Actively engaging employees in a rapidly changing workplace is a continuing critical challenge for leadership. In the public sector, increasing globalization, a looming labour shortage, fiscal realities, and competition with the private sector for critical competencies make employee engagement all the more crucial for today’s leaders.
Public service leaders recognize that having engaged employees who are involved in and committed to their work is critical to the success of their organizations and the quality of programs and services delivered to citizens. And, many are taking action to measure engagement through employee surveys.
In 2004, Public Service Commissioners (PSCs) across Canada wanted to ensure the public service could compare employee survey results with similar organizations.
“At the time, we recognized that benchmarking could be a powerful tool to help build awareness of what is achievable in a public service environment and to share information for the benefit of all,” states Angela Coke, Chair of Ontario’s Public Service Commission.
The Employee Engagement Interjurisdictional Team (EEIT) was sponsored by PSCs and began its work in 2005 with members from six jurisdictions across Canada. It has since grown to include 13 members from provincial, territorial and federal jurisdictions.
When the team was formed, it was given a mandate from PSCs to develop a common model of employee engagement, and common questions for use in employee surveys by participating jurisdictions.
Since 2005-06, the team has produced annual reports of results on 19 common questions, and over time it has continually focused on providing value-added information to its sponsors and their organizations.
One such improvement was the development of an Employee Engagement Index, composed of six questions measuring the outcomes of having engaged employees.
“This index allows public service leaders to focus on key issues by monitoring trends and collective progress on engagement across Canada,” says Kelliann Dean, PSC for Nova Scotia. “The work of this team enables us to work collaboratively on common areas for improvement.”
Based on the first report of results, “career growth” was identified as a focus area for collective attention and as a result collaborative work ensued through another interjurisdictional team.
The EEIT has also looked for opportunities to provide data to functional areas within the public service, and so far has provided data specific to Correctional Services.
Several organizations from other levels of government and from as far away as Australia have expressed interest in this groundbreaking cross-jurisdictional and collaborative work.
“The work of this team has demonstrated that collaborative, innovative approaches add tremendous value by providing actionable insight for leaders across Canada and beyond,” comments Aidan Sheridan, PSC for PEI. “I am pleased we have been involved.”
The team will next turn its attention to assessing the relative importance of the various drivers of engagement to determine any common trends across the country and to identify priorities for action.
Focus will also continue on providing value-added analysis of results, sharing leading practices, and investigating potential opportunities for other data reporting for specific functional areas/departments.
Data from employee surveys provides critical insight that can identify and support improvement efforts by leaders, who have substantial influence on many drivers of engagement. The EEIT provides benchmarking data and analysis that arms leaders across Canada to focus efforts in areas that can really make a difference, and demonstrates the benefits of collaborative efforts among jurisdictions.
“At the end of the day,” concludes Dale Silver, PSC for Alberta, “we all want to ensure we are paying attention to those things that build a quality workplace that engages employees so they are positioned to provide quality programs and services to the citizens we serve. If we can learn from each other we all benefit.”
The Employee Engagement Interjurisdictional Team is sponsored by Canadian Public Service Commissioners. For more information on this initiative, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.