Archived: Government of Canada update on the Phoenix pay system for November 16, 2016

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Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for attending.

We continue to work hard to ensure that employees are receiving timely and accurate pay. To this end, our efforts are focused on two areas: closing cases remaining in our backlog, and moving toward our steady state by increasing our processing speed for incoming transactions.


I'll begin with our backlog. As previously explained, the remaining cases are extremely complex and require a number of time-consuming manual calculations. Almost all cases pre-date Phoenix, and some date back several years. Examples of these cases are terminations that involve multiple transactions and changes to pay as a result of acting assignments. They require a fair amount of research to ensure that we’re capturing proper pay amounts from those periods.

Our goal is to get through these cases quickly and minimize tax implications for employees.

To achieve this goal, we've identified the types of cases remaining and charted the most efficient approach to resolving them. These cases are being handled by a dedicated group of expert compensation advisors in Miramichi and in our satellite offices.

To date, we have closed pay transactions for over 90% of the employees in our backlog. However, because many employees have multiple transactions, there is still work to do. Currently, 18,000 employees with some form of outstanding pay transaction remain in the backlog.

Workflow at the Pay Centre

Let's turn now to our second priority: our strategy to move toward our steady state. Before I get into the details of our approach, it's important to explain the flow of work coming into the Pay Centre and satellite offices.

Each month, our Pay Centre receives a constant stream of new pay transactions from the 46 departments it services. These requests vary from creating accounts for new hires, to processing promotions, to handling final payments for employees leaving the public service. As a result, at any given time, we have more than 80,000 pay requests in the system awaiting processing. Under normal conditions, this workload can be cleared within our service standards.

After we rolled out Phoenix, our processing speed dropped sharply as employees adjusted to the new system. For example, in May, we only processed about 40,000 cases.

Because we added the satellite units and everyone is getting more familiar with the system, we processed approximately 100,000 transactions per month in September and October. But our earlier slowdown caused the number of transactions in the system to expand so that we now have more than two months of additional work to process. This is over and above the new transactions that are entering the system.

Most new pay requests are supposed to be processed within 20 days, but, currently, we are only meeting our service standards 20 to 30% of the time. As I’ve said before, we are not processing transactions as quickly as we will when we reach our steady state. This means that some employees are having to wait too long to receive the money they have earned.

Despite these delays, there is good news. In addition to our significant increase in processing rates, the transactions waiting in the system were entered directly into Phoenix. This means that the need for manual intervention by a compensation advisor is decreased and that these transactions can be processed faster than those in the backlog.

Furthermore, once we clear the backlog, we will be able to dedicate our full complement of compensation advisors to regaining a steady and regular workflow through the Pay Centre.

Over the next several months, we will return to normal processing times. At that point, we will be consistently meeting our service standards, and employees will see transactions processed more quickly.

Our approach

So what's the strategy to get to our steady state?

First of all, as our dedicated group of compensation advisors in Miramichi and the satellite offices complete remaining cases in the backlog, the rest of our team is focusing on priority cases in the system that may cause financial hardship for employees and could have tax implications, such as disability claims, returns from leave, terminations and new hires.

In addition to tackling these priority areas first, we are organizing the rest of our work to increase efficiency.

We have established a detailed model for processing pay requests. We’ve mapped it against productivity rates, incoming work, the availability of employees and other variables. Currently, we are stress-testing our model and its assumptions with departments, employees and unions to ensure that we have a robust and reliable approach. We’re also looking to see if there’s a faster path we can take to get to our steady state.

Concurrently, we are testing different approaches to simplify and speed up our work. For instance, we are running an internal pilot to streamline our handling of terminations, which is one of the most complex and time consuming transactions we handle. This pilot will determine if human resources staff can enter more information into Phoenix before transactions are sent to Miramichi, so that payments can be processed more quickly. Once the pilot is complete, we'll determine if this approach can be rolled out to other departments.

We are also looking at improving pay stub information. Employees have asked for changes to their pay stubs so that they can more easily identify earnings and benefits. Focus groups with representatives from departments and unions will be held later this month to get their ideas on how to make improvements. Based on the feedback received, we will implement pay stub enhancements in the new year.

My colleagues in other departments and agencies are as committed as I am to finding solutions and helping to achieve our steady state. Many of them have offered to send compensation advisors to our satellite offices to work on their departments’ cases. This added support is critical as these advisors have a deep understanding of the collective agreements that govern their employees, which is helpful in moving through cases more efficiently. We appreciate the continued support from departments and agencies.

To further increase our pay processing capacity, we are continually recruiting and training new employees though our one-year Compensation Advisor Professional Development Program. Just a few weeks ago, 91 new trainees entered the program, and, as part of their training, they will be handling actual cases. This program ensures that we always have a pool of trained and qualified compensation experts who can fill vacant positions resulting from natural attrition at the Pay Centre.

Even with automation features, increased proficiency of Phoenix users and more streamlined processes, it’s clear that we still need to do more. It’s not just about reaching a steady state and meeting our service standards, it’s also about client service. We need to make sure that federal employees are better supported.

As part of our discussions with our partners, we will look at our current client service model and find areas for improvement. We need to improve the service experience we provide so that we are delivering quality and timeliness, as well as client satisfaction.

Reporting progress

While we finalize our approach and identify our roadmap and timelines to reach our steady state, we will begin reporting on our overall performance.

In early December, we plan to begin posting monthly reports to track our processing speeds against our service standards. These reports will allow employees to see how their pay system is performing.

Government of Canada Workplace Charitable Campaign

Before I conclude today’s briefing, I want to take a moment to talk about the Government of Canada Workplace Charitable Campaign. I’ve mentioned before that I am the co-chair of this year’s campaign along with my colleagues Bill Pentney and Tasha Taylor.

Every year, charitable organizations across the country count on the generosity of public servants to continue the incredible work that they are doing in their communities. I know there was some concern this year that public servants would be reluctant to give because of issues with Phoenix. I've mentioned before that the system has been tested, and that we don't foresee any problems with the payroll deduction process.

I am happy to report that, typically, we see about an 80% take-up rate in payroll deductions. To date this year, over 73% of employee donations are coming through payroll deductions, and we've reached over half of our campaign goal of $19 million. And, with still a few weeks left in the campaign, these figures continue to increase. I want to thank public servants for their generosity despite the concerns they may have. Each and every one of you is making a difference in your communities.


In closing, let me once again say that we are all working as hard as we can to fix the issues and process all employee pay transactions as quickly as possible. Once we move beyond the current challenges we face, we will start to see substantial improvements in our ability to process pay more quickly and answer information requests faster.

And we are exploring all possible scenarios to reach this goal.

The ongoing support from all our partners, as well as the patience and understanding of employees across the federal government, is helping us get there.

Thank you.

Marie Lemay, P.Eng., ing.
Deputy Minister
Public Services and Procurement Canada

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