Change Management
April 1, 2013

Assessing tomorrow’s strategic leaders

The British Columbia Public Service is vying for talent in an increasingly competitive market, so retaining our high-performing and valued employees is all the more critical for our long-term succession planning and recruitment success.

To prepare the leadership landscape for the future we are gauging our current bench strength by reviewing the leadership potential of our pre-executive employees known as Strategic Leaders. These employees are being assessed now to see where they are already strong and to determine where further development would be beneficial.

Realizing a review of this nature would be a new and potentially daunting experience for our employees, we designed an approach that was engaging, transparent and that would reward them with meaningful, personalized feedback. Building on a similar process held with our assistant and associate deputy ministers in 2010, we were able to adapt that successful model to meet the needs of this larger, diverse strategic leadership group.

What resulted was a comprehensive performance and leadership review of approximately 450 employees in spring 2012, led by the Talent Management Division at the BC Public Service Agency on behalf of the BC Public Service’s Deputy Ministers Council. Here’s an overview of the review process:

• Employees completed a personalized profile that highlighted their career experience, achievements, professional development interests, and categorized their role into one of six areas: policy, program, finance, negotiations, information management/information technology or human resources.

Evaluation panels corresponding to these six areas comprised of area-specific deputy ministers, associate deputy ministers and assistant deputy ministers were created to review each employee. The profiles were presented to the panels by the employees’ executive supervisors, followed by a thorough panel discussion. For consistency, each evaluation was compared with those of other employees in the same line of business by the panel chairs before being finalized.

• Each employee was evaluated on a scale that considered their experience in the role to their readiness for a promotion. And each was given a personalized confidential report with feedback on their accomplishments, strengths and recommended areas for development.

Employee feedback about the review experience has been very positive because of the informative and transparent nature of the process and an understanding that the aggregated information will be used to create new learning and development opportunities.

For the executive team, the process reinforced the importance of their active participation in coaching their employees’ development. This could involve adding more challenge and responsibility for their high performers, or promoting lateral moves to gain exposure and develop competencies. While employees are ultimately responsible for their own personal career development, having executive leaders who are committed to employee development is key for our long-term success.

For our Talent Management process, the experience highlighted the need to invest in new corporate learning resources and the importance of a program to support cross-functional training. With the endorsement of the Deputy Ministers Council, we are planning and implementing actions that will accelerate professional development and enhance employee engagement across the BC Public Service.

The Strategic Leadership Review was a logistical feat of which we are very proud. Based on its success, we will continue to conduct bi-annual reviews of all assistant and associate deputy ministers and review Strategic Leaders in alternating years.

Deborah Bowman is the assistant deputy minister of the Talent Management Division within the BC Public Service Agency.

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