Archived - Audit of the Language of Work at National Defence Headquarters — Follow-up

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Introduction

In February 2006, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages published a report of its audit on the language of work at National Defence Headquarters. Conducted at the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces between November 2004 and June 2005, this audit was undertaken to determine whether the senior management at National Defence was committed to creating a work environment that was conducive to the effective use of English and French at Headquarters. It also sought to ascertain whether there existed an accountability framework, performance indicators and an awareness program promoting the values of working in both official languages. Lastly, the audit aimed to determine whether employees at Headquarters could obtain certain services in the official language of their choice, whether the language requirements were appropriate for supervisory positions and for positions in personal and central services, and whether incumbents met the language requirements of their positions.

The report included 12 recommendations for improving the language-of-work situation at Headquarters. The recommendations targeted specific changes in the following areas:

  • leadership
  • official languages policies
  • awareness of language-of-work rights and obligations
  • improving language skills
  • language training

In June 2010, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages conducted a follow-up to the audit to assess the implementation of the recommendations and to measure the progress made by the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces. Subsequently, National Defence submitted a progress report to us.

In compliance with the standards set out in the Office of the Commissioner's external audit policy, National Defence's progress report was analyzed as a whole rather than recommendation by recommendation.

National Defence comprises two distinct entities: the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces. These entities work closely together to fulfill their mission of defending Canada and Canadians. To fulfil its principal roles, National Defence must adapt to a constantly changing global security environment. In this context, the mandate of National Defence is broad and complex, and the operational tempo of the past few years has been extremely demanding.

In 2006, the Canadian Forces began a reorganization of its command and control structures. According to National Defence, the Official Languages Program Transformation Model became operational on April 1, 2007. The aim of the Model is to fully satisfy the requirements of the Official Languages Act while also meeting specific operational and administrative requirements. It proposes a new approach, based on a principle established by the National Defence Act, whereby the Canadian Forces manages its personnel by unit rather than by position, as is the case in the public service. This functional approach is designed to target the needs of the units and increase flexibility when assigning tasks within groups.

The Official Languages Program Transformation Model establishes the strategic vision for official languages at National Defence and sets out milestones in order to achieve the vision by 2012. It also describes the short- and long-term priorities and includes objectives resulting from the functional approach that guide all activities. The first of these objectives is to ensure that linguistically qualified military and civilian personnel are assigned to the right place at the right time to effectively support Canadian Forces operations and comply with the Official Languages Act.The second objective is to improve the Official LanguagesAwareness and Education Program to ensure that military and civilian personnel know their rights and obligations. The last objective is to establish a performance measurement system that will accurately monitor the ability of National Defence's military and civilian personnel to consistently provide bilingual services, leadership and instruction when and where required by the Official Languages Act.

The context in which the Canadian Forces currently operates is impeding the achievement of these objectives, however. National Defence has emphasized that, in this context, operational needs must take priority. In its progress report, National Defence indicated that its efforts have been focused on implementing the Model rather than solely on the action plan that was submitted at the time of the audit. The Canadian Forces also pointed out the following organizational constraints:

  • second official language skills are not part of the selection criteria for the recruitment of military personnel
  • 9% of personnel leave the Regular Force each year
  • 16% of the trained workforce change position each year
  • there is a shortage of personnel in most of the military occupations

Although the Official Languages Program Transformation Model was at its halfway point when this follow-up was conducted, an in-depth analysis of the Model was beyond the scope of the follow-up. However, in June 2010, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages published a report of its linguistic audit of the Individual Training and Education System of the Canadian Forces. This audit, portions of which are referred to in this report, examined a number of components of the Model and contained 20 recommendations that were accepted by National Defence.

Analysis of the National Defence progress report

Promotion of official languages

An analysis of the National Defence progress report revealed that considerable effort has been expended in implementing the Official Languages Program Transformation Model across Canada. Since 2008, National Defence has promoted official languages in a variety of ways, including a nationwide awareness campaign, information kiosks, and workshops for middle managers and supervisors on the importance of linguistic duality.

National Defence has also published several articles promoting the use of both official languages and aiming to create a culture based on respect for language rights. For example, an article on the functional approach entitled “Right person, right place, right time” as well as a number of inserts on official languages have appeared in The Maple Leaf, the Canadian Forces weekly newspaper. National Defence has distributed tools and promotional products, including some that relate to language of work, like the video Dare! Osez!. It also distributed a brochure on the Official Languages Program Transformation Model that outlines the principles of the functional approach leading to full compliance with the Official Languages Act.

Other best practices include the Coordinators of Official Languages Network, competency profiles for coordinators and the Official Languages Advisory Committee, which discusses official languages matters. The Director of Official Languages produced a customized online course for the Coordinators of Official Languages. This Web-based tool is also available to managers who are interested in knowing more about official languages policies and regulations.

In August 2009, the Director of Official Languages published a directive on individual training and education in both official languages for military personnel. In response to the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages' report on the linguistic audit on the individual training and education system, a communication plan was developed to ensure that military personnel are aware of their right to receive their training in the official language of their choice. We will be able to assess the results of this new directive when we conduct the follow-up to this audit, which should take place in 2012.

National Defence continued its efforts to develop new official languages policies as part of the implementation of the functional approach. It also published documents on the provision of services in both official languages, succession planning, second language training, and individual training and education for military personnel in both official languages.

According to National Defence, a language-of-work policy is still a priority for the implementation of the Official Languages Program Transformation Model; however, this policy, which was in draft form at the time of the 2006 audit, is still awaiting publication. National Defence mentioned that, before its publication, it will be necessary to resolve a number of policy issues relating to the management of personnel having skills in the appropriate official language. In our opinion, a language-of-work policy is essential to create a work environment that is conducive to the use of English and French.

In the June 2008 Policy on Official Languages for the Provision of Services, the Director of Official Languages defined the right of Department of National Defence employees, Canadian Forces members and their dependents to obtain certain services in the official language of their choice.

The Department of National Defence also harmonized the previous and current versions of the Public Service Official Languages Exclusion Approval Order, as the current version is more restrictive regarding extensions.

In December 2009, the Department of National Defence published the reviewed Directive on the Identification of Language Requirements for Civilian Positions. This directive identifies departmental obligations regarding bilingual requirements, where prescribed. The commander or manager, advised by the Coordinator of Official Languages as the subject matter expert, is responsible for objectively identifying what the language requirements are for civilian positions within his or her organization.

Leadership

Senior management has an essential role to play in ensuring that the workplace is effectively bilingual. Sustained effort is necessary to establish an organizational culture that truly respects the language rights of all personnel. Managers and supervisors at all levels must communicate regularly in both official languages and demonstrate through their actions that they value linguistic duality. The Coordinators of Official Languages should also be able to promote workplaces that give equal status to both official languages, in addition to distributing tools and information on this subject.

Paragraph 36(1)(c) in Part V of the Official Languages Act states that federal institutions in regions designated as bilingual for language of work have the duty to ensure that “where it is appropriate or necessary in order to create a work environment that is conducive to the effective use of both official languages, supervisors are able to communicate in both official languages with officers and employees of the institution in carrying out their supervisory responsibility, and any management group that is responsible for the general direction of the institution as a whole has the capacity to function in both official languages.”

The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces recognize that leadership is a key contribution to the creation of a workplace that is conducive to the use of both official languages. The efforts that they have made to ensure bilingual leadership deserve mention. According to data provided by National Defence, 95% of civilian employees in the EX group have a language proficiency level of at least CBC. Moreover, all lieutenant-generals, vice-admirals, major-generals and rear-admirals are now required to maintain a CBC level of proficiency.

A progressive approach was adopted to ensure that all generals, brigadier-generals and commodores are at the CBC level by December 31, 2011. Currently, only 69.6% of brigadier-generals and commodores are bilingual. Furthermore, starting from the 2010 posting season, 90% of newly promoted colonels and captains (Navy) must be at the CBC level. By 2012, all newly promoted colonels and captains (Navy) will have to be at the CBC level. By December 31, 2013, all colonels and captains (Navy) are to be at the CBC level. Currently, 71.2% of colonels and captains (Navy) have at least a CBC level.

While senior management has made good progress, these results are diminished by those of supervisors and for incumbents of positions providing personal and central services. In its 2009–2010 departmental performance report, National Defence described one challenge as being that employees still do not have sufficient language skills and that some employees do not meet the language requirements of their positions.

While the number of bilingual military personnel has increased, capacity is still less than the number of designated bilingual positions in the National Capital Region. The situation is better with respect to civilian employees in the National Capital Region.

A little over half of the military personnel holding supervisory positions meet the language requirements of their positions. About a quarter of these positions have language requirements below BBB. The data provided in the progress report showed that 81% of civilian supervisors meet the language requirements of their position (an increase of 6% from 2006), and very few of these positions have language requirements below BBB.

A little over half of the military personnel who provide personal and central services meet the language requirements of their position. On the civilian side, the percentage of employees providing central services and the percentage of employees providing personal services who meet the language requirements of their position have fallen since 2006 by 12% and 14%, respectively, with each now at 65%.Footnote 1

The Canadian Forces has identified up to 21 occupations that provide support and services relating to parts III, IV and V of the Official Languages Act. It is currently working to confirm the language requirements for these occupations, as well as the number of individuals in each occupation who require language training, and when and how they will receive second official language training. Full implementation is expected within four years. As for the issue of transferring military personnel based solely on their language skills in order to respond to immediate needs, the Canadian Forces indicated that this would not be a reasonable approach because a number of service requirements and personal circumstances must also be considered.

Taking these requirements into consideration, the Director of Official Languages is developing an implementation proposal to post a sufficient number of Canadian Forces personnel to meet the requirements of each function. Deployment to Headquarters, which, according to the progress report, presents challenges with regard to official languages, could also offer opportunities to expose a greater number of military personnel to a bilingual workplace so that best practices may be passed on throughout the organization.

The Canadian Forces indicated to us that it still had a problem with balance, which is particularly hard to achieve for junior and mid-level personnel. These people are asked to learn and improve their occupational knowledge and skills, to widen their professional competencies, to support operations and to develop as individuals (fitness, community engagement, second official language, etc.). For this reason, the Canadian Forces intends to adopt a progressive approach to second official language education and training. Focused on timely occupational requirements, this approach is designed to reduce unnecessary or excessive burden on personnel and allow for long-term solutions in the provision of bilingual services and in the respect for language rights.

The Canadian Forces explained that it has bilingual capacity in most of the units in the National Capital Region, mainly at the middle and senior leadership level. It also explained that Unit commanders have the flexibility to reassign military personnel within their units so they can be supervised in the language of their choice. We do not believe that this is an appropriate administrative measure, particularly in the case of supervision.

Only 19.5% of bilingual positions for military supervisors are at a level of CBC or above, compared to 25.6% among civilian personnel. Moreover, 25.4% of military supervisory positions have a language designation below BBB, while that percentage is at 0.25% among civilian supervisory positions.

The insufficient number of bilingual military supervisors and military personnel capable of providing personal and central services in both official languages is detrimental to the effective use of both official languages.

As generally recognized by the Public Service Commission, the language proficiency level appropriate for supervisory positions in designated bilingual regions must correspond to the most difficult tasks to be carried out for each skill.

The supervisor-employee relationship involves sensitive personal or complex issues, and the supervisor must be able to give sage advice to his or her employees. The supervisor must also possess a high level of skill in both official languages to be able to provide supervision of equal quality in both languages.

The Canadian Forces pointed out that, to make informed decisions and take proper measures to improve its bilingual capacity, more work is required to determine exactly what is meant by “supervision” in a military context. Once the official language requirements of supervision functions have been examined in closer detail, the Canadian Forces will be in a better position to develop appropriate supporting policies.

The Directive on the Identification of Language Requirements for Civilian Positions at National Defence states that, in order to create a work environment that is conducive to the effective use of both official languages, certain senior management positions are designated CBC. This is the case for positions or functions that include the supervision of employees in bilingual positions or in positions with different language requirements.We consider this to be a best practice that should be extended to all civilian and military supervisory positions.

Numerous studiesFootnote 2 show that the absence of functional bilingualism among supervisors is a major obstacle to the use of both official languages in the workplace and, more specifically, to the use of French as a language of work. Because they are in a position of authority, supervisors play a key role in creating a workplace that respects the equal status of both official languages.Their behaviour has a direct impact on the organizational culture of the immediate work environment. Moreover, these studies show that if a supervisor has a lower level of bilingualism (for example, BBB), this discourages employees from using French as their language of work. Managers must not only possess sufficient language skills in both official languages, they must also adopt behaviours that demonstrate their commitment to linguistic duality.

Canadian Forces is implementing a new scoring system for promotion selection boards. This system requires increasingly higher levels of bilingualism as members rise in rank. It also serves as a means to better integrate second official language management into the career paths of military personnel. This progressive approach will allow all junior and mid-level ranks to improve their language skills as they progress in their careers.

We have been informed that career management authorities and the leaders responsible for occupations (trades and professions) now fully embrace the requirement for bilingualism. They have begun to include language training as a crucial step in officer and senior non-commissioned member development.

According to National Defence, the Project to Review the Linguistic Designation of CF Units, Civilian Positions and Military Functions will allow it to establish corrected and justified language designations.

In the future, the central career management system will provide units with the required bilingual staffing. Unit commanders and their superiors will be informed of their obligations to ensure that each of the bilingual functions is correctly executed with the unit's resources. Bilingual capacity will thus be managed in the same way as other qualifications in the Canadian Forces. Unit commanders will be held responsible for the performance of their unit in all respects, including service provision and supervision.

Workplace

Subsection 36(2) in Part V of the Official Languages Act states that federal institutions have the duty to ensure that, in designated regions, “such measures are taken … as can reasonably be taken to establish and maintain work environments of the institution that are conducive to the effective use of both official languages and accommodate the use of either official language by its officers and employees.”

The 2008 Public Service Employee Survey conducted by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat and an internal survey called Your Say carried out in 2007 by the Canadian Forces show that, although it seems to have increased, the satisfaction of Francophones remains well below that of Anglophones. We can therefore conclude that Francophones generally feel less comfortable using the language of their choice in various work situations and that they receive less support and training opportunities than their Anglophone colleagues. In its progress report, National Defence stated that certain results clearly show that, despite the initiatives it has conducted, more efforts will be required to create an environment that is conducive to the use of both official languages.

National Defence also pointed out that the official languages component is integrated into the key leadership skills for civilian employees. For military personnel, although senior officers are no longer required to draw up performance management agreements, they are still expected to set official-languages-related performance objectives.

Commanders of command and group principals have appointed Coordinators of Official Languages with direct access to level 1 managers. The responsibilities of these coordinators include ensuring that the requirements of the Official Languages Act (including supervision, work tools, meetings, occupational training, software, services provided by contract personnel, etc.) are respected at all times. We are of the opinion that these coordinators should have a leadership role in the promotion of linguistic duality in the workplace.

Canadian Forces informed us of a new philosophy that it is adopting regarding second official language education and training to ensure sufficient capacity of bilingual personnel and to ensure that personnel meet the language requirements of their positions or functions. The new philosophy will not only prioritize language training for personnel who must be bilingual as part of their functional responsibilities, it will also create a progressive approach to language development for career goals. The Director of Official Languages stated that the aim is to ensure that, after completing the second official language training, these people are employed in an environment where they can enhance their newly acquired skills.

National Defence pointed out that, in order for the functional approach to work, there must be a system that provides the right individuals with the right official languages skills to be employed in the right jobs. National Defence is currently experiencing a number of difficulties collecting and processing language-of-work data. It has not been able to provide us with exact data on the implementation of the recommendations. National Defence's progress report presents a general overview of the functional approach, the Official Languages Program Transformation Model, and various awareness campaigns conducted across Canada. The Department explained to us that some Headquarters-specific data must be compiled manually or are simply not available. It also pointed out that the information in the database may not be accurate, given the functional approach in the units. National Defence explained that military personnel do not necessarily perform the functions of the position to which they are transferred.

One of the objectives of the Official Languages Program Transformation Model is to establish a performance measurement system that allows a precise accurately and regularly monitors the institution's ability to comply with the Official Languages Act. This performance measurement system has been developed in two parts designed to measure more than 150 indicators regarding parts III, IV, V, VI and VII of the Official Languages Act. The first part consists of a database that extracts information from the Human Resources Management System. This enables the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces to monitor static data, such as the linguistic competency profiles of civilian or military personnel. This database was upgraded and has been fully operational since the fall of 2010. The second section consists of a checklist that allows data to be compiled on-site (for example, the number of posters displayed in both official languages in a bilingual unit) and constitutes a working tool to adjust and report relative compliance with the Official Languages Act.

A full-scale trial of the performance measurement system was conducted at a number of major organizations within National Defence in order to evaluate the Department's and the Canadian Forces' compliance with the Official Languages Act. It will be followed by a thorough analysis and corrections as required. Implementation of the system, along with its associated Defence Administrative Orders and Directives will then follow.

National Defence indicated that the system is expected to be in place by the summer of 2012, at which time the members of the Coordinators of Official Languages Network will be in a better position to assess whether their organizations are compliant with the Official Languages Act. At the same time, the Canadian Forces will be in a better position to assess which areas of its official languages portfolio require special attention.

Conclusion

Since the language-of-work audit at National Defence Headquarters in 2006, the Canadian Forces has adopted a functional approach to better target the needs of the units and improve flexibility in assigning tasks to groups. National Defence has also informed us of the numerous operational constraints that it faces as part of its mandate and its commitments at the international level. These constraints have an impact on its operations, because the Canadian Forces is facing one of the most demanding operational and personal tempos in decades.

National Defence is counting on the Official Languages Program Transformation Model to ensure compliance with the Official Languages Act. The Model establishes National Defence's strategic vision with regard to official languages for 2007 to 2012. Its goal is to ensure that National Defence personnel are led, trained, administered and supported in the official language of their choice. In the current follow-up, we did not conduct an in-depth analysis of the Model, nor did we measure the results; however, we are aware of the magnitude of the challenge presented by the change in organizational culture stemming from the Official Languages Program Transformation Model.

We were pleased to see that National Defence has made significant efforts to promote linguistic duality and raise awareness among its personnel regarding their official languages rights and obligations. To support the necessary ongoing efforts to integrate linguistic duality into its organizational culture, National Defence today relies on the Coordinators of Official Languages Network and the Official Languages Advisory Committee, which discusses official languages matters. With regard to official languages policies, several documents have been distributed, and we look forward with interest to the publication of the language-of-work directive.

We were also pleased to note senior management's commitment to linguistic duality as well as the efforts being made to ensure bilingual leadership. A strong message is circulating in the organization that proficiency in both official languages is now one of the skills required to become a senior officer in the Canadian Forces. In fact, all lieutenant-generals, vice-admirals, major-generals and rear-admirals must now maintain a minimum language proficiency level of CBC, and 95% of civilian employees in the EX group are bilingual or at least have the CBC language proficiency level. Bilingual leadership is essential to promote a change in corporate culture and to ensure that official languages are seen as a genuine asset for an organization's representativeness and relevance.

However, the implementation of the Official Languages Act, particularly Part V concerning language of work, also requires a commitment and resolve on the part of leaders and managers at all levels. Supervisors play a key role in creating a workplace that respects the equal status of both official languages, regardless of location or position. Because they are in a position of authority, their behaviour has a direct impact on the organizational culture around them. They must be able to provide supervision of equal quality in both official languages, as employees can exercise their right to work in the official language of their choice only when their supervisor speaks this language.

The fact that employees still do not have sufficient language skills and that some employees do not meet the language requirements of their positions remains a challenge for National Defence. The insufficient number of bilingual military supervisors and military personnel capable of providing personal and central services in both official languages is detrimental to the effective use of both official languages.

The bilingual capacity of the Canadian Forces in the National Capital Region is mainly at the middle and senior leadership level. The planning and the management of the Official Languages Program remain problematic as just 56% to 58% of bilingual positions providing personal and central services and supervision to military personnel are held by people who meet the language requirements of their positions.

It is interesting to note, however, that the Canadian Forces has implemented a new scoring system for promotion selection boards that requires increasingly higher levels of bilingualism as members rise through the ranks. According to the information that we have received, career management authorities and directors of professional groups now fully comply with the requirement for bilingualism. National Defence indicated that in the future, the central career management system will provide units with the required bilingual staffing, thereby allowing the bilingual capacity to be managed in the same way as other qualifications in the Canadian Forces.

We are also interested to see the results of the Canadian Forces' new philosophy regarding second official language education and training. This progressive approach focused on timely occupational requirements aims to ensure sufficient capacity of bilingual personnel. In 2012, we intend to follow up on our June 2010 linguistic audit of the Individual Training and Education System of the Canadian Forces.

Lastly, we consider the ongoing Project to Review the Linguistic Designation of CF Units, Civilian Positions and Military Functions to be an adequate approach, and we encourage the Canadian Forces to complete it quickly. The same goes for the establishment of the performance measurement system for the Official Languages Program Transformation Model, which is currently being tested. At the time of writing of this report, this system could not provide the statistical data required to assess the changes made since the 2006 audit. In order to ensure that the right individuals with the right language skills are employed in the right jobs, it is important to obtain reliable data to ensure proper planning. Appropriate follow-up is also important to determine the effectiveness of the measures taken and evaluate compliance with the Official Languages Act.

Overall, National Defence has made progress primarily in the areas of leadership and raising awareness. However, in the Department's own words, there is much that remains to be done before the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces are fully compliant with the Official Languages Act. We agree with National Defence that greater efforts are required to create a workplace that is conducive to the use of both official languages. The measures presented in the progress report look promising and we encourage National Defence to finish implementing the recommendations and to set up effective monitoring mechanisms.

Since this follow-up did not allow us to assess the implementation of all the recommendations contained in the 2006 audit, we will continue to follow National Defence's progress and to monitor the implementation of the Official Languages Program Transformation Model. We will also monitor all activities related to the application of the Official Languages Act through the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages' senior analyst assigned to the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces.

Footnotes

Footnote 1

National Defence states that the problem is perhaps partly due to the quality of the data, and the Director of Official Languages is looking into the situation.

Return to footnote 1 referrer

Footnote 2

Canadian Centre for Management Development, French to Follow? Revitalizing Official Languages in the Workplace, 2003; Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, Walking the Talk: Language of Work in the Federal Public Service, 2004; Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, Making it Real: Promoting Respectful Co-existence of the Two Official Languages at Work, 2005; Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, Public Service Employee Survey Results, 2002.

Return to footnote 2 referrer