Service delivery
May 7, 2012

Talent wars and the OPS revolution

CGE Vol.13 No.5 May 2007

In late 2004, the Ontario Public Service received a wake up call. The provincial auditor released a report stating: “Several years of downsizing combined with hiring restrictions and weak efforts to promote the OPS as an employer of choice have resulted in a workforce that is considerably older than those in other Ontario workplaces,” and warning that “the delivery of essential public services may be at risk if strategies to acquire needed skills and to recruit younger workers are not implemented soon.”

The average age was 43.3, and more than half of the OPS workforce would be eligible for retirement by 2018. Ontario needed to join the war for talent in a big way.

But we were far from ready. Line managers had become more concerned with process than the hiring outcome. There were inconsistent policies and practices in place, and wide variation in the level of support available to managers. Recruitment processes were manual and labour intensive – it could take up to 121 days to fill a vacancy. The OPS was not seen as an interesting or viable career choice for either young people or mid-career professionals. With a crisis looming, the OPS needed to revolutionize the way it was attracting and recruiting employees.

One way was to start thinking about recruitment decisions in the same terms as financial decisions. “Each time we hire an individual, the organization is making a $1.5 million decision,” said Michelle DiEmanuele, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Government Services, referring to the investment the organization makes in a 20-year career.

The OPS recruitment revolution began in January 2006 with the launch of its Recruitment Modernization Strategy, which is based on a “modern recruitment equation.” With the strong support of OPS executive leadership, a “start-up” Enterprise Recruitment Centre was established and given the mandate of modernizing our talent attraction and acquisition practices. Early on, decisions were made that signalled major change:
·     The OPS internal job newsletter JobMart, which had been in circulation for over two decades, was discontinued, and all internal postings would now be posted online only.
·     A Service Guarantee for line managers was introduced guaranteeing that their jobs would be posted within five days of receipt, improving significantly on the previous four to six week backlog.
·     A new look and feel for external print media job advertising was developed to update the language used in OPS job ads and brand the OPS as an employer of choice.

Another major focus for the start-up team has been the redesign of the OPS job posting website. Later this spring, OPS will launch its new careers website. A leading edge site for public sector organizations, it will feature profiles of actual public servants describing their work, information about the Ontario government’s job interview process, a special portal for youth and new professionals, easy navigation and job search features, and the ability to apply online.

While the start-up Enterprise Recruitment Centre team has been busy drawing the battle plans for the recruitment revolution, another group of employees in northern Ontario are the “warriors” on the frontline. In January 2005, the Northern Recruitment Pilot was established to provide end-to-end recruitment support to managers in Northern Ontario. In two years, the Northern Recruitment Centre has logged over 1300 job competitions, processed over 60,000 job applications, reduced the time to hire to an average of 52 days, and saved hiring managers about 14 hours of their own time per competition. Helping to make these achievements possible is a new e-recruitment tool called e-Jobs, which won a Diamond Award at the 2006 Showcase Ontario. The Northern Recruitment Pilot was recognized with a gold award at last year’s Public Service Quality Fair.

Great strides have been made to modernize recruitment in the OPS, but much work remains to be done as we strive to become a best-practice recruitment organization. Implementation of recruitment centres in other regions of the province will commence later this year, and we will begin to focus on developing strategies for talent sourcing and acquisition. The OPS will finally be ready to compete in the war for talent.

Leslie Slater is director of HR service management and coordination in the HR Service Delivery Division of the Ontario Ministry of Government Services.

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