Canadian leaders told to bring on the next generation

By on 09/11/2017 | Updated on 27/01/2022
Michael Wernick, Clerk of the Privy Council, Canada

The head of Canada’s federal public service has called on its senior managers to provide better support for student entrants and early career civil servants.

Michael Wernick, clerk of the Privy Council and secretary to the Cabinet, said renewed efforts are needed to develop the next generation of leaders as the service enters a “period of dramatic generational change”.

Despite a steady increase in recruitment to its student programmes over the past three years, the federal public service has an ageing workforce, Wernick said.

In 2015-16, 11,848 of the 45,965 new recruits were students – up by 6.3% on the previous year. However, the share of public servants aged 50 or over has doubled to 36% over the past 10 years, and more than 9,000 have retired in the last year alone.

More learning for students

In a blog on the #LeadersGC in-house discussion platform about his annual report to prime minister Justin Trudeau, he said: “We must make significant headway to recruit young Canadians and successfully onboard [sic] them into our organisations.”

Wernick asked departmental chiefs in the Canadian government to sign a pledge this year to “better support” students coming into the public service ­– providing them with both opportunities to develop the skills and experiences required to succeed, and meaningful work that contributes to the organisation.

“It is simply not good enough to hire a lot of students and then give them nothing to do,” he said in the blog. “As a part of this pledge, we are also supporting more effective onboarding. Checklists and guides have been developed for both hiring managers and students, so that they can both work together to ensure a positive onboarding experience.”

Leaders’ pledge

Wernick said all public service executives have made commitments in their performance management agreements to focus on recruitment, selection, retention, performance management and talent management. They are also expected to become mentors and coaches to new recruits.

“It is the responsibility of all managers to identify employees with leadership potential and to help them develop their leadership skills and language skills through appropriate training and, most importantly, through work experience that challenges them and enables them to grow,” he said.

No more turf wars

Public service leaders also have “a role and responsibility to create the type of incentives and the culture where people automatically collaborate and partner with each other to achieve shared objectives”.

“The public service of turf and vertical systems has to go,” Wernick said. “In its place, we must build a public service based on collaboration and partnership. That means creating a culture of respect, of openness, and of transparency.”

Recently, the federal public service has launched a number of initiatives designed to boost recruitment of young people and the development of future leaders. These include creating a suite of digital tools that help public servants to connect and collaborate; simplifying the application process for the federal student work experience programme; and starting a pilot programme to recruit post-secondary students with a disability.

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See also:

Michael Wernick, Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, Canada: Exclusive Interview

About Liz Heron

Liz Heron is a journalist based in London. She worked on daily newspapers for more than 16 years as an education correspondent, section editor and general news reporter. She was Education Editor of the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong and has contributed to a wide range of British media including The Independent, The Guardian and the BBC.

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