2014-2015 Annual Report - Chapter 2

Enabling departments and agencies


  • The Public Service Commission (PSC) makes ongoing efforts to adapt its activities to meet the emerging needs of departments and agencies and to achieve a modern, effective staffing system.
  • In 2014-2015, the PSC increased its proactive guidance, the sharing of key trends, lessons learned and noteworthy practices to support departments and agencies in effectively managing their staffing, as well as help them address issues raised through oversight activities (e.g. monitoring, audits, and investigations).
  • By administering a number of programs, the PSC supports departments and agencies in their renewal efforts and in meeting the Clerk’s priority to reinvigorate recruitment by hiring individuals that have the skills and competencies required for the future.
  • In 2014-2015, the PSC supported public service renewal through its outreach activities and the promotion of federal public service jobs to students and graduates. The PSC attended 58 career fairs and delivered 37 information sessions in academic institutions across Canada. Hiring managers participated with the PSC in career fairs to promote a wide range of public service job opportunities such as laboratory technologists, research scientists and procurement officers.
  • As noted in Chapter 1, the number and proportion of employees under the age of 35 continued to decline in 2014-2015, despite the increase in appointments of new indeterminate employees from this age group. Employees under the age of 35 accounted for 16.0% of all indeterminate employees in March 2015, compared to 17.0% in March 2014 and 21.4% in March 2010, when the proportion reached a peak. The Commission will continue to monitor these trends, which could have an impact on the future composition of the public service.
  • The Post-Secondary Recruitment (PSR) program represented a large component of indeterminate recruitment to the public service with approximately 16% of indeterminate appointments in 2014-2015. This represented a significant increase from the previous year, since 541 graduates were appointed as new employees to the public service from the PSR, filling a range of indeterminate and term positions.
  • The PSC Priority Administration Program also contributed to the retention of valuable skills, knowledge and experience in the public service by supporting the placement of 703 employees in 2014-2015. In addition, there were 203 priority appointments to lower levels.
  • In 2014-2015, departments and agencies increased their use of PSC Unsupervised Internet Testing (UIT). The volume of PSC UIT increased by 56%, from 26 765 in 2013-2014 to 41 737 in 2014-2015. UIT is a cost-effective method of assessment to identify qualified candidates, improve the quality of hires and reduce barriers for persons with disabilities by allowing them to take exams from home using their own adaptive technologies.

2.1 The Preamble to the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) sets out a vision for a delegated staffing system that provides public service managers with the authority “to staff, to manage and to lead their personnel to achieve results for Canadians.” With this in mind, the Public Service Commission (PSC) provides guidance, tools and support services while enhancing the framework that supports hiring managers to achieve a modern, effective staffing system.

2.2 The PSC draws on the findings and lessons learned from its oversight activities (monitoring, audits and investigations) and other sources of information, such as studies and decisions by the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board, to improve the staffing policy framework, clarify expectations and contribute to a modern staffing system. Engagement with departments and agencies allows the PSC to enable hiring managers to staff efficiently while meeting the expectations of the PSEA.

2.3 This chapter highlights the range of activities that the PSC has undertaken to support departments and agencies and ensure an effective staffing system, underscoring the importance of engaging and collaborating with central agency partners, bargaining agents and deputy heads, hiring managers and human resources (HR) advisors. This chapter also presents an evolution of the PSC’s services and systems, which are designed to increase knowledge and expertise within departments and agencies as they build a workforce to meet the current and future needs of the public service.

Core enabling activities

2.4 The PSC provides departments and agencies with a policy framework, policy interpretation and guidance to ensure a clear understanding and proper application of delegated staffing authorities and to increase organizational knowledge. The PSC also provides guidance and support to organizations to help them address issues raised through its oversight activities such as monitoring, audits and investigations. In 2014-2015, the PSC refined its policies and policy instruments, assessment services and staffing and recruitment programs and systems to respond to the current and future needs of departments and agencies in a changing environment.

Policy guidance and outreach

2.5 To support departments and agencies effectively, the PSC provides information and expertise that respond to operational needs.

2.6 In 2014-2015, more than 340 outreach activities were conducted across Canada to provide information on PSC programs, systems, assessment tools and services to the HR community, hiring managers, employees, and the public. Approximately one third of these activities focussed on outreach to support the renewal of the public service, by providing targeted information to students, new graduates and members of employment equity and official languages minority groups.

Examples of outreach activities

In partnership with the Human Resources Council, the Public Service Commission (PSC) developed and delivered a Staffing SmartShop to discuss assessment practices with approximately 300 participants of the HR community, via teleconference and WebEx. In this exercise, the PSC explored assessment practices that promote the effective use of the provisions of the PSEA, as well as identifying those that might create barriers. Participants indicated that they learned new approaches to assessment, and the PSC incorporated the insight gained from participants in its guidance in preparation for the implementation of the Veterans Hiring Act

The PSC’s analysis of the trends in requests for policy interpretation and guidance showed a need for guidance on official languages in staffing that balances the candidate’s right to be assessed in the official language of their choice and the requirement to assess the official languages requirements of unilingual and bilingual positions in various circumstances. The PSC made presentations to various stakeholders to address these questions, and the Canada School of Public Service incorporated this update in its staffing curriculum for hiring managers and HR advisors.

In 2014-2015, the PSC increased its presence with academic institutions across Canada by participating in 58 career fairs and delivering 37 information sessions. To promote careers in the public service, the PSC partnered with Deputy Minister University Champions and with several federal organizations. Hiring managers participated with the PSC in career fairs to promote a wide range of public service job opportunities, such as laboratory technologists, research scientists and procurement officers.

2.7 Improving the policy framework – In addition to supporting departments and agencies through policy guidance, the PSC advanced several statutory instruments, including exclusion approval orders (exclusions from the application of the PSEA) and regulations, during the reporting period. (See Appendix 5 for more detailed information on existing exclusion approval orders and regulations.)

2.8 The PSC completed a comprehensive review of its policy and oversight frameworks and drafted a revised appointment policy, delegation instrument and oversight model. The goals of the review were to streamline requirements, ensure that oversight is calibrated to the risks in the system and, more generally, simplify staffing. The PSC has begun consultations on the proposed models with stakeholders, including departments and agencies, central agencies and bargaining agents.

2.9 The time it takes to staff a position is a result of various factors. An organization’s human resources function and the hiring managers involved in a staffing process can influence many of these factors, while others may be influenced by the PSC. For example, using centralized recruitment programs and shared pools of candidates can help expedite an appointment process. Some steps in the staffing process stem from legislative requirements and the PSC is committed to ensuring that these steps do not unnecessarily lengthen time to staff. Examples of those requirements include considering priority entitlements, advertising jobs for set periods, official language assessment, and notifying candidates about proposed appointments.

2.10 Appointing a qualified person with a priority entitlement can be one of the fastest staffing options, but the requirement to consider such persons may take time. The PSC is seeking to make it as efficient as possible by providing the person with a time-limited opportunity to express interest in a vacancy, and by allowing advertisements to proceed in parallel where there is an urgent need, or where there are multiple jobs to be filled.

2.11 Improvements to the Public Service Resourcing System (PSRS), electronic screening tools such as PSC unsupervised internet testing, are now available to help hiring managers to rapidly identify candidates who meet selected merit criteria for both external and internal processes.

Public Service Wide Pools

In 2014-2015, the Public Service Commission (PSC) initiated Public Service Wide Pools (PSWP) to meet the need of federal organizations for a more cost-effective means to staff their positions with qualified candidates, while preventing duplication and reducing their overall time to staff. This need was voiced by federal hiring organizations nationwide and is consistent with Blueprint 2020’s plan for more lean, efficient and innovative processes. A fully assessed CR 4 pool was first created in the National Capital Region as a pilot. Based on lessons learned, the PSC improved its approach to creating PSWP by streamlining the use of common merit criteria, optimising the use of standardized tests, and providing more staffing flexibility for organizations hiring from these pools. With this approach, the PSC launched five additional externally advertised PSWP for various administrative positions, working in collaboration with the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer and federal organizations across the country. These pools are being made available to organizations as they are completed and we will report on their usage and effectiveness in 2015-2016.

2.12 For unilingual positions, the hiring manager may assess language proficiency of candidates using the same methods that are used for other qualifications. For bilingual imperative appointments, the PSC requires that its second language evaluation tests are used to ensure that the person appointed meets the Treasury Board standard that applies to the position. Table 32 in Appendix 2 shows that 23 792 appointments, 44% of appointments made in 2014-2015, were subject to this requirement. The PSC reduces time to staff by making available an electronic self-assessment questionnaire to candidates and by implementing mandatory e-testing for its second language tests. More than 90% of Second Language Evaluation (SLE) tests are now administered on-line, eliminating steps associated with paper-and-pencil testing such as shipping and receiving, and making test results available within 24 hours.

2.13 The PSEA requires a two-step notification process for internal appointments, which allows for informal discussion to occur before formal recourse rights are granted. The PSC has established a minimum waiting period of five calendar days between these two notifications, to allow time for a person who has been eliminated from a process to raise any concerns proactively, reducing the pressure on formal recourse. While there is little data on informal discussion, the narrative information the PSC has gathered and the relatively low volume of formal recourse indicates that it has proven to be effective.

2.14 The PSC intends to continue to find ways to assist hiring managers make quality hires more quickly within the PSEA framework.

Assessment services

2.15 Sharing assessment expertise – The PSC supports deputy heads in maintaining and enhancing a merit-based appointment system by sharing knowledge and providing advice and guidance. The PSC reviews and provides advice to improve assessment tools and processes. Departments and agencies also have access to a range of standardized assessment tools for selection and development.

Public Service Commission assessment expertise

In 2014-2015, to improve the quality of hires from officer level to deputy director positions, the Public Service Commission (PSC) assisted the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada in assessing experience and key competencies. Through an effective and efficient assessment strategy, more than 300 candidates were assessed using the PSC’s Candidate Achievement Record. For supervisory and management positions, individuals were also assessed using simulations and structured interviews developed by the PSC.

Sharing expertise with the Canada School of Public Service

The Public Service Commission (PSC) engaged in a new partnership with the Canada School of Public Service (CSPS) to jointly offer 360° Feedback services to CSPS clients. Throughout the year, the PSC certified 21 CSPS feedback providers and offered ongoing support and advice on the use of the PSC 360° tool. In 2014-2015, more than 250 managers and Executives received valuable feedback on their strengths and potential development needs to enhance their leadership competencies.

Sharing best practices on unsupervised testing

Unlike Public Service Commission (PSC) Unsupervised Internet Testing in which all applicants must pass both the unsupervised and supervised versions of a standardized test prior to appointment, departmental unsupervised tests, often referred to as ‘take-home exams’, may be given to candidates to complete on their own time without supervision or follow-up. To assist organizations with minimizing the risks of undesirable testing behaviour and cheating on take-home tests, the PSC plans to share best practices on the use, development and administration of unsupervised tests, including take-homes.

Developed specifically for hiring managers and human resources advisors, these practices and tips will help to further protect the integrity, merit and fairness of assessment in appointment processes. They include easy to implement procedures that have been shown to minimize cheating, such as providing clear instructions to candidates on whether they may consult external reference materials during an exam, informing candidates of the consequences of cheating, and highlighting the value of verifying unsupervised test results through another supervised assessment method.

2.16 In 2014-2015, managers and HR advisors from 28 organizations attended specialized workshops and seminars on the development of knowledge tests and on the design of structured interview questions, in addition to seminars and Webinars on assessment accommodation. Customized assessment seminars and workshops were offered to respond to the needs of organizations. For example, the PSC offered workshops on Executive (EX) assessment to Public Works and Government Services Canada, the Canadian Space Agency and the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec. These sessions provided information to HR advisors on the assessment tools and techniques used to measure qualifications for EX positions.

Accessing employee leadership potential

The Public Service Commission (PSC) adapted its Leadership Readiness seminar for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, as part of a learning event for members of its Next Generation Leaders Network. Through interactive group exercises and feedback, the seminar, entitled “Understanding the Leader in You”, was designed to leverage participants’ leadership potential in their current role.

2.17 Staffing and assessment – The use of PSC assessment products and services reflects the growth in staffing activity by departments and agencies. As seen in Table 11, demand for products and services for EX assessment increased by 45.1%, from 377 in 2013-2014, to 547 in 2014-2015 and the use of non-EX products increased by 33.4%, from 43 047 in 2013-2014 to 57 420 in 2014-2015.

Table 11: Executive and non-Executive assessment volumes and change, by fiscal year
Assessment 2010-2011 2011-2012 2012-2013 2013-2014 2014-2015 Change (over last year)
Non-Executive assessments (excluding SLE tests) 62 064 58 723 19 414 43 047 57 420 33.4
Executive assessment (including simulations and reference checks) 954 727 290 377 547 45.1

Source: Public Service Commission Test Scoring and Results Reporting System and PSC Assessment Centre Integrated Information System, as of March 31, 2015

2.18 Assessment accommodation – The PSC has the policy authority for assessment, which includes the duty to accommodate individuals in order to provide an equal opportunity for all candidates to demonstrate that they meet the qualifications for a position. The choice of assessment methods is delegated to deputy heads. It is their responsibility to provide assessment accommodation to enable individuals to demonstrate their qualifications during a staffing process without being limited or unfairly restricted by a disability or functional limitation. The PSC’s policies and guidance are designed to help hiring managers provide accommodation, whether they are using in-house assessment methods or tests developed by the PSC.

2.19 The PSC establishes accommodation measures for all of its standardized assessment tools. It also provides expert information and advice on accommodation and recommends measures for organizational assessment tools. The demand from persons with disabilities or special needs for accommodation measures increased by 11.3% in 2014-2015 (1 855 requests). However, these requests as a proportion of total staffing and hiring activities have remained relatively stable.

Targeted recruitment

2.20 The PSC administers a number of programs to support departments and agencies in their renewal efforts and to enable targeted recruitment based on the skills required for the future. These programs also provide economies of scale for departments and agencies that are undertaking strategic recruitment.

2.21 To this end, the PSC administers three student employment programs — the Federal Student Work Experience Program, the Research Affiliate Program and the Post-Secondary Co-op/ Internship Program. These programs are designed to provide students with on-the-job assignments where they can develop the skills and knowledge required for entry into the workforce, while meeting the temporary needs of managers.

2.22 The Research Affiliate Program recruits post-secondary students looking for research experience. To improve efficiencies and reduce time to staff, in 2014-2015, the PSC provided direct access to federal organizations to create and post their opportunities. Information sessions, explaining how to create advertisements for this program, were offered to all federal organizations to facilitate this transition.

2.23 Student employment programs contribute to pools of qualified candidates for future public service appointments. Building on the skills and knowledge obtained through their study programs, students bring fresh and innovative ideas, knowledge and skills to the workplace. This supports public service renewal and helps to ensure a reasonable distribution of feeder groups across the public service.

2.24 As shown in Table 12, there were 11 146 student hires in 2014-2015 from the three student employment programs, representing an increase of 7.3% compared to 2013-2014. However, the number and proportion of employees under the age of 35 continued to decline in 2014-2015 despite the increase in appointments of new indeterminate employees from this age group. The PSC will continue to monitor the hiring of students as it is a key mechanism to realizing public service renewal objectives. Through outreach activities targeted at students and hiring managers, the PSC will continue to promote the hiring of students and post-secondary graduates. The PSC also continues to leverage communication vehicles such as social media, to reach students and graduates and to increase awareness of its programs and public service job opportunities.

Table 12: Student employment program activities, by fiscal year
    2012-2013 2013-2014 2014-2015
Federal Student Work Experience Program Applications(a) 45 146 38 632 39 911
Hires(b) 5 835 6 198 6 544
Research Affiliate Program Applications(c) 1 599 1 083 1 431
Hires(d) 318 387 445
Post-Secondary Co-op/ Internship Program Hires(d) 3 408 3 801 4 157

Source: Public Service Resourcing System and Public Service Commission hiring and staffing activities files

(a) The figures under Federal Student Work Experience Program include applications from the current campaign and the campaign from the previous year. A campaign occurs annually from October to October. An applicant can apply only once per campaign, but may apply to both campaigns and therefore be counted more than once in any given fiscal year. The application total for 2014-2015 is equal to the total number of applicants found in Table 43a.

(b) These figures include initial hires and extensions of employment with a break in service.

(c) These figures exclude cancelled advertisements.

(d) These figures include initial hires and extensions of employment with a break in service, as well as hires occurring prior to an advertisement being cancelled.

2.25 The PSC directly supports departments and agencies in their recruitment of post-secondary graduates through two programs — Post-Secondary Recruitment (PSR) and Recruitment of Policy Leaders (RPL). Both programs target qualified university and college graduates for positions in the public service.

2.26 The annual PSR campaign is developed by the PSC in consultation with departments and agencies to ensure that it will meet their recruitment needs. Based on the anticipated increase in recruitment for the upcoming year, departments and agencies posted 17 career choices and four career stream inventories for the 2014-2015 PSR campaign, compared to 11 career choices and four career stream inventories in 2013-2014.

2.27 As shown in Table 13, in 2014-2015, some 541 graduates were appointed as new employees to the public service from PSR processes filling a range of indeterminate and term positions. This represents a significant increase from 2013-2014, which was an atypical year due to reduced staffing activities.

Table 13: Post-Secondary Recruitment program highlights, by fiscal year
  2012-2013 2013-2014 2014-2015
Number of applications 3 015(a) 18 470 28 350
Number of unique applicants 1 974(a) 13 149 16 537
Number of tests administered 939 8 749 6 172(b)
Number of applicants hired 254 112 541

Source: Public Service Resourcing System, the Public Service Commission Test Scoring and Results Reporting System and Public Service Commission hiring and staffing activities files

(a) Unlike other fiscal years, 2012-2013 figures include only applications and applicants from organization-specific inventories from the 2012-2013 campaign. The figures exclude applications and applicants from general inventories which were extended from 2011-2012.

(b) In 2014-2015, one new supervised test, the Public Service Entrance Exam (PSEE 371), was introduced replacing the two supervised tests administered in the previous two fiscal years, thus reducing the total number of tests administered.

2.28 The RPL Initiative, in place since 2005, recruits candidates from a wide variety of disciplines to fill middle- and senior-level policy positions in the Public Service of Canada. The unique and structured multi-stage selection process targets high-achieving professionals and graduates who have the potential to shape the future of Canada’s public policy landscape. In 2014-2015, the number of appointments through the RPL Initiative remained stable with 12 qualified candidates appointed.

2.29 In addition to these recruitment programs, departments and agencies can also directly appoint former student participants into the public service to term or indeterminate positions for which they are qualified. This mechanism is known as “student bridging.” In 2013-2014, the PSC developed a new measure to estimate the proportion of indeterminate appointments made through the student bridging mechanism. This measure provides a more complete picture of the mechanisms for recruitment to indeterminate positions in the public service. Using this new methodology, it was estimated that approximately 9% of indeterminate appointmentsFootnote 12 to the public service were achieved through student bridging.

2.30 After general recruitment,Footnote 13 the PSR represented the largest component of indeterminate recruitment to the public service, with 16% of indeterminate appointments in 2014-2015 (Table 14).

Table 14: Estimates of percentage of indeterminate appointments under the Public Service Employment Act to the public service, by recruitment mechanism for 2014-2015
Recruitment mechanism(a) % of indeterminate appointments(b)
Post-Secondary Recruitment Program 16
Recruitment of Policy Leaders Initiative 0
Student bridging 9
General recruitment(c) 75

Source: Public Service Commission (PSC) hiring and staffing activities files matched to its administrative data sources

(a) Recruitment mechanisms are exclusive from one another.

(b) Figures are based on the percentage of indeterminate appointments from the PSC hiring and staffing activities files matched to the PSC administrative data sources (approximately 90%).

(c) General recruitment refers to appointments to the public service that were not achieved through recruitment programs or student bridging.

Priority Administration

Priority entitlements

2.31 The PSC’s Priority Administration Program supports the referral and placement of persons with a priority for appointment in the public service, as outlined in the PSEA and the  Public Service Employment Regulations. Under this legal framework, persons who meet specific conditions have a right, for a specified or indeterminate period of time, to be appointed to positions for which they are qualified(see Appendix 6 for a list of priority types).

2.32 The PSC has a responsibility to ensure that these entitlements are respected and that persons with a priority entitlement are appointed to vacant positions, if qualified. The Priority Administration Program helps public service organizations meet staffing needs while retaining employees with valuable knowledge, skills and experience in whom departments, agencies, and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) have already invested.

Recent trends in Priority Administration

2.33 Starting in 2011-2012, the PSC made enhancements to facilitate the placement of persons with a priority for appointment across the public service at a time when many organizations were reducing the size of their workforce.

2.34 From the relatively stable base population of 1 600 to 1 800 persons with a priority entitlement seen in previous years, the number of persons registered in the Priority Information Management System (PIMS) rose to a high of 2 954 on December 27, 2012. Since that time, levels have almost normalized, with the population of persons with a priority entitlement at 2 064 as of March 31, 2015.

2.35 In the three years prior to March 31, 2015, public service organizations made extensive use of the Priority Administration Program to meet their staffing needs. A total of 3 860 persons with a priority entitlement (all types) were appointed to positions in the public service. Of these, 966 persons were appointed to lower-level positions. Persons with a surplus priority entitlement appointed during this period had been employed in the public service for an average of 13.6 years.Footnote 14

Placement of persons with a surplus priority entitlement

2.36 As most organizations completed their workforce reduction, the number of new surplus priority entitlements declined for the second year in a row. In 2014-2015, the number of new surplus priority entitlement registrations was 345, or 18.7% of the total. In 2013-2014, these persons represented almost one third of new registrations (706 or 31.2%) and, in 2012-2013, almost two thirds (2 051 or 63.7%).

Table 15: Surplus employees — New entitlements compared to appointments, by fiscal year
  2010-2011 2011-2012 2012-2013 2013-2014 2014-2015
New entitlements 226 577 2 051 706 345
Appointments 240 317 683 831 218

Source: Public Service Commission Priority Information Management System

2.37 As recently as 2013-2014, the majority of new surplus priority entitlements (507 of 706, or 71.8%) were time-limited to a one-year period. In 2014-2015, new surplus priority entitlements that were time-limited (152) were outnumbered by those with no set end date (193). This may indicate that organizations were increasingly confident that persons declared surplus could find continued employment within the public service.

2.38 During 2014-2015, some 107 persons with a time-limited surplus priority entitlement and 111 persons with a guarantee of a reasonable job offer were priority appointed. The number of appointments of persons with a surplus priority entitlement as a proportion of overall priority appointments declined sharply in 2014-2015, from 67.3% to 31.0% (see Table 15 above). As of March 31, 2015, there were 95 employees with a time-limited surplus priority entitlement registered in the system, down from 244 in 2013-2014 and 759 in 2012-2013.

2.39 A total of 452 persons became eligible for a lay-off priority entitlement over the course of the year (see Table 16 below). The majority of these persons (327, or 72.3%) chose to take a period of leave of up to two years for educational purposes when notified during the 2012-2013 fiscal year that their positions had been declared surplus. On completion of their respective periods of leave, these employees were laid off. In addition, the 125 persons who did not receive an indeterminate appointment within one year of their surplus priority entitlement were also laid off from the public service.

2.40 In both these situations, while no longer a public service employee, the individual receives a one-year lay-off priority entitlement, which takes precedence over most other priority entitlements. This individual also has the right, during that final year, to apply as a candidate for any staffing process open to employees. Some 105 laid-off persons with a priority entitlement were appointed during 2014-2015. As of March 31, 2015, there were 385 lay-off priority entitlements registered in the system. These entitlements will expire over the course of 2015-2016.

Table 16: Conversion of surplus priority entitlements to lay-off priority entitlements
April 1, 2014 to March 31, 2015
Priority type Carry- over(a)  New cases Total (carryover + new cases) Appointed Resigned and/or retired Expired Other removal
Total outflow Active at end of period
Surplus (time-limited plus indefinite duration) 411 345 756 218 31 1 244 494 262
Lay-off (sec. 41) 313 452 765 105 7 232 36 380 385

Source: Public Service Commission Priority Information Management System

(a) The number of carry-over from March 31, 2014 differs from the number of active cases at March 31, 2014 published in last year’s Annual Report due to priority registrations received late in March 2014 and activated after the start of the new fiscal year. The validation of data to the Priority Information Management System may also be a factor.

(b) Priority type changes are included in “Other removal.”

Other trends in Priority Administration

2.41 Number of persons with a priority entitlement – In 2014-2015, the overall population of persons with a priority entitlement decreased by 7.9%, bringing the total to 2 064 (see Appendix 2, Table 45). Of these persons, 529 were on a leave of absence, and 467 were on leave due to relocation of their spouse. In addition, 168 were persons appointed to a lower-level position who held a one-year entitlement to re-appointment at, or equivalent to, their previous occupational group and level. These three groups represented 56.4% of all active persons with a priority entitlement.

2.42 New priority registrations decreased by 18.3% in 2014-2015 (from 2 263 to 1 849). This is explained by the reduced number of new surplus priority entitlement registrations, which fell from 706 in 2013-2014 to 345 in 2014-2015.

2.43 New reinstatement priority entitlements (resulting from a person with a priority entitlement accepting a position at a lower level to maintain their continuity of employment) fell from 407 in 2013-2014 to 203 in 2014-2015 (a decrease of 50.1%).

2.44 The overall number of persons leaving the priority system decreased, from 2 988 in 2013-2014 to 2 076 in 2014-2015. Of these:

  • 703 persons with a priority entitlement were appointed, a 43.1% decrease;
  • 786 entitlements expired, a 25.4% increase; and
  • 115 persons with a priority entitlement retired or resigned, a 50.0% decrease.

2.45 The majority of priority appointments during the period (360 or 51.2% of the total) were to positions in the Administrative Services (AS), Clerical and Regulatory (CR), and Program Administration (PM) occupational groups. More priority appointments (all priority types) were to positions in the person’s home organization (60.3%) than to other organizations (39.7%).

2.46 Indeterminate appointments require priority clearance from the PSC, meaning that available persons with a priority entitlement in the system must be considered before an appointment is made. Indeterminate hiring to the public service increased by 50.5% in 2014-2015, and indeterminate staffing activities within the public service increased by 14.6%. The number of organizational requests for priority clearanceFootnote 15 increased for the second year in a row, to 27 055 from 22 530 in 2013-2014 (a 20.1% increase).

2.47 The PSC notes that, as both staffing activity in the public service and requests for priority clearance have increased, the number of appointments of persons with a priority entitlement has fallen in the past year.

2.48 In the future, the PSC will continue to promote priority appointments as a fast and efficient means of staffing vacant positions with qualified persons. The PSC will also closely monitor referral results and appointment levels to ensure that employees registered in the priority system are fully qualified to find alternate employment and that persons with a priority entitlement are properly considered for appointment.

Support for former Canadian Armed Forces and Royal Canadian Mounted Police members

2.49 The number of medically released CAF and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) members entering the priority system increased from 105 in 2013-2014 to 193 in 2014-2015. Appointments also increased: from 43 in 2013-2014 to 77 in 2014-2015. The number of former members whose priority entitlements ended without appointment decreased, from 108 in 2013-2014 to 39 in 2014-2015.

2.50 Appointments for former members of the CAF and RCMP are still significantly below those observed from 2008-2009 to 2011-2012, when members who were medically released had the highest rate of successful appointment of all priority groups (72.3%), ranging from 150 to just over 200 appointments annually.

2.51 In the period 2012-2014, the majority of priority appointments were of public servants whose jobs had been declared surplus, and whose entitlement preceded all others under the PSEA (see Appendix 6 for a list of priority types). There were only 31 priority appointments of former CAF/RCMP members in 2012-2013, and 43 in 2013-2014 (see Table 17).

2.52 The Minister of Veterans Affairs introduced Bill C-27, the Veterans Hiring Act, in Parliament to address this situation. The Bill received Royal Assent on March 31, 2015. As a result, veterans who have been medically released due to a service-related injury or illness will receive a top statutory priority, with an entitlement period of five years. The regulatory entitlement for medically released former members of the CAF whose release is not attributable to service will also be extended from two years to five years.

2.53 The Veterans Hiring Act also contains two other mechanisms to support the hiring of veterans: a five-year preference for appointment in advertised external appointment processes (jobs that are open to the Canadian public), and a mobility provision allowing veterans and current CAF members to participate in all advertised internal hiring processes for five years after their release from the CAF.

2.54 The PSC is working closely with the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada to ensure that those affected by the changes are aware of the new provisions. The PSC is also working with the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer, the Privy Council Office and the Canada School of Public Service to support the implementation of the new Act.

2.55 In addition, enhancements made to the PSC Priority Administration Program over the previous two years, such as those to the policy framework and PIMS, will further support the referral and placement of medically released CAF personnel.

Table 17: Medically released members of Canadian Armed Forces and Royal Canadian Mounted Police — New priority entitlements compared to appointments, by fiscal year
  2010-2011 2011-2012 2012-2013 2013-2014 2014-2015
New entitlements(a) 249 206 68 105 193
Appointments 154 158 31 43 77

Source: Public Service Commission Priority Information Management System

(a) Only some of those with a new priority entitlement are appointed in the same fiscal year. Until July 1, 2015, the duration of the entitlement was two years; the Veterans Hiring Act extended this period to five years for members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Innovation to support staffing

2.56 The PSC, working closely with departments and agencies, continues to modernize its staffing and assessment services. Policies, processes, tools and services are being created and enhanced to promote the effective engagement of job seekers, to support HR advisors and managers and to ensure the quality of appointments to the public service.

Noteworthy practice

The Federal Economic Development Agency of Southern Ontario developed information sessions that are offered via teleconference to screened-in candidates during external appointment processes. The purpose of the sessions is to provide general information to candidates on the organization as well as tips on how to prepare for the assessment in an appointment process with the federal government.

2.57 Universal Test Design (UTD) ensures that assessment tools are designed and developed from the outset to make tests accessible to a wide range of individuals. Tests written in plain, simple language without unnecessary linguistic complexity benefit all test-takers. Questions are designed to reduce the impact of potential barriers related to working memory, visual scanning and detection. Although universal design does not eliminate test accommodation, it can reduce the need for it. In 2014-2015, the PSC increased awareness of UTD and its impact on accessibility at several events attended by over 600 internal and external stakeholders, including managers, HR advisors and persons with disabilities.

Universal Test Design increases accessibility

The Public Service Commission’s (PSC) standardized tests are developed according to the principles of Universal Test Design. In 2010-2011, the PSC introduced changes to its Second Language Evaluation Reading and Writing Tests, which capitalized on some of these key principles. The PSC examined the impact of these changes on the volume of requests for test accommodation and the preliminary results were promising, suggesting that approximately 500 fewer candidates required accommodation on these tests in 2014-2015.

2.58 Expansion of e-testing to support departments and agencies and reduce costs – E-testing refers to both PSC Unsupervised Internet Testing (UIT) and PSC on-line assessments administered under supervised conditions at selected computer facilities in PSC regional offices or in other departments and agencies. In 2014-2015, the PSC continued to increase e-testing capacity, with over 500 facilities now in place and close to 1 500 certified public service employees across Canada and abroad qualified to administer e-tests. There has been a steady increase in on-line supervised tests, which now represents 58% of all PSC supervised tests administered, a 4% increase compared to 2013-2014. The volume of PSC UITs increased by 56% from 26 765 in 2013-2014 to 41 737 in 2014-2015. E-tests, whether supervised or unsupervised, now account for 72% of the total amount of PSC standardized tests.

Table 18: Paper/pencil and on-line testing usage, by fiscal year
Type of tests 2010-2011 2011-2012 2012-2013 2013-2014 2014-2015
Supervised paper/pencil tests 50 888 43 534 29 294 36 546 35 850
Supervised on-line tests 35 605 34 449 29 217 42 227 48 908
Unsupervised on-line tests(a) 10 953 24 164 5 658 26 765 41 737
Total tests used 97 446 102 147 64 169 105 538 126 495
% On-line tests 48% 57% 54% 65% 72%

Source: Public Service Commission Test Scoring and Results Reporting System, as of March 31, 2015

(a) Excludes departmental tests administered using the On-line Testing Facility platform and the Unsupervised Internet Test of Second Language Writing Skills.

2.59 Innovation in second language evaluation – The use of the PSC’s Second Language Evaluation (SLE) tests is mandatory for appointments to bilingual positions in the federal public service that are subject to the PSEA. The PSC makes ongoing efforts to ensure that the test results accurately reflect language ability and that test content is protected. The PSC implemented mandatory e-testing for SLE in 2013-2014. By leveraging computer-generated testing, the PSC piloted new test questions in the official tests and continued to expand the bank of test items. This reduces the exposure of questions and protects SLE test content.

2.60 In 2014-2015, more than 92% of the PSC’s SLE tests were administered on-line. Mandatory e-testing reduces the security risks related to shipping, receiving and storing paper-and-pencil tests. In addition, e-testing helps meet the paperless goals of the Government of Canada. E-testing also reduces the time required both to score tests and communicate test results to HR personnel and hiring managers, therefore contributing to the overall efficiency of test administration.

Second language tests pilot project

As outlined in Destination 2020, the Public Service Commission (PSC), in collaboration with Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC), piloted new second language tests, providing more than 100 PWGSC employees with an indication of their second language skills for training purposes. Reading and writing tests were available on-line and an oral test was administered over the telephone by a certified language assessor. Feedback received from participants was positive, and the PSC is looking into broadening the use of these tests in 2015-2016.

2.61 PSC Unsupervised Internet Testing allows departments and agencies to identify qualified candidates early on in a staffing process and to improve the quality of hires. It also reduces barriers for persons with disabilities allowing them to take exams at home using their own adaptive technologies. These tests allow for a faster, more cost-effective method of assessment, hence providing hiring managers with the ability to narrow the applicant field while meeting the expectations of job seekers for more rapid decisions. They also support the shift within departments and agencies to electronic platforms. Successful applicants complete these assessments by taking similar tests in a supervised environment. The PSC offers advice and guidance to departments and agencies, including outlining the appropriate points for the use of UIT within a selection process.

Success story using Unsupervised Internet Testing

“Using Public Service Commission’s (PSC) Unsupervised Internet Testing (UIT), we screened in 30% of applicants at a fraction of the cost and HR effort required in previous years. The dropout rate on subsequent testing was significantly lower for this pool of applicants who had already succeeded on the UIT. This group of candidates outperformed on all other assessments, proving to be a high-calibre group of candidates. I have since recommended UIT to my other clients and colleagues in HR.”

Louise Tremblay,
Employment and Social Development Canada
February 2015

2.62 In addition, the PSC offers unsupervised self-assessment tests for second language writing skills, which are seen only by the applicant. This allows applicants to gauge their own proficiency prior to submitting their application for a position. In 2014-2015, the test was used in over 269 staffing processes for bilingual positions and was accessed by 31 888 applicants, increasing the effectiveness and the efficiency of appointment processes by providing job applicants with a greater understanding of the position’s language requirements. The results of this self-assessment are not considered in the appointment process, but provide useful information to candidates about their likelihood of meeting the official language requirements of the position. A candidate must still be assessed through a supervised second language assessment prior to being appointed to a bilingual imperative position.

What job applicants are saying about the unsupervised second language self-assessment

In 2014-2015, some 20 815 out of 31 888 applicants who accessed the unsupervised self-assessment tests for second language writing skills completed a feedback questionnaire on their experience. Of these applicants, 87.4% (18 188) indicated that the test was a valuable experience that gave them a better understanding of candidate testing in the federal public service.

2.63 In 2014-2015, the PSC continued to host standardized e-tests from other departments and agencies on its On-line Testing Facility (OLTF) platform, including the CAF Aptitude Test, the CAF Trait Self Descriptive Personality Inventory and the RCMP ’s Police Aptitude Battery which are used for general recruitment and placement. Table 19 shows that the volume of organizational tests administered using OLTF increased by 17% in 2014-2015, eliminating the need for departments and agencies to duplicate the testing infrastructure and reducing printing and inventory control costs associated with traditional paper-and-pencil testing.

Table 19: Departmental tests administered using the On-line Testing Facility platform
OLTF Platform 2011-2012 2012-2013 2013-2014 2014-2015
Departmental tests 1 239 3 990 17 808 20 857

Source: Public Service Commission On-line Testing Facility System, as of March 31, 2015

2.64 In 2014-2015, the PSC completed the implementation of the Public Service Entrance Exam (PSEE) with the release of three new supervised tests. The PSEE is a suite of on-line unsupervised and supervised tests used by hiring managers in assessing the reasoning and judgment skills needed at the officer level. The suite is a cost-effective option to help managers identify top talent from across the country and to manage large applicant volumes for both internal and external staffing. The Post-Secondary Recruitment program was the first to adopt the full suite, using the unsupervised tests to increase candidate accessibility and diversity and to reduce the cost and scope of supervised testing.

2.65 Improvements to the Public Service Resourcing System – The Public Service Resourcing System (PSRS) is the recruitment system accessed through the federal government’s jobs.gc.ca Web site. Designed to process large volumes of applications and facilitate timely pre-screening of applicant qualifications, the PSRS continues to be regularly updated to ensure that all Canadians can apply to job opportunities that are open to the public. In 2014-2015, the federal government’s internal staffing system, Publiservice, was consolidated with PSRS, thereby providing employees with a single portal to access all public service job opportunities. This consolidation also laid the foundation for the eventual implementation of the Veterans Hiring Act, providing CAF members and veterans with access to internal federal government job opportunities.

2.66 In addition to the system consolidation, improvements focused on simplifying the user experience. The PSC modernized its support for HR staff, with an emphasis on self-service on-line resources, including training information and exercises, complemented by an on-line community of practice. The support model and system improvements were based on user testing, which involved evaluating the ease with which users navigated through the system and performed key tasks.


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