Posts Tagged ‘Values and Ethics’

Retention in the Public Service

This past summer, the Public Policy Forum released a report entitled “The Road to Retention” that tackled the issue of retention in the public service. The report was based on the outcomes of a series of workshops with representatives of Canadian workplaces and roughly 300 “Generation Yers” (those between the ages of 18 and 30, from a wide range of regional, linguistic, sectoral, cultural, academic, and socio-economic backgrounds). The intention was to identify what are Generation Y’s values and expectations when it comes to work and the workplace; what is the impact of these values in an organizational setting; how has the conception of work evolved; and how can employers attract and retain young workers.

I believe that the report gave an accurate portrayal of the workplace values of today’s youth (consistent with my own and my colleagues). Some key conclusions that I took away include:

• The not-for-profit and public sectors, in particular, have struggled because of rigid, process-heavy, and risk-averse structures
• Young employees consider mentoring as an essential part of their professional development, and they look for mentors beyond direct supervisors or managers to find colleagues who can inspire, guide and challenge them. Despite the significance of mentoring, participants felt that most organizations today do not provide such opportunities
• Generation Y fuse work, home, and social spheres; they don’t compartmentalize their lives. Thus, Generation Y value “informal work environments” and are not proponents of rigid rules (such as internet censorship at work; attendance rules).
• Generation Y are lifelong learners and don’t consider the end of University as the end of their learning path. Thus, both continuous formal and informal learning pportunities are important and valuable.
• Generation Y value timely critiques about their performance, and when recognition is involved, it does not have to be monetary, but meaningful to the recipient.
• As a generation that thrives on new ideas and risk taking, young employees embrace responsibility and being treated as a “value-add” to the organization. Thus, a stimulating work environment is one that allows employees to challenge assumptions, fosters experimentation, tinkering, and engagement in new surroundings.

The report also goes on to outline 10 recommendations for employers to attract and retain young employees. From a public service perspective, I do think that there are conscious efforts being made to incorporate strategies such as the ones identified in this report, however, it remains at an individual, rather than systematic, level. My own recommendation for the public service would be to have central agencies (such as Treasury Board Secretariat or the Public Service Commission) and unions assume more of an active role in reforming public service management practices to be more consistent with youth values. This can include anything from setting up a cross-departmental mentoring program, to establishing more forums for collaboration and communication (GCForums is a good example of this).

I encourage all public sector employees, from managers down to working level, to read and promote/adopt the recommendations outlined in this report. The report can be downloaded here:

Other Youth Retention Strategies:

Eastern Ontario Development Program – Youth Retention Strategy
A Youth Retention and Attraction Strategy for Newfoundland and Labrador
Saskatchewan Youth Economic Engagement Council


Internet: Made us better informed or just distracted?

06/06/2010 1 comment

“The information we consume is increasingly flat and homogenized. Designed to reach millions, it often lacks nuance, complexity and context. Reading the same factoids on Wikipedia and watching the same viral video on Youtube, we experience is a flattening of our culture.”

“We are the first few generations to receive most of our sense of the world mediated rather than direct, to have it arrive through one screen or another instead of from contact with other human beings or with nature”

Adbusters #90

A good example, Hilary Clinton farts!

This video is hilarious. Seems like 4.3million other people think so as well. But it is a distraction more than anything else. With 1000s of videos on the internet of political debate and discourse, a mash-up of Hilary farting gets the most views.

The advent of the internet was suppose to benefit humankind with its onslaught of information, readily accessible at our fingertips, making us better informed individuals. The Internet has helped individuals and businesses to overcome geographical, cultural and logistical barriers. It shrinks time and distance. It simplifies complex business processes and enables more effective communications. As social and cultural barriers continue to fade away, more individuals and companies are able to participate in the global economy, regardless of their size or location.

However, when the majority of people are navigating towards the 10 second soundbites, farting mash-ups, and other spoof videos, are we really better informed or just distracted?

Political Apathy Among Youth Debunked

In 2007, I recall listening to a radio talk show in Winnipeg that discussed the “apathy of young people towards politics”. Citing low voter turnout among young people (defined here as those aged 18-24), the general consensus was that today’s youth are less politicized, ask fewer questions, and have lost a sense of collective values.

A recent research project undertaken by Policy Research Initiative addressed these perceptions directly (among others in their analysis of youth values across a spectrum of topics). The full report can be read here: Investing in Youth – PRI

This report validated a common theme within the press that often portrays today’s youth as lazy, self-centered, and out of touch with older, more “responsible”, generations. A recent forum entry I read supports this perspective, citing “Lets face it – the world isn’t like it use to be. My parents and their parents valued family, history & heritage.”

As the “Investing in Youth” report demonstrates, youth are not very different from their seniors in terms of their interest in political matters. What is different is that youth are more interested in the so-called “non-traditional” forms of political participation (such as those that contribute to defending causes – fundraising, signature gathering, blogging, petitions, discussion groups, information campaigns, boycotting products, etc) rather than traditional forms of political participation, such as voting, membership in political parties, rallies, etc. In addition, the study shows that in the area of volunteer work, or participation in cultural or professional organizations, those aged 18-24 have the highest participation rates than any other age group.

To accurately understand youth’s interest and participation in the political process, a much deeper understanding of political participation is required. Non-traditional forms of political participation are changing the way the world works, as Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social-networking have shown us.

With this reality in mind, policy makers, politicians and the media should be careful not to represent youth as apathetic, or stereotype them as so. Instead, policy should be oriented to encourage the use of non-traditional forms of political participation, as it presents positive implications for the democratic health of society, the confidence level of youth, and the relationship between government and its citizens.

Barack Obama’s Letter to his Daughters

I often post articles, stories, short phrases, quotes and other literature that I consider motivational. Motivation can be defined as the driving force behind all the actions of an individual. People are inspired or motivated in different ways. I believe we could always use more motivation because the world in which we live is too often characterized by competition and self-interest, rather than the values we are asked to promote in the workplace, like teamwork and working towards the public good.

Upon winning the Presidency, Barack Obama wrote a letter to his two daughters. The letter didnt garner much media attention, however it did make its way around the internet fairly quickly, instilling a sense of optimism upon the people that read it. I am sharing it here not only as a source of motivation, but as a demonstration of leadership in public service values and ethics shared innocently in a letter from a father to his children.

Dear Malia and Sasha,

I know that you’ve both had a lot of fun these last two years on the campaign trail, going to picnics and parades and state fairs, eating all sorts of junk food your mother and I probably shouldn’t have let you have. But I also know that it hasn’t always been easy for you and Mom, and that as excited as you both are about that new puppy, it doesn’t make up for all the time we’ve been apart. I know how much I’ve missed these past two years, and today I want to tell you a little more about why I decided to take our family on this journey.

When I was a young man, I thought life was all about me—about how I’d make my way in the world, become successful, and get the things I want. But then the two of you came into my world with all your curiosity and mischief and those smiles that never fail to fill my heart and light up my day. And suddenly, all my big plans for myself didn’t seem so important anymore. I soon found that the greatest joy in my life was the joy I saw in yours. And I realized that my own life wouldn’t count for much unless I was able to ensure that you had every opportunity for happiness and fulfillment in yours. In the end, girls, that’s why I ran for President: because of what I want for you and for every child in this nation.

I want all our children to go to schools worthy of their potential—schools that challenge them, inspire them, and instill in them a sense of wonder about the world around them. I want them to have the chance to go to college—even if their parents aren’t rich. And I want them to get good jobs: jobs that pay well and give them benefits like health care, jobs that let them spend time with their own kids and retire with dignity.

I want us to push the boundaries of discovery so that you’ll live to see new technologies and inventions that improve our lives and make our planet cleaner and safer. And I want us to push our own human boundaries to reach beyond the divides of race and region, gender and religion that keep us from seeing the best in each other.

Sometimes we have to send our young men and women into war and other dangerous situations to protect our country—but when we do, I want to make sure that it is only for a very good reason, that we try our best to settle our differences with others peacefully, and that we do everything possible to keep our servicemen and women safe. And I want every child to understand that the blessings these brave Americans fight for are not free—that with the great privilege of being a citizen of this nation comes great responsibility.

That was the lesson your grandmother tried to teach me when I was your age, reading me the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence and telling me about the men and women who marched for equality because they believed those words put to paper two centuries ago should mean something.

She helped me understand that America is great not because it is perfect but because it can always be made better—and that the unfinished work of perfecting our union falls to each of us. It’s a charge we pass on to our children, coming closer with each new generation to what we know America should be.

I hope both of you will take up that work, righting the wrongs that you see and working to give others the chances you’ve had. Not just because you have an obligation to give something back to this country that has given our family so much—although you do have that obligation. But because you have an obligation to yourself. Because it is only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you will realize your true potential.

These are the things I want for you—to grow up in a world with no limits on your dreams and no achievements beyond your reach, and to grow into compassionate, committed women who will help build that world. And I want every child to have the same chances to learn and dream and grow and thrive that you girls have. That’s why I’ve taken our family on this great adventure.

I am so proud of both of you. I love you more than you can ever know. And I am grateful every day for your patience, poise, grace, and humor as we prepare to start our new life together in the White House.

Love, Dad