Good leaders know that saying “thank you” to employees for a job well done is a morale booster as well as the right thing to do. Finding the time to acknowledge staff efforts is important.
Acknowledging our people is one reason why the National Public Service Week has become such a popular event with public servants at all levels across the country since its creation in 1992. It’s one week a year that’s set aside to say a special “thank you” to the people who work hard, day in and day out, delivering services and programs to Canadians. This is the week when we most visibly celebrate the excellence, leadership and teamwork that public service employees demonstrate in their everyday work.
National Public Service Week, which this year runs June 10-16, also serves as a reminder that the work public servants undertake is of tremendous importance to Canadians – even though it is sometimes invisible.
From ensuring the safety of our food supply, to ensuring safety at the border, public servants make Canada a better and safer place to live.
Providing services and information to someone retiring, to a student looking for a job, developing policies, or ensuring increased accountability – it all counts to make our country a better place.
Successive evaluations demonstrate the worth of National Public Service Week in terms of boosting morale, building networks among public servants and enhancing public awareness of the important work public servants undertake.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said that we in Canada are fortunate to have a committed and principled public service staffed by highly skilled people. And Kevin Lynch, Clerk of the Privy Council, noted earlier this year in the 14th annual report to the Prime Minister on the Public Service that “the most important instrument for renewal is the professionalism and personal commitment of every public servant.”
National Public Service Week demonstrates to Canadians that the federal public service is a vital (and vitally important) national institution, with a culture of excellence, innovation, values and ethics. That is crucial, not only because the public service serves Canadians, but also because it allows the public service to position itself in Canadians’ minds as a great place for a career.
The theme for National Public Service Week this year is “Keeping the circle strong: Connecting our generations.” This reflects the fact that with baby boomers preparing for retirement, succession planning has become a critically important element of human resources management. The theme also highlights the concept of renewal, of passing on knowledge accumulated through experience.
The Leadership Network of the Canada Public Service Agency coordinates the national communication activities and provides tools to assist with planning and promotion of regional and departmental activities.
The CPSA National Public Service Week website (www.hrma-agrh.gc.ca) is used to reach internal audiences and to promote national events. However, the actual success of the week is entirely dependent on the efforts of the departmental and Federal Regional Council coordinators, who ensure employee participation by organizing regional and local events.
Across Canada, departments and agencies plan a wide variety of activities to mark the occasion. Departmental events include launching ceremonies, merit and long service awards, thank you cards to all employees signed by their respective directors-general, and an invitation to an event signed by the deputy head.
Employees are asked to join an executive for a brown-bag lunch, and a slide show of employees at work and at play is usually prominently displayed during the week in a common area. Managers play a key role by encouraging staff to participate in these activities.
National events include a photo contest and the Public Service Award of Excellence ceremony.
The annual photo contest is always a hit. Employees are invited to submit photos that demonstrate the professionalism, resourcefulness and innovation of federal public service employees and a committee picks finalists. Last year, 243 photos were received for the contest and hundreds of people voted online each day for their favourite.
Again this year, five winners for the photo contest will be chosen by popular vote. In addition, the photo submissions of 25 finalists will be used to create a 2009 calendar, to be given to employees during next year’s Public Service Week. (The calendar distributed this year will have 50 finalists from the 2006 photo contest.)
The annual Public Service Award of Excellence ceremony is one of the high points of the week. Its continuing popularity with public servants at all levels across the country underlines the importance of saying “thank you” to the people whose hard work keeps the wheels of government turning smoothly. Launched in 2004, the Award is open to public servants across the country and abroad. Every year, public servants get a chance to nominate co-workers who have demonstrated excellence in any one of seven categories: Outstanding Career; Management Excellence; Innovation; Excellence in Citizen-focused Service Delivery; Employment Equity and Diversity; Official Languages; and Exemplary Contribution under Extraordinary Circumstances.
This year, a total of 109 nominations were submitted across all seven categories. The awards ceremony will take place on June 14 at the Hilton Lac-Leamy Conference Centre in Gatineau. Upwards of 900 people are expected to attend.
Last year, 30 awards were presented to a total of 250 recipients (individuals and teams).
One of the recipients was Deborah Ashford, a client service team manager at the London district office of Veterans Affairs Canada. She won an Excellence Award in the Outstanding Career category.
“It gave me an incredible sense of accomplishment,” she said in an interview, adding that her nomination came to her as a complete surprise.
Her co-workers had banded together to put together a nomination package – something that required quite a lot of work. “I was just so moved by what people had written and the effort they made to acknowledge me and my work,” she said.
“I was really touched by the whole process. As a manager, I know my role is to acknowledge people, and sometimes we don’t really take the time. So I appreciated the time and effort people had gone to. I’m looking forward to retirement in the next year and it’s really rewarding to have that kind of recognition of your work.”
But beyond receiving the award, Ashford says the ceremony was a particularly powerful moment for her, because she was able to see how broad and diverse the Public Service of Canada really is – both in terms of people and scope of work.
The public service, after all, includes not only people who develop programs and policies, but also research scientists, and those who undertake search and rescue missions, ensure border security and provide food safety. “When you are at that kind of ceremony you get some idea of the depth and breadth of the public service,” said Ashford. “And to see people’s stories and their impact on so many aspects of life in Canada in all kinds of things – it was really amazing!
“I have always been phenomenally proud to be