habits. Create change messages for different groups based on how they will be impacted

Telling the story

  • Share with employees what changes have been achieved. This can give them a sense of empowerment, success, and greater value in their work
  • Use stories to share how employees impact the lives of Canadians. Tell positive stories about how people benefit from the work of front line staff. Acknowledge the challenges employees face in their daily jobs
  • Use videos and images to show the impact of transformation on the organization, staff, and systems. Explain smaller parts in the context of the whole. This can be a powerful way of sharing messages with staff who may feel far away from leadership

Employee journey mapping

  • Analyze employee data (for example, age, number of years worked, etc.) to develop a snapshot of employee journeys and organizational dynamics. This can help show, explain, and address barriers to change. More than one snapshot over time can help show changes that were not expected, like the loss of a certain age group. Address these changes with quick and flexible approaches

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