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Round-Up: September 29

Monday, September 29, 2008
News

Last Friday an article ran nationally in Sun Media publications that drew more attention to the youtube video culture en peril.

The Globe and Mail reported that Public Service Staffing Tribunal is hearing testimony that the career paths of visible minorities working for the Immigration and Refuge Board are being blocked by systemtatic discrimination.

The Hill Times reports that the "Fallout of Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz leak will strain relations between ministers and senior public servants" (sadly, a subscription is still required).

Blogs

Peter Smith shed's some light on why people visit official GoC websites.


CPSRENEWAL.CA Weekly: In (Very) Brief: Public Service Branding in the Age of Social Media

Friday, September 26, 2008
[Disclaimer Note of frustration: For the record, I would just like to say that I have struggled to write this column hopefully the delivery doesn't dull the message.]

[h/t for the slidehare presentation below to Mike Kujawski]



Ok so if you haven’t checked the deck yet, do it now. I refer back to it sometimes so it helps if you are familiar with it. Overall, the (excellent) presentation makes me wonder about how the government communicates with both its prospective and current employees.

An Awesome Hypothetical

Let's imagine for a second that the barcamp folks got together again, but for a different purpose. Say we were brought in to pitch to the central agencies (PCO, TB and Finance) about the vast potential for the use of social media in government. Let's further imagine that for some reason the central agencies decided to let us roll with it - specifically to address recruitment and retention issues. The central agencies ask us if we mind if the key players from the PSC, CPSA and the CSPS (and whoever else you can think of as relevant) join us. We enthusiastically welcome them – a bigger audience!

All of a sudden all the players are in the room and the barcampers have been given a safe space to be creative (une carte blanche) and walk people through how we can leverage social media to bolster the GoC’s recruitment and retention.

It’s like every social media guru / agent of change’s wet dream.

But what the hell would we do?

Given, we would all have some pretty cool ideas about what technologies to deploy (slide 4), the justification for deploying them (slides 5-46), and of course how to deploy them (slides 48-69).

In short the barcampers would provide the ‘what (technologies) to’, the ‘why to’, and the ‘how to’, but what about the ‘what (message) to’?

What is the Message?

What is the message that the GoC wants to deliver to its potential and existing hires? We have been poking around this issue recently on this blog while Etienne discussed it a while back when he blogged, Why Work for the Public Service?

Given, this blog and its authors are not officially cogs in the GoC’s message machine – neither are you. In fact, many of us are so far removed from that entire process that we may well be overlooking some very good work out there. This isn’t meant to be critical of existing mechanisms, but if there was a great piece of branding out there for the public service it would have likely been picked up by now and fed into the social media machine(s) … even if it was something simple and static. Given the familiarity and pervasiveness of social media, users would have mashed it, blogged it, podcasted it, dugg it, stumpled it, tweeted it, facebooked it, myspaced it, Delicious'd it, Reddited it, Newsvined it, Technoratied it, Slashdotted it, Blogmarked it, Twined it ...

The underlying point is that if there was a great example, we would all know it by now and that content would be all over the web, not just sitting and waiting at its point of origin.

Hmmm …. (recall slides 17 & 35?)



(BTW - Is this the message?)

Our Brand is Our Business (whether you care or not)

I suppose in a sense, what we do here is a small attempt at delivering that message through a different medium (blog) to a more specific audience (people interested in getting more involved in their organization’s culture). The point is that, as public servants, we are constantly engaged, (obvious when thumbing through this blog, but not so obvious when participating in seemingly unrelated fora) in a conversation about the public service brand.

Duh! (slide 31)




If other people care a whole lot more about recommendations from others (slide 25) than they do about advertisements (slide 24):




Then my conversation with a stranger on the bus about my job has greater implications for the public service brand then any advertisement delivered through a traditional medium (recall slides 21-23).

How many times have you as a public servant had to explain your job to eye-rollers or chucklers? Often just telling someone you are a public servant labels you. You are falling victim to the brand that already exists in the minds of other people.

Yes, the brand may be suffering. No the answer is NOT to try to control the brand further (recall slide 57):


(Oh and don't forget that messages are not conversations (recall slide 52)).

The answer may be to set the stage for current public servants (by engaging them!) to build their brand and engage in those conversations (with strangers on the bus, or with people via their social networks) about what it is like to work in the public service.

One logical step towards achieving that goal may be to allow them access to those tools at work, and support it with the necessary IT infrastructure. The only difference between the conversation they have on the bus and the one they have via social media is that the latter reaches a hellulva lot more people, and does it a lot quicker.

Nothing says committed to recruitment and retention in the age of social media like:

WARNING: Access to the Internet is monitored

The site you have tried to access is not authorized ... It has been rated as inappropriate
...


Round-Up: September 25

Thursday, September 25, 2008
The Ottawa Citizen published this dandy today, most likely prompted by this story we linked to yesterday.

I feel the need to quote the entire text:

Slow government
The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Thursday, September 25, 2008

A federal election call can spark a flurry of activity across the country. In Ottawa, it tends to have the opposite effect.

For some Ottawa-area residents who work for the federal government -- as either permanent or contract employees -- a federal election means work slows down. Although some functions of the federal government -- food inspection, for example -- involve jobs that must be done no matter what, the election effect stalls or delays other work until the election is over.

This year, thanks to a clampdown on federal purchasing, the election effect is bigger than ever. And that is worrisome.

Public Works and Government Services Canada is reviewing all possible purchases of goods and services by the government to ensure only those deemed "essential and urgent" are purchased during the campaign. Add to that a clampdown on communications and business imposed by the Privy Council Office and you have a government crawling its way through the campaign.

Although it is normal to avoid signing large contracts during an election, the action taken in this campaign is considered unprecedented. It seems to be aimed at avoiding any gaffe or misstep that could affect the election. This is not only an unnecessary intrusion into the regular workings of government, but it sends a damaging signal about the government's faith in the competence and professionalism of the federal public service.

I will concede the last paragraph. But let's move on.

I would like to note that simply because outside procurement is being slowed it doesn't mean that every federal employee is sitting on their hands. The article alludes to "some functions of government (i.e food inspection) must be done no matter what"... when in fact its much larger then 'some'.

For example, the ENTIRE regulatory function of government operates its daily machinery REGARDLESS of election call (not to mention all the other services the GoC provides -- EI, immigration, and passports to name but three).

I would argue that one of the benefits of separating the politicians from the bureaucracy is so that the country can continue to function during election periods.

Oh and, on a more personal note, try telling someone working on (or in my case coordinating) a briefing book, that election calls grinds the wheels to a halt -- we are living in a completely different universe then the one the Ottawa Citizen is painting in this article.

On a more humerous note, sosaidthe.org put up this dandy, for which we officially have no comment.

Round-Up: September 24

Wednesday, September 24, 2008
News

Senior Civil Servants in BC are still under the gun for their pay raises.

Former president of the Nuclear Safety Commission, Linda Keen, is in the news again.

Public Works has apparently put the kaibosh on all new contracts posted on MERX unless a compelling case can be made for the procurement as essential.

There is an interesting article about the new head of the New Brunswick civil service, David Ferguson. He sounds like a pretty good guy to work for:

One senior civil servant who has worked closely with Ferguson said he demands both quality and timely recommendations, putting a premium on thorough advice. But he is blessed with a management style that exudes conciliation over confrontation.

"He puts people at ease with an informal manner. He's not at all hierarchical, wears a tie only as needed, and a great sense of humour runs in the family," the source said.

A video of a bureaucrats is making the rounds on the internet, albeit for completely political reasons.

The video is getting a lot of press (including a great spot on the Current on CBC Radio One this morning) and the numerous versions floating out their on youtube combine for about 100,000 views. Imagine if we put together a tongue in cheek video about renewal that got that kind of coverage.

(BTW, I feel it worth mentioning that I can't actually view the video from behind the firewall ... so I hope that link works... if not try youtubing for 'culture in danger' or 'culture en peril'.)

Blogs

Mike Kujawski posted the presentation he did from Podcamp 2008 in Montreal. You can head on over to check it out.

FYI we are 'mentioned" in slide 42 as an unofficial government blog. (Thanks Mike!)


Round-Up: September 23

Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Blogs

Mike Kujawski reports back from Podcamp 2008 in Montreal. Here is the snippet relevant to Public Servants:

My main take away from my own presentation (based on the discussion) was that the government needs to get out of silos and start working together as one entity. There is a ton of existing internal support for better citizen engagement and there are high-level public service renewal initiatives currently underway that social media engagement can easily piggy back on. I have decided to organize something in Ottawa to address this. Stay tuned…

Looking forward to it Mike.

Also, Peter Smith makes a good case for repositioning GoC websites launch pads for content rather then as destinations.

News

Public pressure once again means lower then expected/promised pay increases for Civil Servants in British Columbia.

Events

The Conference Board of Canada is holding a conference in Ottawa in November. The opening address would be of interest but obviously the cost is prohibitive. Here is a snippet from the conference brochure:

Renewal and Change
in the Federal Public Service

Jim Lahey, Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, Public Service
Renewal, Privy Council Office


Driven by the service and transparency expectations of citizens, changing demographics and the need to reinvigorate the public sector brand, change is now top of the agenda for leaders in all levels of government and the broader public sector. Kevin Lynch, Clerk of the Privy Council, believes there is a choice between renewal and government “becoming less relevant, less useful and less respected as the years go by.”

Jim Lahey will set the scene with his insights into Canadian Public Service renewal, and how change management is needed at the individual, team, department, and organizational levels.




Round-Up September 22

Monday, September 22, 2008
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 jobs-emplois.gc.ca 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.)

I would like to encourage you to check the comments from last week's column. In them, Anatole raises the possibility that we quoted selectively in our presentation. I would just like to counter that my citation was more likely to be done in haste then it was to be done selectively (which raises another issue - I am probably not the only one to take away the message I did from the web page).

There is, a lot more to this issue then we covered in the (very) short column. But rest assured, we are currently working on another column that will engage the issues more deeply.

Oh and FYI - we here at CPSRenewal.ca are always happy to collaborate when/if the opportunity arises.

Sound Off!

There is little in terms of MSM coverage out there that is of relevance... The sun reported however on "Public servants' 17G chow down". This kind of reporting conjures up negative images and only goes to further damage the reputation of public servants.

What is $17,000 dollars spread over 400 employees? It's $42.50 bucks per public servant. Spread that over a 2 week period, (i.e. divide by 4 lunches) and we are talking about just over $10 bucks a day for lunch per person. Sounds like a non-starter a if you break it down to the level of the individual.

Besides, I had many a lunch provided to me by my private sector employers when business volumes dictated I couldn't leave for a lunch break. Private enterprise see this as a cost of doing business in order to provide good service in peak times. If they didn't all you would hear about in the MSM was a lot of people complaining about the terrible service they received. Happy workers make good workers ... I guess there is such thing as a free lunch (if you consider working all weekend for a $10 sandwich and salad 'free'.)


CPSRENEWAL.CA Weekly: PS vs Google Reloaded

Friday, September 19, 2008
[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 jobs-emplois.gc.ca 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 jobs-emplois.gc.ca.

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?]


Email Rant: Work Culture ... PS vs Google

Wednesday, September 17, 2008
-----Original Message-----
From: public_servant
To: ncharney


We just had a meeting about accommodation, they're taking out all our resource areas and meeting areas and just shoving in a bunch of new cubes. Ugh!

-----Original Message-----
From: ncharney
To: public_servant


Nice - who needs open and collaborative workspaces when we can enjoy Orwellian cubefarms?

I long for the day where government offices are local, decentralized and based on co-working:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coworking

btw - barcamp was hosted at a great location (the codefactory) which should be the model for future workspace in the PS.


-----Original Message-----
From: public_servant
To: ncharney


You mean like working for Google?

http://www.time.com/time/photoessays/2006/inside_google/

-----Original Message-----
From: ncharney
To: public_servant


Great link.

Wouldn't it be refreshing if the PS had something akin to the top 10 reasons to work @ Google?

Link: http://www.google.com/support/jobs/bin/static.py?page=about.html&about=top10

-----Original Message-----
From: public_servant
To: ncharney


Seriously why am I NOT working at Google?

It's surprising that they they don't include public servants in their list of "interesting people who work at Google.

Come on! Who wouldn't want to sit across from a bureaucrat?

-----Original Message-----
From: ncharney
To: public_servant


Fyi this thread will most likely spur a post on the renewal blog, probably not a "rant" but I will use it as a spring board to redrafting the top 10 reasons to work for Google into the top 10 reasons that I would like to see associated for working for the government.

-----Original Message-----
From: public_servant
To: ncharney


That's cool.

I mean, it's absolutely mind boggling how private companies, who are VERY concerned with profit and therefore productivity have recognized that allowing people certain "perks" actually improves their productivity.

Meanwhile the GOC can't even handle giving us access to facebook because they think we'll start slacking off.

If google can allow their employees to swim, work out, get massages, play with their pets ALL on company time and still continue to be exceptionally successful, why is the GOC stuck on their old-school thinking?

It's frustrating.

-----Original Message-----
From: ncharney
To: public_servant


In return for their good karma Google receives a certain level of commitment from their employees.

In fact I wonder if they have EVER had a problem with someone complaining about over time. Probably not.

GoC is just lucky that Google doesn't have a big office in Otown or it would be shit out of luck.

-----Original Message-----
From: public_servant
To: ncharney


Very lucky indeed, and I'm sure people don't complain about over time.


-----Original Message-----
From: ncharney
To: mmangulabnan


Check this convo between me and public_servant re: work culture.

I want to use this to spring board into some sort discussion around Google's marketing of jobs, especially by trying create something GOC specific akin to their top 10 reasons to work for Google.

Not sure if it will be a spoof or a "future of ps thing" ... the former would be more entertaining, but it will (and should more aptly) end up as the latter.

-----Original Message-----
From: mmangulabnan
To: ncharney


... looking forward to your treatment.

-----Original Message-----
From: ncharney
To: mmangulabnan


Here - what the PS should aspire to:

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 and 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.

-----Original Message-----
From: mmangulabnan
To: ncharney


I think it's funny that you have no modifications for 3, and 10.

-----Original Message-----
From: ncharney
To: mmangulabnan


Yeah but appreciation is the best motivation, couple that with a free lunch and renewal would be ‘un fait accompli’.



Round-Up September 15

Monday, September 15, 2008
A while back we wrote a column that tried to illustrate a simple way to use twitter to cut down on unnecessary email exchanges between public servants within a single shop. Apparently someone was already working on it. Yammer uses your email address's domain name to connect you to other users. This might seem crazy if you work for a large org like HRSDC but you can narrow your updates by choosing who to follow etc. You can use yammer in your browser, on your portable or in a standalone app for your pc. Anyways, we think you should check out Yammer.com and watch the demo ... then tell us how useful it would be to deploy in your organization.

Mike and I did a test run on Friday afternoon and loved it... too bad Monday morning the firewall got the better of us.

Speaking of twitter - Mike Kujawski has a great post on leveraging twitter for public marketing.

Happy Monday ...


CPSRENEWAL.CA Weekly: An Interview With a New Hire

Friday, September 12, 2008
In order to shed some light on the on-boarding process, one of the governments new post secondary recruits has agreed to participate in an interview with CSPRenewal.ca [CPSR]. It is my pleasure today to introduce you to New Hire [NH]. Hello NH, thanks for agreeing to speak with us, how are you today?

[NH] Good. Thanks for inviting me.

[CPSR]: Can you speak a little bit about how you wound up working for the federal government?

[NH]: In September ‘07 I was in my last semester of grad school at Carleton. I had just wrapped up a co-op term in the government and was disappointed by how things played out over the 4 months I spent working in the public service. But I decided to give it another go when the Post-Secondary Recruitment Campaigns started up again in late September.

[CPSR]: So, you applied to PSR?

[NH]: Yes, about 7 of the big guns were all conducting post-secondary recruitment campaigns, and all of them were promising challenging careers and the opportunity to “hit the ground running” in their new job.

[CPSR]: How was the recruitment process?

[NH]: It was a very busy time at school – my schedule was overloaded so I could finish my master's early and I was working part time. The online application process was way too time-consuming. I remember coming home from school at eleven o’clock at night and being bombarded with midnight deadlines. I tried to complete the applications, but they were ridiculously tedious. I realized quickly that I wouldn’t be able complete all of the separate applications, so I focused on a single process.

[CPSR]: And you were successful?

Yes, in November, I got an e-mail from the government – I had been screened in for an interview and I was to bring my transcripts and three letters of recommendation to the interview. Unfortunately I only had 4 business days to gather all the documents. This was no easy task given that even simple administrative requests take weeks at most Universities. I wondered how I would track down professors and past employers and lobby them for recommendation letters in such a short time frame. I did however manage to gather everything I needed for the interview. I was very nervous. I had never been interviewed for a position in government before. After completing the interview I was satisfied but unsure if the answers I had provided were the ones they were looking for.

[CPSR]: Were they?

[NH]: They were. In late December I was notified again by e-mail that I made it through the screening process and was invited to attend a two-day interviewing process. The itinerary was intimidating. The days started at 8 in the morning, and included breakfasts, lunches, dinners, receptions, meeting managers, meeting past recruits, interviews, and tours of the Parliament building.

[CPSR]: Sounds like a pretty full day.

[NH]: It was. The entire experience was absolutely overwhelming.

[CPSR]: How did it feel to be lumped in with the country’s ‘best and brightest’?

[NH]: I was proud that I had been selected from a group of seven thousand applicants. The recruiters telling me how much the public service needed me, and how our skills would help ensure that Canada’s public service remained one of the best in the world sure didn’t hurt either. Collectively the group was made to feel as though we would all find ourselves filling a specific niche in fast-paced working environments. There was also a lot of emphasis placed on our ability to quickly move through the ranks of the public service via the development program, and we were reassured multiple times that the entry level wages were just the tip of the financial iceberg.

[CPSR]: You had said earlier that you were disappointed with your first experience working as a co-op student, how did this experience change that?

[NH]: I was glad to see that the public service impressed me. The process was long and tiring but given the commitment shown in the recruitment process, I had my heart set on getting a position.

[CPSR]: And you got a position, didn’t you?

[NH]: By the middle of January I had received two separate offers from the same department. I was absolutely ecstatic and considered this to be one of my greatest achievements. My family, friends, professors and colleagues were all equally proud of me. I felt like all of my hard work had paid off, and I was eager to put myself to the test. I accepted the job of policy analyst and I couldn’t believe that it took only two months to transition from grad school into a wonderful new job in the public service.

[CPSR]: Congrats, it took me about 8 months to make the same jump. How was it when you started your work, did you ‘hit the ground running’ in a high-paced working environment?

[NH]: Despite coming in really pumped from the recruitment process, the first week on the job was very slow. My manager was away and the rest of the team generally kept to themselves. I spent the first week eating lunch alone.

[CPSR]: Your new colleagues ignored you altogether?

[NH]: No, they introduced themselves, but quickly went back to their cubicles without giving it a second thought. Later on another PSR started and despite our differences we got along smashingly. Having someone to relate to took a lot of the edge off.

[CPSR]: You said your manager was away when you started? How did you keep busy?

[NH]: I tried to navigate my new work environment the best I could. I tried to read as much as possible. I tried to stay positive, and remind myself that beginnings are always difficult. I was fully expecting things to pick up as soon as my manager came back from vacation. I figured she would be able to clarify my tasks and help me learn the ropes.

[CPSR]: Did things change when your manager returned?

[NH]: Sadly, not much changed. It took days before a “welcome to the team” e-mail was even sent out to our group and the rest of the directorate to introduce me and the other PSR. A senior team member introduced me around, but that was about as much interaction I had with my team.

[CPSR]: Did you meet with your manager to discuss what you were experiencing?

[NH]: No, for weeks, my manager seemed busy and distracted. We never sat down for an introduction, and I never got the opportunity to tell her who I was or how excited I was to be there. It quickly became apparent that there was no plan for me. I was assigned small tasks on an ad-hoc basis. I languished in my cubicle, even though my team appeared to be busy.

[CPSR]: In retrospect, how would you compare your expectation and your experience after having completed the PSR?

[NH]: The promises made to me during the recruitment process were absolutely false. I was not hired to fill a specific need nor was I working in a fast-paced environment. The development program had been on hold for over a year and was not accepting new candidates. I felt betrayed and desperate. I tried several times to talk to my manager, but for some reason we could never have an honest conversation. It seemed to me like she was more interested in making me feel thankful for what I did have, rather then addressing what was missing. I repeatedly struggled to find the right words to express my concerns, but I left every meeting feeling helpless.

[CPSR]: If things were that bad, why not just leave? You were successful once, you could do it again.

[NH]: I have a very strong sense of loyalty, I wanted her to know how grateful I was to have the job and that I was more then ready to work hard. I didn’t want to sullen my professional image. I was not looking for special treatment.

[CPSR]: What could she have done in order to help guide you through the situation?

[NH]: A simple informal meeting with my manager would have helped greatly. If she had sat down at the outset and said: “The beginning of your public service career will most likely be uneventful. Don’t expect to do a lot of high profile work during this time; you need to learn about the process first. But don’t worry I have a plan for you, over the next year I want you to immerse yourself in your file and become an expert on it. You need to practice these skills and abilities. Here are a handful of conferences that may be of interest. I am trying to set you up to be successful in the future. If you follow through with this then bigger things will inevitably come your way.”

[CPSR]: So having a game plan and a position is probably all you needed to make you feel better about the way things had turned out? Did you ever have that meeting?

[NH]: No, it never came, and I never found out exactly what was planned for me. I felt like little more then an office decoration. I remember attending a team meeting a few months after my start date and having literally NO idea what my team mates were talking about because I either wasn’t in the loop by accident or I was purposely kept out of the loop. I was reaching the boiling point, if I had not had a large student debt looming over my head, I would have quit.

[CPSR]: You aren’t still in that boat, are you? Withholding your resignation due to financial pressures?

[NH]: No, in May I attended the Orientation to the Public Service, a mandatory two-day training session offered by the Canada School of Public Service. While courses were somewhat useful, what the two-day training session offered was a chance to speak to other new public servants. Some of whom had been working for the Government for over a year and were willing and able to provide help and advice. I have kept in contact with some of them, and their helpful guidance has been a bright light at the end of the dark “new public servant” tunnel.

[CPSR]: Does anything in particular standout?

[NH]: One person in particular has encouraged me to get involved in the workplace. He taught me that nothing precludes you from trying to make your present work environment better, while looking for a better work environment to work in. Most importantly he has shown me that I am not alone in my struggles. He helped me discover that there are other intelligent and capable new hires who were not being used to their full potential but who refused to just resign themselves to that as a cold hard fact. His determination to affect change, even in the smallest modicum, is most encouraging.

[CPSR]: So things are getting better?

[NH]: Yes, my state of mind has definitely improved – I have gained the confidence to voice my honest concerns to my colleagues, and I have spoken to my manager about my needs. I am feverishly applying to positions all over the government and am already being screened into the processes. In short, I feel more at home in the public service. Given the opportunity for mobility within the public service, I feel confident that I will be able to find a position that gives me what I need as well as uses my full potential to the advantage of the organization.

[CPSR]: Do you have any final words of wisdom, or lessons to share with our readership?

[NH]: My one piece of advice to new public servants, especially those who are struggling, would be to get out and meet people. Despite its shortcomings, the public service is filled with knowledgeable and extremely friendly people who are willing to help you when you need it. Never hesitate to ask for help, and never turn down an opportunity to meet with a colleague. Often, a 15-minute coffee break can do more for your career development or morale than an entire day at your desk. Creating and maintaining networks is crucial, learning from them, paramount.

[CPSR]: Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview, and good luck.


*** please note that NH is not actually pictured above ***


CPSRenewal.ca Email Rant: The Changing Nature of Work

Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Here is another email exchange between Mike and I that we decided to share with you.

-----Original Message-----
From: mmangulabnan
To: ncharney
Subject: the changing nature of work

http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=6e280be9-ab96-410f-bd0d-8f4289923a7f

-----Original Message-----
From: ncharney

To: mmangulabnan

Subject: RE: the changing nature of work


Good article - not mind blowing but a good synopsis of how work is changing. Employers should already be implementing strategies to mitigate the retention implications of these changes. Too bad the city of Hamilton fails to see things the same way ... score another victory against work life balance?

http://www.thespec.com/News/Local/article/432707

My favorite line:

“The whole energy thing is a red herring,” argued Councillor Lloyd Ferguson. “Oil has come down $25 since the news release (from Merulla) went out, and it sends a real bad message for the image of our city.

“The rest of the world has to work five days a week and we only four?”

I guess he fails to see that in fact promoting work life balance in the civil service could start a trend in the city that will ultimately attract people to it and its civil service...


-----Original Message-----
From: mmangulabnan

To: ncharney

Subject: the changing nature of work


What a knob... and the rest of the world does not in fact work 5 days a week.


-----Original Message-----
From: ncharney

To: mmangulabnan

Subject: RE: the changing nature of work



His attitude is clearly of the pointy-haired boss variety:



Not to mention that working from home allows you to avoid certain distractions ...



Given context above, telecommuting also raises some ethical questions:



-----Original Message-----
From: mmangulabnan

To: ncharney

Subject: the changing nature of work

Well played...

Round-Up: September 9th

Tuesday, September 9, 2008
I just wanted to thank everyone who attended the barcamp - it was awesome. [h/t to Colin et al for organizing]

The NRCan Wiki is by far one of the best deployed pieces of web 2.0 technologies in the federal government today. I am surprised that more departments haven't gotten on board / that the centre hasn't picked it up and ran with it as a PS wide exercise.

I know what I will be trying to champion within my own department in the next month ... better start on the 'artillery work'.


News


From the E.X. files - The Deputy has no clothes.


Research Papers

A colleague flipped me an email with a link to a recent discussion paper entitled, Will the Unionized Workplace Attract and Retain New Talent? Given our previous columns we figured it might be worth the read (FYI we are currently reading it so no opinion can be shared as of yet).


Blogs

Peter Smith weighs in on unofficial government bloggers.

Etienne Laliberté raised some great points in his blogging @ work.gc.ca post so I am linking to it again.

CSPS

The Canadian School of Public Service has decided to start podcasting:

With the launch of the new Podcasting Directory in the fall of 2008, audio and audio-video files will be available for download directly from the School’s website which will further extend the reach of the Armchair Discussion Program and allow you to learn at your convenience. Such services help to minimize the barrier of time for participants in the regions.

Not to mention it just makes good sense to allow people access to knowledge and training when it is convenient for them to access it, and in the medium they want to access it...


CPSRenewal.ca Weekly: Blogging @ work.gc.ca

Friday, September 5, 2008
“What is it like to be a federal public servant and blog about work?”

Etienne and CPSRenewal.ca have decided to simultaneously post a column on our respective blogs and answer the question.

Check out Etienne's post and ours (below), and post your comments on either blog.


Our Column

If memory and several megabytes of archived emails serve me correctly, Nick and I launched cpsrenewal.ca in February 2008. At the outset, we’d decided that we want to accomplish two things: one, create an information resource for people interested in the goings-on of the public service with a particular focus on public service renewal, and two, open up a dialogue with those inside and outside the public service about the public service.

The first part, providing useful or at least interesting information is something that cpsrenewal.ca has done since the very beginning, and I think, continues to do fairly well. The second part, opening up a dialogue with our readers, has proven to be a bit more challenging but is an area in which we are gaining a bit of ground with the advent of the weekly opinion columns.

The good, the bad, and…

Part of me wonders if there’s a way I could somehow get paid to blog about and explore public service and public service renewal issues from a less-than-official standpoint. While blogging about the public service from outside any official purview has a number of benefits, it is not without its pitfalls.

Firstly, because we operate outside of the public service, cpsrenewal.ca is our project – and yours. There’s no screening of comments (other than filtering out spam), no strict guidelines around content, no approval processes, and no one telling us what kind of information we can or can’t disseminate or comment on. For the most part (and I’ll get to the rest in a second), we’re free to post what we want, and so are you.

Cpsrenewal.ca has purposefully left the door open for people to post comments completely anonymously. If you have something to comment on, a controversial idea, or even a legitimate gripe, we don’t believe that you should have to hold it back for fear of some kind of reprisal.

But there is of course the issue of the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Service, which I don’t really want to get into. You can talk to Etienne about his experience with Values and Ethics and An Inconvenient Renewal if you’re really interested. I will say that even though the forum is available, I think we (both us the writers, and you the readers) refrain from rocking the boat too much because we have to comply with Values and Ethics even outside of our cubes. Even my email rant to Nick a little while ago was something I hesitated to let him publish, but ultimately decided that the powers that be wouldn’t raise too much of a stink about it – which brings me to my next point, legitimacy.

Again, operating outside of official lines means we don’t need to comply with many official processes, regulations, and what have you. On the other hand, not being a legitimate (i.e. sanctioned) piece of the renewal puzzle makes it hard for the initiative to be taken seriously in official circles. I suppose that, like anything, a mix of reactions is to be expected. We’ve received everything from “outstanding initiative, the public service needs more people like you doing things like that” to “oh cool, one of those blog things… so anyway…”.

We’re not necessarily striving for legitimacy, but we do want to be taken seriously. The blog isn’t the end in itself, the format is merely the means to catalyze discussion, and then action. The private sector already knows this, corporate blogs are being used as a means for enhancing customer service and relations. Official government circles are just beginning to adopt blogs publicly and within their own departments. Though there is some irony in the fact that we have a blog posted on our Intranet, yet almost all other blogs are right up there with facebook and youtube as the enemies of productivity.

...and the paradox

Ultimately, being a public servant blogging about the public service, without the official sanction of public service is both frustrating and rewarding. Frustrating in that our two biggest issues, are big issues – as long as we continue to operate outside of official lines, we will always struggle with one, legitimacy and two, the values and ethics code.

The legitimacy issue is a complicated one. We want this initiative to be perceived as a legitimate means to effect change in the public service. But what happens if we become official? We might get more buy-in but if cpsrenewal.ca ever becomes a sanctioned federal government blog, it will no doubt become embroiled in the standard operating procedures (ie. the bureaucracy) and regulatory frameworks of most other government programs – precisely the sort of thing that we’re more than glad to avoid.

Secondly, not rocking the Values and Ethics boat means carrying on sailing in the same direction, with the same oars, and the same crew - something Public Service Renewal (the official version) itself wants to change. So the official word is that the boat needs rocking, and we’re more than happy to help. But even then, while we might tend to depart from a potentially controversial starting point, we eventually water down the delivery and try to avoid stirring things up too much. We would, after all, like to keep our jobs.

Despite those frustrations, the reward is also great. We’re engaged in public service renewal. We’re showing that others are engaged in public service renewal. We’ve connected directly with people making similar efforts. We are seeking to make the public service a better institution and a better employer for Canadians, and I daresay we are enjoying doing it. In the six to seven months since we launched cpsrenewal.ca, we have had over 7,500 page loads and 4,400 unique visitors (which further breaks down into approximately 3,100 first time visitors and 1,300 return visitors). Considering the traffic by quarter we also see that we have been steadily picking up steam, and expect this quarter to be our busiest to date. I can only presume that those stats mean that others are interested and engaged at some level with what we’re doing and therefore share the interest and passion for improving Canada’s Public Service.

And that is very encouraging.


Round-Up: September 4

Thursday, September 4, 2008
Blogs

As I stated earlier, Etienne launched AIR 3.0.

Colin McKay pointed us to this great presentation on Revaluing your Time and Attention by Merlin Mann.


Other

Canadian Government Executive has released its September Issue.

Of particular interest to me are:

1. The rise of e-government: Current trends and future prospects
2. Purpose, people, performance: The roles and attributes of effective public sector leaders
3. Decoding tribal culture
4. Is there still merit in the merit system? You bet!

Not that I have been able to read all of these yet...

Events

Barcamp in the NCR tomorrow, 9am. See you there!


Round-Up September 2

Tuesday, September 2, 2008
News

Given our previous columns on the role of unions and the fact that this was Labour Day weekend, I just wanted to share this article about the place of unions in Canada today.

Here is an excerpt:

Most job-holding Canadians do not belong to unions and express absolutely no wish to join. That's the most striking and (in numerical terms) the most convincing conclusion that emerges from the Nanos Research national survey of 1,000 employees.

Behind that single fact we can glimpse a major change in Canadian society, the slow but apparently inevitable death of a once-vibrant force in national life. Unions see themselves as a key to the good life: high incomes, job security, decent pensions, workplace safety. But for some reason this attractive package attracts few buyers. In a service economy, unions are now offering a service that relatively few citizens want.

Blogs We Like


Etienne Laliberté has officially launched
An Inconvenient Renewal version 3.0. Here is the email announcement he made for it as well as a Bottom-Up Renewal Group:

***email starts here***

[Le français suit]

Hello,

I am a federal public servant based out of Vancouver, British Columbia, and I am the author of the paper "An Inconvenient Renewal" which can be found on the Canada Public Service Agency
Intranet Site.

I am pleased to announce the public release of AIR 3.0 or if you prefer, "An Inconvenient Renewal version 3.0". You will find the document in the form of a website at this address:
http://sites.google.com/site/aninconvenientrenewal . AIR 3.0 includes the original paper and new commentaries for each of the section of the paper. The website also allows visitors with Google accounts to post documents and comments on each page. Please feel free to use these features.

I am also taking the opportunity to announce the launch of an other personal PS Renewal-related initiative I called "Bottom-Up Renewal", which you will find at this address:
http://groups.google.com/group/bottom-uprenewal/web . The initiative is built on the user-friendly Google Group platform and is meant to provide public servants with a means to share what they are doing that supports PS Renewal. The group is open to everyone. Take the time to browse through the organization practices and individual actions public servants have taken, as well as provide some of your own.

I would be very grateful if you could take a few moments to fill the following surveys:

(If you can't access the surveys from your work station, please take a second to let me know by email at Laliberte.Etienne@gmail.com so I can factor this in the analysis of the responses.)

Please forward this email to your friends, colleagues, bosses and staff, and visit my blog at
http://etiennelaliberte.blogspot.com where you will find even more articles of interest, links, reading recommendations, and polls.

If PS Renewal is of interest to you, I also recommend you take a look at this site:
http://www.cpsrenewal.ca .


Best regards,

Etienne Laliberté
Public Servant of Canada

Laliberte.Etienne@gmail.com

-------------------------------------

[Français]

Bonjour,

Je suis un employé de la fonction publique fédérale basé à Vancouver, Colombie-Britannique, ainsi que l'auteur du document "Un renouvellement qui dérange" disponible sur le site Intranet de l'Agence de la fonction publique.

Je suis fier d'annoncer la sortie de "Un renouvellement qui dérange version 3.0". Vous trouverez le document sous la forme d'un site Web à l'adresse: http://sites.google.com/site/unrenouvellementquiderange . Le site comprend le document original ainsi que de nouvelles réflexions pour chacune des sections du document. Le site Web permet également aux visiteurs possédant un compte Google d'ajouter des documents et commenter les pages. Vous êtes bienvenus d'utiliser ces fonctionnalités.

Je saisis aussi cette occasion pour annocer le lancement d'une autre initiative personnelle liée au renouvellement de la fonction publique que j'ai intitulée "Bottom-Up Renewal", que vous trouverez à cette adresse: http://groups.google.com/group/bottom-uprenewal/web (note: disponible en anglais seulement). Cette initiaitve utilise la plate-form Google Groups et vise à fournir aux fonctionnaires un moyen de partager ce qu'ils font pour soutenir le renouvellement de la fonction publique. Le groupe est ouvert à tous. Prenez un moment pour naviguer à tarvers les pratiques organisationnelles et les actions individuelles prises par des fonctionnaires, et aussi contribuer les vôtres.

Je vous serais gré de prendre quelques minutes pour compléter les deux sondages suivants (note: disponibles en anglais seulement):

(Si vous ne pouvez pas accéder ces sondages de votre poste de travail, veuillez me le laisser savoir en me répondant par courriel à Laliberte.Etienne@gmail.com afin que je puisse en tenir compte dans l'analyse des résultats.)

Je vous demanderais de faire suivre ce courriel à vos amis, collègues, patrons et personnel, ainsi que visiter mon blog à l'adresse http://etiennelaliberte.blogspot.com où vous trouverez d'autres articles d'intérêt, des liens, des suggestions de lecture, et des sondages.

Si le renouvellement de la fonction publique vous intéresse, je vous suggère également de jeter un coup d'oeil à ce site: http://www.cpsrenewal.ca .

Sincères salutations,

Etienne Laliberté
Employé de la fonction publique du Canada

Laliberte.Etienne@gmail.com