Response from Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada

From Public Services and Procurement Canada

November 9, 2017

Mr. Michael Wernick
Clerk of the Privy Council
and Secretary to the Cabinet
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A3

Subject: Pay system challenges

Dear Mr. Wernick:

It is my pleasure to inform you of the actions that NSERC has taken to date and actions we plan to take in the future to help stabilize the pay system and ensure its employees are paid accurately and on time.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) on boarded to My GCHR 9.1 and Phoenix in March 2016.

NSERC is a separate agency that falls under the My GCHR non pay centre client category, which means that it has its own compensation team on site and the data flows automatically between the two systems.  The Agency also has a unique bi-agency cross-reporting matrix with another organization, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), which brings its own set of challenges.  Specifically, this matrix concept was configured in My GCHR but not in Phoenix and as a result, there are elements of the self-service function that must continue to be processed manually. 

Upon the implementation of both My GCHR and Phoenix, the Human Resources team has worked diligently to prepare, train, and support managers, employees and HR professionals through the transition to the new systems.  Actions taken to date include:

  • Providing group and individual training sessions for all employees and managers;
  • Ensuring HR staff and compensation advisors are fully trained in both systems;
  • Reviewing and implementing business process changes within the HR to Pay integration teams;
  • Developing tailored guides, procedures and tools for targeted audiences and making them available on its HR Systems intranet site;
  • Developing a communicating strategy to advise employees and managers of all process changes, systems issues and solutions, as well as required actions.  The strategies include the enhancement of a System intranet page, emails to targeted audiences, articles included regularly in the HR Bulletin, and presentations at management committees and various staff meetings;
  • Developing and implementing customized and automated reports for managers through Business Intelligence tools in order to reduce the number of late appointment extensions.  These reports also highlight the possible impacts of a late extension on the employee’s pay and the HR systems;
  • And promoting a collaborative environment through regular meetings where the compensation, staffing and systems support teams provide updates in each of their respective areas, discuss current issues, new processes, upcoming changes and work together towards finding solutions and ensuring timely data entry and accuracy.

Ensuring that NSERC employees are paid accurately and on time continues to be a high priority, and we have put a number of measures in place to respond to the challenges posed by the new pay system.  Two resources have been added to the HR System and Compensation teams to address ongoing systems issues, to help stabilize the pay system and prevent pay issues, and resolve these issues as effectively as possible to minimize the impact on employees. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • developing and implementing data monitoring reports and tools that will allow the organization to be proactive in identifying and correcting issues;
  • continuing to perfect its training guides and tools to include common issues and solutions, and clarify certain processes and transactions for employees and managers;
  • continuing to promote HR-to-Pay Stabilization Training for employees, managers and HR professionals;
  • communicating regularly with staff and managers regarding HR systems and related processes;
  • promoting the Manager Dashboard in My GCHR to help managers fulfill their people management responsibilities and get easier access to real-time information about their employees;
  • and, analyzing and testing new system’ functionalities as they become available and implementing them if they meet the Agency’s operational needs.

NSERC also faces additional challenges from a recruitment and retention perspective for its compensation team as PSPC ramps up its recruitment efforts to increase staffing in its new satellite pay centres.  More recently, it sought additional funding to adopt incentive measures for the retention of qualified compensation advisors, aligned with the Core Public Administration, and to create new positions for the support of HR systems.

Furthermore, the Human Resources Team has been and continues to be very actively involved in the various My GCHR and Phoenix committees, working groups, and training sessions organized by PSPC and OCHRO, including the DG HR-to-Pay Coordination Committee, My GCHR Collective Management Board, ADM My GCHR Committee, Stabilization and Training committees, Non Pay Centre Integration Organizations In-Service Support calls (ISS) and My GCHR Production Clients meetings.

As demonstrated in the latest version of its departmental dashboard, NSERC continues to make progress despite ongoing issues with both systems. As of today, the number of ESA has significantly reduced to almost nil and our backlog of pending and outstanding pay files over 30 days is very low and has no direct impact on employees’ pay.

Despite this, the ongoing problems encountered by the Agency are categorized as follows:

  • Technical issues: Some of the Phoenix configurations have not been working properly for a number of months and have an impact on self-service functionalities for employees and managers.  There are also a significant amount of one-off technical issues that the Government of Canada (GoC) support desks can’t explain at this time.  As a result, a lot of troubleshooting activities and manual interventions are required by employees, managers and the HR team.
  • Data integration between Phoenix and My GCHR: Information from My GCHR is not always transferring or transferring incorrectly into Phoenix which requires manual interventions and corrections.
  • Systems support desks: There is a lack of clarity with regard to My GCHR and Phoenix support desks’ governance and accountability for the issues that are encountered. In addition, both support desks have no service level agreements (SLA) at this time and are currently overburdened and under resourced.
  • Data monitoring and reporting tools: Accessing the data that is needed or receiving timely data have been a challenge since the implementation. Consequently, there were unexpected delays in re-building our internal reporting structure, which prevented us from developing and implementing a solid data monitoring framework.  Also, Phoenix doesn’t offer any queries/reports to assist departmental help desks in monitoring self-service requests and pay transactions processed by the compensation advisors, and make appropriate adjustments when needed.  We rely on the overburdened Phoenix Support Desk to provide us with data/information in a timely manner, which is often limited and or not available.

NSERC is committed in working together to resolve the challenges that impact public servants and is open to answer any questions you may have regarding its continued efforts to achieve this goal.

Sincerely,

B. Mario Pinto, Ph.D., FCIC, FRSC
President
NSERC

cc:   The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science
Les Linklater, Associate Deputy Minister, Public Services and Procurement Canada
Yaprak Baltacioğlu, Secretary of the Treasury Board
Catrina Tapley, Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet (Operations), Privy Council Office

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