The National Labour Force Renewal Directorate (NLFRD or Nilfred when said out loud) was created in February 2009 as a special sunset initiative with a mandate to lead the charge on national outreach and to increase the Canadian Coast Guard’s (CCG) visibility with the job-seeking public. As of the end of March, NLFRD was no more.
The CCG has many of the same demographic challenges as other organizations in the public sector. The average age of our employees is well above that of the Canadian labour market, with approximately 76 percent over the age of 40 and 40 percent over the age of 50.
Two years ago, the Commissioner at the time, George Da Pont, decided to create an organizational unit for a 24-month period tasked with developing national tools to promote the CCG as an employer of choice, to develop a national orientation program and to support learning and development activities.
NLFRD, the short-lived program with a huge name, had a monumental task: to meet the organization’s pressing needs with a small budget in a short amount of time. As project leader, I knew I needed the skills of a group of people far younger than I if I wanted to attract the new generation to CCG. This was so very different from anything I had done in the past. I knew that creating outreach materials that would resonate with the young job-seeking crowd would require pushing existing boundaries and leveraging technology.
Infusing youth and professional skill, I formed a small team (six at peak periods) of students, recent post-secondary graduates and veteran government employees. Recognizing the Internet as being the main source for career opportunities among present and future job seekers, NLFRD’s young minds identified the problem: a one-page, heavily text-based careers webpage.
“It wasn’t very engaging,” said project officer Marie-Pier Malboeuf, 26. “The page just didn’t stand out enough for us, and we had a real issue with the absence of structured content.”
The youth movement of NLFRD began toying with the idea of a revamped careers web presence. With sketches on lined paper, along with a veritable boatload of ideas from Marie-Pier’s prior work with the organization, the team’s ideas began to take form. Suddenly, a wordy description of the Coast Guard’s careers became an interactive and informative digital recruiting office complete with photo galleries, video clips, virtual tours, and employee testimonials.
Since its launch in March 2010, the website has had 420,000 page visits, up by nearly 600 percent over the same period the year before.
Stemming from the success of the careers page, NLFRD produced a national recruitment kit with an overview of the Coast Guard’s services and careers. Over 20,000 kits were printed and disseminated to the regions for use at career fairs and outreach events.
What makes these achievements even more notable is how NLFRD accomplished them. Had the directorate owned an industrial-sized printer, every single creation would have been done in-house. Not one red cent was spent on consultants in the development of the website or the outreach kit. From the initial penciled sketches of the careers webpage layout to the thousands of recruitment kits, NLFRD’s successes were born from the originality and hard work of its employees as well as from support within the Coast Guard and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Thanks to NLFRD, the CCG now has its own YouTube page showcasing some 40 videos that feature our employees at work. In January, the CCG launched its National Framework for Developmental Language Training, a NLFRD product. And the National Orientation Program for the Coast Guard is being prepared for launch. The program has been created to ensure that a national and unified identity is engrained in the minds of new employees, as well as to support their gradual integration spread over a series of traditional and online learning components. The online tools allow our seagoing staff to draw the maximum benefit from new employee orientation, a real challenge in an operational organization.
This final stretch of our two-year mandate was like the fading sunset blending into the night. It was poignant, yet we were proud of all of the things we had done. And as the sunset pales and it gets darker, the team has accepted new assignments with CCG and are ready to rise to new challenges.
Randall Russell is executive director for Canadian Coast Guard National Labour Force Renewal. He previously served with the Public Service Commission, Correctional Service of Canada and the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada.