As canada@150 approaches the one-year anniversary of its final report, we are exploring how to live the canada@150 vision. While there are hurdles in implementing the recommendations of our report, there is also much to celebrate. We celebrate the small successes we see around us as well as the renewed dedication and enthusiasm to public service that participating in canada@150 has brought us and those who work with us. However, the past has shown that the renewal of the public service is not a one-off project but, like the tide, has both momentum and retreat.
We are riding the wave knowing that we bring new skills and new networks to our workplaces. The interdepartmental networks, Web 2.0 tools and new attitudes toward collaboration developed by canada@150 are saving us time, making us more effective and efficient in our work, and creating a community of interested and engaged public servants outside the canada@150 circle – people who want to learn and contribute beyond their job descriptions. We are giving more and learning more, at no financial cost. In a time of restraint, this is definitely something to celebrate.
But we can do more. We must utilize fully the limited resources we have, the most important of which are public servants themselves. We present three ideas that would enable public servants to be more engaged and thus more effective in serving the public.
First, establish a Career Advisor position within human resources to provide guidance to employees on career development and to managers in effective succession planning. Although some turnover is healthy, ensuring cross-pollination of ideas and individual growth, high levels of personnel turnover lead to losses in productivity, motivation, morale and corporate memory. Career Advisors would assist employees upon request, as well as providing training and awareness sessions to targeted groups. They would also have a strategic role in identifying emerging needs of an organization and providing long-term career opportunities for cohorts of people. Tied effectively to learning, career planning at all levels ensures that the public service is a learning organization where people are seen as corporate assets with unlimited potential.
Second, encourage and enable working level collaboration across departments and agencies. Although senior managers tend to work collaboratively across departments, working level staff responsible for policy and program development are often left in their own silos. Employees should be encouraged to collaborate with counterparts in other relevant organizations to strategize, discuss and learn together. Establishing multi-disciplinary task forces to address complex issues can bring rigour and insight not found by working internally. We should create a repository of the skills public servants possess, and establish means for public servants to connect with their colleagues across organizations. Be creative. The time has come to tear down these walls.
Third, base accountability on trust so that innovation and entrepreneurship can flourish. Many of us have had managers who have provided us with the space to take on new responsibilities and opportunities. They have trusted us, and in turn we have strived to deliver beyond expectations. We are delivering more with the same basic resources, using our passion to succeed. Demonstrating trust can be as simple as bringing junior staff to briefings and meetings, or providing the opportunity for them to participate in communities or initiatives that serve the larger federal family (e.g., new professionals networks or learning communities of practice).
While many of us have returned to our day jobs and continue to serve, we have remained a community and feel strengthened through opportunities to discuss and engage with one another on topics that are important to us and to the policy community at large. While our energy and passion for change and the potential of the public service ebbs and flows like the tides, we are happy to ride the waves knowing one day our ship will come in.
This article was wiki-composed by 12 canada@150 participants from eight federal departments in five regions. Visit http://bit.ly/canada150 for their research report.