Friday, September 19, 2008

CPSRENEWAL.CA Weekly: PS vs Google Reloaded

[Update: Sept 22/08: I must apologize for a mistake (h/t to anonymous commenter and Anatole Papadopoulos) in last week's column.

In fact the PSC runs the website while the CPSA runs the it's MY day website. My apologies for the confusion (... but that doesn't preclude the fact that these two things could easily be used to increase each others effectiveness.)]

On Wednesday's Email Rant I ended off with a Public Service approximation of Google's top 10 reasons to work at Google. Essentially these are the reasons I want to be able to cite when people ask me why I chose to work in the public service.

Let's recap:

Top 10 Reasons to Work at Google in the Public Service

1. Lend a helping hand. With millions of visitors interactions every month, Google the Government of Canada has become an essential part of everyday life - like a good friend - connecting people with the information and services they need to live great lives.

2. Life is beautiful. Being a part of something that matters and working on products delivering services in which you can believe is remarkably fulfilling.

3. Appreciation is the best motivation, so we’ve created a fun and inspiring workspace you’ll be glad to be a part of, including on-site doctor and dentist; massage and yoga; professional development opportunities; on-site day care; shoreline running trails; and plenty of snacks to get you through the day.

4. Work and play are not mutually exclusive. It is possible to code write policy, enforce regulation and provide services to Canadians and pass the puck at the same time.

5. We love our employees, and we want them to know it. Google the Public Service offers a variety of benefits, including a choice of medical programs, company-matched 401(k), stock options RRSP and RESP contributions, maternity and paternity leave, and much more.

6. Innovation is our bloodline. Even the best technology service delivery model can be improved. We see endless opportunity to create even more relevant, more useful, and faster products services for our users Canadians. Google is the technology leader in organizing the world’s information. The Government of Canada is leading public sector innovation.

7. Good company everywhere you look. Googlers Public Servants range from former neurosurgeons, CEOs, and U.S. puzzle curling champions to alligator beaver wrestlers and former Marines members of the Canadian Forces and even former Googlers! No matter what their backgrounds Googlers Public Servants make for interesting cube mates.

8. Uniting the world Country, one user Canadian at a time. People in every country province and territory and every language use our products services. As such we think, act, and work globally nationally- just our little contribution to making the world Canada a better place.

9. Boldly go where no one has gone before. There are hundreds of challenges yet to solve. Your creative ideas matter here and are worth exploring. You’ll have the opportunity to develop innovative new products services that millions of people will find useful.

10. There is such a thing as a free lunch after all. In fact we have them every day: healthy, yummy, and made with love.

Now I want to compare the approximation above with what the government is delivering on its
What You'll Get page on

According to the website, here is what you get when you take a job in the Public Service:

  • Opportunities for advancement
  • Access to continuous learning
  • Access to employment security and mobility
  • Vacation leave and holidays
  • Numerous types of leave
  • Generous insurance, pension plan, dental and health care plans
  • Flexible work arrangements to help balance your personal and professional lives
  • Fair salary
  • Safe and healthy physical environment

Notice the differences? Like Google, my approximation focuses on the experience being a ‘Googler’ Public Servant and on the important (and fun!) work that they do; whereas the Public Service Commission takes it’s messaging (and its delivery) a totally different way.

Here is my underlying question – if someone asked you why you worked for the Public Service, would you rather talk about doing meaningful and innovative work that effects the everyday lives of millions of your fellow Canadians, or would you rather talk about the numerous types of leave you have access to, the fair salary, and the safe work environment?

Yeah – us too.

[Aside: If I could make a small suggestion. While I was navigating the jobs website, I failed to see a link between it and the It’s My Day (Canada’s Public Service e-magazine). I found it surprising since the Public Service Commission runs both sites.

Therefore, may I humbly suggest that these two sites should be explicitly linked (in both directions)? I would argue that it would be highly advantageous to provide potential candidates who are already browsing job posters (including their technical descriptions) and the more colloquial a day in the life of (an analyst, a regulator, an auditor, a client services rep, etc.) that is found in the e-zine. After all, the e-zine is meant to, if we are to believe the Clerk’s message, “generate curiosity and interest about working for the Public Service”.

If I am a potential new recruit looking at a job poster for a communications position then I should be able to click through the poster to the testimonial. Or say I am looking at what an analyst does on the e-zine then I would want to be able to navigate from the plain language explanation to the job opportunity.

I wonder where I can actually send this suggestion … thoughts?]


  1. send it to the public service commmission?

  2. when that day comes, I'll come back to the public service cause it will actually be a good place to work. In interesting news, one of my former departments - CIC is introducing MBA level training for their managers, which is a rather interesting paradigm shift for the department (and others like it) since there is clearly some recognition that perhaps you do need business skills to manage millions in taxpayer dollars.

  3. As far as I know, the Canada Public Service Agency runs It's My Day - not the PSC. Since those two central agencies are well known for not playing well together, it's not surprising that there's no link.

    First time I post a comment - but I've been reading your blog for several months now. I'm a PS executive responsible for renewal in my department ... your blog definitely resonates with me, keep up the good work!

  4. As always, a lot of what you write makes good sense. To be fair to the PSC, though, you've been selective in quoting from their site in how they sell the PS.

    While there is certainly room for improvement in the pitch, the "Employer of Choice" page clearly speaks to the work (vs. the benefits):

    And that page is linked above the "What You'll Get" page on the "working for the gov't page", so you can't argue it's buried.

    I don't dispute your underlying argument -- even greater attention to the nature of the work would be great -- but it's not as if there is no reference to the "meaningful and innovative work that effects the everyday lives of millions of your fellow Canadians", to use your words.

    If you check out the 2008-09 Action Plan on Public Service Renewal, you'll note there is a commitment on this topic:
    "By March 2009, the CPSA and the PSC, in cooperation with departments, will develop a plan for a job-seeker friendly website. By the end of 2009 interested Canadians will be able to apply for any job open to external candidates through this website."

    While I won't put someone else's name up publicly without permission, if you contact me at my government address I can provide a name to pass suggestions on to.

    And to confirm the other comment -- "It's My Day" is created by the Canada Public Service Agency. Nevertheless, a link between the two is a good idea.

  5. Great post.

    It reminded me of a commercial I heard on Hot 89.9 not too long ago. It was an advertisement for used office furniture being sold or auctioned off by the federal government and it went something like this: "what's the best thing about buying used office furniture from the government?'s not used at all".
    It was sponsored by the government, and clearly played up on the common notion that public servants do very little work. I was shocked that the government would want to further this negative stereotype about its employees.

    However, the type of advertising done by Google must be honest. They can advertise the Top 10 Reasons to Work at Google mainly because they practice what they preach. It's a well known fact that Google treats their employees amazingly well and provides a working environment that helps them build satisfying and challenging careers.

    Does the federal government do the same?