The number of meetings served annually since 2016-17 has been well above the 15-year average. During the same period, we have seen an increase in meetings that utilize more virtual technologies, such as teleconferencing and videoconferencing, with the number of virtual meetings being consistently in the 33-40% range as a proportion of the total number of conferences served each year. These numbers do not take into consideration the dramatic increase in (virtual) conferences served since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, a trend that is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

As governments and senior officials change across Canada, it is important for CICS to maintain and renew its relationships with client governments to actively promote the organization and its services, as well as its neutrality. Communication efforts are continuing in order to sustain the number of intergovernmental conferences we serve.

CICS has remained at the forefront of providing conference support services through the Modernization of our delivery model and the deployment of innovations, such as our new in-house virtual conferencing studio. This has led to an ever-increasing number of virtual conferences, particularly teleconferences, with simultaneous interpretation in both official languages. The utilization of these virtual conferencing methods allows all federal, provincial, territorial governments to reduce both travel time and costs that are associated with participation. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced an even greater shift away from in-person meetings, resulting in higher client expectations in terms of turnaround times and web-conferencing platform alternatives. Updating CICS’ organizational structure to reflect the current environment will be a crucial exercise in driving the Secretariat to fulfill its need for specialized skills in virtual conferencing technology. With the goal of increasing internal specialization, CICS is proud to continue offering a wide array of conference solutions that respond to these client needs.

In the next few years, a significant number of the Secretariat’s federal public servants will be eligible to retire. These retirements along with the usual provincial-territorial employee rotations will challenge CICS’ ability to meet demand of conference activity, and to sustain a knowledgeable workforce with the appropriate competencies. Having succession and transition plans in place for key positions–as well as developmental opportunities for those employees with the desire and ability to be promoted within the organization–will continue to be a critical strategic priority.

The attraction and retention of young, ambitious and motivated staff creates a unique challenge for a micro-agency such as CICS due to employees’ limited upward mobility within a small organization. The agency now makes use of the Federal Student Work Exchange Program and CO-OP Programs on a regular basis to encourage interest in a public service career. Sustained efforts will be exerted to maintain and improve employee retention by creating an environment conducive to career development and job satisfaction.