Blueprint 2020 continues to be the key driver in the federal government’s on-going pursuit of improving public services for Canadians and renewing the federal public service. The renewal elements include a desire to improve the quality and relevance of its policy advice to government and to improve productivity, efficiency and services.
The five objectives of Blueprint 2020 are broad based and forward looking. In summary they are to promote innovation and networking, empowerment and more efficient work processes, the greater use of technology in the work force, better people management, and the active promotion of public service values and ethics which reinforce the aspirations and values of the millennial generation.
To reinforce the need for reform, the Secretary of the Treasury Board has also been driving a parallel exercise through the articulation of the “key leadership competencies” that are going to be required of employees, at all levels, in the public service in the coming years. Running through all of the expected competencies are four common themes: values and ethics (such as excellence in client service); thinking things through (such as analysis and ideas); engagement (such as sharing information and consultation); and excellence through results (which encompasses efforts to encourage more initiative and collaboration).
These far reaching and ambitious objectives are being contested by a number of contextual developments that will challenge the public service’s ability to successfully make the necessary changes in the way it operates and manages its human resources. Failing to capture the significance of these challenges could ultimately undermine the success of the two exercises.
First, over the past decade the federal government has hired more than 110,000 new employees, the vast majority of whom were hired into entry-level jobs. As a consequence of the increase in hiring since 2006, approximately 25 percent of the public service has less than five years of government experience and 60 percent has less than 15 years experience. In effect, it is a very young workforce that is being asked to respond to Blueprint 2020 and the Treasury Board’s key leadership competencies.
Second, the series of recent government personnel and spending cuts have weakened employees’ notions of job security and generally threatened the longstanding principle that a permanent job in government was effectively a career-long appointment.
Third, Canadians are changing their behavioural patterns with regard to accessing government services. More than ever, citizens expect seamless and efficient government services as they experience enhanced levels of service from private sector providers. Their growing expectations are pushing the established boundaries concerning service standards.
Last, and perhaps most significant, young people have different values than earlier generations of new employees and they dramatically differ from their current bosses in terms of work attitudes and career expectations. Most notably, young employees are in constant communications with one another, are less attached to the workforce, have high job mobility, are very demanding of the work world, and demonstrate high levels of so-called egocentric behaviour.
Despite these demographic and situational factors that are making reform more difficult than expected, the Blueprint 2020 initiative is the public service’s best chance to lead the “new” public service in a genuine renewal effort by building on the new employee cohort’s appreciation of information technology and the power of emerging wireless communications technologies.
The challenge for the public service leadership, which includes everyone with managerial responsibilities, is to motivate the recently hired Millennials by doing the following:
• Take advantage of the considerable technical, social media, and communications skills of the new generation of public servants by making the workplace adapt to them, not the other way around. This can be achieved by encouraging the modernized interactions among employees that have been identified in the Treasury Board’s leadership competencies but have been rarely implemented.
• Create a learning environment for staff that will strive to complement employee skills with the values being championed in the competency regimes.
• Identify potential leaders from among the young cohort to provide guidance, develop capacity, evaluate performance, and support their efforts to balance work and other demands.
• Harness the technologies that are currently available through third-party application developers that will enhance the quality of service delivery, coordination and communications among employees, and interdepartmental collaboration.