Thank you, Madam Chair, for the opportunity to appear before the committee to share what we have learned as we have explored the use of anonymized applications and its impact on the screening and recruitment of visible minorities within the Canadian public service. As you said, I'm accompanied here by colleagues from the Public Service Commission, whom you introduced, but I also want to note that I'm pleased to have Carl Trottier here.
The Public Service Commission and the office of the chief human resources officer work closely together on many files. Mr. Trottier has been involved in this pilot project since day one. I would also be remiss if I did not acknowledge the help and support of the many departments and agencies who participated in this pilot. It is through these types of partnerships that we can get a government-wide perspective on important staffing matters.
The Public Service Employment Act states that:
||Canada will continue to benefit from a public service that is based on merit and non-partisanship and in which these values are independently safeguarded;
It goes on to recognize that:
||Canada will also continue to gain from a public service that strives for excellence, that is representative of Canada's diversity and that is able to serve the public with integrity.
These are powerful words, and it is because of them that the Public Service Commission of Canada considers diversity and inclusion as fundamental components of its mandate. Therefore, we are always exploring innovative ways to improve recruitment methods. This pilot project is one of the many activities we have undertaken in our attempt at doing so. For example, over the years we've implemented a series of tools in support of barrier-free recruitment. Some of these include universal design for testing of candidates; employment equity targeted recruitment programs; machine-scored testing to eliminate subjectivity; training to avoid bias during selection processes;
a recruitment system that offers automated screening and random selection of candidates; policies that provide the option to restrict recruitment to members of employment equity groups, to improve representation where gaps are identified; and an attestation form—which I've attached—that is signed by all managers with staffing delegation.
At the Public Service Commission, we believe in the power of experimentation to drive evidence-based innovation. Our work on anonymized application is an example of this experimentation.
You will note that I am stressing the “anonymizing” aspect of our work. While we originally referred to this as “name-blind recruitment”, because this was the term recognized internationally, it is our view that the idea of anonymizing better reflects the approach we have taken. In other words, it is the removal of all personal information that could lead to the identification of a candidate's origin, as opposed to merely the removal of an individual's name.
I will take a moment to quickly recap the features and findings of the pilot.
It included 27 positions advertised to the public from 17 departments and agencies. This resulted in a sample of over 2,200 candidates, of which 685, or 31%, self-identified as visible minorities.
In keeping with research standards, our pilot project was reviewed by three external experts—two members of academia and an expert in methodology. In addition to complying with research standards, we considered peer review essential to ensure that the conclusions from our project were warranted and reasonable.
Overall, the pilot found that there was no net benefit or disadvantage to using the anonymized screening method for visible minorities. It also showed that the anonymized method reduced the screen-in rate for all other applicants. Not surprisingly, the results showed a strong correlation between previous government experience and screen-in rates for all candidates.
There are always limitations when it comes to research methodology. Being open about these is considered a professional obligation, and so you will notice that our final report identified several limitations related to this particular project.
It should be noted that when we designed our methodology, we tried to specifically address some of the limitations reported in previous research papers on the subject, such as using fabricated resumes and fictitious staffing processes. We also recognized that our pilot would shed additional light on anonymized recruitment and that further research or work would be necessary.
Our report was clear that the findings provided one additional source of evidence, but would not provide the complete answer on the applicability of anonymized recruitment in the federal public service. In other words, this pilot was never intended to be a silver bullet solution; rather, it was developed to contribute to, and complement, the existing body of evidence.
With regard to next steps, the Public Service Commission is undertaking a formal audit to examine the success rate of employment equity groups at key stages of the recruitment process. This approach will provide us with additional evidence while addressing some of the limitations—namely, that managers were aware of their participation in the pilot project and that we were dealing with organizations who had volunteered to participate. The audit will also examine hiring practices to identify areas that may contain potential barriers or that may, for one reason or another, be more inclusive.
The Public Service Commission will also share its methodology with departments and agencies who may decide to anonymize applications for their staffing processes.
We will also explore how anonymizing principles could be included in the design of any future technology changes to our recruitment systems.
In conclusion, Madam Chair, I want to assure this committee that the Public Service Commission is fully committed to diversity and inclusion, and will continue to take steps to keep these values at the forefront of public service recruitment and staffing. As an example, we will continue to provide targeted recruitment programs, such as the indigenous student employment opportunity, which offers indigenous full-time students work experience in the federal public service.
We would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.
Thank you for the question.
Other countries and even some Canadian provinces have undertaken similar pilot projects and studies, but our pilot was the largest and used actual staffing processes. As I mentioned, some other projects relied on fictitious processes and resumes. Consequently, they did not test real staffing processes used by real managers making staffing decisions about real applicants and cases.
I believe our pilot was slightly more comprehensive than anything that had been done previously. We did look at pilot projects and studies undertaken in Australia and France, and that research helped us in developing our methodology. The answer is yes, we did take into account other projects that had been done abroad. In some cases, the experts who reviewed our pilot had conducted studies, but those were much more limited in scope.
I'm going to stay on the same topic.
Certain parts of the public sector no doubt have an interest in increasing the number of women and Indigenous people on staff, and even men, in areas where they are under-represented. The goal is to achieve a better balance by ensuring that every member of the population has equal access to employment opportunities.
If I understand correctly, your preliminary finding was that the method used in the pilot offered no real benefit and made little, if any, difference. Any impact was quite minimal. Did this method of using real, but anonymized, applications lead to any sector-specific findings? For instance, did you find that the method would have made it possible to hire more women in a given sector? Conversely, were you unable to arrive at those kinds of conclusions?
The Employment Equity Act provides a certain number of tools that managers can apply to the hiring process when they're trying to, as you say, effect positive change. There are some departments, and some parts of departments, that are struggling with representation, including of women. For example, one of the areas we're concerned about is women in technology. Through our post-secondary recruitment campaign this year, we gave preference to first consideration of candidates who self-declared as women when we were referring for new positions, because we know we have a significant shortage there: 25% of our computer scientists in the government are women. To try to bridge that gap, we can use the Employment Equity Act to bridge some of those measures.
Again, on the other hand, there are some organizations that probably could benefit from using name-blinding, because at the end of the day, when they look at their representation, there's clearly a problem; there's an issue. Even when we looked at some countries where name-blinding seemed to be positive in terms of its impact, these were countries where there was a significant amount of systemic discrimination against the group that was being targeted.
In terms of where it didn't work, as Stan was saying.... For example, in Australia, when they were looking at the impact on the hiring of women, there was the opposite effect. In fact, managers were actually predisposed to giving consideration to women in the screening decision, and anonymizing did actually have a detrimental impact on that.
These are all the factors that we have to look at, and I think case by case we have to determine whether using this technique is the right approach to address whatever circumstances may exist in a particular organization.
I have a question, Mr. Borbey. When you were answering either Mr. Peterson or Mr. Blaikie, you talked about problems or circumstances that might exist. How are you determining circumstances that might exist when you don't know they exist?
I appreciate what you're trying to do here, but the results are very clear that the government is doing a very good job. I'll give you compliments, but it almost looks like this was $186,000 of taxpayers' money just to prove the government is doing a good job. We've discussed it already. It almost looks like some of this project is searching for a problem that doesn't exist. It's almost like you're trying to prove something exists that may not.
I'm wondering if the focus should instead be more on known hiring problems we might have as opposed to looking for circumstances that might exist.
Thank you very much. That helps clarify things for us.
Mr. Lee, I'd like to make a quick comment about the use of gender in French. In the example you gave, the phrase “Je suis diplômé” would take an extra “e” at the end in the case of a female applicant. That is true, but you could capture the same meaning with the phrase “Je détiens un diplôme de”, which would be equivalent to the phrase “I have a degree in” in English. Ways of getting around gender-specific structures in French do exist. Given how rich the language is, it is possible to get around the rules.
I completely understand what you were trying to achieve with your study. I also I understand that you took it upon yourselves to determine whether your methods were valid and effective. However, I can, to some extent, appreciate what Mr. McCauley was getting at with his questions. In his estimation of the government's approach, the public service is very proactive when it comes to recruiting a diverse workforce. Let's call it diversity so as not to include one group and not another.
I think it's valid to call into question some of the factors you ruled out of the pilot project, factors such as knowledge of foreign languages. I say that because knowing a foreign language is useful for a number of jobs in the public service. I mean beyond English and French, our official languages. I'm referring to the ability to speak a foreign language. Obviously, it's important for people who work at Global Affairs Canada, say, to be able to speak a foreign language.
Why did you remove that information from job applications?
I don't know that I'm going to need five minutes; I have just a couple of thoughts. I know that perhaps our colleagues on the other side might have a bit of a busy day today, with some travel and a convention ahead of them. In the interest of time I'll keep it short.
I agree with Mr. McCauley that upon reviewing the data we have, this really would seem to be a success story in the overall achievement in employment by the various categories in this study. This is an achievement Canadians can be proud of in terms of the governments of different parties over time achieving the levels of participation of women, aboriginal peoples, disabled persons, and visible minorities in the public service. The study is perhaps a worthy undertaking to examine the question of whether or not the name creates bias, but the road to an $18-billion deficit is paved with one good idea at a time that piles up into these kinds of large expenses.
I agree that we seem to have achieved quite a bit of success as a country in this area, and we have to be conscious of never allowing that to lapse or to see reversals in this. I think this is something we can be proud of, and I'd like us as a committee to move on to other subject matter.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thanks to the committee for doing this study. I think you should be doing more of that. It's the right thing to do. I mean, any criteria to measure is I think good news for us, as parliamentarians, in order to understand. Unlike my colleague Mr. McCauley, I wouldn't necessarily wait until the Edmonton Oilers were out of the playoffs before measuring their success.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Mr. Francis Drouin: You want to be proactive.
In short, I just want to thank the committee.
I don't know whether I will use the full five minutes, but I do want to ask you something about your study.
People in my riding, especially visible minorities, often have the same complaint: they are able to get a job in the public service, but, once they are in, they aren't able to get promoted.
Did your study take into account internal promotions?
We will be doing three things.
First of all, as I mentioned, we are ready to share our methodology with departments looking to address areas where certain groups are thought to be under-represented. We are ready and willing, then, to share that methodology with them.
Second, we are going to examine the technological results. If the screening is done electronically, for instance, it would eliminate human intervention and thus all bias.
Third, and most importantly, we are going to conduct a full audit in the next year to measure the success rates of employment equity groups throughout staffing processes.
Thank you to the witnesses.
I'm referring to the final report that's been tabled, and I'm looking specifically at the statistical significance of the different tables or the different categories that the study dealt with. I notice that there were 27 positions and 17 departments. I managed to find the name of the departments. When it came to the positions, I was successful in finding the occupational categories, and then I found classifications under each one of these.
For example, under administrative foreign services, I found AS1 and AS2. Can you give me an idea of what type of positions these are in general? Unless I go in and do a search on AS1 and try to get an understanding of what the scope was.... That will help me, because there are some significant statistical differences that I'd like to be able to probe, but before I do that, I want to understand the nature of the positions.
In your final report, just before your conclusion, you talk about some of the challenges, let's say, associated with the pilot project. You list about five items. One of them is that the process is very cumbersome.
You talked about introducing some of the automated processes, and I know there's a plan to do another study in the future. How can the lessons learned from this study help you streamline in the future some of the challenges you've highlighted here so that we're not spending another $250,000, or so that the $250,000 we're going to spend will give us a lot more in benefits?
Are there any questions? No.
I will take this opportunity to ask you a question. You were talking about sustainability and renewal of the public service, and saying that it is important because there is a lot of retirement. People were talking about how we've all done a good job, but as Mr. Drouin pointed out, people who complain are the people who are not in the upper echelons. It's very difficult for them to become deputy ministers or ADMs.
Do you hire outside the public service for those positions, the way a CEO would be hired? Would you do that? And would that be a name-blind or anonymous application?
With regard to talent management, it's actually quite a rigorous process at the public service in terms of determining the learning plans for the individuals, the skill gaps, and how we can support those employees to finally develop and access the higher echelons and move through the ranks of the public service. It's a process that happens yearly. It's a process that is done in quite a rigorous manner by committee, by department, and finally by the public service at large through each year.
With regard to your previous question about hiring, my colleague mentioned that it is managed by PCO. It would be hard to provide some stats on that right now, but there are in fact signs of mid-career hires that are coming. I'll speak to the level below deputy, where in fact there are some mid-career hires happening. There are some efforts needed to increase those mid-career hires, though, that need to take place. That's what we're working on right now.
From the Public Service Commission's perspective, we recognize that not only do we have to focus on external hires for entry-level positions—which is great—but also, in some cases, we need to find people at mid-career.
The issue is that they're not usually on our website looking for job opportunities, so we're thinking about ways we could be more proactive. In fact, one of the experimentations we want to do next is to look at whether an employee referral program could be piloted. When you're looking at very hard-to-staff jobs.... I'll talk about my own parish. Psychologists are very important to our work. It's almost impossible to attract them through our regular recruitment programs. Again, it could be something where colleagues, psychologists who are currently working in the government, could refer professional colleagues—not their brother-in-law or their sister, but professional colleagues—who may not be thinking of a career in the public service but who could actually really contribute to our workforce.
That's something we're looking at to see if we could do a better job at attracting at that level, as well.