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Canada's Public Service: A Career for the Net Generation?

Guest Contributor

The front page headline on yesterday’s Ottawa Citizen featured a story about a recent survey that links the level of engagement that Canadian federal public servants are reporting, based on the amount of time they have been employed.

What is interesting about this particular survey is that the group being evaluated is made up entirely of young people who were recruited via the Post-Secondary Recruitment program.  Essentially, these are young people who were recruited right out of university programs to begin their professional careers in the Public Service.

The gist of the story is this: young people are invigorated and motivated when they join the Public Service, but the job beats the enthusiasm out of them.  The longer they work for the federal government, the lower their reported scores on some key engagement indicators.

This result led to some water cooler chat in our office – with a recommendation that we address the topic here in our blog, particularly in light of our current look at workplace wellness.  As I thought about this, I started to think about the perspective of the university student who is beginning to consider their first job.  My conclusion? I realized that I am about as far removed from that group as it is possible to be. 

So who do we have that could most effectively provide an analysis of this group and their outlook on work and life?  Well, we have Max Sunohara, a current student at the University of Ottawa, working in our office this summer. Why not have Max provide the Net Generation reaction to the Citizen piece?

After discussing the issue with some Delta staff, I read the article online - the only place I go to read the news.

I can honestly say I was not very surprised with what I read. Before reading the piece, I hadn’t put much thought into why I would want to work in the public sector after finishing my post secondary schooling, and after careful thought I couldn’t come up with all that much. The truth is I never gave working in the public service too much consideration. I always envisioned myself working in the private sector. I wondered why that was, and so I started brainstorming and came up with some ideas.

This post will be aimed at outlining the various qualities that someone of my generation would be looking for in a job in the public sector.

Technology

As a member of the Net Generation I was born into a world of fast evolving technology, where the fastest and smallest gadget is rendered obsolete in a matter of months. My generation grew up with computers, laptops, cell phones, the Internet, and can’t imagine a world without them.

As mentioned, I went online to read the article for which this post is a response. I am sure if you offered an iPad with the Ottawa Citizen on it or the actual Ottawa Citizen to someone of the Net Generation they would choose the digital version.

There is a very simple reason. Paper is static; as soon as it is printed it is outdated. Digital on the other hand is dynamic. You won’t see breaking news that was on TV in the paper, but you will see it online. Due to this, it is crucial that employers use the web to interact with potential future employees. With that in mind, if an employer does not have a website they essentially do not exist to our generation, and if they do not have a strong web presence then they will more than likely go unnoticed.

Dynamic websites are really a must; the days of online brochures are over. Take our government’s website for example. It is plain, boring and not very interactive or dynamic. If compared to the government of France’s website, which is very good, one can really see what our government’s website lacks.

Apple land-350x155In order to achieve maximum engagement in the workplace, I believe that “Net Genners” require the open and freely connected use of electronics that they are used to. I believe that most people of the Net Generation would prefer to use their tower PC or laptop to a “work computer”. Asking a “Net Genner” to use a different computer, and different software, than what they are accustomed to would be like asking a star hockey player to start using different equipment. In both cases productivity would likely decrease and I would assume engagement would follow in the same pattern. This could perhaps be why the survey found that disengagement increased after working in the public sector for a while.

Environment

The conditions in which everyone works are probably one of the most important aspects of a job.

If I were coming out of a post-secondary program into a first job, I would want to work in a healthy environment that would help me learn and grow in my field. I would completely understand that I am very young and still have much to learn from my superiors, but at the same time I would still like to be treated with the same respect that I give to my co-workers and not be treated as if I were useless and just “the new kid”. I am sure most people of my generation are very open to adapting to the work style of older generations, but like most things in life this is a two-way street. If I were to adapt to the work styles of my superiors, then perhaps it would be mutually beneficial if they could also learn to adapt to the work habits of the younger generations. I am sure this would help to increase engagement if all the generations’ work habits could find equilibrium with each other.

With reference to mutual respect, I would like to mention an article I read on cbc.ca about a woman who worked for HRSDC and was harassed on many occasions by her superior.  Eventually she had to take a sick leave in order to remove herself from the situation when it was not dealt with properly by her department. The harassment included sexual harassment as well as yelling and threatening.

Behaviour like that should never be tolerated, and if such conduct was allowed while the new hires were working,Yelling man-300x212 I believe that it would have been a contributing factor to the disengagement trend found in the survey. For all generations, being treated equally and with respect is very important, but this is especially important for my generation. The the equal treatment of all races, genders, LGBT, etc, is a must for a healthy working environment and maximum engagement.

Why would someone of my generation want to work in an environment where unnecessary stress is created due to inappropriate behaviour and intolerance?

Accessibility

In order for someone to want to work in the public sector, the organization must be easily accessible. How could someone apply to work in an organization if they cannot find it? For my generation this would mean online.

I for one have never heard of the Post-Secondary Recruitment Program, nor have I heard it discussed among my peers. Again, having a website that engages the viewer is a must.  A website isn’t just an online brochure, but instead an evolving community meeting place that incorporates social media to involve the public as much as possible. The website should try to “sell” why the new graduates should work in the public sector on the website. The graduates should believe that by working in the public sector they will be making a difference and have interesting and meaningful responsibilities. This was a problem found in the survey, and it could very well be that the new hires did not know what exactly their new job would encompass when they were selected.

First Job Syndrome?

All this being said, the article does not take into consideration that for the new hires, this was their first job.  Perhaps the trend in disengagement is quite normal in all sectors. It is definitely possible that the new hires had high expectation walking into their new jobs, and were given a “reality check” when they entered the work force right after their post-secondary education.

I believe that some may have realized that the field was not right for them and that they would like to pursue other careers - thus were not happy with their current job.

Nevertheless, working in the service of the public is a great career choice and should be one of the top choices for younger generations. However, there are pros and cons as with any job that may make the public sector seem less appealing than the private sector.

This can all change if the new and older generations can adapt to each other.


Download Delta’s eBook: Leadership and the Intergenerational Divide by Delta Partners associate, Jim Taggart, in which he outlines the coming changes within the demographics of a soon-to-be four generation workforce.  Jim discusses the implications, the trends, and potential solutions for the leaders and managers who will be faced with this new and unique challenge.

Comments

Great response Max. I read the article referenced and thought it was sad but true for many reasons, some of which you outline above. One of the most difficult things about working in the public sector, IMHO, is dealing with the size and complexity of the organization.

Like you, I had never considered a career in the public service when I was in University; I didn’t really know what kind of jobs were available. I went into the private sector then non-profit, and after a few years of work experience inadvertantly ended up in the public sector. I’m glad I did.

I think working in all three sectors has helped me to not succumb to idealized thinking that private sector is exciting and public sector is boring. Given the right conditions and attitude it is possible to achieve a lot and have a meaningful career. However, when I read articles in business magazines or journals about organizational psychology, I often see the exact same problems that all large organizations have…long and labourious processes, extra care to make good decisions, difficulty communicating, projects that get off course, and of course, people problems. Couple these common issues with the added layer of rigour that must be applied because the entire system is funded by taxpayers and it can make for a very difficult environment in which to find personal success.

I hope that won’t discourage net genners from applying to work in the public sector. Working in the service of the public, as you so aptly put it, can be rewarding and demanding. Starting off with an understanding of how government works can help set the right expectations.

By Laura Wesley on 2011/06/07

Thank you for your insightful comment. I can imagine that it would be difficult dealing with the size and complexity of the the public sector. I guess one can’t really imagine what it is is like unless one experiences it. I myself have never worked for a large organization and don’t know if I have the tools to work effectively in that environment. Did you find it difficult to adjust to your first job after your post-secondary education or did you feel well prepared?

I like the point that you made that there is a stigma against the public sector, but it isn’t necessarily true. It is good to know that work in the public sector can be fulfilling, given the right attitude.

I think you’re right, that net genners should learn about how the government works in order to get a good feel for what they’re going to do in their job should they choose to work in the public sector. I personally don’t know a lot about how the government works, but now I plan to research a little.

Do you know of any websites that are aimed at educating younger generations on this topic?

Thanks.

By Max Sunohara on 2011/06/08

Your perspective is insightful Max!

Being a university student myself, I definitely relate with your post. Some of the few horror stories can leave many university graduates nervous to join the public sector. After graduating secondary school, I had every intention to major in Public Administration.  Recently however, the government?s wrongdoings have been made public. If the government is treating their directors in such a way, one can only imagine how they are treating their entrance level employees. After careful consideration and research, the cons of working in the public sector have outweighed the pros and I have decided to switch majors.

By Mariah on 2011/06/08

You raise a very good point Mariah! It’s really great to hear from another University student, and it’s great to see that the way the government treats it’s employees doesn’t go unnoticed by the public. I think it is interesting to see that some young people will even change paths after what they read about employee treatment. Do you think that you may have also decided to switch majors because you did not find what you were studying as interesting as you thought it would be?

It is also interesting to speculate how entrance level employees as you put it, could be treated if the way directors are being treated is so terrible. I hope situations like Zabia’s are not very frequent and that proper measures are taken to prevent such things from happening, and that the right measures are taken after these incidents occur, to prevent them from reoccurring.

I hope that the path you have chosen will bring you great success and that you will be content in your future career.

By Max Sunohara on 2011/06/08

Congratulations on a great blog Max! I also appreciate the comments of Laura and Mariah; it’s critical that all employers become aware of the aspirations of young adults joining the workforce.

What is critical about engagement anyway? According to Gallup the proportion of engaged to actively disengaged employee is markedly different in world-class vs. average organizations:

-In world-class organizations, the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is 9.57:1.
-In average organizations, the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is 1.83:1

That’s a difference of about 5! In the final analysis high employee engagement is a necessary precondition to high performing organizations.

By Alcide on 2011/06/08

Thank you for your comment Alcide. The statistics really provide proof that employee engagement makes a large impact on productivity and organizational success. I can’t imagine the amount of money that is lost each year by the average organizations due to high levels of disengagement, and lost productivity!

By Maxwell Sunohara on 2011/06/08

I’m at a loss to explain why morale has sunk to such depths in Canada’s federal public service. When I joined the PS in September 1982, I was a new dad (27) and faced a bleak job market. I was lucky to get a term job as an economist. As much as there were plenty of ups and downs over the next 20 years, I loved my work and gained a huge amount of experience. I also had a high degree of delegation in my work - something that began to disappear in the PS later in the nineties and which extends to the current state.

Before retiring last December, I witnessed thousands of bright, new recruits joining government. What struck me as odd were frequent comments by some of these individuals that they wanted in to government for the pensions. Excuse me?

If you join a huge bureaucracy like the Public Service of Canada for the pension and good pay, then you’re in for a long jail sentence, especially if you complain about management and how Baby Boomers are unproductive.

Indeed, the perception of the Public Service as being the last bastion of cushy pensions and soft work neds to be addressed. Just last week my next door neighbour, a very bright 30 year-old engineer who works for a large American company, said he wanted to get in to the federal government for a “cushy job” and great pension. I suggested he rethink that strategy.

Layered on top of the Public Service’s issues is the hideous (I do not use this word lightly) harassment that continues to plague the Public Service. I recently wrote a post on this topic on my website-blog.

How Gen Y and Gen X reconcile this subject in the coming years as they assume more senior leadership positions will determine whether the Public Services workplace culture shakes harassment and other unproductive management practices.

By Jim Taggart on 2011/06/09

I too have heard a lot of people say that they would like to get into the PS for the pension/job security. I hear a lot of people saying that if they worked in the PS, they wouldn’t have to work very hard to keep their job. I’d hope that people of my generation would want to work and try to propel themselves forward in their careers, and not just get stuck in the daily grind from 8-4. Perhaps this mentality is giving work in the PS its bad reputation for being “boring”. Work in the PS should be seen as a great way to gain experience in how the government works so that if you left the government and worked in the private sector, you would be more successful in business dealings with the government.

By Max Sunohara on 2011/06/09

You raise an important point, Max,about what is tantamount to transferable skills. My view is that too many public servants confine their thinking on skills and experience acquisition to government, when in fact what’s becoming increasingly important in a volatile world is to take on work that both stretches your learning and that builds your portfolio over time. When one becomes comfortable in one’s job, then learning is stagnating, as well as knowledge acquisition. My view is that you always need to feel some tension in your work to ensure that you’re learning and outside your comfort zone.

By Jim Taggart on 2011/06/09

I enjoyed reading your post Maxwell.  I visited India last year as part of a training program.  I had the opportunity to meet with several business leaders.  A few observations…the hunger and drive to succeed, the war for talent and the mentality of continuous learning.  A concept from one of India’s most successful business leaders that I have brought back to my work is “reverse mentoring”.  I have selected new talented recruits in our organization to teach me on new technologies, how customers in their generation think and make buying decisions and advise me on what they would do differently if they were running the organization.  You are never too old to learn and your generation has a lot to teach us…good luck in your education and future career path, whatever direction you decide to take!

By Glen on 2011/06/09

Thank you for your comments Jim and Glen. I agree with your point Jim, and I think it ties in well with Glen’s comment, in that knowledge acquisition shouldn’t stop as you build your portfolio, and a constant challenge is necessary to fuel your desire for success and growth, to reach your full potential. “Reverse mentoring” sounds like an excellent practice, and seems like a great way to further the understanding of the psychology of younger generations. I’d be interested to know the results of your “reverse mentoring” program, and if it has been successful in your organization, and perhaps what you think has made it successful? Could you offer any advice to managers who would be interested in such a program? I am very glad to see that there is so much interest in this subject, and that it is given so much importance. There is so much for the net generation to learn from people like you, Glen and Jim, and I’m glad to hear that you believe that people of my generation can teach you some things as well, Glen.

By Maxwell Sunohara on 2011/06/10

I enjoyed your blog and the ensuing dialogue it has generated. I have worked both in the public and private sectors.  While in government, I noted that the recruitment programs were well thought out (e.g. internships) but development programs were frequently sub par. The enthusiasm and energy the young recruits brought when they started often disappeared.  It is important to attract and retain young, creative, and passionate leaders in the public service.  We need people like you, Max, to stimulate the conversation and figure out how to fix the problem.

By Bev on 2011/06/10

Thank you for reading the blog, and contributing to this discussion Bev! It’s great to hear from someone who has had experience in both the public and private sectors. Like you so aptly put it, having a good mentoring program is a great way to maintain engagement once the new hires are working. I’m sure that most employers want their new recruits to hit the ground running, but I think that for the majority of new hires, this would be almost impossible; at least for me it would be. Personally I feel that Post-secondary education doesn’t fully prepare students for the specific requirements that each job comes with, and in my case I would like to guided and mentored so that I may reach my full potential. I’m sure, entering the workforce must be intimidating, and to be expected to be fully autonomous immediately would be very discouraging to the new recruit. I like the idea of reverse mentoring, and perhaps managers in the PS could sit down with the new hires and ask them what they would like to see done in order to ease the transition from student to employee, so that in the future the enthusiasm and energy that you spoke of when the the young recruits first started working, doesn’t just “die out” but instead radiates out to the other co-workers.

Perhaps the solution to this is not so complicated after all, and a little reverse mentoring between the new recruits and the managers that hired them is the key.

Has anyone recently started working in the public sector after finishing their post-secondary education, and would like to share their experiences? Is there anything that you wish would have been done differently?

By Maxwell Sunohara on 2011/06/10

I have enjoyed reading your blog Maxwell and would like to follow up on Laura’s comment.  I am a public school teacher.  My training included many hours in a classroom setting where I gained valuable practical experience.  I was fortunate to have mentors who were passionate about their students and were able to work within the bureaucracy.  I had a fair idea of what to expect when I entered the classroom for the first time.  Do you know whether the public sector provides similar opportunities to post secondary students before they graduate?  I agree that gaining prior insight into the workings of government will be valuable in setting realistic expectations.  Keep up your excellent work, Maxwell!

By Val on 2011/06/10

Where is the political response. As a mother of two teenagers, paying high university tuition fees and as a taxpayer, I am appalled and angry at this senior fed waste. We need an inquiry. university educators, doctors and nurses are not getting paid enough. Doctors and specialists with patient-lists numbering 20,000. Canadians with life-threatening illnesses that wait months to get in to see their overworked specialists.

Please, please, take the salary of a couple dozen of these 200K, 300K and 400K senior feds and just transfer it to the provinces, so we can pay for education, doctors and nurses. Health and education is what every society needs. They’re number one. Society does NOT need taxpayer dollars wasted on senior bureaucrats and Treasury Board to abuse and mob hardworking public servants. How much do the high ranks at HRDC make? What’s the salary of the deputy minister who authorized the mobbers to hound, threaten and rob of her salary and over-twenty year career.

How much of our tax funds go to the salary of the senior reps and high-paid licensed lawyers across the whole fed system who broke the law with the third-party declaration and who are wasting public funds fighting a proven aggressively and sexually harassed woman in the courts?

Violence and abuse in the public service is rampant.  We’ve got to take a stand and call for a public inquiry.

We can not educate our young people and send them into this environment where they can be used and preyed on by high-ranking feds who coerce and threaten breaking all treasury board government rules on harassment, violence and ethics.

By twoTeens on 2011/06/11

Violence and discriminating harassment in the Public Service is an increasingly pervasive comment.  Most in Ottawa/Gatineau want to see their children and grandchildren with a secure federal career.  Be they Gatinois or Ottawa’s multicultural diverse population.  But we do need to address the issues raised by Mr. Sunohora and the CBC. 

One comment posted on the Citizen article written by Mr. Butler talked about the work-culture in Place du Portage.  Interestingly that’s the exact location of the violent and sexual harassment of Mme Chamberlain.

I can confirm first getting to know Mme Chamberlain when she was a youth, just finished her first university degree and in the early stages of her public service career.  She was enthusiastic, with integrity, a strong work ethic, helpful to her colleagues, respectful to her manager.  Twenty years later, with hard-work, not one day of full-time french-training ever offered her, she had managed, with only her high performance, work ethic and capabilities on the job to establish four years at the rank of director.  The Federal Employer then used her, used her capabilities, used her bilingual skills, used her work-ethic and sat idly by while she was shamefully repeatedly harassed.

They then spent the next three years covering it all up by breaking all their own treasury board government rules on harassment, violence, safety, hazards and compensation.

Labour tribunal records have been released to me under ATIP and I can confirm the witness who sat in the meeting Fall 2009 with the HRDC victim.  In the room representing the federal employer was an ADM and two DGs - annual salaries combined would be about 450K. The lead mobber yelled at the HRDC victim, pounded the table and told her she was out of her mind if she thought they would sell her to another department.

A striking feature of this meeting, the ADM who sat next to the forceful executive did NOTHING. He did not step in in any way.

So who are these ADMs and high-ranks who tasked the mobbers to get forceful and threaten this victim?

Who are the high-ranks who coerced lower human resource executives and junior officers into breaking treasury board government rules on harassment, safety, workplace-hazards, salary and the third-party declaration?

Their names are already public and can be found at these links and most are paid the equivalent of supreme court judges and more than medical doctors.

http://pm.gc.ca/eng/media.asp?category=1&pageId=26&id=3547

http://sage-geds.tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca/cgi-bin/direct500/eng/XEou=DMOHRSDC-BSMRHDCC,ou=DMHRSDC-BSMRHDCC,ou=NHQ-ADCE,ou=HRSDC-RHDCC,o=GC,c=CA

http://sage-geds.tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca/cgi-bin/direct500/eng/XEou=OEVP-BPVP,ou=PO-BP,ou=HQ-AC,ou=CBSA-ASFC,o=GC,c=CA

http://sage-geds.tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca/cgi-bin/direct500/eng/SEo=GC,c=CA?SV=rallis,+g&SF=Surname,+Given+name&ST=begins+with&x=1&y=1

http://sage-geds.tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca/cgi-bin/direct500/eng/SEo=GC,c=CA?SV=vermaeten,+f&SF=Surname,+Given+name&ST=begins+with&x=1&y=1

http://sage-geds.tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca/cgi-bin/direct500/eng/REcn=Gosselin, Helene,ou=DML-SMT,ou=NHQ-ADCE,ou=HRSDC-RHDCC,o=GC,c=CA

http://sage-geds.tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca/cgi-bin/direct500/eng/REcn=Laurendeau, Helene,ou=ADMOCLRS-BSASRRT,ou=CLRS-SRRT,ou=OCHRO-BDPRH,ou=TBS-SCT,o=GC,c=CA

By Lisette, Hull on 2011/06/12

Violence and discriminating harassment in the Public Service is out of control.  Most in this region want to see their children and grandchildren with a secure federal career, be they Gatinois or from Ottawa’s diverse multicultural community. But we do need to address the issues raised by Mr. Sunohora and the CBC. 

I first befriended Mme Chamberlain when she was a youth, just finished her first university degree and in the early years of her public service career.  She was enthusiastic, bright, hard-working, helpful to her colleagues, respectful to her manager.  Twenty years on, after not one day of full-time french training at the government’s expense and superb performance record on the job, she had established 4 years at the rank of junior director, even acting as an executive for a couple years.

But the federal employer used her: used her french-language skills, used her strong ethics, knowledge and performance ability and they sat idly by as while she was repeatedly violently harassed. 

They then spent the following three years doing all they can to cover it up and dodge the fact that they broke pretty well every treasury board government rule and policy on ethics, safety, hazard, violence, harassment, salary and compensation.

Labour tribunal records have been released to me under ATIP and I can confirm the witness who publicly commented as having sat in the meeting Fall 2009 with the HRDC victim.  In the room representing the federal employer was an ADM and two DGs - annual salaries combined would be about 450K. The lead mobber yelled at the HRDC victim, pounded the table and told her she was out of her mind if she thought they would sell her to another department.

A striking feature of this meeting, the ADM who sat next to the forceful executive did NOTHING. He did not step in in any way.

So who are these ADMs and high-ranks who tasked the mobbers to get forceful and threaten this victim?

Who are the high-ranks who coerced lower human resource executives and junior officers into breaking treasury board government rules on harassment, safety, salary and the third-party declaration?

Their names are already public and most are paid the equivalent of supreme court judges and more than medical doctors. Their names can be found at public links shown at CBC’s web article, search terms “flooded” “investigations”.

Interestingly, one comment posted on Mr Butler’s Citizen article talked about the unhealthy work-culture of Place du Portage.  This is the exact location of the violent and gender harassment of Mme Chamberlain.

This case is an atrocity.  This can not be what our youth, Catinois, Ottawan, multicultural and educated with high tuitions, are to face when entering the public service.

By Lisette L Hull on 2011/06/12

I am enjoying the dialogue that your blog has stimulated and would like to add to the discussion.  Several years ago, after my post secondary education, I had the opportunity to work as an intern in public health at the municipal level.  I found the work to be very rewarding and was eager to pursue a career in the public sector.  At that time, however, only short term contracts to cover leaves of absence were available.  I was told that turnover was minimal since most staff stayed in their positions until they retired.  I opted instead for employment in the private sector.  (I should add that I have not regretted this decision as the corporation that I chose was very progressive and valued their employees.)  Max, could the lack of long term jobs in the public sector be influencing new graduates in their career choices today - or has the situation changed?

By Dale on 2011/06/12

Dale,

The Public Service of Canada, despite gyrations of peaks and troughs since the early ninteties is still a VERY stable employer. As much as there is currently handwringing by the unions over expected budget and employment cuts, will pale in comparison to the 1994-96 massive reorganization and budget reductions. And back then the incentives to leave government were VERY generous and enticing.

But good for you to stay in the private sector. None of my four adult children has opted fr government. My one son (28) works as a manager for one of the largest banks in North America. And though he works his butt off, he likes his work AND his senior managers. I’ve told him that he wouldn’t last five minutes in the public sector.

Former work colleagues who entered government in their forties (eg, ex-Nortel employees) had a really difficult time transitioning to government. They were used to (as my son) to being given delegation and responsibility. They were accountable for their results; however, they were given the tools AND the leadership with which to accomplish their objectives.

By Jim Taggart on 2011/06/12

Very interesting topic.  I agree with Bev that it’s critical to attact and retain young and creative people in the public sector.

While in university, I spent two summers working for the federal government.  It was disheartening to see a number of older people treat their jobs as simply a paycheque.  They went through the motions.  Unfortunately, creativity and innovation were not encouraged and were, in fact, frowned upon by certain employees.  This type of attitude trickled down to the younger workers and created a state of apathy.

Young people are our future.  They feel like they can make a difference and they want to make a difference.  It’s sad to hear someone like the poster above, Mariah, be so disenchanted with the public sector.

It’s important for the public sector to have clear processes and objectives for innovation, and an environment that encourages creative development and outside the box thinking.  It’s also important to embrace diversity and individual strengths and to help people understand how they can best contribute to the team.

A creative culture should also be a fun one - a place where it’s exciting to come to work each day.  Non-monetary rewards can contribute to innovation and creativity.  I visited a U.S. government department earlier this year on “Jersey Day” - a day when all employees were encouraged to wear the jersey of their favourite sports team.  Most of the employees were wearing the jersey of the local team, and there was a buzz of excitement in the air.  People were happy to be at work.

I realize that it takes time to change the culture of a large organization, but perhaps small steps could go a long way.

By Brian on 2011/06/13

I’m glad to hear that you had a positive experience with your mentoring and training, and that you knew what to expect when you started teaching Val. I’ve spoken to many people that I know who want to work in the public sector, about the opportunities out there to gain experience in the workings of the government. The best option and the one that seems the most popular by far is FSWEP, the Federal Student Work Experience Program. Full time post-secondary students can submit an online application form, which is then sent to the Public Service Commission (PSC) of Canada. If, your application is randomly selected when you meet the requirements of a federal organization that is offering student jobs, your application is then referred to the organization by the PSC of Canada. FSWEP is a great way for students to gain work experience, while learning about the federal government.

Over the weekend, I spoke to someone who recently got a summer job, through FSWEP and is very pleased with it. She recommends that post-secondary students submit an application right away!

Thank you very much for your contributions to this discussion.

By Maxwell Sunohara on 2011/06/13

Thank you for the powerful response, twoTeens. When you think about the way Zabia was treated at her rank in the organization, it really makes you wonder how new recruits are treated, and if they receive the same harassment. It would be unfortunate and really discouraging to have such a terrible experience with the public service so early on in a career. However, I have heard many positive experiences from new employees in the public service, and I hope that all new recruits have similar things to say.

HRDC lost a valuable employee due to mobbing, and hopefully the public service won’t lose anymore.

By Max Sunohara on 2011/06/13

In response to your comment Dale, I think the situation has changed quite a bit. For the most part I hear that the main reason people want to work in the public sector is for the job security and pension. Of the people that I do know who recently began working in the public sector, most of them brag about their new job and the security that comes with it. I am glad that you found a private corporation that treated you well and allowed you to progress. If I may ask, would you have remained in the public service had there have been more permanent positions available?

Jim, you spoke about your son and ex-work colleagues having difficulty transitioning to government work because they were used to being given delegation and responsibility. Do public service employees receive neither? It seems like your son and Dale were both given the means in order to succeed in their private organizations, so what is then holding public service employees back, and why can’t these employees receive the same tools and leadership to accomplish their objectives? Could it be that PS employees are not given the same level of trust as private sector employees? Debra, another blogger has just written an interesting piece
on this subject.

I know someone who worked as a manager in the private sector before finding a job in the public sector. She said that she tries to implement the same strategies she used to motivate, and maintain the engagement of her employees in her past job, in her position today in the public service. Should the PS be looking for more people like this?

By Max Sunohara on 2011/06/13

Thank you for sharing with us Brian. I am disappointed to hear that innovation and creativity were actually frowned upon during your employment. That really isn’t the way to maintain employee engagement especially for the younger employees.

I really like the point that you made about a fun and creative culture. The “Jersey Day” you spoke of is a wonderful example of a simple way to improve the spirits of employees and lighten up the atmosphere while not spending any work hours or money. Christian Bertoli, another blogger has written a blog about workplace wellness, that is definitely worth a read!

By Maxwell Sunohara on 2011/06/13

Max,

Years ago when I was working in a regional office in Fredericton and in my late twenties and early thirties, I had tons of delegation and responsibilities. National Head Quarters has never had the same degree of delegation; however, the situation has deteriorated over the past 10-plus years BOTH in the regions and NHQ. Former colleagues who work in regional offices are smothered in rules and red tape. If you recall a few years ago, retired DMs such as the late Arthur Kroeger (who was my depute at CEIC) warned of the avalanche of rules, etc. that emerged from HRSDC’s Gs and Cs scandal, and the negative impact this would have on the effectiveness of the public service. Kroeger’s warnings were no heeded.

In the brutal business world, any company that smothers their employees with rules, lack of trust and bad leadership risks going out of business.

What gets lost by politicians and those at senior levels of government is that governments are competing against one another to foster economic growth. Unfortunately, we haven’t yet “got it” in Canada or the Unted States, where our national past-times are political squabblings, petty inter-provincial trade disputes, arguing about language rights, etc.

By Jim Taggart on 2011/06/13

What a bright young man you are Max! It is important that young people like yourself have taken the time to research these topics and bring them to light for the public to see. After reading your blog post I was directed to the CBC website. The mobbing story is out of this world outrageous. After working in the public sector for quite a few years and a few years ago, realized that it is not the career me. The decent pay combined with the family essential health benefits and job security blind recent grads to join the public sector. I am happy to see people are finally speaking out against their cushy government jobs.

By Sam on 2011/06/13

Thank you for your compliment Sam. I’m glad you enjoyed reading the blog, and that your are touched by the topic! Stay tuned for other blog posts in the future!

By Maxwell Sunohara on 2011/06/13

I can only offer one anecdote. My daughter, a university student, worked one summer at a job with a federal public service department.

She refused to even consider it again the next summer, instead choosing to take a summer position at half the pay level. The lesser pay less important than than suffering through another summer with the public service.

By Elliot Ross on 2011/06/16

Wow, a university student accepting half the pay just to get away from her old public service job! That really speaks for itself! I’m sorry to hear that she had a poor experience with the public service, it must have really been bad if she wouldn’t even consider doing it again. Did you by any chance hear from her what it was that made it so unbearable? Thank you for sharing with us Elliot.

By Max Sunohara on 2011/06/16

The entry by Elliot led me to recall the days when my children were looking for summer jobs.  I encouraged them to stay away from government jobs because I didn’t want them to learn bad work habits.  I preferred to have them to seek employment in the private service sector where the pay was lower(e.g. restaurants) because they would quickly learn to hustle and apply good customer service techniques so that they would be rewarded with “tips” from their clients.

By Paul on 2011/06/16

Interesting comments, Paul. My two middle kids (27 and 28) both worked in restaurants for several years. They learned invaluable people and customer service skills, what bad management looks like, and how income (ie, tips) are tightly correlated with service. My daughter (27) is a paramedic and a fourth year nursing student. Yes, she handles both simultaneously. My son (28) is a manager with one of North America’s largest banks. I attribute their success in part to their jobs working as servers.

By Jim Taggart on 2011/06/17

Thank you for your insightful comments, Paul and Jim! Since I can remember my family has taught me good work habits by setting examples, helping me and motivating me to excel in school, and enrolling me in hockey. Hockey was so much more than just a sport. It taught me about commitment, hard work, punctuality, team work, and time management. A good team sport in my opinion is another great way of learning valuable life skills just like the server jobs you both spoke of!

By Maxwell Sunohara on 2011/06/17

Thanks for this interesting blog Max! I joined the federal public service three months ago. I’m in my mid twenties. I was in the private sector beforehand. So far, the transition has been painful. In fact, I find the sloooow pace to be exhausting. During my first week I was shocked to see the office completely empty at 5:00pm. What on earth? I get tiny bits of work assigned to me which I complete before noon and then I am twiddling my thumbs. Not sure how long I’ll last.

By hopeful on 2011/07/14

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