Recognized as one of National Capital Region's Top Employers (2020):
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Jan 28, 2020)
Here are some of the reasons why Ottawa, City of was selected as one of National Capital Region's Top Employers (2020):
- City of Ottawa maintains a Workplace Wellness and Productivity Network to provide employees with access to resources on well-being, physical, mental and emotional health, as well as training to help managers incorporate wellness into the workplace -- the city also organizes events for Mental Health Week on a number of related topics, including mindfulness and mental health, stress and financial counselling
- City of Ottawa offers comprehensive learning and development opportunities for employees at various stages of their careers, including acting assignments or secondments (internal or external opportunities), coaching circles, job shadowing and special short-term assignments outside of an employees' current role
- City of Ottawa designated June as Employee Recognition Month and manages an extensive program to celebrate and honour exceptional performance in a variety of areas, including creativity and innovation, diversity and inclusion, heroism and lifetime achievement
The City of Ottawa makes employees its top priority
When Steve Kanellakos assumed his role as city manager of the City of Ottawa in 2016, he decided to take the pulse of his 17,000-strong workforce. He met with over 3,600 staff and received 15,200 written comments. The results weren’t always encouraging.
“Many employees felt they weren’t being supported and that red tape and a lack of communication was getting in the way of their professional development and ability to serve our residents,” says Kanellakos.
Since then, the City has moved on several fronts, with the stated goal of making “our people our top priority.”
All senior managers were appraised and assigned coaches to guide them in making the workplace more engaging and supportive.
The City’s entire professional development program was revamped to put greater emphasis on experiential training and coaching. New programs were introduced to help groom the next generation of leaders and smooth succession concerns as Baby Boomers retired.
A renewed focus was placed on programs to promote workplace health and wellness, with a particular emphasis on mental health.
At the same time Kanellakos kept reaching out for employees’ input and ideas; since 2016, he has overseen 19 staff forums.
The outreach is paying dividends. The City’s latest employee engagement survey showed a job satisfaction rate of 72 per cent, the highest since such surveys began in 2008.
“We’re definitely going in the right direction,” says Kanellakos. “There’s a sense the organization is investing in its people and there’s greater clarity about what we are trying to achieve.”
City employees take satisfaction in knowing what they do contributes to their community, he adds.
“But if we don’t take care of our people, then we won’t see the high calibre of services we want for our residents.”
Kimberley Asiri, an infrastructure support strategist, says City employees “take pride in what they do and often go above and beyond their everyday responsibilities because they know the positive difference they make.”
Asiri adds that the City provides endless opportunities for career advancement through training and learning courses, mentorship and job shadowing.
She appreciates that the City makes a point of recognizing individual and team achievements – Asiri was herself given the City Manager’s Award of Distinction as an emerging leader this past June.
Asiri also welcomes the City’s focus on making employees its top priority. “We have great people who inspire me every day,” she says. “I’m proud of what
we accomplish together.
Recognized as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2020):
By Kristina Leung and Stephanie Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Mar 5, 2020)
Here are some of the reasons why Ottawa, City of was selected as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2020):
- City of Ottawa organizes Diversity Cafes to provide employees with opportunities to talk about related experiences and issues -- recent topics include mental health, transgender awareness and francophone diversity in the workplace
- City of Ottawa developed a municipal and immigration strategy in partnership with Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership, which aims to improve the social and economic integration of newcomers and immigrants
- City of Ottawa manages a Youth Futures program to provide leadership training, work experience and mentoring for immigrants, visible minorities and people living in poverty
The City of Ottawa works to break down barriers
As part of an ambitious program to promote diversity and inclusion across its workforce, the City of Ottawa holds “diversity cafés” where employees freely and frankly share their experiences.
Sheila James, a specialist with the City’s diversity and inclusion team, recalls one of those cafés held last year.
“Some participants spoke about the reality of living with mental illness and depression,” she says. “Others spoke about debunking racial stereotypes or coming out as gay in the workplace.”
The City’s diversity and inclusion program is about recruiting, hiring, retaining and nurturing a talented workforce that reflects the residents they serve.
“Our goal is to make this city a great place to work, play and live,” says Valerie Turner, general manager, innovative client services. “To do that, we need the broadest representation possible from the diverse communities who are also our clients.”
The City strives to maximize participation from the four Employment Equity groups — Indigenous Peoples, members of visible minorities, persons with disabilities and women. But the mandate is also constantly evolving and expanding. New immigrants, the 2SLGBTQ+ community and those who identify as non-binary or gender-diverse are among the people the City reaches out to hire and engage.
In 2018, the City established the Community Champions Table Network, a consultative body drawn from members of a wide range of equity-seeking groups. By working directly with community members, the City is able to better identify potential barriers to employment, recruit and source talent, and develop innovative solutions.
This kind of community engagement also helps inform the City’s annual Career Showcase, which in 2019 drew over 500 members of the general public. The showcase provides participants with information on career opportunities with the City as well as workshops on applying for jobs, building resumés and improving interview skills.
“Making the interviewing and hiring process more transparent and equitable is just the first step towards creating a fair and respectful workplace,” says James. The next step is to retain those new hires, by making them feel welcome and supporting them to advance in their careers.
One way the City is doing this is through the creation of affinity groups that help diverse employees identify each other, network and find mentors who are also diverse.
Another key guiding principle is that all employees should feel safe to self-identify and be their authentic selves at work.
“The reality is that people don’t always feel safe self-identifying among their peers,” says James. “Some also face unique challenges. I’m a South Asian Canadian and so, visually, people can see when I walk into a room that I am racialized or, simply speaking, brown. But others, such as those with learning disabilities, are not as visible. And because of stigma, real or perceived, they may be uncomfortable sharing that information about themselves.”
“Breaking down barriers provides multiple benefits,” adds James. “For those from traditionally marginalized communities, it opens up new career opportunities. They, in turn, can help others reach their full potential.”
“People who have different perspectives also come up with very different solutions. The more we hear and learn about the lived experience of diverse employees, the better equipped we are to create programs to support and include everyone.”
Turner makes a similar point, stressing that, when applied across a workforce of 17,000, diversity and inclusion is a key driver for innovation.
“We adhere to the philosophy that brilliance comes from everywhere,” says Turner. “Being able to draw on a variety of perspectives clearly strengthens the way we conduct our business.”