As the Ontario public service continues its modernization and transformation, success will pivot on the ability of our people to learn, lead and thrive in a changing environment.
With just over 30 percent of senior leaders eligible to retire within the next five years, our ability to attract, recruit and retain leaders is critical to building a strong and sustainable leadership cadre. While we work to develop leadership potential within, and attract strong leaders from the outside, it’s equally critical that we pay close attention to retaining and nurturing our existing talent pool.
Last year, in our first ever census survey, open to all OPS employees, the results clearly showed that our focus on leadership development is aligned with feedback from our employees, who expect this to be a top priority.
The foundation beneath our leadership path can be found within the frame of our leader-manager competencies – delivers, transforms, inspires, connects – which highlight the importance of what results we achieve and how we achieve them. While these competencies provide a core skill and ability framework for those in formal leadership positions, they also guide the development of leaders at all levels.
Along with the four leader-manager competencies, we place emphasis on demonstrating fundamental personal attributes that complement the model: self-awareness and personal integrity. Awareness of leadership practices to understand and appreciate how leaders’ emotions affect the behaviour of others is a critical success factor. These competencies and personal attributes are embedded within our talent management program, which supports honest conversations and feedback across the organization, within ministries, and between managers and employees.
In this, our third year of talent management, we are well on our way to integrating several critical processes and activities: recruitment, performance management, learning, succession planning and workforce planning. Our long-term goal: one cycle, one process.
Much of our enterprise leadership programming is developed and offered internally by OPS Learning and Development, part of the Centre for Leadership and Learning. There are also excellent examples of ministry-based initiatives.
Our enterprise efforts, particularly in the past year, have expanded to address the ever-important need to develop key competencies in those aspiring to leadership roles, as much as possible, before seeing them transition to the positions.
Enhancements this year include a new program “Is Management for Me?” that outlines leader-manager roles, responsibilities and competencies. A more in-depth, modular, nominated program that focuses on building leadership readiness is also in development.
Our leadership development “pathway” offers a number of routes to build and enhance skills. Some examples include:
- Management Foundations and Leadership Foundations
- An annual, nominated enterprise leadership program that brings together participants from each ministry
- Manager as Coach for Performance and Development, a half-day workshop, mandatory for all OPS managers
- Deputy Minister Orientation, a program for those recently appointed.
Our long-standing practice of leveraging external learning opportunities has been an excellent supplement to both our internal offerings and the self-directed learning our leaders undertake.
Each year, within the framework of our talent management strategy, we corporately coordinate nominations to enable dozens of OPS leaders to attend intensive executive leadership programs at various post-secondary institutions across Ontario. These opportunities are matched with the individual learning needs of our leaders.
Participation in these programs provides leaders with perspectives of other public sector and private sector colleagues. This exposure often leads to new long-term networks and has provided the impetus for many business partnerships, good practice sharing, and even a little “reinvention prevention.”
Fellowships are a further example of unique assignments offered to our senior executives outside the halls of the OPS. Each year a fellowship is arranged with both Queens University and the University of Toronto, providing excellent opportunities to bring our seasoned leaders to the classroom to learn, teach, share experience, and undertake research assignments. These leaders return to the OPS refreshed and invigorated.
Finally, our partnership agreement with the federal government provides an excellent framework to promote sharing of best practices in many areas including development. One example of how we are moving this partnership forward can be found in our collaboration with the Canada School of Public Service. Our learning teams are reviewing courses for potential content sharing, and this year we are participating in the School’s Advanced Leadership Program.
Our approach is designed to build a leadership development strategy that paves a clear pathway for those with leadership aspirations to those in executive roles. Continual improvement of our development opportunities will remain our focus, as we strive to meet the evolving needs of those who hold, and will hold, this special responsibility.