Renewal
May 7, 2012

Employees want renewal

CGE Vol.13 No.1 January 2007

What exactly do federal public servants want? The message from the 3rd Public Service Employee Survey published in June is renewal.

In federal surveys conducted in 1999, 2002 and 2005, employees show a remarkable commitment to public service. Over 90% are proud of their work and believe in their organization and its mandate.

In both 2002 and 2005, 90% were strongly committed to making their organization successful, 80% felt treated with respect, and 70% could explain the vision and values of their organization to others. These are very strong results. They reflect the dedication and commitment that employees bring to work every day.

But there is more to the story as employees are signaling that they have significant concerns. There is a risk of disengagement and diminished commitment to excellence if we fail to understand the dimensions of the renewal employees are seeking – more confidence in senior management, improved career development and learning, a better work environment and reduced barriers to effectiveness.

Confidence in management
There are signs that employees lack confidence in their leaders. Only a third felt progress had been made in addressing the results of the 2002 survey. Only half believe management will address concerns raised in the current survey.

Also troubling, 45% do not feel that senior management does a good job of sharing information and 36% do not think they can initiate a formal redress procedure without fear of reprisal.

More confidence is shown in the relationship with immediate supervisors, but there are still some gaps. As many as 25% say that the supervisor does not keep them informed about issues affecting their work, 25% say they do not get adequate recognition from their immediate supervisor and 28% say they do not get useful feedback about their job performance. One in five does not feel the supervisor distributes work fairly. Some 31% are not satisfied with the way supervisors handle informal complaints, and only 50% of employees believe their supervisor or their department does a good job of helping them develop their career.

If the gap between employee commitment and confidence in leadership is too wide, or not improving over time, a cultural disconnect could emerge and lead to employee disengagement. Initiatives to bring about renewal may encounter resistance if employee confidence in their leaders does not improve.

Career development
Overall, 77% of public servants expressed satisfaction with their career, consistent with survey results in 2002. However, responses to more specific questions point to areas of weakness in career development and learning programs.

Many employees believe that a lack of information about selection processes (37%) and restrictions in the area of competition (50%) impede their career – 30% do not believe the selection process is fair and 1 in 5 disagreed that the right person was hired for the job.

A surprising 60% say they would be reluctant to apply for a developmental position. Of the employees who did, 44% said they were “denied” an assignment, and many felt they had not received a reasonable explanation.

As competition for Gen X and Y talent becomes more intense, opportunities for learning and development will become critical. Federal employees do not feel well served in this regard: 34% say lack of access to learning opportunities adversely affected their career and 41% claim that lack of access to developmental opportunities had a negative impact. One third say that their supervisor does not provide on-the-job coaching or an opportunity to develop and apply their skills.

It is not surprising, then, that half of all respondents do not believe they have opportunities for promotion in their department and many do not believe there are opportunities in the federal public service overall.

Obviously, employees also have a responsibility for the development of their careers and identifying their own learning needs. However, it is worrying to see that substantial numbers of employees do not believe they receive support and guidance from their supervisors and that many also believe their career opportunities are adversely affected by lack of fairness in the selection processes.

It is ironic that as senior managers prepare to address challenges of how to find and engage top talent, our employees believe there are insufficient opportunities for them, that their organization is not fully committed to learning, or that their career development is not being encouraged. The future ability of the federal public service to recruit and retain the best talent available will be diminished if these results are not improved.

Work environment
Despite strong confidence in their work unit and its role, a sizeable minority viewed their work environment as unsupportive.

Many employees feel they work in a stressful environment, with varying degrees of control over their work. Some 20% say they can only sometimes or rarely complete their work during regular hours and 40% feel pressure to work more than regular hours. One third had difficulty balancing work and family needs. Health (burnout, disability, etc) and workplace difficulties were the leading reasons cited by those planning to leave the public service.

The majority feels that only sometimes or rarely do they have a say in decisions and actions at work. More than 40% believe they rarely or only sometimes receive encouragement to be innovative and undertake new initiatives, and 29% feel their supervisor does not discuss with the employee the results he or she is expected to achieve. Only 31% said that their work unit takes time periodically to review how it conducts business.

Barriers to effectiveness
There is a strong belief that work suffers as a result of changing priorities, a lack of organizational stability, too many approval stages, unreasonable deadlines and inadequate resources. In almost every one of these questions, these perceptions increased from three to five percent between the 2002 and 2005 surveys.

It is somewhat surprising that supervisors, and more particularly executives, were more likely to believe that the quality of work suffered due to unreasonable deadlines or lack of resources. Perhaps, as Linda Duxbury has noted, managers need to do a better job in challenging unreasonable schedules, re-setting priorities and ensuring that resources are available to undertake the responsibilities which have been assigned.

Employee vision of renewal
Employees are saying very clearly that they are proud of their work and their contribution, and are dedicated to public service – a wonderful foundation on which to build renewal.

They are also raising warning flags: they are concerned about their environment and impediments to high-quality work. They want richer, more varied careers with a stronger learning environment and more career support from leaders and supervisors. And to date, they have not been encouraged by the response from senior management – despite the significant effort many managers may have invested in addressing employee concerns.

There are many ways in which public service leaders can build and implement a vision of renewal that will resonate with all employees. In a recent “town hall” meeting with PS executives, Privy Council Clerk Kevin Lynch noted that the public service was replete with examples of best practices – the challenge is to establish these as the norm or benchmark

About this author

0 comments

There are no comments for this post yet.

Be the first to comment. Click here.

Renewal
 
In this issue of Canadian Government Executive, our lead story is...
 
Written by Jason McNaught Former Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page doesn’t...
 
Like all governments, the federal public service faces increasing demands for...
 
As a new assistant director in the Human Resources Branch at...
 
John Manzoni, the head of the U.K. public service, will be...
 
What is the central challenge facing government institutions and societies in...
 
Last September the federal government announced a small business hiring credit....
 
We hear it often about the digital era: “Everything has changed.”...
 
I don’t think governments have changed fundamentally since Al Gore made...
 
Last September Netflix refused the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC)...
 
Go ahead. Read the comments that anonymous users post under online...
 
There’s something happening here. It might not warrant the protest cry...
 
Blueprint 2020 continues to be the key driver in the federal...
 
On October 7, 2014 the World Bank Group (WBG) opened its...
 
Barring an early federal election call fraught with risk, our next...
 
Well, there is little doubt that on the public sector front...
 
Most public sector conversations around the impact of digital refer to...
 
Since joining the federal government just over two years ago, there...
 
In the U.K., reform of the public sector has been a...
 
“Do you believe public servants are too politicized?” This was the...
 
I call today’s youth the Net Generation. Born between 1977 and...
 
I call today’s youth the Net Generation. Born between 1977 and...
 
they tend to gloss over the substantial range of public servants...
 
Commitment to social justice can erode in times of austerity, change,...
 
Francis Fukuyama is best known for his book, The End of...
 
while there is something very good to be said about consistent...
 
but it’s an important distinction that the marketing needs don’t overshadow...
 
A year ago, the 7th annual report of the Prime Minister’s...
 
While the gist of the 7th annual report of the Prime...
 
If there is one thing governments spend a lot of time...
 
After seven years in the public service it was time to...
 
One of the challenges facing the public service is recruiting and...
 
Middle managers are emerging as the true change makers and disciples...
 
APEX suggests that some public servants do not appear to appreciate...
 
Public sector leaders face an environment characterized by complexity, shifting demographics...
 
The second annual CGE Leadership Summit was held yesterday in Ottawa....
 
Departments and social media platforms within the government have been encouraging...
 
In 1996, Pacific Rim Commonwealth countries shared experiences in managing complexity...
 
The changes that the public sector is going through are well...
 
December was the six month check-in for Blueprint 2020, the current...
 
Prime ministers matter when it comes to public service reform. In...
 
If you’ve read Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, you...
 
Blueprint 2020 follows similar efforts of previous Clerks who were trying...
 
The push for government cutbacks is running up against growing public...
 
It should come as no surprise that citizens who suffered the...
 
According to Booze and Co., change management, “because it is predicated...
 
Some of us are old enough to remember the New Public...
 
There has been no shortage of change initiatives driven by federal...
 
The Blueprint 2020 process is historic because it engages employees across...
 
Many nations look to the Canadian public service as a model...
 
Throughout the Blueprint 2020 campaign, I’ve heard one thing again and...
 
Over the past months, a number of teams within the federal...
 
Collaboration is the new mantra for how governments can work more...
 
In June, the Clerk of the Privy Council, Wayne Wouters, launched...
 
As government departments and the GoC Twitterverse continue to respond to...
 
To adapt to the forces of change reshaping our world and...
 
Dramatic transformations to historically stable institutions are creating exciting opportunities to...
 
Just had a fascinating discussion with Paul Macmillan about the new...
 
the message on the sign starts to sound juuuuust a little...
 
I was not surprised to hear one individual advise Louise that...
 
Today we are launching a CGE blog. So, you might ask,...
 
There is no denying that today’s students are the future of...
 
The government of the United States of America is starting to...
 
National Public Service Week’s theme this year is “Proudly Serving Canadians.”...
 
As part of its Big Society initiative, and linked to Prime...
 
I used to be a proud public servant. Now I’m not...
 
In the Twentieth Annual Report to the Prime Minister on the...
 
The Clerk of the Privy Council spoke at the APEX Symposium...
 
At this time of global uncertainty, Canada has strong frameworks: a...
 
The best sand castle I ever built was constructed on top...
 
Yesterday the Auditor General released his spring report. The media played...
 
It is interesting that when you ask people why they work...
 
No one can predict the future. In a world of rapid...
 
The commentaries on Margaret Thatcher have focused on her determination and...
 
There are very few countries in the world where public sector...
 
Too often those implementing change in the public sector can get...
 
If you are a senior leader interested in adopting the Community...
 
I often refer to reports and information on government from the...
 
Federal public servants south of the border are, of course, concerned...
 
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a U.K. National...
 
Culture change takes time and requires the dedication of employees and...
 
The U.K. government public sector reforms, as outlined in the 2011...
 
The world today seems to be changing significantly faster than ever...
 
Many think the traditional Westminster system of public management is on...
 
Choice. It seems like such a simple thing, to choose to...
 
In Monday’s Globe and Mail, Donald Savoie wrote an op-ed piece...
 
I recently had the opportunity to attend Mega-ConnEX – a government-wide...
 
Minister Tony Clement, President of the Treasury Board, was preaching to...
 
Countries, particularly in the western industrialized world, are coming under increasing...
 
Henry Mintzberg observed in a 2007 CGE interview that management and...
 
The new Secretary of the Treasury Board of Canada, Yaprak Baltacioglu,...
 
Last night in Toronto the head of the Ontario public service,...
 
It’s all very well to talk about making government smaller. But...
 
The question is: when will governments wake up and figure out...
 
More and more, money alone doesn’t cut it to attract and...
 
During the mid 1990s Canada gained a reputation internationally for public...
 
The U.K. has released its Civil Service Reform Plan, and anyone...
 
What do new professionals (NPs) need to better engage, contribute, and...
 
At the APEX Symposium last week, the President of the Treasury...
 
Wayne Wouters spoke at the APEX Symposium yesterday, and reiterated two...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.5 May 2007 Karen Ellis is Vice-President of the...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.1 January 2007 What exactly do federal public servants...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.6 June 2007 Public service renewal has become a...
 
Renewal is an ongoing process demanding hands-on commitment across a broad...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.3 March 2007 Kevin Lynch is Clerk of the...
 
When someone I meet for the first time asks me the...
 
Thanks to demographic shifts, climate change, energy shortages, global economic meltdowns...
 
À cause de l’évolution démographique, du changement climatique, des pénuries d’énergie,...
 
Is there reason to hope? Once again, the federal government has...
 
Dans son quinzième rapport annuel au Premier ministre sur la fonction...
 
In the fifteenth annual report to the Prime Minister on the...
 
Mes amis, vous avez fait un bon choix. En entrant dans...
 
La Direction de la conservation et de la protection (C&P) est...
 
Conservation and Protection (C&P) is the enforcement arm of Fisheries and...
 
As canada@150 approaches the one-year anniversary of its final report, we...
 
Wicked issues? What does that mean? It means that traditional solutions...
 
We would like to share with you our ideas on how...
 
In the April edition, the Federal Youth Network wrote a memo...
 
When I was hired into the federal government in 2003, I...
 
Chairing two national networks from Prince Edward Island can be challenging....
 
Recently I had the opportunity to be part of a panel...
 
Un demi-millénaire après le premier contact entre les Autochtones et les...
 
Over the next five to ten years, the private and public...
 
En Nouvelle-Zélande, la fonction publique représente 31 % du PIB....
 
In November, Canadians came face to face with the reality of...
 
Pour concrétiser tout véritable effort de renouvellement, la fonction publique devra...
 
On March 22, Federal Budget Day, the Harper government authorized the...
 
The economic meltdown has crippled governments already challenged by global warming,...
 
New Zealand’s State Services comprise 31 percent of GDP. State servants...
 
As promised, the advisory group on the future of the Australian...
 
Any truly meaningful renewal of the public service will, by necessity,...
 
While the Canadian approach has been piecemeal and incremental, some countries...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.10 December 2007 Public servants are used to secretaries...
 
On March 31, the Clerk of the Privy Council Office submitted...
 
Join us on a trip around our planet as we explore...
 
Treasury Board President Tony Clement is leading the federal government”s Strategic...
 
Allan Seckel joined the British Columbia public service in 2003 after...
 
The Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner was created by...
 
Many young Canadians have joined the public service to serve their...
 
Best practices are a way of accomplishing a business function that...
 
The public service today has been enduring a barrage of criticism...
 
An interview with Deputy Minister Cassie Doyle....
 
Une entrevue avec le vice-ministre Cassie Doyle....
 
Recognizing that the federal public service must evolve to keep pace...
 
With cuts anticipated in the upcoming budget, many public servants are...
 
When the National Managers’ Community gathers in Montreal in March for...
 
In October 2012, the Commonwealth Ministers Forum on Public Sector Development...
 
The Canada School of Public Service is playing a significant role...
 
Although the value of Canada’s professional and non-partisan public services is...
 
As a new public servant, I sometimes think about the future...
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
In this issue of Canadian Government Executive, our lead story is...