Evaluation of the Communications and Parliamentary Affairs Directorate of the Public Service Commission

Prepared by the Corporate Management Practices and Evaluation Directorate

March 14, 2011

Executive summary

  1. This report presents the findings of the evaluation of the Communications and Parliamentary Affairs Directorate (CPAD) of the Public Service Commission (PSC). The evaluation was conducted between January and August 2010 by the Evaluation Division of Corporate Management Practices and Evaluation Directorate of the Corporate Management Branch for the Executive Management Committee and the President of the PSC, as part of the approved rolling PSC Risk-Based Five-Year Evaluation Plan for 2009-2014. Subsequent interviews were conducted with Vice-Presidents and a number of Directors General in October 2010 to assess whether there had been service delivery improvements over the last six to nine months.
  2. The objective of the evaluation was to assess the relevance and performance of CPAD’s function in support of the PSC’s mandate. It relied on a review of directorate activities, including a workload analysis, and how the activities and outputs of the Directorate assist and contribute to the delivery of the priorities of the PSC and the Government of Canada. It assessed how well the Directorate is currently positioned to provide timely, continuous and efficient services. This project also produced, under separate cover, a draft performance measurement framework for CPAD’s consideration as it moves forward in the area of internal performance tracking and measurement.
  3. The evaluation finds that:
    • CPAD objectives are fully consistent with the relevant policies and priorities of the PSC and the Government of Canada Communications Policy. However, awareness of CPAD’s capabilities, products and services appears to be low, despite CPAD’s efforts to date. This points to a need to adapt the communications strategy;
    • The evaluation observes and recognizes the resourcing challenge that CPAD encounters in trying simultaneously to satisfy client needs and contribute to the deadline-driven process of producing the Annual Report (AR) and other major or ad hoc initiatives. While senior managers all share considerable responsibilities, the results from the workload analysis indicated that the Associate DG position may have a higher workload. Some CPAD interviewees expressed the desire for more opportunities to interact with the Associate DG through division all-staff meetings, for instance;
    • In terms of planning, CPAD is realigning its communications planning process to integrate it with the Corporate Planning Cycle exercise. CPAD has had an inconsistent past regarding performance planning, measurement of results and completing the corporate planning-performance-measurement-reporting loop as is the case in the communications community as a whole. With the lack of formal performance measures, performance standards to which client expectations can be matched and measured and detailed planning that includes time and resource requirements associated with quantified, projected outputs, it is difficult to determine the extent to which CPAD resources are in line with its requirements, but ratios appear to be consistent with other organizations used as benchmarks. CPAD should consider rebalancing its number of IS positions at each level in order to foster career progression and retention of experienced employees seeking promotion;
    • Frequent users such as managers tend to be less satisfied than others with certain areas as demonstrated in the Corporate Management Branch survey. While there is a high level of overall satisfaction among internal PSC users in general with the products and services they know about, use and receive from CPAD, results specific to frequent users show areas of dissatisfaction, corroborated by interviews. Key CPAD users interviewed raised a number of issues to be addressed. They appear to be less satisfied with their lack of knowledge about and awareness of other CPAD products and real or perceived delays in service during AR production time. They also believe that there could be greater clarity of roles and responsibilities around the various AR development and production phases, that service delivery protocols and standards could be established and that the level of advice could be improved;
    • The Account Executive (AE) model has been functioning for a period of almost three years at the PSC and has yet to prove itself as a clear value-added proposition for all branches. The widespread perception of interviewees is that the model has benefits at the transactional level but it is not entirely fulfilling its strategic mandate. At the operational level, if the PSC wishes to continue with the model, it will be imperative to resolve the issue of lack of AE direct control over staff who provide editing, design and Web services so that client expectations can be met and AE assurances of timely and complete delivery of products and services to clients can be made. Clients have requested the implementation of clear processes and procedures for greater clarity of roles and responsibilities. At the strategic level, clients would have expected more intelligence-gathering and sharing with relevant program areas, greater integration of CPAD areas and improvements to the branch planning process and quality of strategic advice. CPAD senior management bi-annual meetings with Branch Management Committees are encouraged. Clients feel that needs vary considerably across branches and, for this reason, they recommend that the PSC consider a modified model by which branches/initiatives with the greatest communications requirements would be overseen by a communications advisor or a project manager;
    • In the current climate of resource restraints in the public service, all organizations are required to operate, and demonstrate, that they are operating in the most cost efficient manner possible. CPAD has done recent realignment by bringing the Executive Communications and Parliamentary Affairs units together. An examination of its growth over the last number of years compared to anticipated business projections and the possible reorganization of some service delivery (changes to the AE model) may point to the possibility for CPAD management to consider additional measures of realignment of services needed and resource rationalization; and
    • A review of training and skills development to gauge the readiness of CPAD employees to serve both its internal clients at the PSC and its external clients and stakeholders in the optimal manner was beyond the scope of this evaluation. However, the evaluation notes that not all internal client expectations are being met. Clients have indicated that the AEs competency profile should reflect the branch’s specific communications needs (e.g., marketing and outreach strategies, including the use of new media to communicate with external stakeholders vs. internal communications mechanisms, knowledge and understanding of the legislative framework and capacity to provide strategic advice on how to communicate sensitive issues). The majority of clients would also appreciate greater capacity in the provision of strategic planning and advice, whether it be through their designated AE or CPAD senior management.


4. This report makes three recommendations. They are as follows:

Recommendation 1: It is recommended that CPAD develop and implement a performance measurement framework including meaningful performance measures, key service standards and client feedback mechanisms. CPAD should also amend the communications planning process to ensure communications plans are produced in a consistent manner, in close collaboration with clients, and approved and monitored for their implementation and success. To this end, the Communications Committee should oversee the detailed implementation of these recommendations.

Management Response:

  • Management agrees. CPAD will build internal performance measurement knowledge and skills through comparative analysis and networking. CPAD will also develop and implement a performance measurement framework.
    Completion date: October 2011   OPI: DG,CPAD
  • CPAD will work with clients to define key service delivery standards.
    Completion date: August 2011   OPI: DG,CPAD
  • CPAD's work on the communications planning process for 2011-2012 is complete. Implementation, monitoring and reporting will follow.
    Completion date: March 2012   OPI: DG,CPAD
  • CPAD will keep the Communications Committee apprised of the detailed implementation of this action plan which will take into consideration the report's operational recommendations.
    Completion date: Ongoing   OPI: DG,CPAD

Recommendation 2: It is recommended that, in consultation with the Policy Branch, chapter leads, other OPIs and clients, CPAD clarify each step of:

  • the Annual Report production phase including proofreading, editing, reviewing, translation, comparative reading, and sign off;
  • the communications phase for the Annual Report, including the development of communications products such as the President’s briefing deck, Highlights and Qs and As.

Management Response:

  • Management agrees. CPAD will continue to work with Chapter leads and other clients to ensure the quality of deliverables and define roles for the production and delivery of main PSC communications products such as the Annual Report, consolidated Audit Report, studies and other special reports. CPAD will participate in the Annual Report Working Group and work to integrate the planning and project management processes.
    Completion date: September 2011   OPI: DG,CPAD
  • CPAD will use the current cycle to implement a continuous improvement process
    Completion date: April 2011   OPI: DG,CPAD

Recommendation 3: It is recommended that CPAD change its service delivery model while making adjustments to ensure that the model is more proactive and service-oriented.

Management Response:

Management agrees. CPAD will develop, propose and implement changes to its service delivery structure to respond to PSC priorities, business lines and the evolving needs of the PSC.

  • DG, CPAD will be part of a benchmarking review of communications branches’ organizational designs across the federal public service, conducted by the Communications Community Office.
    Completion date: March 2011   OPI: DG,CPAD
  • CPAD will develop, propose and implement changes to the Directorate's service delivery structure, realign responsibilities, as required, and continue to reallocate resources.
    Completion date: October 2011   OPI: DG,CPAD
  • CPAD senior management will meet semi-annually with each Branch Management Committee to better understand their needs and to determine how these needs will be met.
    Completion date:Q1 and Q3, Ongoing   OPI: DG,CPAD
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