Culture change from the inside out: The Correctional Service of Canada’s Respectful Workplace Campaign

By: Monica Sharma

Headshot of Anick Charette
Anick Charette

The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) is a unique place to work. Unlike many other federal departments, almost half of its staff work on the front lines, in correctional facilities. Ensuring public safety while making a difference in the lives of offenders and their families is challenging work. And for internal communicators at CSC, it requires a strong strategy for engaging employees who work in a demanding and often stressful environment.

That’s where the Respectful Workplace Campaign came in. The national campaign was aimed at increasing awareness of wellness initiatives at CSC and promoting avenues to report inappropriate behaviour.

Senior Communications Advisor Anick Charette led the communications component of the campaign. Prior to joining the public service, she had worked for 16 years as a print and radio journalist. Her media experience lent itself well to the task of engaging audiences and inspiring them to model positive behaviours in the workplace. 

My education and experience in journalism help me synthesize ideas, organize them, and make them understandable," she says. "Just like a news story, a message to an organization's employees needs to get to the point, and then expand on certain aspects in more detail. Having watched advertising and marketing experts at work for many years, I am familiar with the important concepts that must be used to capture and hold the attention of the target audience.

Using carefully chosen themes such as “Know Where to Draw the Line” and “Small Gestures, Big Impact,” the campaign identified harassment, bullying, and violence as unacceptable behaviours that must immediately stop. But more than that, it made respect a key value and the cornerstone of a healthy workplace.

It was necessary to remain constructive and use my imagination, without being condescending,” says Anick. “The challenge was to remove blindspots on behaviours that sometimes seem harmless, to provoke reflection and encourage discussion – and reporting – without turning it into a lecture.

Anick used a multi-pronged approach for the campaign to engage managers and employees. She worked with her colleagues to develop toolkits with speaking notes and icebreakers to facilitate conversations between managers and their teams. They used “Myth-busters” about a variety of topics ranging from difficult conversations to humour in the workplace. They developed a guide called the "Workplace Issues Resolution Tool" to help employees gain a better understanding of an issue, provide them with resolution options, and find available resources. They also developed self-reflection workbook on respect and wellness to encourage individual introspection.

A key aspect of the campaign was harnessing the power of visual communications. As noted, many of CSC’s approximately 19,000 employees do not work in an administrative setting and can’t be effectively engaged with solely digital tactics. The creation of a "respect wall" was promoted in CSC workplaces across the country, allowing employees to share what respect means to them. Posters featuring quotes and tips on respect were displayed at work stations. Mouse pads, lanyards for ID cards, and calendars branded with #respect were also distributed to staff.

The campaign received positive feedback from employees within the department. It’s work that will continue long into the future. As Anick notes, “Changing an organization’s culture is a long-term process,” that requires regular and consistent communications.

Change may not happen overnight, but Anick and other communicators at CSC are determined to help build an environment worthy of its dedicated staff.

You can view examples of communication products from the CSC’s Respectful Workplace Campaign. Check out the links below!

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