Employee Skills Inventories for the Federal Public Service



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Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

Employee Skills Inventories for the Federal Public Service

Employee Skills Inventories for the Federal Public Service


(Publié aussi en français sous le titre Répertoire des compétences des employés dans la fonction publique)

Table of Contents



Executive Summary 2

Introduction 4

Purpose Of The Report 4

The Vision 4

Conceptual Basis of Employee Skills Inventories 5



Current Environmental Factors Influencing the Use of Employee Skills Inventories 7

General 7

Internal 8

How Skills Inventories Can Be Used 9



Five Examples of How Skills Inventories Are Used in the Private Sector 12

Examples of Employee Skills Inventories in the Federal Government 19

Service-Wide Examples 19

Departmental Examples 21

Products Currently Available in the Private Sector 24

Observations 25

Recommendations 26

Appendix A - Current Mobility Patterns in the Federal Public Service 27

Appendix B - Existing Products and Services for Employee Skills Inventories in Government Departments 31

Appendix C - Products Currently Available from the Private Sector 32

Appendix D - Employee Skills Inventory 56

Executive Summary


This report is intended to assist public sector managers in making decisions about developing or upgrading employee skills inventories and to reduce the cost of such initiatives by sharing information on organizations which already have experience in this area. It was prepared by the Human Resources Policy Branch of the Treasury Board Secretariat because it was apparent that, in the current environment, such an initiative could be helpful to a wide range of departmental staff.

This report also makes recommendations concerning the next steps that might be taken to support research and activities in the field of employee skills inventories.

A steering committee with expert members from the private and public sectors was formed to provide advice and feedback on the process. Consulting and Audit Canada was engaged to carry out the survey described below and to finalize the report.

During the summer and fall of 1993, a survey questionnaire was sent to all federal departments and agencies, and to 350 private sector companies likely to have a product or to provide some services in this field. Forty-eight departments responded to the questionnaire and 11 identified themselves as currently using one or more employee skills inventories. A paragraph on each user department describes how the inventory is used, who uses it, how much it has cost, mistakes to be avoided, and positive aspects of the inventory.

Fifty-one vendors responded to the questionnaire and 38 had a relevant product. Since just responding to the survey provided vendors wide exposure to potential federal government buyers, this is probably a good sample of what is currently available from the private sector. Appendix C describes the products, what they will do, what kind of automated environment they require, how much they can cost, whether they can be customized, and other details. Many companies sent demo tapes and printed material. The Treasury Board Secretariat has kept this material, which you can access by calling the Human Resources Policy Branch, at 952-3172.

In summary, the products available on the market and currently in use in the federal government share a certain number of characteristics. They are all relatively flexible and make good use of recent technology to ensure they are user friendly. They all cost a fair amount of money, particularly in the start-up phase. Setting up an inventory from scratch (meaning setting up a skills inventory, as well as the various tools to be used) is heavy and extensive work and involves a wide range of employees. This is particularly true for the development of the skills lexicon(s) on which the inventory is based. Clearly, using lexicons already in place will save considerable time and money. This is especially appropriate for more generic positions such as computer programmers, personnel specialists and financial officers.

The report describes in some detail skills inventories used by five private sector firms (Xerox, Shell, IBM, the Royal Bank, and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce) and three federal government systems (Management Resourcing Information System, National Applicant Inventory System, and Executive Assessment).

Based on this research, the report includes the following observations:



  • there is a considerable amount of work and interest in both the private and public sectors in the area of employee skills inventories. It is apparent that this interest and need will continue to grow;

  • in the federal Public Service, there is no standardization of inventory format or use, and little exchange of skills lexicons or data between or even within departments. Few departments are linked electronically, and not many interface with the corporate systems;

  • there does not seem to be a specific body tasked with the responsibility of acting as a focus for, or coordinating information on, employee skills inventories in the federal government;

  • a significant number of known departmental users did not respond to the questionnaire; and

  • many current inventories appear to have duplicated work that had already been done in other departments. This would not seem to be an economical approach.

Therefore, the steering committee submits the following recommendations:

  • that an interdepartmental committee on employee skills inventories (ESI) be formed, with a mandate to review current activities, exchange information, and act as a focal point for ESI information and activities;

  • that this committee undertake follow-up work to this report, consisting of a more detailed analysis of some specific vendor and departmental information, and develop more elaborate criteria for assessing existing products;

  • that some minimum standards with respect to compatibility of systems be set. For example, while it may not be possible to identify any one system suitable for all departments, some minimum capability of common data capture and dissemination should be established;

  • that this report be submitted to the Human Resources Development Council. If the Council concurs, the report then be distributed to all deputies, ADMs and DGs of Personnel, the Career Management Steering Committee, and the unions; and

  • that a symposium for users, interested parties, and vendors be planned, to display available products and share information among private and public sector users. This could be hosted by a consortium of interested parties, such as the Treasury Board Secretariat, the Canadian Centre for Management Development (CCMD), Consulting and Audit Canada (CAC), and several user departments.
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