Recognized as one of National Capital Region's Top Employers (2019):
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Jan 29, 2019)
Here are some of the reasons why Ottawa, City of was selected as one of National Capital Region's Top Employers (2019):
- City of Ottawa manages an extensive employee recognition program to celebrate and honour exceptional performance and achievement in a variety of areas, including creativity and innovation, diversity and inclusion, heroism and lifetime achievement
- City of Ottawa maintains a Workplace Wellness and Productivity Network to provide employees with access to resources on physical, mental and emotional health and well-being, and offers a variety of workshops and training to help managers incorporate wellness into the workplace
- City of Ottawa supports employees who are new mothers, fathers or adoptive parents with maternity and parental leave top-up payments, ranging by employee group, and provides flexible work arrangements to help them adapt to their new roles as parents (also ranging by employee group)
Commitment and camaraderie at the City of Ottawa
When Ottawa was struck by high winds and tornadoes last September, city staff were responsible for getting the community back on its feet. Because many residents didn't have phones or other sources of information, the City of Ottawa set up community meeting places, especially in hard-hit areas.
At one such gathering, Donna Gray, the city's general manager of service innovation and performance, encountered a member of the municipal road staff. He'd spent four days working virtually non-stop clearing roadways. When he got up to speak, people applauded. Later, Gray was asked if his own house was hit, and he replied, "Yes, but I haven't had a chance to go and assess how badly it was damaged because it was nothing in comparison to others in my neighbourhood."
That level of commitment, Gray observes, is typical of the employees - from paramedics to firefighters to public health nurses - who responded to the disaster, and of City of Ottawa staff in general. "What that breeds is camaraderie. We have about 17,000 staff with a wide range of roles, and we have about 110 lines of business within the city. But there's a real culture of one city, one team, to meet residents' needs. Our services touch every single citizen, from when they wake up and turn the water on and then drive on our roads to get their kids to child care."
Gray also notes that since Steve Kanellakos became city manager in 2016, the organization has stepped up investment in employees, "leveraging our numerous training programs, mentorships and job-shadowing to develop people to their highest potential." There's also a new focus on communication with, and consultation of, staff - including regular webcasts from Kanellakos
Because of the breadth of the city's services, employees can have a whole range of careers there, notes Liz Marland, director of human resources. "I've been here 33 years and I have worked in finance, social services, public works, information technology and now HR. That makes it a very rewarding place to work and is why we've been able to attract talent."
Such opportunity to grow has been a boon for Chantal Borst, program and project co-ordinator in Gray's department. "I've had six different work opportunities - all variety of things, including leading the engagement of public sector partnerships for the 2017 sesquicentennial celebrations - and some temporary placements. My experience working for the city has been so varied and exciting that I can't believe it's only been eight years."
Recognized as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2019):
By Kristina Leung and Richard Yerema, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Feb 28, 2019)
Here are some of the reasons why Ottawa, City of was selected as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2019):
- City of Ottawa maintains a dedicated Diversity and Inclusion Unit to help employees resolve discrimination issues, create training programs to raise awareness, and promote inclusivity in the workplace and the broader community
- City of Ottawa hosted a learning and networking evening for employer and job-seeker members of EARN (United Way's Employment Accessibility Resource Network) and partnered with EARN to host AccessAbility Day 2017, where employees and members of the public learned how to remove barriers and build more inclusive workplaces
- City of Ottawa organizes Diversity Cafes to provide employees with opportunities to talk about related experiences and issues -- recent topics include disability accommodations in the workplace, mental health in the workplace, and newcomers to the City of Ottawa
"As a newcomer to Canada, I feel privileged to work at an organization that doesn't overlook skills acquired in a different country - but values them as a new, unique perspective I bring to my team. When I arrived for my interview, I noticed the panel included diverse employees and that made me feel like I could belong here, and my background was not as something to overcome, but rather, an asset. My work is a big source of meaning in my life, and being welcomed by my manager and my team made an enormous difference in the process of building a life for me here in Canada." Aline B., Organizational Health Consultant
The City of Ottawa champions input from diverse staff
Among the many indications that diversity and inclusiveness are hugely important to the City of Ottawa is the fact that Christine Malone, one of the City's two Diversity and Inclusion Specialists in HR, is part of three diversity groups. "I'm a proud woman with a disability," she says. "I'm also Métis. I find that very valuable in terms of opening up a conversation with folks for whom diversity may be a new experience and helping them feel comfortable with someone who's sharing their own diversity experiences.
"To work for an organization for which diversity and inclusion are major priorities is really critical for me, not just in the role I play in my job, but to know that those experiences are valued."
Liz Marland, Director of Human Resources, says one of the City's aims in adopting a wide-ranging diversity strategy, with "diversity champions" in every department, is to reflect the broader community. "Because we're so community-driven and deliver frontline services to residents, it's really important that we have a workforce that reflects the diverse community we serve."
Marland notes that the City's 2015.2018 Corporate Diversity and Inclusion Plan provided guidance in the City's efforts to ensure a diverse workforce which includes women, the Indigenous community, racialized and persons with disabilities. There were four areas of focus which included awareness and engagement, workforce analytics, recruitment and selection, and employee learning and development. A new 2019-2022 strategy will soon be drafted, and each department also has its own diversity and inclusion plan.
The City has many programs and events to support its diversity goals, says Marland. One initiative the City considered a major success in 2018 was an inaugural career showcase designed to improve access to specific City jobs by diverse community members. Attended by more than 400 people, the showcase involved consultation with "Community Champions," whose members represent various diversity groups and meet with the City quarterly to discuss perceived barriers to employment.
"We had arranged for representatives from each City department to attend the showcase, including firefighters, paramedics, engineers, people from finance and even our unions," Marland says. "One workshop that was particularly successful involved staff from a variety of diverse backgrounds participating in a café-style discussion with people who are interested in working for the City. Staff talked about their experience working for the City of Ottawa in terms of access, promotions, development, training and support, and that really got positive reactions, both from staff and the community."
Another inclusivity-focused success in 2018 was the summertime Youth Futures leadership/employment program for low income youth, offered in partnership with Ottawa Community Housing and local educational institutes and businesses. Donna Gray, the City's General Manager of Service Innovation and Performance, says the intent of the program is to get young people interested in a career in public service. "Every one of the 60 youth who came in had a staff person who supported and mentored them while they were in the organization. One of the things we heard from staff, interestingly enough, is how valuable it was for them to see the skills these youth were bringing into the organization."
Diversity and Inclusion Specialist Malone points out that the City is intent on developing strong relationships with all communities in order to attract and retain talent from diverse backgrounds. "Members of diverse communities on staff and in the community have a say in the design and delivery of various programs. Their experiences are helping us learn a great deal about the unique needs of those communities. We do diversity cafés, equity and diversity training and cultural workshops for staff, always using all the connections we've made in the community to really strengthen those relationships."