Over the next five to ten years, the private and public sectors will compete for talent like they never have before. The ideal within the public service would be to continue to look at how the structures and working systems can be refreshed and rejuvenated. Though renewal initiatives are proving to be successful, the public service must do more to stay ahead of the curve to keep on its journey of becoming a world-class organization.
Perceptions must be broken down. Public perceptions of being mediocre do not help in attracting the best and the brightest. Current employees have an important role to play; they must be proud to be public servants and not be afraid to say so. Engaged employees are the biggest promoters of the public service and are more effective than job fairs and expensive brochures.
For new employees, orientation is crucial. If new employees are told to spend two months alone reading manuals to learn their job, they will disengage. They may even leave the job. Managers play a vital role in retention; they must make new employees feel accepted in the unit and come up with innovative and engaging initiatives such as job shadowing and mentoring to help them learn their jobs. Managers must also reinforce the importance of an employee’s job to the team and their integral role as a contributing member. A little attention and support goes a long way in making an employee feel appreciated.
The public service needs to foster a culture of smart risk taking. As public servants, we are not the decision makers, but it is up to us to make sure deputy ministers and ministers are well informed and receive the best possible options and advice. If we are risk adverse in our recommendations, DMs and ministers will never have the opportunity to explore all alternatives and innovative ways of changing the public service.
When employees stop an idea at the bottom because it was never done before or could be perceived as risky, they limit the power of decision making. DMs and ministers must make the decisions and take the risks; we need to give them the opportunity to consider all possibilities.
Implement the 80/20 concept. The 150!Canada project in which I participate made the following recommendation: “Allow for 80 percent of an employee’s time to be spent on core business related to their job description and the other 20 percent to be available for other work outside of the formal job description that is of value to the public service and to Canadians.”
It is similar to Bob Chartier’s corner of the desk analogy: 80 percent of your desk is for your regular day-to-day operations, while a corner (20 percent) is set aside to do things you are passionate about or will develop your community of practice – the type of work that makes employees excited to get out of bed every day, and makes a contribution to the public service, not just the department they work for.
The public service needs to stay ahead of the curve. With Web 2.0, the public service needs to take a giant leap forward or risk being left behind. Other countries are using text messaging and email communication with their clients. Canada needs to keep up with the ever-changing information age. Our future clients expect to be able to communicate with their government using the digital media of their choice, much as they do with private sector companies.
Some departments are using social media and other channels for communication, promotion and recruitment strategies; however, many lock down Web 2.0 from their employees for fear it may become abused internally. The five percent who will abuse these Web 2.0 sites are already abusing websites that have not been blocked by the firewall. Another reason to embrace Web 2.0 is that employees need to adapt and be ready for ever-changing technology in the workplace – the world is already struggling to keep up with the rapid pace of change.
Overall, public sector renewal strategies and implementation have made giant leaps forward and have made a distinct difference in government. However, like all initiatives, we can’t just put them on the shelf to be forgotten; we need to make them living strategies that we continue to advance, improve upon and learn from to ensure we continue to be an employer of choice and a world-class public service.
Jodi LeBlanc is chair of the IPAC New Professionals Committee and chair of the Federal Youth Network. She works as an Operations Support Analyst with Veterans Affairs Canada in Prince Edward Island.