Recognized as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2019) and National Capital Region's Top Employers (2019):
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Nov 8, 2018)
Here are some of the reasons why House of Commons Administration was selected as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2019) and National Capital Region's Top Employers (2019):
- The House of Commons Administration offers exceptional maternity and parental leave top-up payments for new mothers (up to 93% of salary for up to 52 weeks) as well as parental leave top-up for new fathers and adoptive parents (to 93% of salary for up to 37 weeks) -- additionally, employees have the option to extend their leave to an unpaid leave of absence and can take advantage of onsite daycare when they are ready to return
- As part of the organization's efforts to recruit and retain individuals from a broad range of backgrounds, the House of Commons Administration maintains a dedicated Diversity Council and a Workplace Inclusion Program
- In addition to 4 weeks of starting vacation, the House of Commons Administration offers a variety of flexible work arrangements to help employees balance work and their personal lives, including flexible hours and telecommuting
Pride and prestige at the House of Commons
Charles Robert hazards a guess, with a smile in his voice, that most Canadians are unaware of the organization he leads, even though it plays a central role in the functioning of their democracy.
As Clerk of the House of Commons, he's chief executive of the House of Commons Administration, which employs more than 1,800 people in the National Capital Region, all of whom are dedicated to providing Members of Parliament with the support and services they need to do their work.
"We're not the same employer as the federal government," he explains. "We're part of Parliament, the legislative branch, and we report to the Speaker of the House. We're an institution that's steeped in tradition, but we aim to be progressive and dynamic in providing services to Members. Given the many demands placed on them, we want to make it easy for Members to focus on their important work as parliamentarians."
The range of support the organization provides to MPs is extraordinarily diverse. It includes expert advice on writing Private Members' bills, committee amendments and preparing the agenda of the House; accreditation and assistance with technology, finance, leasing constituency offices and hiring staff; moving and cleaning services, and much more.
"Our focus is on delivering the best possible service to our four lines of business, which we call the four Cs - the Chamber, Committees, Caucus and Constituencies," says the Clerk. "We want our people to think critically about how things have been done in the past and always be looking for innovative ways to improve service."
Since joining the House of Commons Administration in 2015 as Chief, Operations, for Parliamentary Precinct Operations, Dany Giguère has seen how those goals are achieved.
"There's so much pride here," she says. "Our people are excited to be part of such a prestigious organization. We have state-of-the-art equipment and the best people, who are empowered to take ownership of their work.
"We deliver customized service to the highest standards for our Members and we anticipate their needs. We're all about taking risks - trying something different if we think it will improve service. We celebrate success and learn from failure."
Giguère is responsible for four areas of service: printing and mailing, food, transportation, and trade services, the last of which includes upkeep and repairs to MPs' offices and the House of Commons Chamber.
As a manager, she says, "my approach is to step back, observe people, ask for their input and see what they need to do their jobs. I don't decide on my own what they should do - we collaborate and work together as a team. Our people are encouraged to find solutions and own those solutions - and we're constantly amazed at what they do."
In addition to finding her work rewarding, Giguère appreciates the family-friendly environment, flexible work arrangements and other generous employee benefits provided by the House of Commons Administration. The organization also maintains a dedicated Diversity Council, which is part of its Workplace Inclusion Program, and a Next Generation Network to engage aspiring leaders.
"We recognize we're in a very competitive environment," the Clerk says. "In addition to excellent benefits, we provide a strong training program, support time for further education, and encourage career mobility.
"The bottom line for us," he adds, "is to operate a high-functioning organization that serves all Members well, regardless of their political affiliation. If you have any sense of civic responsibility, it's an exciting place to work, at the heart of our democracy. We are the House of Commons, the people's house."
Balancing heritage and innovation at the House of Commons
Collaboration is built into the DNA of the House of Commons Administration.
"We share a common goal, to support members of Parliament with values such as impartiality and excellence," says Susan Kulba, senior director, Real Property and Executive Architect. "We're very proud to work here - it's a culture where people feel they're serving a greater purpose. That unites us and fosters unique relationships."
Kulba is responsible for ensuring the physical working environment reinforces that positive culture while the organization evolves to meet the changing needs of the members it serves and its own employees.
"The House is founded on tradition and ceremony," she says, "but we also want to embrace being innovative and creative. We mix tradition and innovation, keeping the heritage aspects while moving with the times. For example, we're working on plans to revise our enclosed offices to open, activity-based workspaces that promote collaboration, while providing the tools, technology and infrastructure needed to support that."
The modernization of the workspaces will also help meet the goal of providing a sustainable, universally accessible environment.
"We're breaking down barriers, figuratively and literally," says Natasha Murphy, manager, Interior Design, who leads a team focused on building components. She has been with the House for three years, having previously worked in the private and public sectors. When she heard the House had an opening, she was curious because she didn't know much about the organization.
"I was attracted by their phased approach to large, multi-year construction projects," she says. "The projects are interesting and complex, with a lot of heritage considerations. Now that I'm here, there are three main reasons why I'm staying.
"First, I love working with my team. Second, I like that there are a lot of visible minorities in leadership roles at the House. You don't see that very often in the public environment. Third, I've seen important, measurable changes happening in terms of inclusion, just since I've been here. I want to be part of this culture shift.
"I'm on the Diversity Council, which gives me a voice, so I can provide my perspectives on supporting diversity and inclusiveness across the administration. We do a lot of different things, such as celebrating International Women's Day and advocating for mandatory training for managers on unconscious bias."
Kulba finds motivation in the Parliament Buildings themselves: "They're inspiring places to work. It's such a privilege to work in this setting - it makes you want to bring your best every day."
Recognized as one of Canada's Top Employers for Young People (2019):
By Kristina Leung and Richard Yerema, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Jan 17, 2019)
Here are some of the reasons why House of Commons Administration was selected as one of Canada's Top Employers for Young People (2019):
- Each year, House of Commons Administration selects 40 students from CEGEPs and high schools across Canada to participate in a dedicated Page Program -- students have the opportunity to witness the legislative process firsthand and work on a part-time basis during their first year of study at a university in the National Capital region
- House of Commons Administration manages a summer student employment program, offering positions in a variety of disciplines including information services, finance, procedural services, the Office of the Clerk and human resources
- House of Commons Administration manages the Next Gen Network, a community of practice mandated to provide employees with professional and personal development opportunities, as well as act as a non-partisan forum for discussion and reflection -- the network includes employees from all levels and service areas and is focused on developing the leadership skills of aspiring leaders in a collaborative, innovative and flexible manner
It's not just politics at the House of Commons
To provide Members of Parliament with all the support and services they need to do their work, the House of Commons Administration employs a wide variety of people. In fact, so many different occupations are represented at the House that it's like a community, according to Pierre Parent, Chief Human Resources Officer.
"We have accountants, lawyers, nurses, IT specialists, chefs - a very diverse range of professions," he says, "and co-op programs are an excellent way for us to recruit talent. We engage with universities, colleges and cégeps and offer placements for many types of students. We view students as our next generation of workers and leaders."
In particular, the House's Digital Services team looks to the summer student and co-op programs as important sources of talent in a competitive field, Parent says.
Mathieu Bigras started with the House in a co-op program in March 2017. He was working towards his diploma in computer science, specializing in networking services, at Cégep de l'Outaouais. His co-op was extended as student employment through the summer, and during that time he was offered a permanent job as Datacentre Support Analyst with the IT Monitoring and Support team, where he has been working full-time since September 2017.
"I was interviewed by a panel who wanted to find the best team for me to be part of, the one that would be most meaningful to me based on my skills, diploma and interests," he recalls. "During my co-op, I was able to make a real contribution, even at that early stage. I found everyone was more than happy to help me. I really love the way we work with other teams. There's always cooperation and open discussion about the best way to do things."
Bigras and his fellow students were introduced to the House through an on-site visit to the Digital Services team and through the onboarding program at the beginning of the co-op term, which included a welcome breakfast where students were able to meet each other and some of the people they would be working with. At the end of each summer a wrap-up event is held, which Parent describes as an opportunity for students to celebrate their accomplishments and reflect on what they've learned. The event also allows the Administration to recognize the students' achievements, and encourage them to consider a career at the House. To ensure young employees remain engaged, the House offers a number of leadership programs, some of which are available to aspiring leaders not yet in senior positions. As well, through an initiative called the Next Gen Network, employees from various lines of work develop relationships and meet with executives to discuss issues that interest them.
"This is an environment where senior leadership fosters empowerment," says Parent. "Our Clerk [the chief executive of the House] is encouraging employees to innovate and try new things. We strive to improve our services to Members by experimenting and innovating. If we make mistakes, we learn from them."
Bigras felt empowered even while he was in co-op. "I was given a new project to do by myself - it was about using switches remotely - and I was able to do it. Now my work is mainly about taking care of the server fleet and back-end computer equipment, which can impact thousands of people. I also like that I often go to Parliament Hill to do my work. It feels like I'm doing something important."
That sense of making a contribution is "probably our biggest employee retention factor," says Parent. "We're competing more than ever with other public-service organizations and the private sector to attract talent. Our mission to support the parliamentary work of Members makes the House a unique institution and gives our employees a great sense of pride in what they do."