Monday, June 30, 2008

Reloaded: Daily Round-Up

We are experimenting with the format of how we deliver information. We are going to try posting links (possibly with comments) rather then posting complete articles hosted elsewhere.

Let us know what you think.

Media Search

Not much in the media today:

  1. Beefed-up rules put lobbying aspirations on hold
  2. Some will be working hard, some will be hardly working

Etienne Laliberté published this piece on his blog last week.


There is an upcoming armchair discussion (web re-broadcast) on July 3rd entitled Digital Disorder: The Internet and the Public Sector.

Conference Board of Canada

I got an email this morning from the Conference Board with a link to its Report Card on Canada

Ps - Have a good Canada Day tomorrow.

Friday, June 27, 2008

CPSRENEWAL.CA Weekly: The Importance of Informal Networks and All Things Digital

Lately a common thread of my discussions with public servants has been the importance of informal networks and of all things digital. The fact that these discussions are always informal and almost always digital seems either definitively ironic or more deeply indicative of their importance, and the importance of technology in facilitating them.

A couple of columns ago we put it out there that we would like to see some more direction from the centre on some things (i.e. providing us with concrete examples of how we can get involved in the renewal process). We received some good feedback and ended up having to ‘reload’ our weekly column.

The comment left by Renewalist spoke to the need for “regular and influential people inside of government [to use] their melons and [adapt] to the inevitable realities [in] their own ‘corners’ of the public service.” Renewalist also spoke of the need for courage at all levels, “It's about people like you and me stepping up and stepping into places and things that need to change.”

Given the lack of official means to participate in renewal in the broad sense, that is to say beyond taking it upon yourself to engage in your own work, informal and behind-the-scenes activities become critically important to advancing renewal efforts. We whole-heartedly agree that renewal is about people stepping up to effect change.

If the renewal environment is categorized by both a cross-section of individual movers combined with a lack of overarching means to participate, than informal networking and the use of new technologies are two of the most important means through which Public Servants are able to get in touch with one another and participate creatively in the broader renewal discourse.

Online Activities is happy to have started to make some critical (yet informal) connections on the web recently. Last week Etienne Laliberté posted a consolidated list of Public Service Blogs on Contrarian Thinking, and was even ‘inspired’ to write a very sensible piece on his blog. Peter Smith followed up with a post on Spaghetti Testing. In between all of this there was undoubtedly a flurry of behind the scenes emails between people who have never formally met but share a common interest in the future of the public service. Moreover, there is a clear connection between ‘renewal’ and ‘web 2.0’. Perhaps you have heard of government 2.0?

Offline Activities

I am not sweeping formal associations aside as being unimportant in the present environment because this is simply not the case. I participate in my department’s youth organization and sit on relevant committees (e.g. Intranet Committee and Training and Development Committee). It is through these committees that I try to push for ideas in official capacities and proper channels.
Having said that though, my most rewarding conversations about renewal often happen outside the traditional channels. Put simply, I make the effort to get out there and talk to my fellow public servants. In fact, a couple of weeks ago I finally had the pleasure of having lunch with a colleague who is highly (officially) involved in renewal efforts.

Two things stick out from our offline conversation.

The first is that the conversation lacks a definitive start and end point. The conversation did not start when we met for lunch, nor did it end when we finished. It both started and finished online, moving seamlessly from virtual to real space and back again.

The second thing is a pointed statement he made about technology/social media and the government. It went something like this:

“If we don’t provide the [digital] tools that new recruits want or need then they will step outside the public service and provide those tools themselves. Under these circumstances we should be actively managing risk by providing the tools and space to maneuver internally. If we fail to act out of fear of inevitably internal setbacks or abuses we are making a grave mistake. The potential for questionable digressions in internal space pales in comparison to that same potential born out on externally.”

The Confluence of Activities

It boils down to what Colin Mckay addresses in a section entitled Kneecap the Red Tape Brigade, in The Secret Underground Guide to Social Media for Organizations (reproduced for your benefit below):

I’m often asked if the introduction of social media tactics requires new human resources policies - you know, to deal with the slander, the leaks, the allegations, even the sexual harassment.


Any organization worth their salt has already put policies in place to deal with:

• Interpersonal conflict
• Confidentiality of information
• Who acts as a spokesperson
• Sexual and physical harassment
• Protection of personal information

Social media does not cause a new range of human behaviour – it simply magnifies the faults in that behaviour.

In other words, fear of possibly magnifying currently existing human behaviour does not sufficiently justify our aversion to embracing new technologies to work with. I have a feeling that perhaps there are many of us struggling with similar problems but we don’t know it or, even more frustratingly, do know it, but are held hostage by lack of information. One would think that given the technological advantage we have over previous generations of bureaucrats we should have broken down communication silos a long time ago. The idea of sharing best practices widely is nothing new, yet for some reason when best practices are still relatively new practices sharing is anything but wide. Technology is supposed to not only improve processes but facilitate information sharing, which is why the denial of access to new technologies or best technological based practices is at best counter-productive.

Our inability to do something as simple as consolidate an online repository of renewal best practices, be they in staffing, development programs, internal communications, intranets, online tools, stakeholder involvement, or youth organizations is both frustrating and highly problematic.

All I want is a single place to go to get information on all things renewal.

Maybe then we can all stop wasting time trying to convince others that this will work and show them that it is already working.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Couple of Things

First of all , I would encourage you to check out David Eaves latest blogpost entitled "The Public Service as a Gift Economy".

Second, We are considering playing with the overall format of this site. So if you hit it up and it looks like it is in the middle of a major re-org, it probably is. We put it together hastily so we could hit the ground running and now that we have caught up we want to make it a little more user friendly / easier to maneuver.


Friday, June 20, 2008

CPSRENEWAL.CA WEEKLY: Pay Attention to Retention

The Public Service Renewal focus has been (and perhaps still is) largely on recruitment. While this focus has led new recruits to the water, it has not necessarily made them drink. I have had numerous conversations with young public servants. A recurring topic of discussion is: “I am not sure the Public Service is where I want to spend the rest of my career.” Inconsistency between the message of the recruitment effort and subsequent experience delivered to new hires is often cited as one of the contributing factors. In short, outcomes have not aligned with expectations. If we are to retain our talent then we must develop retention strategies aimed at both new recruits and more experienced workers.

New Recruits

It is imperative to keep new recruits interested, challenged, and engaged while providing opportunities to remain mobile both vertically and horizontally. In practical terms, this could mean introducing structured interdepartmental development opportunities, lateral job swapping, job shadowing, private sector internships, or informal employee exchanges. Providing new recruits with mobility within the Public Service could bolster their experience base, keep them fresh, and maintain their interest while keeping them within the functional community. The opportunity for mobility within the Public Service is one of its key attractors to new hires that is often lost when we talk about having new hires commit to working the rest of their lives for the amorphous Government of Canada. Perhaps the cruel irony is that too much mobility in Senior Management has been repeatedly identified as a problem – most recently by the Public Policy Forum.

Given the anticipated breadth of opportunities available to future hires, Public Service employers looking to recruit, retain and develop their own staff, could provide new hires with a handful of road maps indicating likely career paths. The guide would be a valuable resource for new hires eager to plan ahead or understand advancement opportunities within their department. This could easily be incorporated into already existing orientation processes. Subsequently, managers and new hires could use these documents to streamline the development of performance learning agreements for new hires in a timely manner. Incorporating this into the on-boarding process would communicate a commitment to career development on behalf of the organization and its management to its new hires. They also provide a common understanding of how performance will be managed and evaluated.

Functional communities could work together and reinforce the importance and opportunity their work offers by supplying testimonies by dynamic people who have chosen to make careers of public service. Driving home the message of each functional community could encourage new recruits to narrow their options and filter out career opportunities that lie outside those communities, or more importantly outside the Public Service. One of the underlying principles of Public Service retention strategies should be that rational drivers of employment choices (e.g. salary, benefits, location, etc) are not as important as they used to be. Furthermore, emotional drivers (e.g. feeling valued, finding meaning in one’s work, excitement level, etc) must be appealed to in order to retain talent.

New hires are potentially our best and worst source of advertising. While it is perhaps cliché that someone who has a negative experience is likely to tell ten people and that that same person, having a positive experience, is likely only to tell one person, it is nonetheless a fairly accurate depiction of how important first impressions are – especially in an information age where new hires are more connected then ever before.

More Experienced Workers

Engaging our more experienced workers is therefore critical since it will be they who, through their leadership and actions, will drive the opinions and experiences of new hires. Retention efforts aimed at more experienced workers should give them the skills they need to lead new hires through the transition, facilitate knowledge and corporate memory transfer, while keeping them interested in their substantive work. In practical terms this could mean investing in training programs to bolster key competencies that are typically improved through traditional training methods (e.g. evaluating and improving services, facilitating group discussions, planning and organizing, thinking strategically). Additional training should be coupled with proportionately reduced workloads in order to avoid overburdening experienced workers. Overextending more experienced workers could be met with consequences that range beyond employee burnout or elective early retirement. Overextended employees have less time to implement received training and are more likely to default to past practices when time is continually a scarce resource. Moreover, visibly overextended workers could send new hires the wrong message about how the organization feels about work-life balance. Experienced workers must be given the time and space they require to put training into action.

Experienced workers could work with management coaches to help them develop their capacity to influence and engage others and model appropriate behaviour. Accessibility to experienced workers is important to new hires. They see the experience and skills of experienced workers and want to tap into it but often lack the means, opportunity, or understanding of how to do so. Interpersonal skills (i.e. soft skills) and accessibility allow more experienced workers to connect with new hires. They should be able to pique the emotional drivers of new hires and convince them to make the regulatory community their home. Experienced workers set the tone, inform first impressions, and offer the guidance upon which new hires make their career decisions. An observable lack of interest on the part of experienced workers sends a strong negative signal to new employees. More must be done to inform experienced workers that their work is of the highest value and with considerable meaning; their importance is often overlooked in discussions of renewal. In practical terms, this could mean offering more experienced workers new opportunities (job swapping, mentoring opportunities, etc), inviting them to deliver testimonies to new hires, and holding intergenerational forums that explain why their continued leadership is critically important and other engagement activities.

Retention efforts should facilitate an employee’s shift from new hire to experienced worker. It should help manage expectations, workloads, and activities. Any comprehensive retention strategy would require high levels of cooperation within the Public Service, understanding of the need to provide mobility within it and considerable engagement in managing the careers of both new hires and more experienced workers. Finally, it is essential that retention efforts communicate that it is to everyone’s benefit to do invigorating work, in a lively workplace, with competent employees and managers, regardless of age or tenure.

What we need to do, is pay some serious attention to retention.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Reloaded: CPSRENEWAL Found TWO Interesting Blogs

I just thought I would share this blog with you. The author makes some excellent points about technology and Web 2.0 in government.

I was particularly interested in the posts on "CSPS should have a channel on YouTube" and "Top Civil Servant talks to small groups & media - still avoiding 21st century notion of a 'blog'".

After having found the first one, I decided to do a little more digging around and came across this one as well.

Notable posts here are Civil Servants on Social Cites: Rules to Live By and PS Renewal and Social Networking (Again).

I encourage you to check them both out.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Round Up: 2008-09 Public Service Renewal Action Plan

[Note that PCO just released the 08-09 PSRAP - see below for details, text courtesy of PCO]

Renewal is a critical priority to ensure that the public service remains a non‑partisan, excellent, diverse and dynamic institution serving Canadians now and into the future. Our approach has been to set specific commitments and goals, year by year, in four priority areas and to assess our progress rigorously.

The Deputy Ministers’ Committee on Public Service Renewal develops an annual Public Service Renewal Action Plan which establishes specific commitments and benchmarks for performance. These actions will advance the four priorities identified by the Clerk of the Privy Council in his Annual Report to the Prime Minister: planning, recruitment, employee development and enabling infrastructure.

  • 2008-09 Public Service Renewal Action Plan [ HTML ] [ PDF 51KB ]
  • 2007-08 Public Service Renewal Action Plan [ HTML ] [ PDF 62KB ]

Friday, June 13, 2008

Reloaded - CPSRENEWAL.CA Weekly: Tell Us How

[Update June 16 - We appreciate and welcome your comments.

The message we were trying to convey with this post is NOT that we should sit back and wait it out, but that is it insufficient to repeatedly deliver the renewal imperative without ever giving direction on how one can actually get involved.

The final statement of this column suggested that perhaps someone with the authority and the resources (i.e. the centre)
should move to provide us with a public service wide Web 2.0 platform, as suggested in David Eaves Column (to which we linked).

We are already involved, in many of the informal renewal channels alluded to by the comments, however we have had to rally most of our efforts on our own accord, without the benefit of being pointed in the right direction. The simple example of the PS wide web 2.0 platform would be an easy way to draw in participation from people who want to participate but cannot find an avenue for their creative energy.

We hope this clarifies our column. Thanks for your feedback.]

Original Column Below:


Kevin Lynch, the Clerk of the Privy Council, presented a deck on Public Service Renewal at the 2008 APEX Conference.

[Editorial Note: The Clerk’s deck is suggested pre-reading for what follows. The commentary below responds to his presentation. We would also recommend this deck presented by Max Valiquette, President of Youthography Inc. as it provides additional context.]


The first half of the Clerk’s presentation was an explanation of why Public Service Renewal matters. It contained all of the latest demographic data and used it to hammer home the importance of the Renewal imperative.

Here’s the rub.

We here at (contributors and patrons alike) already know Public Service Renewal matters; we already know why it matters. Surely Public Service executives already know why Renewal matters. We’re fairly certain that those of us who are genuinely interested in Renewal want to hear less ‘why’ and more ‘how’. The commentary below is therefore aimed not Clerk’s “Demographic Imperative” but on the issue of communication and engagement.

The Clerk’s deck closes with a slide on Key Public Service Renewal Messages, only one of which we want to touch on here. Specifically, the Clerk’s final point (our questions there to in parenthesis):

Communications and your engagement are key to renewal:

  • Get Involved! (How? When? During NPSW?)
  • Speak up! (Where? Can we be critical, or does that contravene PS values & ethics?)
  • Make suggestions! (To whom?)
  • Become part of renewal! (We want to, tell us how?)
  • Be make a difference! (It doesn't feel that way to us... not yet.)

If we have truly found the key for renewal then we must have some inclination of where the lock is?

Don’t we? No? Not yet?

The underlying question is a recurrent and imperative one – tell us how!?

Tell Us How to Participate in the Renewal Process

Should we step outside the Public Service and start a website dedicated to Public Service Renewal like others have? Only to eventually be brought back into it after proving your mettle? Are our contributions undermined because we have to preface them with disclaimers and tread lightly for fear of reprisal? While the above comments are somewhat tongue in cheek, the underlying point is that there are ways to get involved within the existing Public Service framework, but they are often informal undertakings, spread by word of mouth, and subject to sharp declines in interest due to the mobility of labour within the Public Service.

If the Public Service wants to engage youth in the renewal process it needs to provide opportunities to participate and provide feedback, and it should be done in a manner that allows for both the productive use of the latest technologies and face-to-face interactions. Moreover, these opportunities need to be easy to find, properly resourced, and actively championed by Senior Management. That being said, engagement at all levels and across all demographics is important.

We think there is an opportunity here for strong leadership from the centre on creating a mechanism that would facilitate both communication and engagement – the key to renewal.

Friday, June 6, 2008

CPSRENEWAL.CA Weekly: Renewal is a Two Way Street


I hate to invoke broad sweeping generalizations about generational differences because they oversimplify the problem. The truth is that our experience in public service differs as greatly as our backgrounds. I can only speak from my experience. Even if your experience is different, I think the underlying message of this column is important. Either way, I encourage you to reflect upon and share your own experience regarding what follows, whether your experience is markedly different, or much the same.


There are currently 4 generations of people employed in the Public Service. Numerous studies have attempted to articulate the unique relationship that each generation has with their organization, their career, and their work. My generation, Gen Y, has been described as growing up with too much praise and not enough criticism: everyone got a trophy, no one made a mistake and we always had to be happy.

From what I can tell, this has resulted in the Gen Y cadre of public servants being highly educated, motivated and eager to dive right into the substantive work of our positions. We enter into the Public Service confident that we can enjoy immediate success, but withhold respect for process, protocol or superiors until they earn it.

Being educated, motivated and goal-oriented is an obvious benefit to our individual careers and, by extension, the Public Service more broadly. On the other hand, withholding respect until earned is to our detriment. If I had to define the problem, it would be as simple as “a lack of humility.”

Given the current climate it is hard to be humble. We have lived our entire lives being pumped up to bigger and better things. The overwhelming focus on the importance of youth, the next generation of public servant, etc. only exacerbates the problem.

Think about it.

Renewal plays directly into the hype that our generation has been eating up for the last decade. Employers, including the federal government, are literally tripping over themselves to bring young people into their organizations. For once, demand for talent is exceeding supply, and some organizations want to staff up so badly that they may be unknowingly compromising the integrity of their final product or service.

We don’t know how to be humble, because we have never been humbled before. How do you learn to get up if you never fall down?

Let me explain. Well actually, let one of my unofficial mentors explain:

“Being humble is difficult. You were the brightest kid in the class. You were the high achiever in your family. You are well educated, and have repeatedly tasted success in life. You have lived a life that has provided you with everything you need to be successful – everything except the humility you need in order to understand that you still have so much to learn. Sustaining a high level of achievement is no easy task, nor is it without cost. Humility, respect for process and hierarchy have never mattered before, or at least not to the extent they do within the public service. You are now evaluated on a completely different set of criteria then previously. Everyone here was the brightest kid. Everyone around you is highly educated. You are working in a level playing field. Slowing down, asking advice, respecting process, and hierarchy – these are important things that do not come naturally to people in your demographic. They are however of the utmost importance. They keep the machinations of government moving.”

I think Gen Y expects too much. I think we expect it too quickly. If we want to keep the machinations of government moving, if we want to keep our careers moving, learning the lesson of humility early on is imperative.

There is so much hype about making a career in government appeal to the younger demographic that I fear the imperative for us to deliver on our obligations – providing good service to Canadians – is often lost in translation.

It is not only the responsibility of the federal government to recruit us, retain us and promote us. It is our responsibility to earn the organization’s interest, their retention efforts and our promotions.