Hello and thank you for inviting me to say a few words at your managers’ community event in the Atlantic region today.
I’m sorry I’m not able to be with you in person – but I’m very pleased that the power of technology can still bring us together.
I know that you’ve been witnessing some changes in your region as departments implement the decisions made in the most recent round of strategic reviews.
Others among you may be joining Shared Services Canada, the brand new federal organization established to consolidate the resources and personnel relating to our email, data centres and networks. While the headquarters of this new organization will be in the National Capital Region, in most cases, employees whose positions are being transferred to Shared Services will continue to work in their current locations.
There is more change ahead as all departments do their part to strengthen Canada’s economic position through the implementation of the government’s deficit reduction action plan, at the same time as we strive to find better, more efficient ways to serve the needs of Canadians.
So I’m very encouraged to see you all carving time out of what I know are heavy workloads to come together at today’s event – and I’m very glad to have this opportunity to speak to you a bit about the changes that are unfolding in the Public Service and what we can expect in the months ahead.
Recognition of the Work of the NMC and its Regional Networks
Before we go much further, I’d just like to applaud the National Managers’ Community (NMC) and regional managers’ networks for continuing their fantastic community-building work through support of events like this one.
Thanks to their efforts, managers are connecting and learning from one another across the country and this has a tremendously positive impact on our entire organization.
Back in May, I was fortunate enough to attend the NMC Forum in Toronto and the experience was a huge boost for me.
More than 1200 delegates attended the event and it was both humbling and energizing to look around that conference floor and see such a wealth of expertise and dedication.
The leadership and commitment of our managers are key reasons our Federal Public Service is one of the most highly regarded in the world.
We have proven time and again that we are ready and able to adapt to the challenges facing Canadians and Government: from pandemics, to security threats, to economic stimulus.
Current Context / Contexte actuel
Now after a prolonged period of growth in the Public Service, we have entered a very different period.
Although departments have been undergoing their own strategic reviews over the past few years, planning and implementing the Government’s deficit reduction action plan is the biggest collective management challenge we’ve faced since the 1990s Program Review.
Given the current financial situation globally, within Canada, and within government, along with Canadians’ growing expectations for efficient, responsive government, we must take a hard look at what we do and how we do it.
These challenges must be treated as an opportunity for renewal and transformation of our organization.
The decisions and actions that each one of us, as managers, takes over the next few years should be those that will help us become a stronger, more high‑performing institution – one that is nimble, connected, engaged and ready to face new challenges.
When we emerge from this exercise the Public Service will indeed be smaller, but it will remain an excellent and diverse organization and one that will continue to play an important role in the future of our country.
The Critical Role of Managers
As managers, you have a critical role to play as we work to reshape and strengthen our organization.
Some of you had the opportunity to contribute to your departmental deficit reduction action plan proposals – I know it was a demanding process and I appreciate all of your hard work.
I realize it’s not easy to wait for decisions as Ministers weigh the submitted proposals.
I recognize the uncertainty and worry this creates for you and your teams. And during periods of uncertainty and change, your job is even more difficult.
Your employees are wondering what is going to happen, and you may be wondering the same. But the reality is that the key decisions have not yet been made.
Final decisions will not be announced until the Government presents Budget 2012 and we cannot provide advance information or speculate on what the decisions might be.
When decisions are made following Budget 2012, these will be shared.
So what can you do while we wait?
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Your employees will be looking to you for signals about where the organization is headed and, what these changes will mean for them.
I know it’s not easy to put on a positive face all the time, but your employees are looking to you to lead them.
In my experience, the very best thing you can do is be straight with employees – provide them with as much information about the coming changes as you can and take the time to help them better understand the reasons why.
Create opportunities for face-to-face discussions with your employees and let them bring forward their questions and concerns.
Acknowledge the uncertainty, counteract the rumours, and talk about the positive potential in these changes.
Employees will value your straightforwardness and honesty, even if you don’t have all the answers.
Having the discussions can help employees feel empowered to make choices for themselves.
And for those who need it, remember that additional support is available to all through the Employee Assistance Program, which is accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week as a free service.
I also encourage you to engage with unions in both formal and informal ways. They can be an important source of information about employee concerns, and can also assist with providing information and support to staff and will be an important partner in managing the workforce impacts of future decisions.
Undertake Rigorous Planning
Managers at all levels should also be working hard on human resources planning. It is critical that we:
Make good and effective use of planned retirements, departures and new vacancies to minimize the impact of reductions;
Make smart staffing and recruitment decisions. Don’t stop hiring, but focus on targeted recruitment to bring in people with the key skills needed – and make these decisions in collaboration and consultation with your colleagues, and with a view to the broader, longer‑term needs of the organization; and
Develop the competencies needed for a new future. Professional development should not stop during times of fiscal restraint: informal learning opportunities such as stretch assignments, mentoring, and engaging and sharing with peers are all excellent ways to enhance skills and knowledge.
Keep Employees Focussed on High Performance
This will also be an important time for strong performance management. We cannot allow our teams to become distracted and dispirited. We owe it to Canadians to continue to strive for excellence in all that we do.
As managers you need to keep your teams focussed on the important work we do. You need to set high standards for individual performance and expect employees to meet them.
However, the reality is that the performance of some employees is not where we need it to be and this can be challenging to deal with. The e-polling conducted at the recent NMC Forum signaled that you’re looking for greater support in dealing with unsatisfactory performance.
Important work is being done to help you build your performance management capacity:
The Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer has developed a Performance Management Tool that is now available on their website and the Canada School of Public Service offers a Performance Management for Managers curriculum.
You can also turn to your colleagues for advice and support here – this community is an incredible wealth of experience and expertise.
But you shouldn’t be sitting around waiting for help. It is part of your job to make sure your staff are meeting expectations. You have to get at it.
Get Ready for Work Force Adjustment
As we carry out the challenging work of strengthening and reshaping our organization, we will work hard to find new opportunities for employees, but the reality is that there are going to be fewer jobs.
Employees whose jobs may be affected will be treated with respect and according to work force adjustment (WFA) agreements that were committed to with their bargaining agents.
WFA agreements emphasize employment continuity – they ensure that, wherever possible, indeterminate employees affected by a work force adjustment are given every reasonable opportunity to continue their careers as public servants.
The WFA should be viewed as a skill management tool that will help us ensure we retain the people we’ll need to succeed in the future world of the Public Service and deal respectfully with those whose skills are no longer required.
In anticipation of this process, you need to familiarize yourself with the options available under the WFA agreements – speak to your Human Resources Advisor, review the collective agreements or go to the National Joint Council website. The Office of the Chief Human Resources Offices and Canada School are also working on WFA-related resources and learning sessions that will be rolled out shortly.
I realize that the months ahead will be challenging ones, but as we carry out the demanding work of building the Public Service of the future, remember that you are not in this alone – your colleagues are an incredible source of expertise, inspiration, and support, and, working together you’ll be able to rise to whatever challenges you face.
As I said, I see this as an opportunity and perhaps even a true tipping point for the Public Service. We can truly re-think and re-shape what we do for the future.
Thank you again for giving me the opportunity to speak to you today and my best wishes for a productive session with your regional colleagues.