Since the Clerk’s Blueprint 2020 launch in June, departments have been working full steam ahead on their employee engagement activities and action plans. Last week I had the opportunity to facilitate an employee consultation session with seven regional offices. The wealth of ideas, knowledge and insights from employees on how to evolve the public service of the future was overwhelming. It was inspiring to see how each of them took ownership of the vision and actively engaged in the discussion using out-of-the-box thinking.

All of the excitement around Blueprint 2020 made me think back to five years ago when I was a canada@150 participant. The canada@150 initiative brought together 150 early-career public servants to look at the policy challenges the country was likely to face in 2017 (Canada’s 150th birthday) and to explore the implications for the Federal Public Service.

Canada@150 was an incredible experience – I learned about foresight, scanning, systems mapping, change drivers, weak signals, policy challenges, key assumptions and uncertainties, and developed a dynamic skill set that will continue to assist me throughout my career with the Public Service. We had guidance from ADM mentors and enablers and were exposed to futurists and foresight experts. It was also my first exposure to using collaborative tools – melting away regional and departmental boundaries we were able to connect 24/7 beyond the firewall. Developing working relationships with brilliant public servants from all over the country made it seem almost effortless to wiki compose our 192-page final report (Part III – Canada’s Public Service in 2017).

Since the Blueprint 2020 launch and my recent reminiscence of canada@150, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the competencies I will need to be successful in the public service of the future. I came across a report by the Institute of the Future titled “Future Work Skills 2020” that analyzes many of the key drivers reshaping work and the broad skills that will be needed to help employees adapt to the changing career landscape.  Below are ten broad skills that will assist employees in the workplace of the future. Many of these are skills we should strive to obtain now (if we don’t already possess them), as they would also be valuable in the current workforce:

  • Sense-making. The ability to determine the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed.
  • Social intelligence. The ability to connect to others in a deep and direct way, to sense and stimulate reactions and desired interactions.
  • Novel and adaptive thinking. Proficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond routine or rule-based scenarios.
  • Cross-cultural competency. The ability to operate in different cultural settings
  • Computational thinking. The ability to translate vast amounts of data into abstract concepts and to understand data-based reasoning.
  • New-media literacy. The ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms and to leverage these media for persuasive communication.
  • Transdisciplinarity. Literacy in and ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines.
  • Design mind-set. Ability to represent and develop tasks and work processes for desired outcomes.
  • Cognitive load management. The ability to discriminate and filter information for importance and to understand how to maximize cognitive functioning using a variety of tools and techniques.
  • Virtual collaboration. The ability to work productively, drive engagement and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual team.

In addition, at the CGE Leadership summit in April Ron McKerlie highlighted seven guiding skills public sector leaders need in order to manage large-scale change. These are skills that are necessary in the current climate and will be fundamental long into the future:

1. An ability to focus and prioritize;
2. An ability to be decisive and make tough decisions;
3. A willingness to communicate and be transparent;
4. Adaptability;
5. Resilience, persistence and perseverance;
6. Creativity; and
7. Personal integrity.

With 2020 only seven years away, I am actively seeking ways to master these skills and other competencies, as well as keeping abreast of the ever-changing work environment, which will help ensure that I am fully equipped for the public service of the future and beyond.


Do you agree that these skills will be essential in the future? What other skills do you think will be required in the public service of 2020?

Jodi LeBlanc
Jodi LeBlanc is a Values and Ethics Advisor with Veterans Affairs Canada in Prince Edward Island. She is a collaborator/innovator for numerous public service initiatives and national networks and is a member of CGE’s editorial advisory board. You can connect with her via @jodilynne3 or