Archived - Informal Discussion - Questions and answers

1. What does "eliminated from consideration" mean?

This means that:

  • the person has been eliminated from the appointment process because the person does not meet at least one of the essential qualifications;
  • the person has been eliminated from the particular appointment because the person does not meet one of the asset qualifications, organizational needs or operational requirements being applied; or
  • the person meets all the merit criteria, but is not being considered for an appointment at this time.

2. Is it necessary to notify every person at every screening point in an advertised appointment process, e.g. if after initial screening there are other elimination points, such as a written exam? If a person is eliminated once and provided with an Informal Discussion, does this person need to be notified again?

A. Each person in an appointment process should be informed at the point at which they are eliminated from consideration. It is at this point during internal appointment processes that an Informal Discussion would be available. Persons will also be notified each time someone is being considered for appointment, and again when the person is appointed or proposed for appointment.

3. Is an opportunity to request an Informal Discussion in an appointment process offered to those persons who are not in the area of selection? It may be that the area of selection was not properly established.

A. Yes. Any person who is eliminated from consideration in an internal appointment process must be offered an opportunity for an Informal Discussion, regardless of the reason for which the person was eliminated. This means that persons who were not in the area of selection must be offered an opportunity to discuss the reason why they were eliminated.

4. Is a person in an appointment process who is qualified and whose name is put into a pool entitled to an Informal Discussion at the notification of an appointment or proposed appointment?

A. Persons in internal appointment processes who are qualified and put into a pool may request an Informal Discussion when they are eliminated from consideration for an appointment. This would be when they are notified that another person is being considered for an appointment from the pool. When the notification of appointment or proposed appointment is issued, the decision is final. The only recourse is a complaint to the Public Service Staffing Tribunal (PSST).

5. Won't the fact that Informal Discussion differs from one organization to another create confusion for persons who are involved in appointment processes in organizations other than their own?

A. While practices may vary between organizations because of structure, geographical dispersion, etc., the objectives of Informal Discussion remain the same - open communication, transparency and fairness. In internal appointment processes, persons who are eliminated from consideration may ask for an explanation of the decision and, if warranted, the manager may correct an error or oversight in the process. It would be a good practice for organizations to inform persons of their Informal Discussion process.

6. Once a person has had an Informal Discussion, i.e. it was explained why the person was eliminated from consideration, does this person still have a right to another Informal Discussion or must they make a complaint to the PSST?

A. The purpose of an Informal Discussion is to allow a person who has been eliminated from consideration to discuss the reason for elimination with the person who made the decision. Once this discussion has taken place, there is no need to conduct another Informal Discussion. However, when the person is notified that another person is being considered for appointment, there is an opportunity to raise issues about the appointment process. Once the notification of an appointment or proposed appointment is given, the decision is final and a right of recourse to the PSST applies.

7. If the reason for which a person has been eliminated has not changed when further appointments from the same appointment process are made, it is necessary to conduct another Informal Discussion session?

A. It is not necessary to do so. The purpose of an Informal Discussion is to discuss with the person the reason why he or she was eliminated from consideration. If the reason for that elimination has not changed, then there is no purpose to conducting another Informal Discussion. However, it is important to note that, if the merit criteria applied for a further appointment have changed, then the reason for the person's elimination may also have changed. For example, if an asset qualification that the person did not meet was applied to the first appointment, but not to the second appointment, then the reason for that person's elimination would have changed and, thus, another Informal Discussion could be conducted to explain the different reason for elimination.

8. Why is an Informal Discussion only for the person who was eliminated and not for all participants involved in the appointment process?

A. The purpose of an Informal Discussion is to explain to those persons who were eliminated from consideration why they were eliminated, and it allows the manager to correct any errors or oversights that come to his/her attention before a final decision is made.

9. With an Informal Discussion, is there a way to have comparative information about other persons in the same appointment process?

A. No. The objective of an Informal Discussion is to provide persons in an appointment process with information about their own participation and the decision to eliminate them from consideration. An Informal Discussion is not a form of recourse. Information that is relevant to the decision can be shared; however, an Informal Discussion must also respect the requirements of the Privacy Act, which protects personal information about a third party. In the formal recourse process with the PSST, it is up to the PSST to determine what type of information is to be disclosed.

10. How does an Informal Discussion work in a non-advertised appointment process?

A. An Informal Discussion does not differ for an internal advertised or non-advertised appointment process, in that it is an opportunity to discuss why a person was eliminated from consideration. In a non-advertised appointment process, when the notification of who is being considered for appointment is given and the waiting period established, persons in the area of selection may ask for an Informal Discussion with the person who made the decision. After the waiting period, the notification of who is being appointed or proposed for appointment can be given.

11. What information can be made available to persons during an Informal Discussion?

A. Persons participating in an Informal Discussion should be able to discuss any information pertaining to their candidacy that would help them understand the decision to eliminate them from consideration. This could include any factors that were taken into account, including the merit criteria used, how the assessment was carried out and the assessment of that person. However, an Informal Discussion must also respect the requirements of the Privacy Act, which protects personal information about a third party.

12. Why have a policy on Informal Discussion?

A. The Public Service Commission (PSC), when establishing the policy, assessed the risk and considered the following factors:

  • Informal Discussion is a distinct step in the appointment process; and
  • Informal Discussion is the means by which to discuss and resolve concerns about the appointment process, while allowing the appointment process to proceed.

13. What are the advantages of Informal Discussion?

A. The advantages are numerous:

  • it encourages transparency and the discussion of issues so that decisions are understood;
  • it provides an opportunity to discuss the decision with the decision-maker in a non-adversarial way;
  • it allows for errors and oversights to be corrected as soon as they are identified during the appointment process so that better decisions can be made, for example, it may come to light that the person was incorrectly screened out and should be reconsidered; andit can help avoid delays in the appointment process due to a better understanding of how and why decisions were made, and it could reduce the use of formal recourse.

14. Does an Informal Discussion lengthen the appointment process by adding extra steps?

A. No. An Informal Discussion takes place during the appointment process as soon as possible after a person has been eliminated from consideration. Therefore, the discussion can take place while the appointment process is going on and, if there are any errors or oversights, they can be corrected. This provides for early discussion and resolution of participants' concerns, thus allowing for the appointment(s) to take place in a more efficient manner. The investment of time and effort in Informal Discussions during the appointment process could reduce the need for formal recourse.

15. Is a manager obligated to follow the Informal Discussion policy requirements for the appointment of persons with priority entitlements?

A. Although the Policy on Informal Discussion does not apply to the appointment of persons with priority entitlements, this does not preclude a manager from discussing a decision not to appoint a person with priority entitlements with this person or from discussing the appointment of a person with priority entitlements with employees directly affected by the appointment. Deputy heads and managers are encouraged to promote a culture of open communication within the organization.

16. Can persons who have been eliminated have a union representative with them during an Informal Discussion?

A. Yes. Although an Informal Discussion is intended as a forum for a manager and the person who requested it to have a productive dialogue with respect to the person's elimination from consideration, either or both may wish to involve another person to assist in the discussion. It is important to remember that the intent is to keep this process informal.

17. Is an Informal Discussion the same as adjudication or alternative dispute resolution?

A. No. An Informal Discussion is an opportunity for the person eliminated from consideration to discuss the decision with the person who made it. It is not adjudication, where there is a third party determining right or wrong and issuing a decision, nor is it considered to be dispute resolution. It is a discussion of a decision made during an appointment process.

18. What is the difference between Informal Discussion and an informal conflict management system?

Informal Discussion is a concept set out in the Public Service Employment Act, specific to the decision to eliminate a person from consideration. An Informal Discussion is an opportunity to share information between a manager and a person eliminated from consideration so that the person can understand the reasons for the decision to eliminate him or her. It promotes transparency and is intended to improve communication during the appointment process before a final decision is made. An Informal Discussion is intended to be informal, with no set rules or format, so that the person eliminated and the manager can have a frank discussion.

An informal conflict management system (ICMS) is a system for dealing with conflict. It incorporates alternative dispute resolution methods into existing rights-based structures (such as a grievance process) to form a multi-option conflict management system. The purpose of an ICMS is to resolve workplace conflict appropriately through the use of such methods as mediation, coaching and facilitation.

These two tools have different purposes and are carried out in different ways.

Occasionally, during an Informal Discussion, an underlying workplace conflict may be identified. The manager or person eliminated might decide to request the assistance of the organizational ICMS to resolve that conflict, as a matter quite distinct from the appointment process.

19. How much flexibility does the manager have as a result of an Informal Discussion?

A. An Informal Discussion is intended to provide information on the decision to eliminate a person from consideration. It may come to light that the person was assessed incorrectly and is entitled to a re-assessment, or that the assessment tool is flawed and the process needs to be re-visited. During the appointment process, there is flexibility to rectify such situations.

20. What kind of corrections could be made following an Informal Discussion?

A. Each situation will be different and, depending on the circumstances, the correction could be as simple as screening a person who was improperly screened out back into the appointment process.

21. Is an Informal Discussion confidential?

A. Yes, to the extent it can be. An Informal Discussion is intended to provide an opportunity to discuss the decision that was made with the person eliminated from consideration. Therefore, only those persons involved normally take part in the discussion and it is up to those persons to decide on confidentiality. It must be noted that an Informal Discussion must respect the requirements of the Privacy Act, which protects personal information about a third party.

22. What is a group Informal Discussion and when is it appropriate?

A. A group Informal Discussion is a method by which an organization can communicate general information about an appointment process, particularly where a large number of persons have been eliminated at the same time (i.e. collective staffing). Persons who have been eliminated from consideration can be provided with an opportunity to attend a group session at an established time to discuss general information about the appointment process that may address common concerns among the group, such as the merit criteria. This does not preclude an opportunity to request an individual Informal Discussion, where concerns are more specific to the person's own candidacy. Persons who have been invited to a group Informal Discussion may choose to request an individual session instead. However, some persons may find that a group Informal Discussion sufficiently addresses their concerns.

23. Why must an Informal Discussion be conducted in the person's official language(s) of choice?

A. The requirement to conduct an Informal Discussion in the person's official language(s) of choice is consistent with the PSC's Official Languages in the Appointment Process Policy, which applies to all aspects of the appointment process, regardless of the type of process or of the location or language requirements of the position.

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