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Out of Office Alert (on vacation)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Just a quick FYI - I am on vacation this week and will resume posting material (including a run down of what went down while I was away) when I get back around Aug 5.

Hope everything is treating everyone well.

Cheers

CPSRenewal.ca Weekly: Some Career Advice from a Senior Public Servant

Friday, July 25, 2008
As stated in last week’s column, being an executive member of my departmental youth organization allows me the opportunity to make contributions to the broader renewal process and to new public servants in general. This week our departmental youth organization held an informal discussion with our Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM). In attendance were the ADM, the director of ADMO, the youth network champion, and approximately 25 new public servants (including the executive of the youth committee).

We asked the ADM to speak to four different things during the discussion and followed up his address with a question and answer period. There were a number of lessons learned, both in the process of organizing and in participating in the discussion, which could make up the substance of this weekly column. However, I think the most important of those lessons came in the form of advice given by the ADM on how to navigate the public service, advice that I wanted to share with you today.

Career Path and Critical Skills

1. You need to strike the proper balance between the compromises you will have to make in order to do your job and preserving your integrity, while staying passionate about what you do. You may find yourself in a difficult position, so you need to learn where you want to draw the lines. Remember that while you are never completely beholden to the system, it is not practical to completely avoid compromise. In the end you have to connect what you do, with what matters to you. Given that most of what we do is knowledge based, this may not always be feasible on a daily basis or with a straight line – but it is essential that you are able to do it over the long haul, or with a dotted line.

2. The standing assumption that the Public Service rewards conformity and not creativity is false. The government is an ideas institution, and while not every idea gets buy-in, if you put enough of them out there the chances are that some will. Managers are generally receptive to new ideas, but you have to remember that line managers are busy with the day to day activities of moving dockets and ensuring the work is completed. They often are forced to sacrifice time that could be spent discussing new ideas to the necessity of the day. If you have an idea, bring it up. If you lack a forum to discuss new ideas, suggest that your manager carve out 15 minutes in your monthly meetings for it and get it on the agenda. Most managers will be amenable to a gentle nudge in that direction because they see its value. Finally, you will rarely suffer a negative consequence for bringing up a good idea so do not hesitate to bring one forward when you do.

3. Relationships matter, a lot. They don’t matter in the sense of Machiavellian networking, which seldom pays off in the public service, but relationships matter in the real sense of working with others. Government today is increasingly interconnected and issues are increasingly crosscutting. Working inter-departmentally or informally with people you have just met or worked with in the past is thus equally important. As new public servants you should seek out people with whom you share an affinity and similar ideas. Some of your best resources in the future may be the people moving up the ranks with you right now.

4. It should always be fun at the end of the day. You might not be out saving the world every day, but overall you should understand and feel good about your contribution. If you don’t, then you need to step back and ask yourself the hard questions: is it about the job, is it the Public Service, etc? You should seek advice from colleagues, and trusted managers. In the end if it isn’t fun, find something that is.

5. Don’t obsess about your level. Obsessing about your level will burn you out and it will burn you out quickly. If you’re striking the right balance, expressing your creativity, building relationships, and having fun then the levels will come naturally. Promotion and advancement do matter, but shouldn’t be the heart of the matter. The content of your contribution is much more important and rewarding in the end. Success for its own sake is an empty exercise, one that will leave you looking back wondering what you had to give up to get it.

6. If you want to move up you need to build a base and then expand out. If you are lucky enough to be in a smaller portfolio, learn it and learn it well. Devote some time to the area and make an effort to become known as invaluable in that area. Once you are established then start to broaden your experience base. If you want to move up in the public service, experience at one of the three central agencies (Treasury Board, Finance, or the Privy Council) is critical. You also need to remember that our job isn’t just about serving Canadians, but also about serving our democratically elected Ministers. It is important to be aware of the reality Ministers face and how Cabinet works. Sometimes what counts in the long run isn’t the sexy stuff, but knowing how to run the machine.


In addition, the ADM had a couple of things to say regarding innovation and the role of youth:

7. You cannot create an infrastructure of innovation but you can create a climate for innovation. This can be accomplished by creating task teams, demonstrating receptivity, and giving employees opportunities to get together and talk to each other. Groups like youth organizations are one way in which this can happen.

8. Youth groups are a great mechanism that supports new and/or younger employees. It is great for ideas generation and questioning established systems. The government should be looking to its new hires because they can often provide valuable feedback to senior management because they may not be as prone to accepting the given order of things. There are a great number of improvements that can be made by those who come into the public service with fresh eyes.

As always, we welcome your own thoughts and perspectives on this type of public service career advice – things you’ve found in your own experience, or perhaps wisdom handed to you from others.

Additionally, if you are interested in hosting a similar event in your own department but don’t know how to get started, please feel free to contact us and we will be happy to provide you with input (perhaps even a process map or checklist).

Round-Up: July 23

Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Weekly Column

This week's column will share some great career advice given by an ADM to a group of new public servants in an informal discussion organized by yours truly in conjunction with my esteemed colleagues in my departmental youth group.

There will likely be no weekly column or any activity on the blog next week as I am on vacation and taking the family on a road trip. So rather then engaging in discussions on renewal with new public servants I will packing two children under 3 into the car for an 8 hour car ride...

Blogs

Last week Peter Smith blogged, Making Sense of Government, where he examined Egger's book Government 2.0 and the use of sense-making technologies. Sorry for pointing out so late, I meant to link to it sooner.

Etienne Laliberté updated his blog post on Staffing under the New PSEA on July 17... again forgive the lateness but updates to older posts don't show up on RSS feeds.

CSPS

I got an email from the CSPS this week about a re-broadcast of an armchair discussion (info below). Here is the problem, I will be on vacation next week so I will miss the re-broadcast. This leads me to the logical question of why aren't we just making armchairs perptually available on podcast immediately after they take place? This is not a new question, Doug Demos asked it a while ago.

Armchair Discussion - Rebroadcast
Thursday, July 29, 2008
1:00 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. (ET)

Web 2.0, Web 3.0, Podcast, Mashup, Vlog, Blog...Enough with the Buzzwords!

Speaker :
Mike Kujawski

Digital Marketing Strategist for the Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing, and Business Professor at Heritage College

English Presentation

Web 2.0, podcast, blog...enough with the buzzwords! What is all this and how can it benefit my marketing and communications efforts? We live a time where the communication and marketing landscape has completely turned upside down. Organizations and governments are no longer in full control of their messages/brands; the consumer/citizen is. The Web 2.0 revolution is essentially synonymous with the democratization of the web. It's about engagement and dialogue as opposed to one-way communication. The technological barriers that have restricted the "one-2-many" model of communication are no longer present. Now anyone can start a blog, post a video, write a review, join a social network, start a podcast, and have their content viewed or heard by millions at virtually no cost.

The questions organizations should be asking themselves (and know the answers to) are: "What are people saying about us?" and "How can we get engaged to make a favourable impact?"

Please note that this discussion is a video rebroadcast of the April 24, 2008 Armchair Discussion.

You are welcome to attend this session via Webcast (live video and audio feed offered online).

To register, please visit the School’s Web site:

http://www.csps-efpc.gc.ca/events/armchair/program_e.html


Discussion informelle – Rediffusion
Jeudi 29 juillet 2008
13 h 00 à 14 h 15 (HE)

Web 2.0, Web 3.0, balado, mixage, vidéoblogue, blogue... Ça suffit les mots à la mode!

Conférencier :
Mike Kujawski

Stratège en matière de marketing numérique au Centre d'excellence en marketing gouvernemental et professeur en études commerciales au Heritage College

Présentation en anglais

Web 2.0, Web 3.0, balado, mixage, vidéoblogue, blogue... Ça suffit les mots à la mode! Que désignent tous ces termes et comment peuvent-ils soutenir mes efforts de commercialisation et de communication? De nos jours, le monde des communications et du marketing connaît un profond bouleversement. Les organismes et les gouvernements n'ont plus la pleine maîtrise de leurs messages et de leurs marques; ce sont les citoyens qui les contrôlent. La révolution du Web 2.0 est essentiellement synonyme de démocratisation du Web. Elle est axée sur la participation et le dialogue plutôt que sur la communication unidirectionnelle. Les obstacles technologiques qui permettaient uniquement la communication d'une personne à de nombreuses personnes n'existent plus. Aujourd'hui, n'importe qui peut créer un blogue, diffuser une vidéo, rédiger une critique, joindre les rangs d'un réseau social, mettre en ligne un fichier balado, et être vu ou entendu par des millions de personnes, et ce, pratiquement sans frais.

Voici les questions que les organisations devraient se poser (et auxquelles elles devraient savoir répondre) : « Que disent les gens à notre sujet? » et « De quelle façon pouvons-nous participer de manière à produire un effet positif? »

Veuillez prendre note que cette discussion est une rediffusion vidéo de la Discussion informelle du 24 avril 2008.

Les participants peuvent assister à cet événement au moyen de la webdiffusion (couverture vidéo et audio en direct offerte en ligne).

Pour vous inscrire, veuillez consulter le site Web de l’École :

http://www.csps-efpc.gc.ca/events/armchair/program_f.html

Round-Up July 21

Monday, July 21, 2008
In the News

Cynthia Münster has an article in this week's Hill Times entitled PS employees' stress, mental health issues not being dealt with properly and money wasted: expert

Here is an excerpt:

"As an employer, the government is going to get a very clear, gripping, challenging picture of the inadequacy of mental health care in this country, the confusion, the consternation, the loss of investment, the perpetuating loss of productive capacities ...”

... unfortunately you need a subscription to read the article. Here is a quick tip - you can often find a copy of the Hill Times in your DGO or ADMO.

Have a good week!

CPSRENEWAL.CA Weekly: Putting Our Money Where Your Mouth Is

Friday, July 18, 2008
I typically don’t waste time responding to inflammatory remarks that serve little constructive purpose. However, last week’s column, The Role of Unions, earned us a comment that I think needs to be addressed:

another cup of whine with that sir? said...

oh, here we go again. Sooooo, if I understand you correctly, you know nothing about your own union and it must be because unions are irrelevant, too old, incompetent? It couldn't possibly [be] because you have taken no steps to education [sic] yourself or to find out how to get involved? Noooooooo, couldn't be that. Must be everyone else right? Your series of articles are proving to be nothing but alot [sic] of whining about how no one is doing anything for you.....what are you doing for yourself?


I could respond to the comments above in any number of ways but most would be, much like the comment itself, beside the point. Below are my responses to the charges I can make out in the reader’s comment above.

Charge # 1: I know nothing about my Union

My union card is in the top drawer of my desk. My union’s website is bookmarked on my browser. I am subscribed to their relevant mailing lists, although I wish they used an RSS feed. I know about the EC conversion process. I know that the union is still negotiating the salary scale of my group and that so far “all non-monetary issues have been resolved”. I know that the preceding statement is also apparently enough to satisfy the concerns of most people affected by the conversion despite its complete lack of detail.

In short I know where to find the information they provide. Moreover, I have actively brought the subject up in conversation with others and have directed them to the information and have encouraged them to get their union cards. However, I also know that I had to go and find the information myself and that the $35 a month I pay in dues does not contribute to a proactive communications strategy (i.e. outreach).

What I don’t know, and what I tried to identify in last week’s column, is what their role will be for the next generation of Public Servants. Recall my previous statement:

My uncertainty regarding the role of unions stems from the PS’s difficulty in facing modern pressures (e.g. use of technology, work flow, time sensitivities, etc), and the demographic and generational challenges it has yet to overcome.

Charge # 2: I’ve identified unions as irrelevant, too old and incompetent

I said nothing of the sort. I said that I think that unions appear to have identified the need to reaffirm their continued relevance, and offered an example from the Public Service Alliance of Canada’s website. I explained that I didn’t think that organized labour, in its current form, appealed to Gen Y:

[Gen Y] is extremely confident in its ability to be top performers, not to mention has significant pre-government experience in performance pay based employment, [so it] has no reason to be concerned with performance based pay… one of the biggest issues our generation has in the workplace is poor performers who maintain employment not because of their proficiency but despite it. In this example, a collective agreement can be seen as a hindrance to their own aspirations rather then a guarantor of certain (self evident) rights in the workplace.

Nowhere in the column do the words ‘irrelevant’, ‘too old’ or ‘incompetent’ even appear. Well I suppose that isn’t entirely true. I did use the word ‘irrelevant’ once when I said that, “providing employment for life (i.e. indeterminate status) and pay increases tied to tenure rather than performance effectively makes one’s performance largely irrelevant”.

Charge # 3: All I do is whine about how others are doing nothing

I concluded the column by offering two constructive (and non-mutually exclusive) options – Union-led or Gen Y-led renewal in hopes of providing a small kernel upon which we can build future conversations. Again, quoting myself:

[I]ntuitively I feel as though there is potential for unions to step into the gaps that Gen Y sees in their work environments (work-life balance, being challenged in the workplace, training and development, promoting the use of new technologies and social media, better information sharing, etc.) and champion those issues in order to gain their support.

Conversely, perhaps it is Gen Y who should take the lead here. Collectively they could bolster their involvement in union activities, infiltrate their leadership and tune their activities towards their own workplace issues. I have a sense that if unions can be used to advocate issues that resonate with younger generations of workers, then they are likely to be successful in attracting their support.

I fail to see how either option can be construed as ‘whining’. It is my honest opinion that there has been a lack of conversation on the role of unions in the renewal process both online and offline. I thought the column was an honest effort to mitigate that fact.

Charge # 4: What am I doing for myself?

Unfortunately, responding to all of the above has offered relatively little new content to the subject of renewal and so I have tried to keep my responses short, clear, and respectful. Thankfully, the forthcoming response to this last charge is something I have wanted to put out there for a while because sharing ways to get involved in the renewal process is important. Hopefully it encourages others to get involved, share how they are involved, or make suggestions on how to bolster some of my own activities. I have broken down my efforts as best I could into categories.

In general
  • Contribute to working papers on renewal as it relates to different functions of government
  • Participate in focus or working groups inside and outside my department
  • Stay connected to people involved in renewal projects
  • Provide informal feedback on renewal projects through informal networks
  • Provide advice and encouragement to new hires and always offer my card coupled with an invitation to contact me at any point to discuss any matters further
  • Take my work seriously and make a concerted effort to consistently deliver on my responsibilities on a daily basis
  • Effect my overall work culture in a positive manner by demonstrating enthusiasm and welcoming new challenges
As an executive member of my departmental youth organization
  • Help integrate new hires by providing information relevant to new hires
  • Solicit feedback from new hires on the on-boarding process via informal discussions
  • Draft recommendations to senior management on how to better integrate its new hires
  • Host Lunch and Learns in order to facilitate knowledge transfer to new hires
  • Host social events to help new hires network with each other and with more senior public servants
As an executive member of my departmental intranet steering committee
  • Advocate for the use of Web 2.0 technologies and social media
  • Make recommendations to senior management on how to proceed with revamping the intranet site
As an executive member of my departmental training and development committee
  • Advocate and design informal mentoring initiatives
  • Evaluate development programs for employees
  • Make recommendations to senior management on how to streamline PSR campaigns
As a founding member and contributor to CPSRENEWAL.CA
  • Started a website on the subject of public service renewal
  • Aggregate information relevant to renewal and post online for the benefit of others
  • Write weekly columns that aim to contribute to the renewal discourse
Conclusion

There are undoubtedly people who disagree with the opinions that we present in our columns, that much is expected. What we publish on the site should never be construed as bitching, moaning, or whining (BMW). Our aim is to provide information to those who are interested in it, and respond to the Clerk’s call to get involved in the larger renewal process.

I’ve just shared how I am involved in that process – What are your thoughts? What kind of things would you suggest? What routes have you taken? What routes are you still exploring? Which routes should I avoid?

While I’d like to hear from everyone on these questions, I’m particularly interested in what ‘another cup of whine’ might have to offer. Ironically the comment did precisely what it accused us of doing with our weekly columns – it expressed displeasure with the current state of affairs, yet offered nothing by way of pro-active solutions.

With that – we’d like to renew our call for your participation – good comments or bad, let us know how we’re doing. If you’d like to see a particular topic covered, or if you’d like to help write on a particular topic, we want to hear about it, and want to help develop your ideas if we can.

Finally, to those who have demonstrated your support and offered your constructive comments, we thank you. Keep it up.

[Update 1:55 pm - please follow through to the comments left on this post by Chamika and Etienne Laliberté. Again, we appreciate your contributions.]

Round-Up: July 16

Wednesday, July 16, 2008
In the News

The Globe and Mail posted a book review that has some lessons we can learn from service delivery models in the private sector.

CSPS

Armchair Discussion – National Capital Region: Post-Secondary Recruitment
Ottawa - Thursday, July 24, 2008
1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. (ET)

Speakers :

Cindy Clark
Program Manager - Post Secondary Recruitment. Public Service Commission, Central Recruitment Programs

Sylvain Chrétien
Program Officer, Public Service Commission, Central Recruitment Programs

Bilingual Presentation

Post-Secondary Recruitment (PSR) is a key component of the public service renewal initiative. Annually, the Public Service Commission (PSC) conducts a post-secondary recruitment campaign to assist departments in recruiting post-secondary graduates.

Any manager who would like to know more about the campaign is invited to attend. This session will be especially beneficial to those managers who have identified a need to recruit post-secondary graduates in their HR plan, and for those managers who indicated they plan to utilize the PSC’s program as a post-secondary recruitment mechanism in their 2008-2009 plans.

You are invited to attend this Armchair Discussion on-site at 65 Guigues Street (Ottawa).

To register, please visit the School’s Web site:

http://www.csps-efpc.gc.ca/events/armchair/program_e.html


Discussion informelle – Région de la Capitale nationale: Le recrutement postsecondaire
Ottawa - Jeudi 24 juillet 2008
13 h 00 à 15 h 00 (HE)

Conférenciers :

Cindy Clark
Chef du programme - Recrutement Post Secondaire, Commission de la fonction publique, Programmes de recrutement centraux

Sylvain Chrétien
Agent de programmes, Commission de la fonction publique, Programmes de recrutement centraux

Présentation bilingue

Le recrutement postsecondaire (RPS) est un élément clé de l’initiative de renouvellement de la fonction publique. Chaque année, la Commission de la fonction publique (CFP) mène une campagne de recrutement postsecondaire pour aider les ministères avec le recrutement des diplômés.

Les gestionnaires qui veulent recevoir plus de renseignements au sujet de la campagne sont invités à y assister. La séance va être utile pour les gestionnaires qui ont identifié un besoin de recruter les diplômés au niveau postsecondaire dans leurs plans RH, et pour les gestionnaires qui ont indiqué qu’ils vont utiliser le programme de la CFP comme un des mécanismes dans leurs plans de recrutement pour l’année financier 2008-2009.

Vous êtes invités à assister à cette Discussion informelle en personne au 65, rue Guigues (Ottawa).

Pour vous inscrire, veuillez consulter le site Web de l’École :

http://www.csps-efpc.gc.ca/events/armchair/program_f.html

Round-Up July 14

Monday, July 14, 2008
In the News

Still nothing relevant in the news ...

Blogs Picking up the Slack as Usual

Last week Peter Smith blogged on Web 2.0, Who Cares? Digital Natives and Wikinomics, which made some great points about inter-generational views on technology.

Colin McKay has provided a much needed update on barcampOttawaGov and a scary example of a Welsh Civil servant getting the axe for blogging.

We also got a couple of examples of union communications from the comments on last Friday's column.

CSPS - Armchair Rebroadcast: The Immigration Paradigm

Thursday, July 17, 2008
1:00 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. (ET)

Speaker : Randall Hansen
Canada Research Chair in Governance at the University of Toronto
English Presentation

The Armchair Discussion program was pleased to welcome Randall Hansen, the Canada Research Chair in Governance at the University of Toronto as a presenter in our partnership with Metropolis, an international network for comparative research and public policy development on migration, diversity, and immigrant integration in cities in Canada and around the world.

Are Canada's immigration and citizenship policies truly benefiting Canada or have we reached the point where they are just holding us back? Perhaps it's time to really explore the implications for our policies as they relate to multiculturalism and citizenship.

This is what Randall Hansen, the Canada Research Chair in Governance at the University of Toronto, is going to do in this upcoming armchair discussion, entitled The Immigration Paradigm. Drawing on research in Canada and abroad, Mr. Hansen will make a case for a revised immigration paradigm based on a generous entry policy supported by a dominant economy and grounded in a confident sense of Canadian Citizenship. Doing so will involve reconsidering Canada's citizenship policy, its understanding of reasonable accommodation, and the expectations placed on new immigrants to this country.

Mr. Hansen's presentation will provide deeper insight into Canada's immigration and citizenship policies and their ramifications, as well as some potential changes that could be made to update Canadian policies.

Please note that this discussion is a video rebroadcast of the April 10, 2008 Armchair Discussion.

To register, please visit the School’s Web site:

http://www.csps-efpc.gc.ca/events/armchair/program_e.html


Happy Monday!


CPSRENEWAL.CA Weekly: The Role of Unions

Friday, July 11, 2008
I set out this week with every intention of attempting to flesh out the role of public sector labour unions in the renewal process, and where and how they might fit into the future of the Public Service (PS). This column has in fact been rewritten numerous times but in the end I have nothing but questions.

My point of departure for this topic is my contention that PS unions should, by default, have a vested interest in the renewal process, considering that their memberships are dependent upon the hiring and retention practices of the employer.

My uncertainty regarding the role of unions stems from the PS’s difficulty in facing modern pressures (e.g. use of technology, work flow, time sensitivities, etc), and the demographic and generational challenges it has yet to overcome.

Can a collective agreement really reign in the blackberry?

Can it address the chronically slow pace at which the PS is moving to adopt new technologies?

Do recent immigrants and/or recent post-secondary graduates (two prime groups for PS recruitment efforts) feel any connection to organized labour?

Not Going Away

All of the above being said, while unionization remains firmly entrenched within the Public Service, I think that unions have recognized that they need to ensure their relevance moving forward. As evidence, I offer an excerpt from the Public Service Alliance of Canada’s website:

Have unions outlived their usefulness?

NO!!!

The current reality for most non-unionized workers demonstrates this clearly.

The belief that individuals can do better for themselves is the myth, not the reality.

There is strength in numbers. Why do you think employers fight so hard to be "union-free"!

Unions do make a difference...


I am not sure to whom this plea is aimed. Generation Y has been closely watched by parents, teachers and the media. Gen Y grew up in a fragmenting popular culture where diversity and self expression was the norm. They became adults in booming economies with shrinking populations, and, as a result, have always been highly valued. The rhetoric of the above statement – the combative relationship between the employer and employee – fails to resonate with Gen Y. Gen Y has too strong a sense (whether warranted or not) of its own potential and importance for them to think that “belief that individuals can do better for themselves is a myth”.

In the Media

This past Monday, 200 unionized Viterra employees went on strike. The issue seems to be that workers have rejected a 27% raise over the next 5 years, where 6% would be guaranteed this year and the remaining 21% would be tied to employee performance over the next 4 years.

I only mention it because providing employment for life (i.e. indeterminate status) and pay increases tied to tenure rather than performance effectively makes one’s performance largely irrelevant. Public service executives have bonuses tied to performance. Private sector companies have been rewarding performance since before the dawn of time.

A generation of workers that is extremely confident in its ability to be top performers, not to mention has significant pre-government experience in performance pay based employment, has no reason to be concerned with performance based pay. Listen to people chatting around the water cooler, one of the biggest issues our generation has in the workplace is poor performers who maintain employment not because of their proficiency but despite it. In this example, a collective agreement can be seen as a hindrance to their own aspirations rather then a guarantor of certain (self evident) rights in the workplace.

Still, there are other examples of union activity that seem to provide counter examples.

From Personal Experience

Speaking now from personal experience, I have spent most of my own career working in unionized environments without ever taking an interest in them. In fact, I have been a member of a union for the 7 of the last 8 years without ever actually getting involved. I told one of my colleagues about how I was struggling to write this column. He could only offer me a piece of (humorous) cynicism, “So far my union manages to squeeze $35/month from me while delaying my 'real' salary for 3 years which probably holds less-than-favourable implications for my previous income tax filings. Gee thanks.”

In my recent conversation with new public servants, I brought up the subject of unions. Being from the same occupational group, we share the same union. None of my colleagues could name it, had been contacted by it since they started their employment, or knew how to contact the union should the need arise. After our conversation I sent them information on how to contact the union. However, the only reason I knew how to do it was that I happened to see a black and white print out tacked to a bulletin board in one of the elevator bays. It indicated that if I didn’t get onto my union’s website to register then I was not a full member of the union and did not have full rights (attending and voting in meetings, etc). I found this ironic since they had already collected over a full year of union dues, not to mention that posting something on a bulletin board is a pretty ineffective way to communicate with your membership.

Moving Forward

To be clear, in no way am I advocating for the dissolution of PS unions, only stating that I am uncertain as to their role in the future. To date, I haven’t come across even a remotely definitive clue as to what should be their role moving forward. However, intuitively I feel as though there is potential for unions to step into the gaps that Gen Y sees in their work environments (work-life balance, being challenged in the workplace, training and development, promoting the use of new technologies and social media, better information sharing, etc.) and champion those issues in order to gain their support.

Conversely, perhaps it is Gen Y who should take the lead here. Collectively they could bolster their involvement in union activities, infiltrate their leadership and tune their activities towards their own workplace issues. I have a sense that if unions can be used to advocate issues that resonate with younger generations of workers, then they are likely to be successful in attracting their support. Although again, I am not certain of the degree to which a collective agreement is the proper venue for such an exchange to take place. Furthermore, given the homogeneity of the content of agreements across the public service, I’m not sure what unions are doing as far as making recommendations on issues such as learning & development, work-life balance, etc.

At the very least, envisioning the role of unions in the renewal process seems to be a subject meriting further discussion (that’s your cue to offer your comments).


Round-Up: July 10

Thursday, July 10, 2008
David Eaves has a great post on 'Collaboration' that is based on a recent conversation he had with a boomer.

Here is an excerpt:

... he was again struck by how easily I embraced and used the term. For boomers - he explained - “collaboration” brings forward notions of Vichy France or narcs, people who sold out or who betrayed their origins in some way, often for gain or even to work (usually on behalf of) of a new (usually alien and/or evil) outsider.

What a difference a generation makes. Today I see more and more of my friends using the term. Which begs the question…

Why?

I would encourage you to check out David's post.

Also tomorrow's column ... if we ever get done editing it ... will be on the role of public service unions within the renewal process.

Round-Up: July 8

Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Blogs

Peter Smith makes it so simple with his blog post: Wikis vs Email for Version Control.

Related (previously published weekly)

CPSRENEWAL.CA WEEKLY COLUMN: Public-Wiki-Service? How a Simple Wiki Could Change the Way We Work


Round-Up July 7

Monday, July 7, 2008
Media Analysis

1. Canoe - Family issues overtake work issues for federal workers: survey
2. Hill Times - APEX finds negative impact of technology on PS executives' workload, stress

Blogs

1. David Eaves - What government embraces Facebook? (hint: it’s not ours)
2. David Eaves - Oh, to live in a country with an open government
3. Colin McKay - Making the argument for free government data

Government Publications

1. Public Service Agency - It's My Day published its latest edition.
2. APEX report referenced in the 2nd news article.

Other Notes

We added a search tool to the right hand bar and have added social bookmarking buttons courtesy of addthis.

Have a great week!

CPSRENEWAL.CA Weekly: In Conversation with New Public Servants

Friday, July 4, 2008
I had lunch recently with 3 young public servants, all of whom were relatively new to government. I have known the first for just over a month, the second for about two weeks, and the third I met on the spot. Needless to say, I didn’t know them too well, but was amazed at how open the communication was between us despite our relative unfamiliarity. Our conversation flowed freely and almost immediately gravitated to our common experience of work cultures, work loads, recruitment, competitive processes, and of course, management.

Communication Breakdown

Each individual conversation consistently gravitated to a single problem: the inability to raise their concerns with their manager, or worse, the perceived inaction of a manager upon hearing those concerns. Having had similar experiences in the past I offered what advice I could, but what is interesting is not the advice I gave, but what they had said:

“I feel like I got cheated. There was so much emphasis during the recruitment process on wanting the best and brightest, independent and analytical thinkers, to fill challenging positions and make a difference and now … well now I sit around, being underutilized. How do I bring that up to my manager?”

“When I raise my concerns, I’m told to appreciate what I have or how much better off I am than [my manager] was when she started. That is completely beside the point? I want to be challenged, how do I ask for more work? What if she refuses to give me any?”

“Who is doing the actual work around here? I never included and when I am, I’m at a complete loss because I was kept in the dark for so long. Everyone else seems to have enough work to do. I want to make a contribution but I can’t when I am systematically excluded. How do you tell your manager that you want more work, when your manager’s judgment of your group and level determines your workload as opposed to your ability or competencies?”

(Comments above are reproduced with permission.)

I think it is important to note the sharp contrast between the ease of communication between what amounts to a group of relative strangers compared to the difficulty of communication between employees and their managers. Could a new hire really look at their manager and say, “If things don’t improve over the next year I am gone” and expect their situation to get better?

[Aside: I could not help but recall chapter two of Etienne Laliberté’s paper an Inconvenient Renewal in which he discusses the critical link between management and employees’ decision to stay in or leave an organization. I would suggest reading it (again) at this point.]

Difficult Conversations

Generally speaking, I think there is an implicit level of trust among new workers that has yet to be developed between managers and new workers. It is not at all surprising given generational differences and power dynamics between new hires and managers. In some cases new employees, especially contract or term employees seeking permanency, avoid the risk of alienating their managers at all costs because they fear the repercussions of the power dynamic: (further) reduced workloads, withholding references, poor references, expired contracts, negative feedback spread by word of mouth, to name a few.

The result is that new hires lack the sure footing (i.e. experience) required to approach their managers to resolve issues around workloads, processes, greater involvement and career advice. This isn’t the case across the board so there is no need to hit the panic button, however, in my experience it is widespread enough to be of some concern (just ask the three people I spoke with).

Since new hires are unsure about how to approach the situation, managers having considerably more experience, should step up and fill the gap. Managers should take the lead, set the tone early, have conversations (like the one I had), provide feedback and ask for input. This is not an easy task. However, managers that are actively (and effectively) managing files, people and careers are the same ones that are attracting all the top talent (precisely for those reasons).

Every new hire is looking for that manager. Every new hire will continue to hum and haw and shuffle around the public service until they find one. David Eaves' latest blog post speaks directly to this when he says:

“[W]here you work in the public service (and often who you work for) is far more important than what file you work on.”

I wanted to end this column with another interesting point of consensus from around the table at my discussion with my colleagues. It is one that needs no elaboration, no explanation, and the implications of which should ring loudly in everyone’s ears:

“I’m willing to stick it out for a year then I’m gone.”



Round-Up: July 3

Thursday, July 3, 2008
Media Search

David Zussman published am artiicle in the Ottawa Citizen entitled Governments need more, not less information to make decisions which outlines the state of Public Opinion Research in the federal government.

Blogs

David Eaves put up a nice post on The Open Source Public Service. Here is an excerpt:

"The main point is that “open” can work in policy development. So maybe it is time to set the public service free? To allow policy analysts to self-organize and focus their attention to where they believe they can best contribute, rather than having hundreds if not thousands of them babysitting files that simple don’t move?"

While Peter Smith wrote about online engagement strategies in his post Government Participation Online: Layers of Engagement.

Cheers!

Round-Up

Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Nothing in the news over the last two days, so a round-up is not really in order.

I would however check out this blog post on Public Opinion and Government 2.0 courtesy of Colin Mckay.