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Annex 3: A service strategy for internal services

The findings from the Internal Red Tape Reduction initiative highlight poor client service as a major irritant for many public servants in their day-to-day work lives. Public servants told us that they experienced the following when accessing internal services:

The Internal Red Tape findings underscore the importance of focusing service excellence on internal services. Efforts at the federal level have focused primarily on the design and delivery of service that meets the needs of Canadians, through initiatives such as the Citizen-Centred Service Network (1997), Service Canada (1998), the Service Improvement Initiative (2000) and, most recently, a proposed Service Strategy that aims to improve the service experience of Canadians by creating a single online window for all government services, with new standards for service delivery. These initiatives have laid the groundwork for developing a culture of service within the Government of Canada and earned Canada a reputation as a world leader in public sector service delivery. The findings of the Internal Red Tape Reduction initiative provide an opportunity to build on this work by extending service excellence to those services which impact public servants performing their jobs on behalf of Canadians every day.

Why develop a Service Strategy for Internal Services?

Internal service is the foundation that supports the delivery of all public services. Given its importance, many organizations have started to place more emphasis on building higher levels of service satisfaction and organizational performance within internal services.

The Public Sector Service Value Chain (Heintzman and Marson, 2005), which has gained acceptance as a model for service delivery and management in the public sector, draws the link between the internal and external service environments. This model highlights the importance of an engaged workforce in delivering high-quality public services, noting that, in order for it to meet its service objectives, the public sector also needs to focus on the employees who deliver them.

A growing body of research on jurisdictions within the Canadian public sector has begun to validate the link between employee engagement and the delivery of public sector services. The results of employee engagement surveys echo many of the findings of the Internal Red Tape Reduction initiative – the importance of providing access to help, guidance and information when needed; clear communication; easily understood workplace processes and procedures; etc. – and, indeed, support the move by many of these jurisdictions to pay close attention to improving the internal service experience.

The Internal Red Tape findings provide concrete examples of where to focus improvements in the working environment of federal public servants. A Service Strategy for Internal Services would guide the adoption of service excellence in internal services, and help to anchor it in the day-to-day culture of the federal government. Moreover, bringing internal services into the service experience would further the Government of Canada’s broader service agenda.

What are the key elements of a Service Strategy for Internal Services?

A Service Strategy for Internal Services would provide a blueprint for building a service culture around enterprise, department and agency back-office services. A service strategy would address the following:

Signalling a commitment to service excellence in internal services

A commitment to service excellence means orienting an organization’s entire range of functions around meeting the needs of its clients, both external and internal. Service excellence also means that employees understand how their functions affect their fellow employees. External service delivery starts with internal service; the service that citizens receive depends on employees, departments and agencies working together to meet these needs. Colleagues are also internal clients, and the quality of service provided for external clients depends equally on the support provided internally.

Broadening the Government’s commitment to service excellence to include internal services would communicate the value it places on internal services, and ensure that all employees understand how their work serves each other, as well as Canadians. The Government can signal its commitment to internal service excellence in the following ways:

A service policy that includes department and agency internal services

The Government of Canada’s current Policy on Service refers to external and internal enterprise services. Extending the policy and related instruments, including the Guideline on Service Standards, to include department and agency corporate internal services would reflect more closely the realities of the internal service environment.

A vision of service excellence and principles that includes internal services

A vision of service excellence and principles set the foundation for the development of a service culture. A vision of service excellence sets out what the organization desires to be, while the principles guide its day-to-day efforts to meet client expectations of service.

Broadening its vision of service excellence and guiding principles to include internal services, and communicating these as core values and expectations of the Government, are fundamental to an internal service culture taking shape.


It is well established in literature and in practice that leadership is key to any organizational transformation. Leadership sets the direction for the organization and sustains the momentum throughout the initiative. Leadership and support from senior executives is fundamental to the implementation of the service strategy.

As recent experience shows, organizations with a strong service culture have a champion in place – a Chief Customer Officer (CCO) – who is responsible for supporting the development of a culture that values the customer service experience. The service strategy would examine the feasibility of establishing a service champion within the federal government to support service excellence in internal services and bridge the external and internal service environments.

Redesigning service offerings, engaging clients and setting standards

Key to improving the internal service experience is having a clear understanding of who the clients are, what they expect and need from the department or agency, and how they access service. As the Internal Red Tape findings demonstrate, the service experience often looks a lot different from the client’s perspective than from that of the organization.

Working with clients to understand their service needs and how the process for accessing service works for them is vital to redesigning service offerings and setting standards of service. The service strategy would explore options for developing a robust client engagement program where clients are an integral part of the design, development and review of internal service offerings and the processes that support them.


Design-thinking approaches, putting the users at the centre of service design, are essential. Some of the tools applied in design-thinking, including the development of personas and scenarios, journey mapping and the like, are vital to a better understanding of the client’s needs and challenges in accessing services.

Client feedback tools

Mechanisms for regular and ongoing client feedback about services, suggestions for improvement and satisfaction levels, such as focus groups, surveys, and comment cards, as well as a simple and accessible complaint resolution process, are essential for identifying areas that require improvement. The service strategy would examine the feasibility of adapting the Common Measurements Tool (CMT) to the internal service environment.

Client-centred service standards and client satisfaction targets for internal services

Service standards and client satisfaction targets are essential components in achieving service excellence; they are the means by which an organization judges its service performance. Service standards and client satisfaction targets work hand-in-glove. Where service standards are the key to managing client expectations of service based on the available resources, client satisfaction targets are the means for improving service performance and quality.

For service standards and client satisfaction targets to be effective, they need to become part of the corporate culture. The Government’s Policy on Service requires departments and agencies to set service standards for external and enterprise internal services; however, there is currently no policy or directive in place for setting service standards in department and agency corporate internal services. Giving departments and agencies the mandate to set service standards for corporate internal services would signal to public servants the Government’s commitment, through BP2020, to improving the working life of employees.

The Management Accountability Framework (MAF) sets out the Treasury Board’s expectations for effective performance, and one of the 10 elements that make up the MAF is “citizen-focused service.” The MAF has begun to integrate internal service standards into the process, a trend which is expected to continue in the years to come.

The service strategy would continue to build on this work and explore further opportunities for setting service standards and client satisfaction targets for internal services, including establishing interdepartmental working groups for both enterprise internal services and department and agency back-office services. Doing so would also provide the opportunity for departments to compare their performance with that of other departments and agencies and, as a result, learn from one another.

Established resources and best practices

Resources developed as part of the federal government’s focus on improving external service delivery are tried and true, and are thus useful tools for the development and implementation of the service strategy for internal services; these include the Guideline on Service Standards, Service Quality Initiative Guides, and Toward Citizen-Centred Service Delivery: A How-to Guide for the Service Improvement Initiative.

Learning from experienced and knowledgeable jurisdictions, including Ontario Shared Services, the Government of British Columbia and the Region of Peel, would also enrich the development and implementation of the service strategy.

Investing in people

Excellence in service depends on responsive, accountable and professional staff members who exemplify a client-centred service culture. Embedding a service culture in an organization requires focusing on people – hiring service-oriented people, training, empowering, mentoring, supporting, praising and recognizing.

The service strategy would provide a coordinated approach to ensuring that employees are equipped with the knowledge, skills and tools they need to meet their service commitments.

Recruitment of service-oriented people

People with a service ethos are essential to building a successful service culture. The service strategy would explore ways to align the recruitment process to recognize service excellence as a core competency and Government priority.

Service excellence orientation and training

Effectively delivering on their service commitments means employees have the right skills and tools to do their jobs. The service strategy would explore options for developing a mandatory service excellence training and orientation program for public servants and new employees, as well as other tools and resources to orient employees to a service-based culture, such as an employee handbook or online training videos.

The strategy would look at securing expertise in the design, development and delivery of a customized service excellence training program, including from the Canada School of Public Service (CSPS) and the Institute for Citizen-Centred Service (ICCS), both of which offer service excellence training for public sector organizations. The CSPS currently offers the following courses in service excellence:

The ICCS provides a comprehensive Certification and Learning program in citizen-centred service for public sector organizations, the first national program of its kind and geared to both the external and internal service environments.

Client service commitments

In organizations that have adopted service excellence practices, employees have a clear understanding of how service to the client affects the organization’s overall performance, and are held accountable for achieving service goals. Service commitments are part of performance management agreements for employees and managers.

Exploring how to integrate accountability for service goals into existing performance management agreements and making competency in service excellence part of training and development plans would form part of the service strategy. Learning from organizations that have built service commitments into their performance management systems is an important part of this process.

Employee recognition

Honouring, encouraging and supporting individuals and teams who contribute to the success of the organization is essential to service excellence. Recognition shows employees that their individual and collective contributions make a difference and are valued.

The service strategy would examine options for establishing an employee appreciation and incentive program to recognize and encourage outstanding service. This would include broadening the Government’s current program, as well as encouraging informal rewards, recognition and incentive programs at the branch and sector level. Working with partner organizations, including the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer (OCHRO), is key.

Employee engagement and feedback

Commitment to service excellence is built through the involvement of staff. Employees often know what could be changed to improve the service environment. Seeking input and feedback from employees about service design and improvement and monitoring employee satisfaction on a regular basis are important parts of building a service culture. The service strategy would look at using existing tools like the Public Service Employee Survey (PSES) to gauge employee satisfaction levels, examine the feasibility of broadening the PSES to include questions on internal service excellence, and investigate other tools for seeking employee feedback.

Measuring and monitoring service performance

Two critical components of service excellence are consistently and regularly monitoring and evaluating service performance and ensuring accountability for results. A service strategy would provide for a comprehensive evaluation of service performance and satisfaction levels, via service standards, as well as client satisfaction and employee engagement results, and reporting on these results to clients, employees and the public.

An area that would benefit from further study is the feasibility of linking the PSES to the Citizens First national survey of Canadians’ views on public sector service delivery. Taken together, these two survey instruments – employee engagement and citizen satisfaction with external service – would provide a more complete picture of how the public service as a whole is performing.

Benchmarking service performance

Learning from other organizations, jurisdictions and sectors is essential to service excellence. Benchmarking service performance against others offers an important means of assessing service performance, setting goals for the future, and identifying areas for improvement and change. Benchmarking would form part of the service strategy’s focus on monitoring and measuring service performance.

Establishing a Service Excellence Community of Practice (CoP) for internal services

Establishing a Service Excellence Community of Practice would provide a focal point for information-sharing and communications around best practices and lessons learned. The service strategy would explore options for establishing a CoP with representation across departments and agencies to connect leaders and practitioners of internal services in support of the continued transformation of enterprise-wide systems, including IT, Travel, CWA, the PSPM portal and myKEY, as well as department and agency back-office services.

Communications and marketing

Transforming an organization involves an increased focus on communication. A communications and marketing plan would build awareness around the Government’s commitment to service excellence in internal services. The service strategy would outline steps for developing a coordinated communications and marketing plan for employees, clients, departments and agencies and the broader public, including: