Parks Canada public service renewal results, 2016

A Parks Canada team member walking with a Google Trekker, a 360o camera.
Capturing views of Sable Island National Park Reserve with Google Trekker

Three years ago as part of the federal government’s Blueprint 2020 initiative Parks Canada reached out to its team members to ask them about their vision for the public service and how to get there. Their feedback contributed to a Parks Canada national action plan that focused on:

  • The development of innovative solutions to business challenges.
  • Additional professional development for team members.
  • The creation of strategies to promote greater work-life balance.

    “We are committed to ensuring our team members are equipped to protect and present Canada’s national parks and historic sites, parks reserves and marine conservation areas – now and into the future. We welcomed about 23 million visitors in 2015/2016,  7% more than the year before.”

    - Sylvain Michaud, Parks Canada Chief Financial Officer and Blueprint 2020 Champion

  • Better integration and implementation of corporate transformation initiatives.

This report features highlights from Parks Canada’s action plan and Blueprint 2020 journey. It includes successes from this past year as well as work currently underway in the areas of:

  • Respectful Workplaces
  • Recruitment and Onboarding
  • Other Public Service Renewal Actions

Respectful workplaces

Parks Canada is committed to promoting even greater respect in the workplace. Broadly speaking, a respectful workplace can be defined as healthy, safe, and supportive where diversity is valued and all employees are treated with respect and dignity.

  • Local and National Public Service Employee Survey (PSES) action plans
    Following the release of the 2014 Public Service Employee Survey (PSES), business units consulted their teams and developed local action plans to celebrate strengths and to respond to areas of concern.

    Progress reports this past year included local initiatives such as a “Kudos” staff recognition program, the additional delivery of programs such as Harassment Awareness training and Managing for Excellence courses, and noon-hour dog walks.

    In addition, as part of a national strategy, in early 2016 senior leaders approved a proposal for a Healthy and Respectful Workplace Workshop scheduled for March 2016.

  • Centre for Values and Ethics (CVE) programs
    The Agency’s CVE team continued to deliver targeted programs on topics including leading difficult conversations, providing feedback, and informal conflict management. These programs have enabled team members to respond effectively to workplace situations.

  • Values and Ethics toolkit
    Parks Canada’s Human Resources Directorate developed a toolkit that includes values and ethics cases studies, and a question-and-answers document for quick and easy reference by our Human Resources Managers.

  • Mental Health Week internal newsletter
    In May 2016, the Agency distributed an all-staff newsletter about mental health, including testimonials and links to wellness resources. It included a video interview with Clara Hughes, Olympian and mental health advocate, filmed in Banff National Park.

    "I think it's a question of learning who you are, learning what you need, in terms of getting your feet on the ground, and just having an outlet. For me, a big part of my balance is nature. Getting out into nature is a fundamentally important thing for my mental health, and my physical health. I need that connection."

    - Clara Hughes, Olympian and mental health advocate

    The newsletter also featured an Agency-wide challenge launched by the CEO inviting team members to submit a picture that illustrates how they connect with nature.

    Evidence has shown that connecting positively with nature can provide both short- and long-term health benefits – over 100 submitted images were included in an online collage.

  • Parks Canada Workplace Wellness Champion
    In November 2016, Parks Canada appointed a business unit leader to help support and promote health- and wellness-related initiatives, and to inspire and guide positive change at all levels of the organization.

  • Release of the Conflict as Fire Video
    The Centre for Values and Ethics introduced a video as a training and development tool to raise awareness about conflict in the workplace. It featured footage from our wildfire management team to illustrate how conflict and different ideas, perspectives and experiences, can help us make better decisions and achieve more sustainable outcomes. The Agency’s core values of respect, excellence and integrity are firmly rooted in the video, a project that brought several employees together and helped them to further develop a sense of pride and contribution.

  • The Joy of Virtual Conferencing video series
    In collaboration with the National Internal Communications Team, Parks Canada’s Innovation Lab developed a series of entertaining and informative videos about how to participate in effective and respectful phone and video meetings – with helpful tips. The videos will launch this fall and are designed to promote Parks Canada Connect, an online toolkit with helpful resources and tools designed to improve how we communicate with our colleagues.

  • Diversity committees
    Parks Canada recognizes and promotes an inclusive and representative workplace that reflects the diversity of Canadian society. Active Parks Canada committees include:
    • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Queer Employees Group
    • National Action Committee for Women
    • Advisory Committee on Disability Issues
    • Aboriginal Working Group
    • GenerAction (youth)
    • Committee for Equal Access and Participation
    • Multiculturalism
    • Official Languages

  • Occupational Health, Safety and Disability (OHSD) Committee
    Parks Canada is creating a national OHSD committee. This group will receive specific training and be available to hear employees’ issues, complaints and concerns. The committee will provide the CEO with regular updates and recommendations.

Recruitment and onboarding

Parks Canada has continued its efforts to recruit new and diverse employees, to welcome and integrate new employees to help them contribute from the start, to support the professional development of our employees, and to make the best use of available talent.

  • Federal Infrastructure Investment (FII) program hiring
    Parks Canada continues to recruit new and diverse employees for FII, a five-year, $2.6-billion-program to support infrastructure improvements to heritage, tourism, waterway and highway assets within national historic sites, national parks, and national marine conservation areas across Canada.

    The Agency’s Human Resources (HR) Directorate team revised, developed, and implemented new tools to help fill a variety of positions to help get this important work done - from engineers and project management experts, to accountants and communications specialists. To date, Parks Canada has hired almost 260 external applicants.

  • Investment Planning and Project Management Orientation Guide
    This online resource was designed to support employees hired to work on FII and other investment programs and includes project-specific guidance including information Parks Canada’s assets, our project management framework, risk assessments and reporting processes.

  • Orientation Portal
    The Agency introduced a new dynamic, online Orientation Portal that contains tools and resources to help new hires integrate more easily into the Agency.

  • Finance and Administration Immersion Week
    Parks Canada invited a group of its newest CFAs to get together with our Chief Financial Officer and his team for presentations and discussions to learn more about the Agency and its priorities, to learn about specific processes, and to get to know each other better.

  • Performance Management Improvements
    Parks Canada is currently reviewing and updating existing performance management processes (PMPs) and Talent Management Processes (PMPs) to support the ongoing development and retention of employees along with current and future departmental business goals. The PMP is currently in transition while Phase 1 of the TMP launched in November 2016.

  • DireXions Mentoring and Coaching Program
    In early 2016, Parks Canada introduced a self-serve, online program to match mentees and mentors. DireXions provides mentors with the opportunity to share their experience, advice and expertise with team members seeking to build specific competencies or manage life or career stages. For mentees, the program offers a chance to link with potentially multiple mentors and coaches with a range of experiences and in different phases of their careers. There are currently 107 team members registered with the program.

  • National Toastmasters Program
    Parks Canada is piloting a nationally-led Toastmasters program for team members to help them improve their public speaking and presentation skills. Employees will be grouped by geographic region and will be able to participate in meetings virtually using a desktop video application if they are unable to meet in person at the host location.

Other public service renewal initiatives

Employee engagement and empowerment, a culture of innovation and smart risk-taking are in abundance at Parks Canada in our quest to protect and preserve our natural and cultural treasures, and to help us better serve government and Canadians.


  • Corporate Transformation Task Force
    In 2016, Parks Canada finished consultations with business units across the country about the cumulative impacts of major federal government change initiatives to discuss challenges and opportunities. Results include an increased focus on improving connectivity and network access for team members, especially in more remote locations, and one-on-one meetings with business units to help their teams better understand and implement changes such as new financial procedures.

  • Beavers and Canoes Game
    Parks Canada’s Innovation Lab worked with our Indigenous Affairs colleagues to create an online “snakes and ladders” styled game called Beavers and Canoes to help team members build their knowledge of Indigenous Affairs. A total of 82 teams and 490 players responded to 25 questions over a five-week period.

  • CEO Boot Camp
    When CEO Daniel Watson joined Parks Canada, the Agency invited team members to create a video about their work as a creative and engaging way for our new leader to get to know our team members better, and the work they do.

    From an amazing 60 submissions, employees voted online for their favourite entries. From this short list the CEO selected 10 sites for an in-person visit. He shared his experiences through his blog which enabled all team members to learn more about each other. It also provided the CEO with invaluable insight and understanding into what we do and the challenges we face.

  • Canada 150 preparations
    In 2017, the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation will be celebrated by Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast. These celebrations are a priority for the federal government and the Agency is preparing for the festivities by inviting Canadians to our special places to celebrate with us during this momentous year.

    There will be free admission to national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas for the entire year. We have already started planning with community partners, and building the buzz with our staff with an internal countdown and “Selfie Challenge” – a call-out to all team members to submit photos of themselves in their favourite Parks Canada places.


Internal projects

  • Innovation Labs
    As part of Blueprint 2020, Parks Canada created a collaborative hub to brainstorm and pilot new ideas and approaches. This past year the labs have produced several professional development initiatives including additional “microassignments” or short-term work experiences and a mentoring and coaching program; the development of a bilingual lexicon for unique Parks Canada words and terms to make communication easier and more accurate; and an entertaining yet informative video series, A Field Guide to Meetings, to promote respect in the workplace.

  • Printing optimization*
    A printer optimization project at Parks Canada’s national office in Gatineau led by the Information Management / Information Technology (IM/IT) has resulted in a 60-per-cent reduction in printing costs. Users now have new, reliable and more robust printing technology which leads to greater satisfaction and productivity.

  • Human Resources e-services project*
    The Agency introduced a self-service automation that has accelerated and simplified high-volume staffing actions such as extensions. An action that used to take three weeks can now be done in 30 minutes.

External initiatives

  • Fortress Rum Tasting*
    This initiative features the on-site storage of rum in barrels and the interpretation of an important component of history at Louisbourg to showcase how rum was part of trade and everyday life. It makes for a unique and compelling visitor experience.

  • Quietest Concert Ever on Fundy’s Ocean Floor*
    Parks Canada worked in partnership with CBC, Sennheiser and the Province of New Brunswick to put on an unforgettable outdoor musical experience for young urban Canadians and families in Fundy National Park.

    "More and more, people are looking to do a little luxury camping, and they don't want the hassle of packing a tent. They also want to live a national park experience."

    - Anne Bardou, Parks Canada Product Development Officer

  • Cocoons, tear drops and homes on wheels - new camping experiences
    In summer 2016, Parks Canada piloted different accommodations. They include Micro-Cube, the Double-Tent, the Cocoon Tree Bed, the Goutte d’Ô and the Tiny Home on Wheels. Based on visitor feedback Parks Canada will determine if these unique offers will return next year.

  • Red Chair Experience
    The red chair program challenges visitors across the country to find as many of the strategically placed iconic red chairs as they can. Red chairs offer a place to relax and take in some of the most iconic views our country has to offer. Last summer, a grandfather challenged his grandsons to discover as many places as they could from PEI to Alberta. Along their journey, the boys took part in Parks Canada’s red chair program and took photos of themselves in 76 of the 500 red chairs across the country - a current record!

* denotes a CEO Award of Excellence recipient. This annual program recognizes Agency employees and partners who have demonstrated a high level of excellence or achieved outstanding results.

Consultation, openness and collaboration

  • Mission Erubus and Terror 2016 - The Franklin Expedition
    The Government of Canada continues to work in collaboration with the Government of Nunavut, Inuit communities and other public, private and non-profit partners on research into the HMS Erubus

    "Inuit knowledge was at the heart of the discovery of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, and this should be recognized and celebrated. Joint-ownership of the artifacts from HMS Erebus with the Inuit Heritage Trust sets the stage for us to tell the stories of Nunavut's history, culture and heritage. I am thrilled about the discovery of HMS Terror, and am just as committed to working with the Government of Nunavut and Inuit partners to protect and present all of the Franklin artifacts."

    - The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada

    (found in 2014) and HMS Terror (discovered in 2016) – two of Sir John Franklin’s ship that vanished in 1845 in search of a Northwest Passage in what is now Canada’s Arctic.

  • Reintroduction of bison to Banff National Park
    Parks Canada is bringing bison back to the landscape after being wiped out by hunting in the mid-1800s. This multi-year undertaking has required careful planning, consultations and collaboration with a variety of stakeholders, and the use of wildlife management techniques appropriate for this large animal. In addition, Indigenous communities are preparing to welcome the bison spiritually.

  • Parks Canada Reconciliation Framework
    Parks Canada is currently working on a reconciliation framework to restore recognition and respect of Aboriginal rights, enhance co-operation in the presentation of Indigenous histories and cultures and develop further partnerships that will result in innovative tourism and economic products at the Agency’s iconic heritage places. Through this framework, the Agency’s goal is to continue to protect and present places we administer in a manner that supports the connections Indigenous peoples have with these lands and waters.

  • Indigenous negotiations
    The Agency administers over 90 percent of federally owned lands, nearly all of which have been traditionally used by Indigenous peoples. Our Treaty Negotiation and Implementation team, located in Gatineau, Vancouver and Midland (ON),

    "They're going outdoors into the fresh air and it's helping them feel more like a regular kid, not a mental health patient who has to go to an appointment. The walks help them reconnect, and shift their focus away from their problems."

    - Stephanie François, Social Worker, Rouge Valley Health

    is in the process of concluding several agreements, including the innovative heritage trust agreement with the Timiskaming First Nation for managing the Fort Témiscamingue National Historic Site. Several other negotiations are under way—from Nova Scotia to British Columbia. The team is also working on compiling all modern treaty obligations concerning the Agency across Canada.

  • Mood Walks in the Rouge
    This was a Spring/Fall 2016 partnership between Parks Canada and the Rouge Valley Health System (Greater Toronto area) that featured 10 guided walks led by Agency staff and volunteers for youth between the ages of 13 and 24 dealing with mental health concerns. Participants reported significant levels of improvement in happiness and anxiety levels.

Lessons learned

Parks Canada has gained many insights on its Blueprint 2020 journey.

  • There is no one-size-fits-all solution
    Parks Canada has one of the most diverse and geographically dispersed workforces in the public service. As a result there is no single solution or approach that works for everyone. Therefore in addition to aligning with national objectives, projects and initiatives must also reflect the cultural and operational realities of local business units. For this to happen team members must communicate and collaborate to determine how best to prepare for, implement, adjust to and evaluate change.

  • Engage early and plan for the long term
    A review and analysis of the Agency’s Innovation Lab projects revealed that to ensure long-term success it is important to have discussions early on with individuals and teams that might be impacted by change or renewal initiatives. As well, it is important to consider in advance what teams or area could assume long-term responsibility for an initiative to ensure long-term success.

  • Projects don’t have to be complicated to be successful
    One of Parks Canada’s most popular events has been the Grab Your Running Shoes Challenge in recognition of National Public Service Week. In 2016, a total of 77 teams and 597 employees participated. They covered 20,303 kms, many of them getting together for a lunch-time break. The winning team celebrated with a pizza lunch.

  • Parks Canada has a workforce that is proud of the work that they do, and they want to be involved
    Whether it was a call out to team members to create a video about their workplace, a contest to rename Parks Canada’s intranet, or a request to provide data about connectivity levels across the country, the Agency has team members who are passionate about the work they do, who want to make improvements, and who want to help. They also react well to words of thanks and recognition for work well done.

The path ahead

Public service renewal at Parks Canada is a journey of continual improvement. Change is and will continue to be a constant for us as new processes, technologies and ways of thinking emerge. While we have made good progress at Parks Canada we know there is more work to be done.

In order to thrive, change and innovation must become part of our culture. We must give ourselves the time, space and permission to ask ourselves “What’s possible?”, to brainstorm and test new ideas, and to respond thoughtfully and strategically to the outcomes so that we are well equipped to serve Canadians now and into the future.

Parks Canada is committed to embracing that culture of innovation more fully. We look forward to living our Blueprint 2020 vision in our everyday behaviours, to owning the responsibility to make a difference where we work, and to sharing our accomplishments within and outside the Public Service.

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