Opening public service employment

Question:How can Canada become the best country in attracting and developing talent?
on 07/12/2016







As a public servant for the past 25+ years, I have witnessed or participated in running several competitions to hire new staff. My observations in the context of attracting and developing talent are as follows:

  • it has become the habit of most managers and HR departments I've seen, when faced with hiring staff, to restrict hiring to the simplest and least time-consuming route possible, given the complexities and lost time associated with this convoluted and lengthy process. What this usually means is that the PS almost never gains new talent. We just shuffle it around from job to job, because the internal processes of deployments and assignments, etc., is so much easier than a country-wide advertised open process that might attract thousands of applicants to sort through... This is a disservice to the countless extremely bright and motivated young people who could add so much in terms of innovation and fresh ideas to our public service. So I would recommend an overhaul of the hiring system to facilitate bringing outside people in for the normal run-of-the-mill competitions so we are not stagnating.
  • Secondly, I have seen that the strictly structured method of interviewing with defined sets of standardized questions, while intended to reduce subjectivity, does not permit the flexibility needed for managers to hire good people, quickly. It is not uncommon for a competitive process to take 7-10 months to complete. And if you find anyone good, they are gone by the time an offer is made because that step alone requires a month or two because of all the rules. I would recommend a system in which broad overarching principles are set out, and within that big "circle", managers have lots of flexibility and discretion to hire good people, knowing they must be able to justify it. Too-tight rules makes for a cumbersome, inefficient, unattractive process that accomplishes little. People need to be given the respect and trust that they can do a good job hiring good people. I have an example from our office where a casual employee who performed a job superbly for 15 years intermittently has never been able to be hired - even though we wanted her and she wanted us. That is good talent wasted. Youth need an open public service where they can compete easily for jobs so the PS has a dynamic work force - and managers need to be able to hire the best candidate, not the easiest one to move into a position, with flexibility and speed.

Comments »

Christopher Bush by Christopher Bush

The proposed "Super Clusters" in the plan could serve a role in alleviating this challenge by bringing resources of all kind (including human) together. It will allow cross training, and exposure to a diverse range of actions and activities, and allow some fluidity of role, where people can be tested and developed. Our vision for the first cluster includes providing backbone services for the myriad of "National" programs that have little or no physical presence in BC. The cluster will provide shared resources, making a presence efficient, and effective in every way. Programs like NISP bring regional groups together and deliver a comprehensive toolbox. Please, join the NISP Canada launch webinar on July 20, or August 3. These folks are REALLY on to something, and need our help/support!


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