Stereotypes hurting millennials’ chances of finding work in the public service, says report

Interesting report with reasonably practical recommendations. Government context requires innovation has to be balanced with accountability and stewardship, not to mention the political/PS interface which the recommendations largely acknowledge:

One of the most significant issues with the public sector’s “millennial problem” is the perception that young people don’t want to work in government, according to the report. In fact, says Deloitte, a consulting firm, the public service is attractive to those born between 1980 to 1995: there’s job stability and an opportunity for a work-life balance.

“Research instead shows that, as a whole, millennials want the same things and value the same things as other generations. Where they differ is in the ways they go about achieving their goals,” the report says.

Retaining millennials is also not a problem for the public service. The report found that from 2007-2014, the number of millennials leaving stayed consistently low. People aged 35 and younger were actually more likely to stay in the federal government than leave, according to the numbers.

That’s if, however, they can get hired.

Since the 2008 recession, the government’s Deficit Reduction Action Plan has lowered the number of people hired overall. “The number of external jobs posted in 2008 was about 5,000, but that number dropped to around 2,700 in 2016,” the report said.

Only about 3.5 per cent of applicants were hired during the Recruitment of Policy Leaders initiative which focuses on hiring young top talent into mid and senior level policy roles. In 2016, those who applied through the government’s post-secondary recruitment program had a one-per-cent success rate.

“Recruitment is so selective, the federal government accepts a lower share of applicants than elite Ivy League institutions like Harvard University,” says the report, which points out Harvard’s most recent academic year’s acceptance rate was 5.2 per cent.

The report also raises other issues affecting the hiring of young people, including the older generation in government jobs who are delaying retirement, as well as the length of time it takes to go through the hiring process and the lack of career growth. Younger generations tend to have more debt because of student loans and cannot afford to wait several months to be hired, says the report.


The report offered several recommendations to address these issues.

* Streamline the hiring processes: Use more technology for online application forms to reduce printing and scanning, use electronic signatures for online forms and also create an easier process for security clearance.

* Recruitment: Make the hiring process more dynamic and prioritize different skill-sets that may be outside of the usual boxes ticked on application forms. Find new ways to identify top talent, which includes predictive analytics that determine what existing and future skills an applicant meets.

* Mobilizing jobs: Career growth and internal mobility is something millennials want, so offer several different job opportunities within the same organization across different sectors.

* Think outside the cubicle: Break down the barriers that isolate employees in the office to enhance communication, and enhance employees’ overall well-being. Create more dynamic workspaces that include options to work remotely.

* Incentivize innovation: Recognizing and encouraging innovation will benefit the public service. Teams that encouraged diverse perspectives often performed better, says the report. Feeling that creative ideas were recognized and welcomed was important to “would-be innovators.”

Several changes to attract millennials to the public sector are already underway or are being tested in pilot programs, according to the report.

Source: Stereotypes hurting millennials’ chances of finding work in the public service, says report | Ottawa Citizen

Interest in public service jobs has increased since Trudeau’s election –

Of note:

Not only is enrollment up in public administration fields of study, but now experts say there’s a new enthusiasm among students.

“Let me be blunt. It was miserable under the Harper government,” says Robert Shepherd, a Carleton University professor and president of the Canadian Association of Programs in Public Administration. “Nobody wanted to be there. Our numbers dropped off for [programs] connected to the federal government. It was hard to attract students.”

Now Ottawa seems to be investing in its public service employees, and Trudeau’s big budget means greater job opportunities. So while some might attribute the reason for students’ renewed enthusiasm to a “sunny ways” Prime Minister, the spike in interest for public policy and administration programs isn’t always altruistic.

Shepherd credits the sputtering economy as a common thread he hears from students looking for public service work. “[Students] see government as being a relatively stable way to anchor themselves,” he says. “Back in the 1980s, that’s what I was thinking too. The economy sucked and I saw government as having a stable career.”

While the current crop of students are not thinking about a 35-year career with a pension at the end, the Baby Boomers who did see retirement beckoning. “We’ll be in a market where we’ll need a lot of people in a hurry,” says Michael Wernick, clerk of the Privy Council of Canada. “We’re not hiring clerical people, because that stuff is pretty much automated. We’re looking for people with social media and acute management skills.”

That’s not to say everyone is jumping at available jobs. Shepherd remembers a job posting for the CRTC recently hitting his desk, which he sent out to various universities asking them to send back names of interested students. The response? Crickets.

“Where demand is outstripping supply is in the area of regulatory public policy. I’m thinking places like the CRTC, Food Inspection, Health Canada,” Shepherd says. “If you said to students there are good jobs in a regulatory agency, they look at you as though, “Why would I want to do that?’ ”

Source: Interest in public service jobs has increased since Trudeau’s election –

Trudeau shakes up PS top ranks with more young blood (diversity numbers)

With these appointments, the overall DM diversity numbers for the 39  appointments are: 43.6 percent women, 7.7 percent visible minorities:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shook up the senior ranks of Canada’s public service with another sweep of promotions for younger executives who are poised to take over as the leaders of the next decade.

The latest round of appointments reflects Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick’s push to rejuvenate the top ranks of the bureaucracy with a better mix of youth and experience. The prime minister is responsible for all senior appointments but they are typically made on the advice of the clerk.

Wernick has said managing a “generational turnover” is his top priority as the last wave of baby boomers, who dominated the face and character of public service for decades, retires. In speeches, he has exhorted the baby boomers to “move on” and make way for the next generation of leaders.

Friday’s shakeup included three promotions into the ranks of deputy minster and three assistant deputy ministers into associate deputy minister jobs. All are about age 50 — either in their late 40s or early 50s — positioning them for the top posts over the decade. Last year, the average age of deputy ministers was about age 58.

As one senior bureaucrat said, “It looks like 50 is the new 60.”  The public service has aged over the years, including its senior executives compared to the 1970s and ‘8os when the public service grew rapidly and it wasn’t unusual for executives to get their first deputy appointments in their 40s.

The Trudeau government has made more than 30 senior public service appointments, and a significant number have been younger appointments than in previous years or were recruited from outside the public service.

This round of promotions includes: Paul Glover, the associate deputy minister of health, becomes president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency; Timothy Sargent, associate deputy minister of Finance, is promoted to deputy minister at International Trade; and James Meddings, assistant deputy minister at Western Economic Diversification Canada, moves to the top job at Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario.

Glover replaces CFIA president Bruce Archibald, who is retiring. Sargent is taking over from Christine Hogan, who was recently named the new World Bank Group executive director for Canada, Ireland, nine Caribbean countries, Belize and Guyana.

Similarly, Meddings replaces Nancy Horsman, who is the new International Monetary Fund executive director for Canada, Ireland, nine Caribbean countries and Belize.

Doug Nevison becomes the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development executive director for Canada, Morocco, Tunisia and Jordan.

The Trudeau government’s appointment of two women — Horsman and Hogan — to the world’s main economic boards is part of its push to ensure Canada’s representatives abroad reflect gender parity and the wide diversity of Canada. About 45 per cent of Canada’s diplomatic postings are now held by women.

Other moves in the Friday round of appointments included Chris Forbes, the associate deputy minister at Agriculture who moves to Finance as one of the department’s two associate deputy ministers. Rob Stewart, assistant deputy minister at Finance, moves up to the associate deputy minister position responsible for G7 and G20.

Nada Semaan, executive vice-president at Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), moves to Agriculture as associate deputy minister, and Kristina Namiesniowski, an assistant deputy minister at Agriculture, takes over Semaan’s position at CBSA.

Today, more than one-third of the executive cadre are over age 55, with 400 of them over 60. About 46 per cent of all public service executives are over age 50. The average deputy minister is 58; associate deputy minister 54, assistant deputy minister 53.7 and directors and directors-general 50.

Along with the drive to infuse more young talent into the executive jobs, Treasury Board president Scott Brison is committed to making the public service more millennial-friendly to attract more youth.

Source: Trudeau shakes up PS top ranks with more young blood | Ottawa Citizen

Canadians lack faith in upper ranks of public service: survey

Interesting and worrisome for the public service:

The findings of a survey, conducted by Environics Institute and the Institute on Governance, into how Canadians view accountability and oversight in government underscore a troubling level of mistrust among Canadians in their government, both elected officials and public servants.

Canadians put more faith in front-line public servants delivering services — as long as they have the resources and authority to do the right thing — than they do for MPs and senior bureaucrats.

The majority have at least some trust in front-line workers and MPs, but views of senior public servants are almost equally divided between some trust and little or no trust.

At the same time, Canadians overall perceptions about government and its effectiveness — even among its harshest critics who believe government is broken — improved significantly since a similar survey in 2014, which some attribute to the “Trudeau Effect.”

 The two surveys into Canadians’ views into how we are governed were conducted 18 months apart.  One survey was conducted during the final stretch of the Conservatives’ near decade in power, and the second was conducted during the early months of the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau.

The latest study was conducted online in February with 2,000 Canadians over the age of 18.

In that survey, only six per cent of those surveyed expressed a lot of trust in senior public servants compared with 18 per cent who reported trusting front-line federal workers.

Maryantonett Flumian, president of the Institute on Governance, said Canadians’ growing trust appears to rest with the prime minister, not government institutions such as the public service.

That, she argued, poses a big challenge for the public service.

Expectations of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government are running high, but it’s the public service that has to deliver on their promises. She said the bureaucracy’s bungling of its new pay system and foul-ups installing a new email system raise questions about management.

“It’s Trudeau they trust, not the public service,” she said. “Now the question: Is the public service up to the challenge?

“A public service mired in trying to think through how to manage a new pay system and consolidate email systems is not a good match for the aspirations of an activist government and a Canadian populace who seem to have elected this government with a blank cheque.”

Canadians in the survey pointed to the public service and the Senate as two federal institutions that need changes. Those surveyed said the Senate needs a bigger overhaul than the public service and they ranked Senate fixes as a top priority.

About 56 per cent of those surveyed said the Senate needs major changes and 23 per cent said minor reforms. For the public service, 33 per cent said it needs major change and 47 per cent thought minor changes were needed.

In all cases, support for major changes is strongest among two groups:

  • Those who also said they feel the government is broken; or

  • Those who said they had faced bad service or an unpleasant experience dealing with government over the past year.

Source: Canadians lack faith in upper ranks of public service: survey | Ottawa Citizen

We Just Can’t Handle Diversity: HBR

We_Just_Can’t_Handle_DiversityGood long read by Lisa Burrell at HBR and the difficulties in ensuring diversity given our implicit biases and automatic thinking:

Senior leaders need to recognize their organizations’ inequities—probably more than anyone else, since they have the power to make changes. But once they’ve climbed to their positions, they usually lose sight of what they had to overcome to get there. As a result, Rosette and Tost find, “they lack the motivation and perspective to actively consider the advantages that dominant-group members experience.” This is especially true of successful white women, who “reported [even] lower perceptions of White privilege than did highly successful White men.” It’s fascinating that their encounters with sexism don’t help them identify racial advantage after they’ve gotten ahead. Perhaps, the authors suggest, their hard-earned status feels so tenuous that they reflexively tighten their grip.

Beyond murkily defined concepts and somewhat defensive motivations, we have an even-higher-level conceptual obstacle to overcome: our bias against diversity itself. Recent research by Ohio State University’s Robert Lount Jr. and colleagues (Oliver Sheldon, of Rutgers; Floor Rink, of Groningen; and Katherine Phillips, of Columbia) shows that we assume diversity will spark interpersonal conflict. Participants in a series of experiments all read, watched, or listened to the exact same conversations among various groups. They consistently perceived the all-black or all-white groups as more harmonious than those with a combination of blacks and whites.

If we expect people to behave less constructively when they’re in diverse organizations or teams, how do we interpret and reward their actual performance? Under the influence of those flawed expectations? Quite possibly.

So, Is It Hopeless?

According to the renowned behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman, trying to outsmart bias at the individual level is a bit of a fool’s errand, even with training. We are fundamentally overconfident, he says, so we make quick interpretations and automatic judgments. But organizations think and move much more slowly. They actually stand a chance of improving decision making.

Research by John Beshears and Francesca Gino, of Harvard Business School, supports that line of thought. As they have written in HBR, “It’s extraordinarily difficult to rewire the human brain,” but we can “alter the environment in which decisions are made.” This approach—known as choice architecture—involves mitigating biases, not reversing them, and Beshears and Gino have found that it can lead to better outcomes in a wide range of situations. The idea is to deliberately structure how you present information and options: You don’t take away individuals’ right to decide or tell them what they should do. You just make it easier for them to reach more-rational decisions. (For more on this idea, also see “Designing a Bias-Free Organization,” an interview with Harvard behavioral economist Iris Bohnet.)

There’s still an element of manipulation here: The organization sets the stage for certain kinds of choices. But that brings us back to what most of us can agree on, at least in the abstract: Diversity improves performance, and people who apply themselves and do good work should be treated fairly.

If the members of an organization could get behind those broad ideas, would it bother them that they were being nudged to do what they wanted to do anyway? It might—and that would be another cognitive roadblock to clear.

Source: We Just Can’t Handle Diversity

Interesting that the recent public service discussions on diversity, judging by reports I have seen, show no evidence of this deeper thinking of the challenges involved (even if, judging by the numbers, the public service is reasonably diverse – see Diversity and Inclusion Agenda: Impact on the Public Service, Setting the baseline).

When making a presentation on multiculturalism and the government’s inclusion and diversity agenda this week at Canadian Heritage, my assigned ‘homework’ for attendees was to take the Harvard-developed Implicit Association Test to be more mindful of their internal biases and prejudices. It certainly was revealing to me, as it has been to those I know who have taken it:

Public Servants Get Real About Diversity in the Public Service

Public servants scramble to fill data deficit on Liberals’ priorities

Understandable given difficult cut choices recommended by the public service and approved at the political level (with the previous government’s anti-evidence and anti-data bias), with predictable impact on the quality of analysis:

If Prime Minister Justin Trudeau really is a data geek, he couldn’t have been encouraged by what some federal departments had on hand.

Internal documents obtained by the Star suggest years of belt tightening has led to a data deficit in Ottawa, gaps that may “create challenges” in delivering on the Liberal government’s priorities.

Early childhood learning and child care, expanding parental leave, increasing youth employment, and expanding training for apprentices and post-secondary students all figured prominently in the Liberals’ election platform.

But as of November, the department responsible for making good on those promises was worried they didn’t have enough concrete data to deliver.

“Spending on surveys has been reduced over the last several fiscal years and has been concentrated on priority areas to help manage financial pressures,” read documents prepared for the senior public servant at Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC).

The Liberals have made “evidence-based decision-making” a watchword for their early days in office, and senior staff in the Prime Minister’s Office are known for their attachment to data-driven strategy.

A spokesperson for Families, Children and Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the issue is government-wide, not isolated in their department.

“This is an issue that all ministers are facing right now. We do know that there are gaps in the data the government owns,” Mathieu Filion told the Star in an email.

“There are many discussions on the matter with different minister’s offices as to see what will be done to acquire more data.”

According to the November documents, Statistics Canada was largely preoccupied with the restoration of the long-form census, but had identified a number priority files.

Along with ESDC, StatsCan was looking to revive “longitudinal surveys” to fill in gaps. Longitudinal surveys are more expensive and time consuming than other methods of collecting data, but the documents suggest they can give greater insight into “the dynamics of life events” and have a greater payoff when continued over a number of years.

StatsCan’s wish list includes greater labour market information (specifically aboriginal participation, unpaid internships, temporary foreign workers, and worker mobility), better information on children’s physical and mental health development, and more data on Canada’s aging population and the resulting effect on the economy and the health-care system.

The agency says the digital economy remains largely in the dark, as well.

“The use of digital technologies is an important and growing phenomenon and stakeholders are increasingly demanding statistical products to address questions on the topic,” the documents read.

“While the agency has been doing some feasibility work on Internet use by children, the incidence of cybercrime amongst Canadian businesses, and has developed some questions for the inclusion in various surveys, there remain important data gaps.”

ESDC is also interested in learning more about Canadians’ “computer literacy” and use of the Internet.

Source: Public servants scramble to fill data deficit on Liberals’ priorities | Toronto Star

Promotion to top ranks ‘not an entitlement,’ public-service group APEX warns

More on public service changes at senior levels:

Michael Wernick, clerk of the Privy Council and head of the public service, has been busy managing changes to the senior ranks of the public service as government executives retire at a faster rate. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made more than 20 changes to the top levels of the bureaucracy since coming to power. The Prime Minister announced more changes to the senior bureaucracy this month, including the retirements of Margaret Biggs, Anita Biguzs and Ward Elcock.

“The dominant challenge of the next two years is moving, as smoothly and as orderly as we can, the baby boomers like me, off the stage, and recruiting and developing the next generation of public service leadership,” Mr. Wernick said in a speech at an APEX event in Ottawa on June 1.

The clerk said he wants to capture “the creativity, the innovation, and the energy” of new leadership and talent. “So that is the takeaway. Baby boomers, it’s time to go…myself included,” he said.

Mr. Wernick said he will be reintroducing some training and leadership programs after their cancellation in recent years. One new program will place public service executives into academic institutions for about a year, he said.

Mr. Vermette said he welcomes more training, leadership programs and exchanges for senior officials. “We don’t fear that [outside] competition, but we should also be given the opportunity to develop our own experience,” Mr. Vermette said.

A senior public servant, Mr. Vermette is working as head of APEX on an executive exchange program, having last worked as deputy commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard.

Machinery-of-government experts Peter Larson and David Zussman conducted interviews with executive recruits in the public service in 2006. Their resulting report, which highlighted the difficulties of success for senior recruits in Ottawa, noted a culture of careerism and competition for advancement among senior officials, mixed with a “climate of fear” and “self-censorship.”

One former senior public servant, speaking on a background basis, said outside recruitment is a good idea, but there can be issues with private sector executives moving into the public service. Corporate executives are accustomed to making final decisions, the person said, whereas the role of senior officials is to advise the government for decisions by the PM and cabinet.

The former government executive suggested outside candidates may be better off starting at the assistant deputy or associate deputy level, and would be better off having some government or public sector experience, such as in a hospital, provincial government or university.

PCO spokesman Raymond Rivet said by e-mail that the majority of deputy ministers are appointed from the federal rank of assistant deputy minister. There are about 70 senior officials at the deputy minister and associate deputy level.

Source: Promotion to top ranks ‘not an entitlement,’ public-service group warns – The Globe and Mail

A new mental health plan could be ‘turning point’ in PS renewal

Quite the list:

Wilkerson said executives and managers will be the key players in leading a change to rid the workplace of the management and organization practices and policies that contribute to stress and depression of employees:

1. The bureaucracy ‘treadmill. Public servants jumping from job to job with no ‘overall picture” of why and what it means.

2.  Giving employees lots of responsibility, but little discretion.

3. Too much work and not enough resources to do it.

4. Heavy and ‘destructive’ reliance on emails and texting to the exclusion of personal conversations.

5.  A workplace where ‘everything is a priority.’

6. Unclear expectations among employees of what they are responsible for and ambiguity around who is charge.

7.  Employees skills and the jobs people they are asked to do are not well-matched.

8 Employees are discouraged from and feel they have “no voice to question workload or priority-setting”

9. The loss of capacity to execute projects.

10. A pervasive sense of erratic management and perpetual delegation from the top down to the rank and file, which diffuses accountability and erodes faith in managers.

The plan comes as the public service faces a massive generational turnover with the departure of the baby boomers and Wilkerson estimates 85 per cent of new jobs demand “cerebral” not manual skills.

As the country’s largest employer, Wilkerson said the public service is a microcosm of the Canadian workforce and tackling the stresses there will give policy-makers a blueprint for preventing mental illness among all Canadians.

He said the Canada’s health care system has failed all Canadians, including public servants, facing mental illness with 75 per cent unable to get access to the services or care they need.

“Understanding the experience of their own employees –  senior government officials will escape the blinders of budgetary policy-making to see just how devastating the under-funding of mental health care in this country really is,” said Wilkerson. With that, Wilkerson argue Canada could be international model and press to make  mental health a “global development priority’ when it hosts the G7 meetings in 2018

Source: A new mental health plan could be ‘turning point’ in PS renewal

Employment Equity: What the Latest Government Report says – Policy Options

TBS EE 2015 Analysis.007My latest piece comparing the 2015 and 2008 numbers in IRPP’s Perspectives. Detailed charts and tables, including departmental rankings of best and worst representation for women, visible minorities and Indigenous peoples:

The latest Treasury Board (TBS) report, Employment Equity in the Public Service of Canada 2014-15, provides useful information regarding the relative representation of employment equity groups: women, Indigenous peoples, visible minorities and persons with disabilities. Overall, the public service is reasonably diverse for the three groups which are the subject of this article — women, visible minorities and Indigenous peoples.

Unlike Labour Canada’s Employment Equity Act: Annual Report 2015, the TBS report does not present how representation has improved over time. To provide some historical context, this article contrasts the 2014-15 report with the 2007-8 TBS report with respect to overall representation, as well as diving into some of the 2014-15 numbers.

In contrast to earlier TBS reports, the current report only provides a summary analytical narrative for its data tables (one page, compared to over 10 previously), with fewer data tables (six compared to 16).

The following charts and narrative aim to fill that gap and help tell the overall story. While representation for all employees has improved, visible minorities and Indigenous people are relatively less well represented at the executive level, particularly at the Assistant Deputy Minister level (EX4-5).

Source: Employment Equity: What the Latest Government Report says – Policy Options

Federal ‘unmuzzling’ has gone beyond government scientists with scrapping of Harper-era system

The real test will come when someone ‘screws-up’.

There will still be need for coordination and heads-up. But most public servants have the sense of what is appropriate and what it not:

The Liberal government has scrapped the elaborate system Conservatives were using to organize central message control within the government, replacing it with… nothing, according to the Privy Council Office.

It’s not just the scientists who’ve been unmuzzled. Anyone in the government who wants to organize a public event, or speak at one — and anyone who wants to talk to journalists — is affected by this change in policy.

The PCO, which acts as a support to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet, confirmed the shift this week.

Under this government, it is no longer using documents called “Message Event Proposals,” which came into practice under Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, to vet events and media requests across the federal government. The documents “have not been replaced with something new,” said spokesperson Raymond Rivet.

“The PCO’s new communications process looks like another positive step,” said Debi Daviau, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada.

The union represents about 57,000 government scientists and other professionals, mainly at the federal level of government. It has been one of the most vocal advocates for the government “unmuzzling” its scientists.

Though she said there’s clear support for science from the Liberal government, Daviau warned that policies and directives are always at the whim of the government of the day, noting a “chill” under Harper.

“A lot of work needs to happen so that science is never silenced again by a federal government. What we need now is to safeguard it from future attacks and ensure we are consistent across government departments,” Daviau said.

Despite the shift at PCO, Rivet noted some departments might still use Message Event Proposals or similar products internally.

“Departments and ministers are responsible for their own communications, though co-ordination remains important,” said Olivier Duchesneau, a spokesperson for Trudeau. Some inquiries are still flagged to the PCO when more than one agency or department is involved, Rivet added.

Duchesneau said the government is basing its communications on the concept of “government by cabinet,” though he didn’t comment specifically on the scrapped Harper-era system.

Source: Federal ‘unmuzzling’ has gone beyond government scientists with scrapping of Harper-era system | National Post