As an employee of the Ontario Public Service, I’ve been looking at the current transformation initiative with much excitement and some reservation. I’ve come to realize that transformation is more than just an executive decision. It takes all of us, working together with our collective values and vision, to realize the goal of being a top workplace of the future.
And that means you are a leader. Whether that’s a large or small “L”, what you contribute each day affects your colleagues, friends, peers, staff – and all those on the outside looking in.
Positive and consistent messaging is starting to become the norm. Old jokes are fading and discussions are shifting to how the OPS has changed as it redefines itself into a workplace that understands and embraces the importance of values.
Regular team and individual meetings between staff and management are the rule. Open communication relating to work assignments is more common, and many managers have communicated their availability to talk with staff as the need arises.
Change of this magnitude takes time, forbearance, understanding and consistent messaging. And change means many things: continuing to build and maintain our credibility with citizens, employee engagement, consolidation of processes, development of best or common practices, going green, embracing diversity.
I know you’ve heard all of this before; in fact, the message may have come from you. This time, however, the messaging is coming from me – a revitalized employee. I, along with many, many others, have begun to understand that we are a part of a group that is 65,000 strong. From social workers to policy analysts, paramedics to engineers, microbiologists and more, we are the foundation of the policies, programs and services that our elected governments develop and deliver.
My career and resulting journey within the OPS began in June 1980. After 28 years, I feel a sense of accountability, ownership and belonging. I have developed, grown, nurtured and been nurtured under the umbrella of this employer for whom you can do or be anything. I survived the bleak times of the early 1980s, the Rae Days of the 1990s and the cuts of the new millennium. Attitude, I learned, is everything and the journey is what you make it. And attitude can influence change.
However, in my 28 years, I have never seen anything that compares with, or has motivated me to action, as the transformational journey that is currently underway.
It seemed to begin around 2004 with the words and vision of Tony Dean, former Secretary of Cabinet. Was it political? Who knows? But it sent a breath of new life into an old business. Although Dean has moved on, his successor, Shelly Jameson continues the transformation agenda.
Diversity is a large component of the transformational journey: we can be the best we can be because we no longer exclude those that may be the best in their field. To the ongoing discussion on the topic I would offer the following:
Though the provincial government was founded in 1867, and we’ve come a long way, some old things have become new again. Our diversity goal of today – to create an organization that is inclusive, diverse, equitable and accessible for all of our employeesâ€¦that reflects Ontario’s population at every level and one that welcomes and celebrates and nurtures talent in all forms – is it so different from the historical challenges of the mid 1860s? I see amazing similarities.
Remember Sir John A. MacDonald trying to bring to the same table the one-third, English-speaking, Protestant and the two-thirds, French-speaking, Catholic populations? His success was Canada. He transformed this nation into one that embraced the diversity that was theirs.
Was this an “executive decision?” No, but a vision, shared with much collaboration, work and edification of the other, a vision communicated with consistent messaging so that the people themselves embraced it.
Fast forward to the OPS of 2009. Is transformation an executive decision? Or is this, too, a vision, shared with much collaboration, work and edification of the other? A vision communicated with consistent messaging so that we, too, not only embrace it, but also become participants in its evolution. Pride in our workplace, respect for each other, gratification in our own contributions: the OPS is now full of individuals who understand the importance and significance of change – especially now. None of this transformation would have been possible without visionary and transformational leadership.
Change in any form is difficult. It takes time to change the way we think, to build a positive bridge between the generations and move towards a more culturally diverse and sustainable plateau.
Perhaps Mahatma Gandhi said it best: “We must become the change we want to see.”
Marilyn Wooldridge is a senior records analyst with the Ontario Ministry of Revenue.