Recognized as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers
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 (2018) :
- 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."
Helping democracy work at the House of Commons
Charles Robert became Clerk of the House of Commons, its senior administrative official and an advisor to the Speaker and MPs on parliamentary procedure, in the summer of 2017. And he says that after 38 years of working for Parliament, he is still thrilled to have "a front-row seat in a location where in fact our heart of democracy is pulsing pretty hard. You sometimes get a lump in your throat when you're walking up the Hill, that this is a place you can call your office."
Robert knows that's also the case for many of the approximately 1,700 full-time employees who work under him at the House Administration -- all of them helping MPs do their jobs. They include employees in Procedural Services such as clerks, in corporate services such as IT, and in HR, finance, printing, transportation, trades, maintenance and food services.
"Having a career here, you get to see history in the making," says Robert, who was Clerk of the Senate before landing his current job. "You get to see MPs working hard for the benefit of the country." Clerks, for example, get to be part of special committees tasked with looking at matters of national interest.
Robert also cites employee benefits such as a pension plan, on-site daycare, training opportunities and parental leave for new parents.
Olivier Wildgoose-Labrie, 28, who is currently on a two-year rotation as a senior advisor in the House Administration's Office of the Chief Financial Officer, is among those who share Robert's sense of mission: "We are here to make Canada a better place." An accountant who has worked for the House Administration since 2014, he notes that there are many opportunities to learn and be challenged. In his current rotation, he says he's had "a lot of exposure to senior managers such as the CFO" and is able to "see the strategic thinking process they engage in on a daily basis. It's a great career opportunity for me."
Wildgoose-Labrie appreciates the relative ease of moving between jobs at the House. "I know that there's opportunity for me down the road to work in other services and not necessarily stay in finance. In other organizations, this flexibility may not be as readily available."
"I can actually see myself spending my whole career here, as many people do," he continues. "At the long-service awards every year, we see many people who have over 35 years of service dedicated to the House."
Recognized as one of Canada's Top Employers for Young People
By Kristina Leung and Richard Yerema, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Feb 8, 2018)
Here are some of the reasons why House of Commons Administration was selected as one of Canada's Top Employers for Young People (2018):
- 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
A dynamic environment at the House of Commons
If you think of the House of Commons Administration as a rather staid place where the way things are done behind the scenes -- changes in political leadership notwithstanding -- doesn't change all that much, well, you'd be wrong. In fact, the inner workings of the House are as dynamic as society outside. And that can be a real boon to all its administrative employees, especially the younger ones.
Consider the career arc of 28-year-old Leigh Kelly, who not long ago became the House Administration's Workplace Inclusion Program Advisor. As recently as December 2016, while working full-time as Senior Administrative Co-ordinator in the House's Office of the Clerk, she completed her University of Calgary master's degree in disability and community rehabilitation, not sure what she might do with it.
Then, serendipity: the House Administration was looking for an advisor for its Workplace Inclusion Program, which was in Kelly's field. "I graduated in December, and I had my interview for this position in August, and that is so not a big stretch between finishing my master's and getting into a position that leverages my studies," she says.
Approximately 1,700 full-time employees at the House Administration are all in some way responsible for helping Members of Parliament do their jobs. They include employees in Procedural Services such as clerks, in corporate services such as IT, and in HR, finance, printing, transportation, trades, maintenance and food services.
Charles Robert, Clerk of the House of Commons and its senior administrative official, says there are great career opportunities for young people because of the importance of keeping up to date with the evolving needs of Members. "That's true not only in terms of IT, but also in HR, for example, especially after the 2015 election, given the fact that we had 200 new MPs out of 338." This means providing MPs with the HR services and advice needed to set up their offices and carry out their work successfully, both on Parliament Hill and in their constituencies.
"We have to be innovative, we have to provide MPs the latest tools. So, for those of us who are in careers on the Hill, we have to be part of the cutting edge," says Robert.
The House Administration has been a place of learning and growth for Kelly. Flexible work arrangements made it easier for her to do her master's through distance learning, and her manager and colleagues were "super-supportive." She has been able to take advantage of numerous training opportunities, including five in the past month alone.
"In all my positions, I've been stretched to develop my skills further," she says. "I used to not be comfortable with public speaking, but I've had to hold training sessions and I've had to give presentations to high-level management."
Kelly also appreciates the esprit de corps among House Administration staff. She says she has established a number of close friendships, and she appreciates opportunities for bonding in the workplace, including activities such as yoga and an employee breakfast that are part of the institution's Workplace Charitable Campaign. "It just adds that spark of energy to people."
Among the other positives of working at the House Administration are benefits such as free access to a gym, on-site daycare, maternity leave top-ups and parental leave for new fathers and adoptive parents. The latter, in particular, is a plus for Kelly, who hopes to have a family one day.
She also cites the mentorship she has received, and managers who don't pull rank. "One of the things that I really enjoy is that you can have trust in and accessibility to your manager. I never feel like I can't approach my manager. We always work collectively as a team. Of course, there's a hierarchical structure at the House, but you definitely feel equality when you're working together."