Public Service Renewal results and Blueprint 2020 report 2016
The Canadian Grain Commission is a federal government agency. We are responsible for regulating grain handling in Canada and certify the quality, safety and quantity of export shipments of Canadian grain. We are also Canada's organization for scientific research on grain quality. The Canadian Grain Commission:
- delivers grain quality assurance programs
- oversees quantity assurance at export
- carries out scientific research to understand all aspects of grain quality and safety and to support the grain grading system
- protects the rights of Canadian grain producers when they deliver their grain to licensed grain handling companies and grain dealers
Our programs and services support a competitive and efficient grain sector and uphold Canada’s international reputation for consistent and reliable grain quality. The Canadian Grain Commission is a small department, with 428 employees as of September 30, 2016. Our services are delivered across Canada and internationally. One of our current organizational goals is to provide relevant, efficient and innovative programs and services to the grain sector. In order to achieve this with a small organization we need a skilled, adaptable and engaged workforce and a sustainable and equitable funding model in a cost-recovery environment. These goals largely define our destination and our way forward.
Mental health action plan progress
The Canadian Grain Commission began the process for developing an organizational mental health action plan in 2015 to 2016 by consulting with an external consultant expert and preparing for initial consultations with the unions. We are working with expert Mary Ann Baynton, Executive Director of Mindful Employer and co-chair of the committee to develop the National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. Consultations occurred in the spring and fall of 2016 and are continuing. An action plan on mental health is expected to be finalized and approved by a joint National Union – Management Committee by the end of 2016 to 2017.
Even without a formal action plan, we have been taking steps over the last few years to educate and support employees on mental health awareness and initiatives. These steps have included:
- offering mental health first aid courses
- offering resilience training
- mental health presentations
- subscribing to the Mindful Employer program
- accessing the Employee and Family Assistance Program
- other opportunities to learn about mental health
Mental health first aid courses
Mental health first aid courses have been provided to Canadian Grain Commission employees. In 2014 the Chief Operating Officer (Senior Assistant Deputy Minister) and Chief Financial Officer were the first to take the course. Courses were then delivered in February and March of 2015 for 44 participants, including key organizational stakeholders and managers. The objectives of the training are to:
- help participants recognize and understand better mental health related problems
- identify ways to help prevent mental health problems from escalating
- learn how to support employees who are recovering and work units who are dealing with mental health issues
A resilience training program was developed in-house and is delivered in two parts. This is required training for all employees and managers at the Canadian Grain Commission and has been delivered to all Occupational Safety and Health committee members. The first session, Introduction to Resilience, introduces the basic concept of resilience. Resilience allows individuals to respond effectively and quickly to challenges and change in life, including mental health issues. This session helps participants understand the factors that support resilience and also how to access Employee and Family Assistance Program services. In 2015 to 2016, Introduction to Resilience was delivered to 22 staff. As of November 2016, over 300 employees had received this training (over 75% of our workforce).
In the second session, Resilience Follow-Up, participants become more familiar with their own level of personal resilience in relation to the seven resilience factors learned in Introduction to Resilience. Participants also develop resilience strategies for their own lives. In 2015 to 2016 the Resilience Follow-Up session was delivered to 195 employees and managers across the country.
Mental health presentation
A presentation on mental health was delivered to managers and employees at the Canadian Grain Commission’s October 2015 Leadership session. This session had 90 participants, representing 20 to 25% of the organization. The presentation involved an education component and a table discussion to gather ideas and input from managers and employees on how to support mental health in the organization.
Mindful Employer program
In 2015 to 2016 the Canadian Grain Commission subscribed to and began to use the Mindful Employer program and tools under the guidance of consultant Mary Ann Baynton. Mindful Employer tools and resources have benefited managers and employees who have been working through complex workplace issues involving mental health.
Employee and Family Assistance Program
In 2015 and 2016, the Canadian Grain Commission accessed Employee and Family Assistance Program services to support employees who were dealing with critical incidents. These services also extended support and group sessions to the colleagues of these employees in the workplace.
Other mental health learning opportunities
The Canadian Grain Commission has supported leaders at all levels in the organization in attending presentations, learning events and conferences to support education and the development of a strategy on Mental Health. A recent example was support for multiple individuals to attend the Better Workplace Conference in October of 2016.
Impact of mental health and respectful workplace initiatives
Learning opportunities, resources and activities have raised awareness and created a better understanding and acceptance of how mental health issues can manifest in and impact the workplace. Learning initiatives have helped to reduce the misunderstanding and stigma around mental health. These initiatives have highlighted the need to support people experiencing mental illness with a good work/life balance. These resources and activities have helped us develop concrete strategies to promote and build on the recommendations of the first report from the Joint Task Force.
This learning has also increased manager and employee capacity to recognize when workplace challenges such as conflict, unsatisfactory performance and absenteeism may be connected to mental health-related issues. This heightened awareness and capacity has enabled managers to more effectively address workplace challenges associated with mental health. Our resilience and mental health first aid training courses have been very well received and are seen as a proactive measure to support employee wellness. There is a demand for more courses, which are planned for the spring of 2017.
Lessons learned while developing our mental health action plan
Collaboration enhances implementation
The Canadian Grain Commission has engaged the collaboration of numerous stakeholder groups in support of mental health planned activities. Advice, guidance and project support has come from a multi-disciplinary group in Human Resources including Occupational Health and Safety, Organization Development, Informal Conflict Management and Labour Relations. The Canadian Grain Commission is also using a joint National Union – Management Committee as the steering committee for the organization's mental health action plan. The committee is providing valuable insight and perspective, and engaging resources from both the union and management in planning and implementation.
The benefit of expert help
To obtain the expertise and resources needed to develop effective programs, we have subscribed to the Mindful Employer organization and enlisted the expert guidance of a consultant. This has allowed us to access information, tools and advice to support mental health initiatives. Additionally, the National Union – Management Committee is co-led by Bob Kingston. Bob Kingston was the co-chair of the Technical Committee on Mental Health in the Public Service.
Implementation can be challenging
Providing information and training is important, but training can be difficult to apply in practice. One example might be an individual who appears to have a mental health issue that is impacting people in the workplace, but doesn't recognize it. The resources on the appropriate steps to take to address this type of situation are somewhat limited.
People care about mental health
People are interested in learning about mental health because of experiences both in and out of the workplace. Many people in the organization have connected with this topic, so there is interest in the training and information associated with mental health.
Supporting respectful workplaces
Over the past several years, the Canadian Grain Commission has been taking steps to ensure that workplaces in the organization are respectful and healthy. We have implemented innovative programs such as the Peer Support program and internally developed learning and training initiatives. These initiatives are developed to provide employees with the understanding, resources and competencies to support respectful workplaces. Using multiple strategies and communications tools has also been beneficial to enhancing and maintaining respectful workplaces at the Canadian Grain Commission. Below are a few accomplishments and lessons learned in our efforts to provide healthy, respectful and supportive workplaces.
Integrating respectful workplace goals into strategic and operational planning
The Canadian Grain Commission has continually identified respectful workplace objectives in its organizational planning. Recently we have made this a top goal in our three year Human Resources Plan for 2015 to 2018:
We continue to support initiatives and practices that support a healthy, safe and respectful work environment including a culture of values and ethics that is embedded in everything that we do.
Developing an Informal Conflict Management System
The Canadian Grain Commission has a well-developed and mature Informal Conflict Management System. The Informal Conflict Management System is a system for the prevention, management and early resolution of conflict at the lowest possible level and is the foundation of our respectful workplace programs. Key to the success of the Informal Conflict Management System is the role of the Senior Informal Conflict Management System Officer. The Officer ensures that all Canadian Grain Commission employees have access to the informal conflict management policy and guidelines, and to voluntary, impartial and confidential informal conflict management services.
An innovative aspect of the Canadian Grain Commission Informal Conflict Management System is the use of peer supporters. Peer supporters at the Canadian Grain Commission are representatives from across the country. These representatives have been chosen and trained to educate and support employees by directing them to the appropriate resources that can help them with issues. This includes asking questions, listening carefully and giving advice and guidance concerning options for next steps. Peer supporters are not counselors, mediators or advocates. Their role is to help colleagues understand their issues and interests, provide information about available interest-based and rights-based options on addressing respectful workplace issues, and provide a safe and supportive environment to colleagues dealing with workplace issues.
Training employees to support respectful workplaces
The Canadian Grain Commission continues to deliver its tailored Communication and Conflict Resolution in the Workplace course. This is required training and helps participants understand and manage conflict and effectively communicate in difficult interpersonal situations. Five sessions were delivered in 2015 to 2016 with over 60 participants trained. Over 85% of employees have received this training. The Creating a Respectful Workplace course and Preventing Workplace Violence course continue to be required training.
Training managers to support respectful workplaces
We continue to deliver our tailored Certificate in Collaborative Management course, which is required training for managers and developing managers. The focus of the course is to build on concepts learned in the Communication and Conflict Resolution in the Workplace course and increase managers' understanding of how to manage conflict and effectively communicate in difficult interpersonal situations as a manager and leader. The course was delivered to 15 participants in 2015 to 2016 and has been delivered to over 90% of senior and middle managers, as well as a significant number of supervisors.
Coaching for managers and employees
Our coaching program also supports respectful workplaces. Coaching strengthens leadership and continues to promote a culture of open communication, collaboration and continuous improvement. In 2015 to 2016, 18 managers were coached for 10 hours each with more coaching planned for in 2016 to 2017. One of the goals of these coaching sessions was to follow-up and support participants in applying concepts they learned about leadership and respectful workplace practices through the Certificate in Collaborative Management. Coaching explores themes that support respectful workplaces, including:
- communication styles
- conflict competency
- managing personal/professional boundaries
- building team trust and resiliency
- delivering effective feedback
- leading through change
- managing polarities and unresolvable problems
- navigating team conflict
Implementing and leveraging a Workplace Network
During a time of change and organizational downsizing in 2013 to 2014 related to changes to the Canada Grain Act, the Canadian Grain Commission created a Transition Network to engage employees at all levels of the organization in planning, implementing, and adjusting to the changes required. The Transition Network has since evolved into the permanent Workplace Network, an integrated network within the organization. Local teams meet regularly to work on local issues. Monthly teleconferences connect these teams to share ideas and information. At least one member of the Executive Management Committee attends each teleconference ensuring that the network truly reaches all levels of the organization. This initiative contributes to creating respectful workplaces as it is a venue to enhance transparency and to allow for early identification of issues and concerns so they can be addressed.
Accountability Agreement Sessions with managers and their teams
A number of Accountability Agreements with management teams and units have been established, including in 2015 to 2016. The goal of these agreements is to specify the values, behaviours and accountabilities of team members in support of healthy teams and respectful workplaces.
We have continued to communicate and promote information about respectful workplace practices and initiatives through our organizational newsletter, all-staff bulletins and e-mails, promotional items and in-person presentations. This includes establishing connections to respectful workplace goals through other initiatives such as Values and Ethics.
Recruitment and onboarding
Recruiting new and diverse employees
Grain Inspector Development Program
The Grain Inspector Development Program continues to be successful in recruiting and training new employees. Years of experience are required before a grain inspector is qualified to inspect export shipments of Canadian grains. Combined with the current workforce demographics, this requirement posed a risk that there would not be enough inspectors to meet the grain industry’s demand for on-site export inspection services.
In order to ensure the Canadian Grain Commission would be able to continue delivering its mandate into the future in a manner that meets the needs of the grain industry, a Grain Inspector Development Program was developed and introduced in early 2014. The program is a progressive process that allows new hires with no former grain industry experience to qualify as a full working level grain inspector over a period of up to four years. The development program is based on a modular curriculum which includes both classroom training and working practicum.
During the early phases, a grain inspector trainee develops the ability to perform the preliminary inspection and analysis of grain samples. By the end of the program a fully qualified grain inspector will be able to make a full grading decision on export vessels. This program provides financial incentives for the participants to progress through reclassification with salary increases upon successful completion of phases of the program. The Grain Inspector Development Program has helped the Canadian Grain Commission recruit a greater diversity of employees into the organization and enhance its representation of the employment equity designated groups. At present, approximately 35 individuals are at various stages of progressing through the program, representing approximately 30% of the inspection operations workforce.
Weigh Services Development Program
Similar to the Grain Inspector Development Program, the Weighing Service Development Program is a cornerstone recruitment program of the Canadian Grain Commission. The objective of this program is to ensure that the Canadian Grain Commission attracts, develops and retains the personnel required to achieve one its strategic outcomes.
The Weighing Service Development Program offers Canadians the opportunity to compete for entry into the Weighing Services unit. Successful applicants will be required to develop advanced technical inspector skills and competencies by progressing from an entry level quantity assurance specialist to the advanced level. The Weighing Service Development Program ensures Canadians, and Canadian grain producers, are served through the Quantity Assurance Program. The end result is that Canada’s grain is safe, reliable (weighed accurately) and marketable.
Welcoming and integrating new employees
Orientation and development programs
The Grain Inspector Development Program and Weigh services Development Program enable new employees to make immediate and progressive contributions to the organization. New employees in our regional offices are provided a formal orientation program when they join the Canadian Grain Commission. The orientation includes a multi-day, in-person session that provides an introduction to the different work sites, information on various people management initiatives including informal conflict resolution and employment equity, and an introduction to the bargaining agent that represents the position.
Making best use of our talent
Talent management at leadership levels
The Canadian Grain Commission is initiating processes to manage talent as a critical resource to achieve best results. The Canadian Grain Commission will:
- communicate organizational priorities and strategic plans to establish connections with performance development plans
- establish a common understanding of what talent management means across the organization
- recognize any gaps that exist at the leadership level and take steps to address them
- use Human Resources as a resource to coach and guide managers and supervisors to enhance leadership competencies and on use of performance development tools
Participation in committees, working groups and project teams
The Canadian Grain Commission leverages the talents and capacity of individuals from all levels, divisions and locations across the organization to participate in the development and guidance of key initiatives. We have used this approach to enhance learning and develop many of our programs, including:
- Occupational Health and Safety committees
- Integrated Planning working group
- Risk Management working group
- ICMS Peer Support Group
- Procurement Review Board
- Values and Ethics working group
- National Employment Equity and Diversity Committee
- Workplace Network
- other cross-unit project teams
Supporting knowledge transfer to the next generation of leaders
Performance management in non-traditional work structures
The Canadian Grain Commission has a large number of shift workers who work at multiple locations, primarily third party premises, with multiple supervisors throughout a year. This work context has heightened the challenge of implementing effective performance management and learning approaches for these employees. An approach to performance management and learning was collaboratively developed, led by the Industry Services division in partnership with Human Resources. This approach involved multiple programs across the division working together to more effectively implement the components of the performance management cycle. The resulting initiative, the Industry Services Performance and Learning Agreement, captures and reflects the growth and development of each employee.
The Industry Services Performance and Learning Agreement also enables the transfer of knowledge from managers and supervisors to newer employees in the grain inspector positions. Managers (across programs), supervisors and employees work together to ensure the appropriate performance feedback is provided as well as continuous learning for each employee. This has been the most successful approach to date for supporting sustained performance management and assisting employees to attain and maintain the knowledge, skills and abilities required to perform their current and future job duties in support of the Canadian Grain Commission’s strategic outcomes.
Administrative and executive assistant community
The Canadian Grain Commission has established an administrative community to discuss administrative duties, best practices and development opportunities. This gives administrative and executive assistants an opportunity to network and build community. This community is an effective example of how we support experienced employees as they pass on their expertise to the next generation of leaders.
Sharing lessons learned and best practices
The Canadian Grain Commission provides opportunities in meetings and during semi-annual Leadership Sessions to share lessons learned and best practices with leaders across the organization, including those who are in development. A recent example was the sharing of the project management lessons learned from the Financial Systems Renewal initiative at the October 2016 Leadership Session.
The Canadian Grain Commission has been seeking out opportunities in all divisions to provide existing employees with developmental assignments and opportunities. As part of this an evaluation of our current knowledge base is being started. Developmental opportunities will be planned based on the results of the evaluation. The evaluation is assessing:
- the nature of knowledge that must be transferred
- why this knowledge must be transferred
- who needs the knowledge
One way developmental opportunities are being created is by offering rotating acting assignments in a higher level position for interested staff members. This has included the creation of a developmental Human Resources advisor position. This position is providing multiple candidates the opportunity to gain experience and learning in this job category. In some cases the department supports secondments to other departments to help individuals develop new skills and competencies to help prepare them to advancing to more senior roles and positions.
Other actions to renew the Public Service and achieve the Blueprint 2020 vision
Engagement and innovation
The Canadian Grain Commission conducts Leadership Sessions twice a year to support the engagement and development of our managers, supervisors and employees. These sessions typically involve 90 to 100 participants or about 25% of the organization. The sessions focus on a variety of topics which allow for collaboration and learning within the larger group to supplement individual learning and development. Senior management shares updates on strategic initiatives and issues impacting stakeholders in the grain industry.
The sessions enhance the engagement of staff as they better understand the impacts of the services that the organization provides and their contribution to it. Employees can learn more about workplace practices and initiatives through these sessions, which also provide an opportunity for our employees, managers and supervisors to share ideas with our executive team.
Our executive team meets with employees and managers across the country every year to discuss the state of the Canadian Grain Commission and highlight challenges and opportunities for the organization. Employees can use these sessions as an opportunity to ask questions and provide their input and ideas on organizational level issues.
Shaping organizational initiatives
The Canadian Grain Commission engages the talents and capacity of individuals from all levels, divisions and locations across the organization to participate in developing and guiding key initiatives. We have used this approach to develop many programs, such as the Informal Conflict Management System. This system has provided engagement opportunities that have led to mutual respect in the workplace. In turn, that respect is reflected in public servants at work and in the service we provide to our clients.
The National Workplace Network allows employees who are the heart of the workplace to build relationships with the employer and share information that sometimes influences the decisions which affect them. It also helps keep the employee and employer aware of the bigger picture. This leads to engagement for success and improved performance, ultimately resulting in organizational success.
During the recent Financial Systems Renewal project, all staff in the Finance division were engaged in identifying business requirements and developing new processes to increase effectiveness and efficiencies. The project team also included subject matter experts from each unit.
Improved outcomes through consultation and collaboration
Modernizing Canada’s wheat class system
Canada’s wheat classes are a critical part of the grain quality assurance system. Changes were made to the marketing of western Canadian wheat in 2012, and stakeholders and customers increasingly demanded more flexibility. In response, we proposed to modernize the wheat class system. The purpose of modernizing the wheat class system was to continue to meet Canada’s wheat production, handling, marketing, processing and export needs and to provide the appropriate marketing framework for maximizing returns throughout the entire value chain in the future.
The goal of the Wheat Class Modernization project was to ensure that changes to the wheat classes made a significant change to the end-use functionality of Canadian wheat, while minimizing the impact on the different sectors of the grain industry. To achieve this goal, the Canadian Grain Commission took a consultative approach. 45 written submissions representing 150 different organizations in response to the consultation document were received during consultations.
We also had conversations with producers, breeders, grain companies and Cereals Canada throughout the process. This helped ensure all parties were well informed and all sectors of the industry had input into the outcome of the project. The numerous individual meetings with companies, phone conversations with various parties and presentations to different groups within the grain sector ensured the entire grain sector was informed and fully understood the changes so they could provide meaningful input into the process. These meeting and presentations were crucial to the success of the Wheat Class Modernization project, which is currently being implemented.
Enhancing international marketability of Canadian specialty grains
The Canadian Grain Commission has been developing alternative and innovative methods of providing grain quality assurance since as early as 2003, when the Canadian Identity Preserved Recognition System was launched. While Canada was already a known leader in supplying identity preserved crops to the world, the Canadian Identity Preserved Recognition System was designed and developed in close collaboration with industry to provide Canadian companies serving these markets the added tool of third party certification to give them an edge in international markets.
Canadian exporters of specialty grain products have been able to have their identity preserved quality management systems certified against the Canadian Identity Preserved Recognition System Standard for over ten years. The Canadian Grain Commission's international reputation adds value to Canadian identity preserved products by distinguishing Canadian grain products and helping Canadian companies compete internationally.
Following the success of the Canadian Identity Preserved Recognition System, we continued to collaborate with the industry and federal and provincial government partners to develop other process verification and systems approaches that provide needed grain quality and safety assurances. This included the development of a grain-specific Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point grain food safety assurance system. Grain companies, the provincial governments of Manitoba and Ontario and industry associations were key partners in developing this program.
More recently, the Canadian Grain Commission worked with companies who ship specialty grains by shipping container to find innovation and cost effective service delivery options. These shippers are not compelled to use Canadian Grain Commission inspection and certification services, but sometimes need these services to gain market access. Collaboration with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency continues in order to identify new service delivery methods that both meets industry needs and fulfills our respective federal mandates.
Team Canada approach to engaging international customers
Each fall, after the Canadian grain harvest, international buyers of Canadian grains are eager to receive information about the quality and end-use characteristics of Canadian grains available for export. We are able to provide this information through the Cargo Monitoring and Harvest Sample Programs.
In addition to providing this information on the Canadian Grain Commission’s website, we are now taking part in a Team Canada approach for new crop missions for wheat and durum. The Team Canada approach involves a delegation representing the entire value chain, from producer to exporter, meeting with end users of Canadian grains. This collaborative approach involves a variety of representatives from the Canadian Grain Commission, members of the Canadian International Grains Institute, representatives from Cereals Canada, and representatives from other organizations.
New crop missions provide Team Canada and end-use customers the opportunity to exchange information regarding quality factors in the current year's crops, such as baking and milling characteristics. Team Canada and end-use customers can address any concerns related to end-use attributes and establish and maintain government-to-government relationships. Canadian Grain Commission scientists and grain inspectors are able to engage directly with end users in order to understand their processing quality requirements and provide information on Canada's world-class Grain Quality Assurance System.
Intelligence gathered from end users serves as valuable input to our research directions and the continuous evolution of the Grain Quality Assurance System. Within the broader Team Canada approach, we contribute to ensuring the continued marketability of Canadian grains by building end-user confidence in the Canadian brand and maintaining Canada's international reputation for providing safe and consistent shipments of grain. While the new crop missions are focused on wheat and durum, the Canadian Grain Commission similarly provides support to and joins trade missions in support of other grains including canola, barley, pulses and soybeans. The Canadian Grain Commission has visited over 30 countries in the past few years, including countries in Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South America.
Outreach to eastern grain industry organizations
The Canadian Grain Commission is located in the western region. That means we have fewer opportunities to meet with eastern grain industry organizations than with their western counterparts. The Canadian Grain Commission recognized this shortfall and has made significant efforts to establish a rapport with the eastern organizations. Every spring the Canadian Grain Commission meets with various stakeholders in eastern Canada. The annual meetings take place with millers, exporters, terminal elevator operators, the provincial governments and commodity and producer groups. These meetings are a forum for participants to share information on recent initiatives and bring forward suggestions for improvement in an open and welcoming atmosphere. The meetings also allow participants to express their concerns in a face-to-face environment, which has helped build relationships.
A collaborative, open and respectful approach has helped address concerns and ensure improvements made to the grain grading and grain quality system have been positively received. Canadian Grain Commission officials and Eastern organizations have repeatedly expressed their appreciation for these meetings and the positive relationships that have developed because of them.
Review of licence exemptions
The Canadian Grain Commission has been conducting consultations on its proposals to license producer railway car loading facilities, agents, and feed mills. These operations are currently exempted from licensing. Licensing supports producer protection and the grain quality assurance system. Licences are issued for primary, terminal and process elevators and grain dealers. The Canadian Grain Commission has been seeking input from producer railway car loading facilities, agents, feed mills, grain producers, producer groups, current licensees, and industry stakeholders on its proposals. 49 different organizations were represented at stakeholder meetings, which over 260 people participated in to discuss the proposals. Stakeholders representing producers, producer organizations, industry, short line railways, and provincial governments made 41 written submissions.
Partnering to address industry challenges
In the spring of 2016, the Canadian Grain Commission became aware that the Pest Management Regulatory Agency was putting forward label amendments to metal phosphide products that are used to fumigate grain, to be implemented in the near future. This change could have put the Canadian grain industry at a disadvantage compared to other countries who gain market access by utilizing the same products under very different circumstances. The Canadian Grain Commission brought this serious issue to the attention of the Canada Grain Council and the Western Grain Elevator Association.
After meeting with the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, the Canadian Grain Commission proposed an initiative to the Grains Council and the Elevator Association to assist the associations in their interactions with the Pest Management Regulatory Agency regarding how they would label the metal phosphide products. A methodology outline for use of the product was collaboratively developed. After approval, the outline was discussed with licensed pesticide applicators. The licensed pesticide applicators agreed to perform the research to obtain the required data. Research was conducted within eleven terminal elevators over six months to gain the data required for submission to the Pest Management Regulatory Agency. This work demonstrates effective consultation and collaboration among grain industry members, industry associations and the federal government in collectively addressing an issue in an effective and rapid manner.
Engagement with third party grain grading service providers
Legislative amendments to the Canada Grains Act came into force on August 1, 2013. Of particular significance was the removal of the requirement for our staff to officially inspect all grain upon inward receipt into licensed elevators located at port position and at prairie elevators. Inspection, including sampling and grading, of grain being received at a terminal elevator is now conducted by the elevator operator or Canadian Grain Commission authorized third party companies hired by the elevator operator.
Since this change, two private companies have emerged as the primary third parties that are used by elevator operators to conduct this work. These companies play an important role in the modernized grain handling system. In an effort to ensure openness and collaboration, the Canadian Grain Commission has established annual meetings with the senior managers of both companies and has committed to supplemental meetings as required. We share information such as crop quality updates and discuss market access issues, ways to enhance our collaboration, crop missions and other topics as required. Both of these organizations are also invited to attend our weekly Harvest Sample Program crop quality calls. These calls allow grain companies, industry service providers, and the Canadian Grain Commission to share what they are seeing with regard to crop quality trends. All of this contributes to delivering better outcomes for government and Canadians through greater consultation, openness and collaboration.
Open and collaborative grain standards committees
The Canada Grain Act establishes a Western Standards Committee and an Eastern Standards Committee. Although these committees are a requirement of the Canada Grain Act, the Canadian Grain Commission organizes and conducts these committees in an open and collaborative manner to achieve the most effective results.
The standards committees are comprised of producers, exporters and processors in addition to Canadian Grain Commission and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada officials. The committees meet twice each year to make recommendations to the Canadian Grain Commission concerning the grading system and to approve the grain standards. Committee deliberations are a forum for members to share their concerns and views in regards to grain quality and safety issues. Changes to the grain quality system are only made when the majority of committee members are in agreement.
Following the committee meetings, members are encouraged to share the committee deliberations with their respective organizations in order to inform the industry of changes that will affect their respective organization and others in the industry. These committees are a vital element of Canada’s grain quality system, which is highly regarded throughout the world.
Partnering to support Back Office Transformation
The Canadian Grain Commission has partnered with other federal departments as part of a cluster on Back Office Transformation initiatives such as My GCHR (PeopleSoft 9.1) and SAP. This approach has provided ample opportunity for collaboration with other cluster members at the various levels of the governance structure. Clustering also offers its members the benefit of economies of scale through standardization and sharing of best practices. This partnering approach has better positioned the Canadian Grain Commission to meet the objectives of Back Office Transformation to provide increased value to business decision makers and Canadians as well as the cost-effective and efficient delivery of government programs.
Consultation and collaboration with bargaining agents
The Canadian Grain Commission has worked to enhance and develop positive and productive relationships with unions, particularly the Public Service Alliance of Canada which represents the majority of our staff. This has resulted in more effective identification and resolution of issues. This approach has also led to several collaborative efforts between union and management on key people management initiatives including Employment Equity and Diversity, Occupational Safety and Health, the Informal Conflict Management System and the Mental Health Action Plan.
Joint Inspection and Operations meeting
This past summer the Inspection and Operations units planned a joint meeting. Each area within these units presented on the work they perform and how it connects and contributes to the broader mandate of the Canadian Grain Commission. The units then held a discussion of how they could increase collaboration, improve performance management practices and adopt new innovative work methods. Although many of these employees have worked with grain in port locations for many years, they are not always fully connected with the realities of on farm production. A short tour of a farm was organized to develop a greater connection to primary production. This meeting helped to increase employee engagement and empowerment, and resulted in innovative thinking to better connect the work of these units to enhance service to stakeholders, government and Canadians.
Challenges facing Blueprint 2020
Canadian Grain Commission leadership have embraced the Blueprint 2020 vision and is being led by its four guiding principles. These principles are the basis for our modernization and transformation efforts. However, Blueprint 2020 seems to be more understood and talked about at senior levels and in specialized groups in the public service.
To increase awareness and better achieve results, Blueprint 2020 needs to be integrated and openly connected to initiatives that are being rolled out throughout the public service and in departments. Specific expectations, tailored to the needs and business of the department, should be developed. Successes and results should be measured and communicated back to staff in meaningful ways.
In some cases, additional resources may be needed to help develop tailored interpretations and implementation strategies to make Blueprint 2020 a reality. Blueprint 2020 faces the challenge of being seen as temporary. If the initiative is not communicated, staff who are generally facing increased workloads will deal with only what is most pressing and operationally required.
Complex rules and long processes
The public service is still challenged by cumbersome processes and attitudes that can impact progress, innovation and engagement. Processes are sometimes inflexible and slow to respond, which inhibits progress on initiatives. One example is the amount of time it is taking (two to three years) to identify a new location for a Canadian Grain Commission office, which would be more operationally efficient if it was based in another area.
Organizational structures continue to be challenged by unnecessary hierarchy and approval processes that are more risk-averse and transactional in nature than results-driven and transformational. The challenges created by this bureaucracy and complexities have additional impacts on smaller organizations who have limited resources to manage the myriad of requirements. Smaller organizations, which could be more nimble, are bogged down by initiatives such as Shared Service Canada that require significant resources and preclude simpler solutions. This impedes the effective and efficient delivery of services.
We seek opportunities to add technology, but are constrained by challenges including Shared Services Canada. The infrastructure to permit effective video conferencing between departments does not exist yet. Networks are lacking in bandwidth and small departments are restricted by rules limiting what they can do on their own without Shared Services Canada. Access to effective applications on Blackberries and access to tablets and laptops is limited, so employees cannot use technology to work anywhere. Workplace 2.0 does not provide the advantages without the corresponding technology in place.
Overwhelmed middle management
The majority of managers want to deliver excellent service to Canadians. They want to succeed and want their teams to succeed. Unfortunately, many middle managers are becoming wearied and resistant to change. They are overwhelmed by the number of change initiatives and the challenges associated with them, in addition to delivering their ongoing operational requirements and day-to-day results. Often, the messages or direction changes are not clear, and managers don't always have complete information to manage these changes effectively.
Managers need clear direction and manageable expectations from executives, coupled with access to the right tools and resources, to both deliver on their mandate and facilitate change. They also need to be empowered and trusted to manage effectively. Providing clarity and supports will allow managers to lead their team through the change process with confidence and to move the public service forward.
Talent management limitations
Excellence exists at all levels of the public service. We want to recruit more talented people into the public service, but we can't compete with the private sector unless we manage high performing people more effectively than we do now. The performance management system allows managers to identify high performers, but how effectively we can continue to develop talent is often limited due to rules and challenges with the classification system. Promotions are limited, and reclassifications for high performers are difficult to say the least. The public sector does not offer a competitive alternative to the private sector. Larger departments are beginning to share project assignments and developmental assignments, but silos do still exist.
The National Managers Community is pioneering micro-assignments to offer an alternative for high performers, but departments have not always been willing to allow people to accept these assignments. Lack of depth and significant workloads limit opportunities for high performers to access even short-term assignments. We must manage the most talented managers effectively and then let them lead larger projects and change initiatives. We must find meaningful ways to reward high-performers and keep them in the public service long enough for them to develop into the executive leadership of the future.
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