The Interview - Dan Couture Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Canada Revenue Agency's Human Resources Branch - Canadian Government Executive
GovernmentLeadershipManagement
November 2, 2016

The Interview – Dan Couture Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Canada Revenue Agency’s Human Resources Branch

I invested in my professional relationships. I am a firm believer that every employee has a unique contribution to bring to the organisation and that no one should be judged by their rank or level in an organisation. I would flatten our management structure. Based on our research I believe that in addition to enabling faster decision making, delayering our management structure would foster agility and innovation, improve communication, and provide management with more proximity to employees which would improve employee engagement and productivity.

On HR and Working/Leading in the public service

Dan Couture has been Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Canada Revenue Agency’s Human Resources Branch since 2013. This year, he won the Association of Professional Executives of the Public Service of Canada award for his leadership skills. The citation read that he was recognized “for his overall management excellence on numerous initiatives within his department and for his dedication to mentorship and coaching.” Born in Rimouski (Quebec) he studied Industrial Relations at McGill University before starting his career in the private sector. He started work in the Toronto District Office of Revenue Canada in 1990 and never looked back.

Q: To what do you attribute your success?

Sounds corny but I owe a great deal to my parents (Irish mother and French Canadian father) who have been married 57 years. My wife Rachelle (who also works in CRA) and my two boys Dawson (17) and Donovan (15) have been extremely supportive to me over the years. They understand that they will always be my priority but that sometimes it requires compromise.

The CRA has been supportive to me. It has given me the opportunity to re-invent myself several times and have in fact had multiple careers in one. I am so proud to be a public servant and am even more proud to be part of what I consider to be a leading edge organisation in the world of tax administration.

Finally, hard work and strong values. I invested in my professional relationships. I am a firm believer that every employee has a unique contribution to bring to the organisation and that no one should be judged by their rank or level in an organisation.

Q: Your current project is to create a more efficient and customer-centric HR function within the CRA. What were your priorities?

First, we worked extensively to simplify and streamline HR. For example, we have made it easier for managers to understand and apply HR policies by undertaking a thorough review of our policy suite through which we reduced the number of HR Corporate Policy Instruments by 75%. We have simplified our performance management by eliminating paper from the process, and standardizing language and terms. We also used the Lean methodology to simplify a number of other HR processes so we can keep pace with our clients’ needs.

Next, we reduced the burden on managers by making it easier for employees to access HR information and services. We launched MyHR, a modern hub for HR information that provides convenient self-service options for clients along with seamless access to new HR solutions. Third, we strengthened our capacity to provide expert advice. While browsing topics on MyHR users always have the ability to request support from HR advisors through our HR Service Centre. We are working to further establish our reputation as helpful solutions providers who know and understand clients’ business and help them resolve complex issues, and who are invited to the table when a client needs help because of their trust in the skills and knowledge that we bring.

Q: How are you monitoring the changes you’ve enabled?

Quantitative systems-generated data enables us to set benchmarks and measure the progression of our HR and workforce indicators. This will tell the true story of the benefits that these changes are enabling the CRA to realize.

We also make improvements to our solutions based on what we hear from clients. Nothing is implemented without having been tested with clients and we have various mechanisms in place to ensure a continuous feedback loop to enable ongoing improvement.

Additionally, our Board of Management has taken an active interest in our modernization efforts and we report to them quarterly on our progress.

Q: You are known as an exceptional mentor. Do you follow an example or did you reinvent the role?

I mentor folk from across the public service, not just CRA. For me, it’s basic: I make time for people. I have four rules in an unwritten contract: I respect confidentiality; I tell people up front that they are not signing on for life and can move on at any time; I usually give some homework and expect that mentees follow up. (It’s not just chatting); I ask mentees to pay it forward.

Q: What do you think is the most frustrating thing about being a public servant?

We often become frustrated with the slower pace of change and innovation in Government and are envious of the private sector. However, as public servants it is our duty to exercise proper planning and risk management practices. While we still have room to improve, initiatives such as Blueprint 2020 have inspired us to find new ways to foster efficient innovation across Government. Our success in modernizing HR is testament to this. We have accomplished in 18 months what, not long ago, would have taken a number of years.

Q: According to the 2014 Survey of Government of Canada employees, the level of satisfaction with senior management remains low (about 50 percent of respondents are satisfied on six critical issues). How do you react to these results?

We always need to be looking for ways to improve the way we lead at all levels. Obviously, this is a priority for us to address across Government right now. And steps are being taken. For example, I strongly believe that the implementation of TBS’s Key Leadership Competencies will help senior management earn back the trust of employees by developing a cadre of modern leaders who foster a public service that is collaborative, innovative, streamlined, high performing, adaptable and diverse.

Q: If you could make ONE change to the leadership structure, what would it be?

I would flatten our management structure. Based on our research I believe that in addition to enabling faster decision making, delayering our management structure would foster agility and innovation, improve communication, and provide management with more proximity to employees which would improve employee engagement and productivity. I also make it a personal priority to be visible and connected with my employees. In fact, last year I went across the country to meet all employees working for the CRA’s HR function and I was thoroughly impressed by the engagement and passion that they demonstrated in the many rich discussions I had with employees at all levels.

Q: What is your reaction to the triennial Employee Survey of Government of Canada employees?

I think it’s one of the great tools that we can use to gauge how we are perceived by our people. While we encourage our employees to engage with us in a variety of ways, through our daily interactions, and various meetings, the PSES is another useful way for us to measure if the work that we are doing to ensure a respectful, efficient, and modern organization is being felt by our employees. And if not, to identify the areas that require improvement.

Q: People are a lot more satisfied with their immediate supervisors. What’s your interpretation?

I’m encouraged that employees see their immediate supervisors in a positive light. Employees and their immediate supervisors have a different relationship than they do with their senior management. At the CRA we are focusing on giving our managers the support they need to provide quality leadership to their teams. Our CRA Managers’ Network provides our managers’ community with a platform to have their collective voice heard by senior management and facilitates collaboration and consultation. Our senior management recently worked with the Managers Network to develop an action plan that maps out the steps we will take to better enable our managers to focus on their people-management duties. We have also placed efforts in the CRA on developing a Young Professional Network (YPN) and more recently, the Executive Group Network (EXGN).

Q: The same survey shows that employees are still frustrated by how positions are filled. What can be done about improving hiring in the Government of Canada?

I am excited about the potential that HR data & analytics can bring to help us do more effective, evidence-based hiring. Finding out find out what makes the most productive employees successful in their jobs will help us objectively establish the right hiring criteria and evaluate candidates effectively. This will help ensure we hire the right people – those with the skills for the position, and the values and passion for a career with the public service. We have conducted a Lean exercise on our staffing process and have introduced technology to reduce red tape and streamline the staffing process, end to end.

About this author

0 comments

There are no comments for this post yet.

Be the first to comment. Click here.

Government
 
Can government remember? Is it condemned to repeat mistakes? Or does...
 
Over the past two decades, codes of ethical conduct have become...
 
In this episode, J. Richard Jones sits down with Martin Joyce,...
 
In this episode, J. Richard Jones, publisher of Canadian Government Executive...
 
The January/February 2018 issue of Canadian Government Executive is on the...
 
This year is proving to be an interesting one for all...
 
Recently, George Ross, Editor-in-Chief of Candian Government Executive sat down with...
 
As Executive Director of the UK’s Government Digital Service, Mike Bracken...
 
For over two days at the end of January this year,...
 
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has, on many occasions, expressed his commitment...
 
Today, many connect with their banks, private companies, and friends in...
 
The Trudeau Government’s decision, in August 2017, to split the Indigenous...
 
In the last few years, we’ve seen various federal governments warning...
 
Rankings of public sector entities has been big trend for quite...
 
For over 20 years, Canadian Government Executive (CGE) has been a...
 
The health care system in Canada, known as Medicare, is publicly...
 
Do Labour Market Development Agreements (LMDAs) make a difference? Our evaluation...
 
Evaluation is performed for a range of reasons:  to improve programs,...
 
Radical candour sounds rather outré as a prescription for government executives....
 
Behavioural Insights (BI) is a multidisciplinary approach that uses principles and...
 
In March, the Canada Revenue Agency’s website was shut down by...
 
In 2016, Deloitte undertook a global internal audit research study on...
 
One of the writers in this month’s issue started a note...
 
During the general election in 2015, Justin Trudeau, the leader of...
 
So, what can be said about Canada’s public administration as the...
 
The way forward to engaging Millennials in the public sector Passionate,...
 
As the Liberal’s assumed office, three big democratic reform ideas were...
 
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) in issuing its annual review of...
 
In today’s world of heightened focus on good governance and accountability...
 
At a recent meeting, a colleague asked me how I became...
 
As ‘month 13’ for Canada’s Syrian refugee arrivals comes and goes,...
 
As governments around the world move towards the digital transformation of...
 
Cost estimation is becoming an extremely important skill within government due...
 
The Senate has long been controversial largely because it is unelected...
 
In this special episode of CGE Radio, your host John Jones...
 
In this episode J. Richard Jones examines the rise in international...
 
Currently, there are ten organizations at the federal level that function...
 
Imagine a Canadian government that shares best practices in service delivery....
 
Risk is always present in any undertaking, no matter the size...
 
There is a new buzz in policy circles. Advances in data...
 
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, with its 28 independent member countries...
 
The internal audit function in the Canadian public sector finds itself...
 
As Canada’s government agencies strive to improve delivery and efficiency under...
 
While Canadians grapple with the meaning of the Trump presidency and...
 
In recent months, Canadians have borne witness to a new cycle...
 
In 2015, the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED)...
 
The year 2016 saw two critical words circling the halls of...
 
The critical challenge facing the public service is changing its culture....
 
In this episode, hear from Carl Hammersburg, Manager, Government and Healthcare...
 
As understanding of social behaviour increases through intensified research, many government...
 
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are part of the new global “Agenda...
 
The Trudeau government was swept into office, in part, by promising...
 
An Interview with Larry Ostola, Toronto’s Director of Museums and Heritage...
 
From a policy perspective, it is a challenge to predict how...
 
The arrival of President Trump in the White House marks a...
 
In the first year of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s term in...
 
For all its subtleties and mysteries, the Westminster system of government...
 
While the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump is being buffeted...
 
Mental health problems are increasingly recognized today. By some calculations, one...
 
Faithful readers will remember that the cover story on last month’s...
 
Rehabilitating the West Block in considered the most complex restoration project...
 
Defending his government’s use of targets to drive UK public-sector reform...
 
In the world that we are living in today, free and...
 
Earlier this year the Ontario Ministry of Health announced that it...
 
While government watchers tend to concentrate on the big policy issues,...
 
The RCMP adopted a new media strategy earlier this month by...
 
Several factors are driving an increased interest in horizontal assurance in...
 
There is already a surging literature on the application of design...
 
In 2001, the OECD published The Hidden Threat to E-Government. The...
 
At the end of August, when most Canadians were enjoying their...
 
The Conference Board of Canada recently published a report titled Leveraging...
 
The Government of Canada’s newly announced Policy on Results replaces the...
 
While internal auditing has been considerably strengthened in most jurisdictions in...
 
The results-driven work ethics of Michael Barber, a top British political...
 
As team Trudeau would tell it, this past summer saw spirited...
 
The Trudeau Government has been off and running for almost one...
 
Cyber-attacks threaten Canadian individuals and companies every minute of every hour....
 
Today’s transformative movement towards a more digital and connected government is...
 
Deliverology is fast becoming a buzzword in the Canadian government scene....
 
For several months now, the Liberal government ministers have been using...
 
Ontario’s provincial government needs to act fast in building a coordinated...
 
The bootleg fentanyl overdose crisis that is sweeping across Western provinces...
 
Terrorism operates with deadly regularity. In June 2016, a gunman who...
 
It’s a common notion that young workers born in the mid-1990s...
 
BC Hydro said it is pushing through with it $9-billion, hydroelectric megaproject on...
 
Canadian doctors were told that climate change impacts human health and...
 
Even as talks between the government and federal workers affected problems...
 
At last the the nostalgic fun of the CNE decends upon...
 
Just as the federal government has begun consultations on cyber security,...
 
The association representing more than 42,000 physicians and medical students in...
 
Contrary to the stereotype of eagerness and politesse, the second Bold...
 
Yesterday, Federal and Atlantic Provincial Ministers of the environment met to...
 
Following three months of little change in the employment numbers, Statistics...
 
Regardless of whether you are an elected official, a public servant,...
 
Ottawa has overhauled the process by which justices are picked for...
 
July 27 was pay day some federal public workers that finally...
 
A recent report suggests several strategies how governments and the private...
 
After writing the book “Megatrends: The Impact of Infrastructure on Ontario’s...
 
Though many of Canada’s immigrants have above-average education, they often find...
 
Fred Vettese, Morneau Shepell’s Chief Actuary, has released a report titled...
 
The Phoenix payroll systems long-running technical glitches which have plagued public...
 
The local electric vehicle industry just got a boost from Ontario...
 
Signaling a realignment of Canada’s involvement with NATO, Prime Minister Justin...
 
The fact that Shared Services Canada (SSC) has struggled mightily under...
 
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today announced the deployment of Canadian troops,...
 
The union representing Canadian postal workers has rejected a proposal from...
 
A small but rapidly growing number of businesses have started hiring...
 
The possibility of mail delivery disruption on Friday this week loomed...
 
The Senate committee looking into Canada’s Syrian refugee program wants the...
 
United States President Barack Obama, speaking before Parliament last night, urged...
 
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said making it easier for goods and...
 
Canada Post today warned the public about the potential for a...
 
Even as British stocks took a plunge and the pound sterling...
 
Yes, according to the former head of the Canadian Security Intelligence...
 
Early this morning, Philippine police confirmed that the severed head found...
 
Computer software company Adobe, has migrated more than 11 million pages...
 
The recent retirement of seven federal deputy ministers (DMs) reminds us...
 
The Public Health Agency of Canada has long been aware of...
 
On June 7, over 40 senior executives from within the public...
 
All’s fair in love and war JOHN LILY (1578): EUPHUES: THE...
 
Whether it is convincing companies to build R&D centres, factories, or...
 
The fact that Shared Services Canada (SSC) has struggled mightily under...
 
The government has to move quickly in replacing its fleet of...
 
As much a 20 per cent of grade seven students in...
 
The Liberal government is taking steps to rein in the National...
 
Canada is severely in need of a maritime vessel that can...
 
The actions and decisions of public servants have consequences for the...
 
A Quebec superior court judge facing allegations that he helped commit...
 
He is often referred to as the federal government’s first “chief...
 
We often read news articles about rampant drug addiction and suicide...
 
Upon receiving numerous complaints regarding add-on fees that turn making economy...
 
Public sector design thinking has evolved from obscurity to something of...
 
The procurement group within the Government of Canada is undergoing a...
 
Government agencies, international businesses, as well as, European organizations that comply...
 
Canada, today, became a full supporter of the United Nations Declaration...
 
People caught a glimpse of the work of partisan advisers in...
 
Officials and first responders battling the raging wildfires in Fort McMurray...
 
Veterans Affairs Canada is not adequately managing the drug component of...
 
Whether responding to emergencies back home or assisting regular troops abroad,...
 
The Trudeau government is now six months into its mandate and...
 
Some public servants will have to request their departments for emergency...
 
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is poised to launch an...
 
The murder of a Canadian citizen abroad and the uncertainty of...
 
Canada’s largest organization advocating for retirees from federal, police and military...
 
The government is spending $3.5 million to improve an existing immunization...
 
It almost goes without saying that good governance requires fair and...
 
The adoption last year by the Canada Border Services Agency of...
 
A research project at that explores the design and feasibility of...
 
One of the most important powers at the disposal of Canadian...
 
Two years ago, Bixi, a not-for-profit, para-municipal bicycle-share firm of the...
 
A landmark Supreme Court ruling has paved the way for some...
 
One of Canada’s largest integrated oil companies said it is not...
 
Following the various mandate letters from the Trudeau Administration, the Minister...
 
Conservation efforts in the Canadian Arctic will be obstructed and sensitive...
 
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) today begins a public...
 
Local job figures blew away expectations as records indicated that 41,000...
 
In dealing with the impact on the sharing economy on transportation,...
 
In this episode, Richard talks with Alex Willner, Assistant Professor from...
 
The melting Arctic ice caused by climate change is opening up...
 
At least one prime minister has resigned, another in under fire,...
 
Associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the king of Saudi Arabia,...
 
Now more than ever, organizations in both the public and private...
 
Things just get curiouser and curiouser. Lewis Carroll (1865): ’s Adventures...
 
Laid off workers in Canada will soon get some relief with...
 
The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that it has managed to...
 
The Prime Minister is now well into the consolidation phase of...
 
It is no secret that evaluation reports in the federal public...
 
  The pressure is always on to make government services to...
 
The Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) Lab is...
 
The Liberal government’s first federal budget laid out $11.9 billion over...
 
Eight years ago, the always prolific University of Chicago Law School...
 
Canadians expect their public services to be delivered in a way...
 
The Liberal government is expected to announce on Tuesday a new...
 
The Trudeau Liberal platform of instituting “delivery” capabilities has garnered considerable...
 
The ambitious immigration plan of the Liberal government promises to zero...
 
Nearly half of Canadian organizations are falling behind on implementation of...
 
If the purpose of the Government of Canada’s performance measurement system...
 
The Ontario government and telecom gear maker Huawei Canada yesterday announced...
 
The facility of a top-secret military communications group in Borden, Ontario...
 
Q: Where is Comptrollership going? Comptrollership in the Government of Canada...
 
Following days of stalled negotiations and with the clock ticking on...
 
Last year, the Canada Revenue Agency rolled out a pilot program...
 
Monday was the final day for Canadians to donate money to...
 
A controversial investment protection clause in the Canada-European Union trade deal...
 
When the Liberals announce their first ever budget on March 22...
 
Prime Minister Trudeau is off on one of the most intense...
 
With the inexorable expansion of internet, and the advent of highly...
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
Can government remember? Is it condemned to repeat mistakes? Or does...