Pawternity leave, Phoenix, and Streamlining HR leave walk into a bar…

In the lead up to the Auditor General’s report, Debi Daviau (President, PIPSC) went on record stating she’d be willing to consider how to streamline the rules in Collective Agreements to simplify Phoenix processing of transactions (so long as negotiated benefits remain the same) as part of an overall solutions effort towards .

Public Services Minister Carla Qualtrough also seems willing to work with the unions on a ‘red-tape reduction’ exercise [inadvertent shudder] for the more than 80 000 business rules that are bogging the system down.

And the Auditor General noted in his Nov. 21 report ‘Report 1 — Phoenix Pay Problems’ that solving the Phoenix pay system is going to require systems overhaul aimed at reducing the complexity of workplace pay rules embedded in the HR-to-Pay system, many the result of negotiations that are captured in 105 collective agreements in the Public Service that have evolved over 60 years.

One thing ought to be clear from reading the damning consultant and OAG reports on Phoenix: applying the same solution processes, procedures and players is NOT likely to get us — the employer and employee collectively — out of this hole.

So it’s time for some fresh thinking.

I’ve made the point before that we can take comfort in having one of the best public services in the world, exemplifying great integrity. We are repeatedly top of charts and are currently number 1 overall out of 30 other public service on a host of criteria. So. We can be trusted and are d*mned fine professionals.

And we — as members of CAPE — should be willing to help the employer get out of a sticky wicket — particularly when it could ease the burdens created by the employer on us employees.

Now (just bear with me, takes a while to set up the punchline) just the other day, a Reddit user (also a public servant) asked what the odds were of negotiating a ‘pawternity’ clause — leave for care of a furry family member (or otherwise — big world, the animal world, even when you take the human animals out of it). That was a brave OP — some of the response from others was a little…unchecked. But the OP was on to something (fresh thinking usually comes from unexpected places).

What if…all leave currently negotiated was simply allotted to an employee to use as they see fit, to manage their work/life balance? We are fully featured humans, with complex demands placed on us at all times.

What if…the employer trusted its employees to manage their time — the most important shared asset between them — responsibly?

Let’s imagine the possibilities. Such a model could:

· Repair relations between employer and employee by demonstrating respect for employees as individuals and professionals

· Open up streamlining models and possibilities across other Collective Agreements

· Provide a resolution to new entrants not having enough leave in the ‘Sick Bank’

· Reduce burdens on compensation advisors by removing the need for manual workarounds

· Free compensation advisors to focus on other priorities (not to be laid off — to be used for other value-added work for which currently capacity is unavailable)

· Reduce the stress and fatigue the compensation advisors are facing

· Free managers time from leave request management to other priorities

· Contribute to a stronger, more resilient workforce (rather than distributed sickness)

It all sounds appealing — the savings would be significant in terms of both impact and cost. That union member COULD use their leave for animal care with no trouble (and let’s face it — increasingly, non-human animals matter to us just as much as the human animals in our lives; sometimes they matter more). The rest of us could better balance the work/life demands that weigh on us continuously.

But is it doable?

No, not in the immediate future, for two key reasons I will outline below.

First: I see no signs the parties are positioned to take on such an undertaking since all governance issues remain unaddressed. We are in the current mess because the necessary governance structures, and supporting processes were not put in (see my Phoenix series).

Recall one of the OAG’s most damning findings: “There was no comprehensive governance structure in place to resolve pay problems in a sustainable way”. Nothing has changed. Nothing is likely to change — PSPC signalled this clearly yesterday when it announced its ‘Accountable and informed decision making’ model as part of Phase 2: Pay stabilization.

Unions will be ‘partners’ and ‘engaged’ where the employer’s ‘integrated management team’ will share information and seek guidance from unions: the meetings will continue until morale improves.

The phrase that jumps to mind here is ‘fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me’.

Before any talk can happen on changing rules in collective agreements, the employer has to:

· Open the information taps

· Make the unions part of the governance management team

· Make the unions part of the process re-design teams

Second: The OAG found (and PSPC and TBS concurred) that processes were not mapped, understood, aligned…well, basically every process re-design practice that should have been used, wasn’t, and vice versa.

In any system, rules act as constraints on a system — shaping what is allowable or not, included or not, in scope and execution. You cannot change the rules of a system until you have mapped the system — if you do, you incur a very high likelihood of unintended (and adverse) impacts.

Look at these workflows:

Exhibit 1.1 — The process to change pay for an employee in departments and agencies serviced by the Miramichi Pay Centre

Source: Office of the Auditor General of Canada. Report 1 — Phoenix Pay Problems. Nov. 2017

I accept that this is a simplification of the process, for the purposes of a Report designed for general release. However, it does a disservice to us all in masking the true complexity of the problem space before us.

Now look at this one:

Figure 15: Interaction of Systems in the Payroll Subprocess Group

Source: TBS Guideline On Common Financial Management Business Process 5.1 — Pay Administration

Recall we are/have/may one day fully migrate from the Regional Pay System (RPS) to Phoenix. But indulge in a thought experiment between this workflow and the one below — what do you need to do to reconcile those workflows? That’s what we need to know. Those are the process maps we need, for the whole value stream of hiring through to retiring.

Figure 2: Pay Administration Flow

Source: TBS Guideline On Common Financial Management Business Process 5.1 — Pay Administration

Steps five and six? There’s the black box, the source of misery and of all evil. There’s where the rules of Collective Agreements really hook up to the process. Before any discussion on changing rules can be tabled, we need to know what the processes are and have input onto the changes.

The work that needs to be done now is what should have been done in the first place: study the current problem space (fast) and then iterate towards a stable solution state — testing as we go.

There will be no re-design of rules in the Collective Agreement until we are equal partners in the re-design processes of HR-to-Pay that is directly, materially, impacting employees and extracting a huge toll as a result.

The Association will not entertain bargaining on Leave Articles except to extend them as reparations for Phoenix.

I’m willing to explore brave new models — including of employer-employee relationships. As I noted above, there are appealing possible outcomes that could be achieved. But no union should do so without the tools needed: information; knowledge; data; a seat at the table; resources and the mandate to act.

The employer has proven they can’t handle this file. Time for the subject matter experts to pick it up: the specialists in risk management; analysis; performance and results delivery; process design; HR and compensation, and ICT management.

Like what you read? Give Jacky Tweedie a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.