Performance Management meets the Public Service Employee Survey

Friday, April 24, 2015

by Tariq Piracha RSS / cpsrenewalFacebook / cpsrenewaltwitter / tariqpiracha

My daughter starts kindergarten this fall. As a parent, I obviously want my children to succeed. I want them to be taught by great teachers and have access to the latest and greatest tools and resources that they may need to succeed in the classroom. However, time spent in the classroom is no guarantee for success. The level of support at home, the stability of a household, the kind friends and family who surround us, and many more factors can contribute to, or undermine, the success of a student. So, I have a responsibility to ensure that my daughter has as much support outside school as she does within the school system. That’s the advantage my daughter has: someone (me) is looking out for her.

Last year, a new performance management system was implemented across government. (There was always a system, but last year it went through some significant changes.) Its objectives include making managers and employees more accountable for what they are supposed to deliver each year, and supporting employees who either are exhibiting potential or perhaps those who may need some, well, tender loving care.

It’s not difficult to draw a comparison between the system of performance in the public service and the education system. Both have systems that are designed to achieve specific public interest objectives, and support individual success.

There are also similarities in their limitations: as I pointed out above, standards within the school system only go so far. As a parent I might research the schools in my neighbourhood, talk to other parents, perhaps even structure home-buying and transit decisions around getting our daughters into good schools.

As employees in the public service, we don't necessarily have anyone looking out for uswe are lucky if we find ourselves working for a supportive manager, but it's on us to set ourselves up for success. Yes, the performance management system may help get public servants on track with setting objectives and identifying potential areas for improvement and training, but a course on project management isn't going to magically solve things for a team that is short-staffed and overworked. Signing up for French training may not help a public servant improve their French if English is the only language they are exposed to on a daily basis. Some employees may not have supportive managers. Or a large training budget. Or an environment that fosters improvement or creativity.

This is where the Public Service Employee Survey (PSES) comes in. The Survey comes out every three years, surveying public servants on a number of topics including work-life balance, harassment in the workplace, overtime, and more. And the latest results are in.

In the past, I never gave the Survey much thought.  Some years I’d fill it out, sometimes I couldn’t be bothered. The results seemed little more than an academic exercise that confirmed what I already thought: the public service is good in some areas and poor in others.

Well, now the survey results are providing public servants with an opportunity to be a little more strategic with their careers.

While the Survey is not a rating system, nor does it get into specifics about the positive (or negative) reputation of particular managers, the Survey does provide indicators about which environments *may* be be most conducive to development. Or, hell, which sectors within particular departments would simply be more stable and supportive so that one doesn’t dread getting up in the morning to go to work. It could be something as simple as percentages that show where one might find lower instances of harassment, or higher levels of job satisfaction.

The point is that the survey results may provide a rough measure of which organizations better align with your own values and goals. It is essentially another tool that is at our disposal. Little pearls of information just waiting for you to take a look and say, “Huh. That’s interesting", pointing you to something more rewarding.

Moving into those more supportive positions or organizations? Well, that's on you.