Building Capabilities for the Future--Keeping Up with Change.

AuthorAlbaidhani, Ismail

Through a mixture of qualitative and quantitative research methods, this article presents the new way the House of Commons Administration in Canada is supporting MPs' professional development and continuous learning. This new approach builds on the evolving practices used to onboard MPs here as well as in comparable parliamentary systems elsewhere, and is informed by notable research that has been done in this field. The Members of Parliament Capability Development Framework (MP-CDF) is designed to offer an agile and adaptable approach to support MPs' continuing development as individuals and as organizations to meet their evolving objectives as legislators, employers, and representatives of their constituents.

Reaching a tipping point in development (1)

Parliaments in contemporary democracies are approaching a tipping point in supporting the development needs of their members. The House of Commons Administration in Canada offers continuing professional development to its MPs, starting with onboarding activities immediately following election to introduce them to their new roles and ending with offboarding services to help them transition into a post-parliamentary career.

The role of MPs is changing both in the short-term, accelerated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the long term, driven by increasing socioeconomic transformation and its impact on the work environment.

The House of Commons Administration in Canada (House Administration) is constantly striving to support the needs of MPs, from the moment they start their parliamentary journey to the time their role as parliamentarians end.

The onboarding of new MPs is evolving. Not long ago, newly elected MPs first received a large binder containing general information about the House of Commons. Two big events were then organized by the House Administration, where new MPs were provided with high-level information about their new role as parliamentarians. While the generic group sessions were helpful, they did not respond to the specific needs of new MPs to set up their offices, hire staff, understand their financial obligations or learn how to conduct parliamentary business in the Chamber and in committees.

In preparation for the 43rd general election, the House Administration took steps to revamp and redesign its orientation activities for Members. One key focus of this effort was to better understand MPs' needs and respond to them in a timely manner. Some of the latest design principles and technological tools were used.

User-centricity refocused the information provided, placing MPs' needs at the centre of the orientation activities. The just-in-time principle was applied to provide new Members with the right information at the right time without overwhelming them.

On-demand and personalized experiences were also introduced. A new knowledge and learning management system was implemented allowing MPs and their employees to access virtual learning, online information, and news from any part of the country through a dedicated portal available to them 24/7 on their cellphones, tablets, and desktop computers.

The pandemic also added a new dimension to the way MPs work and interact, giving rise to the development of virtual and hybrid channels. Onboarding activities following by-elections and the 44th general election were aligned with this new hybrid reality, giving MPs the option to take part in orientation activities and the swearing-in ceremony either in person or virtually.

Onboarding starts with key preboarding activities as early as the day after the election. New MPs first meet with specialists from the House Administration, who connect their technological devices to the parliamentary network, enrol them in the pay and benefits system, and create their identification and access cards.

They then participate in various group sessions, where they learn about their parliamentary duties, their office management responsibilities (which include hiring staff), and their financial budgets. MPs also receive information on the services offered by the House Administration to help them establish their offices.

After the first round of onboarding activities and before the new Parliament officially opens, MPs are sworn in by the Clerk of the House of Commons and attend a simulated sitting in the Chamber to help familiarize them with their legislative responsibilities, including voting and debating bills and motions.

Shortly after the opening of the Parliament, MPs are invited to a series of training sessions where they can learn about committee work and how to draft private Member's bills, motions, and amendments.

Given their existing knowledge, re-elected MPs take part in adjusted orientation activities that include the swearing-in ceremony and the re-signing of forms. They receive a new financial budget letter as well as updated policies and procedures.

Moreover, new House Officers (party leaders, Whips, House Leaders) have access to onboarding activities specifically geared to...

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