A newly released consultant’s report validates concerns that were raised by PSAC in the lead up to the launch of the Phoenix pay system. The report, prepared for the government by Goss Gilroy Inc., says that “decisions were made despite the warnings issued by the union representatives.”
“The report clearly states that the former Conservative government made a huge mistake by eliminating the jobs of existing compensation advisors,” says Robyn Benson, PSAC National President. “They had no evidence supporting their decision to lay off so many people.”
Report findings echo union’s warnings
Many of the lessons the report highlights are red flags that PSAC has been warning the government about since before the rollout of Phoenix.
The “lessons learned” outlined in the report include:
- Consult with all stakeholders: The report shows that there was a lack of consultation with compensation advisors who knew the work, unions and even affected departments.
- Provide a strong oversight and listen to concerns: The report points out that the government culture did not allow people to speak truthfully about their concerns and be heard. Even those voices, like PSAC, that raised concerns, were ignored. Unless this changes, mistakes similar to those that led to the failure of Phoenix will continue to be made.
- Do not expect cost savings until well after implementation: The government was politically motivated to see instant cost savings with Phoenix, resulting in the loss of more than 1,000 compensation advisors and setting Phoenix up to fail.
- Fully test the IT solution before launch: PSAC warned the government repeatedly that Phoenix should have been rolled out one department at a time until no bugs were reported in the system.
- Identify and establish required capacity prior to go-live: The government should have hired more compensation advisors before the rollout of Phoenix to help handle any potential problems during the rollout.
Failure to recognize expertise of compensation advisors
The report demonstrates that the layoffs of compensation advisors were premature. It also shows that there was almost no consultation with compensation advisors who knew the work.
“While staff cuts may have been motivated by urgency in achieving planned initiative savings, in hindsight there was overconfidence in the abilities of the new pay IT solution, and a serious underestimation of the necessary role of the compensation advisors in ensuring employees are paid accurately and on time.”
- Lessons Learned from the Transformation of Pay Administration Initiative
Focus on cost savings, not employees’ pay
The report makes it clear that the government was concerned only about savings and time lines and not overly concerned about the risk to government employees. The project’s risk management did not factor in the possibility that people might not get paid.
“What it says to me is that they forgot the human factor,” says Benson. “The government must apply these lessons to fix the Phoenix pay system now and make sure this doesn’t happen again.”