Public Service Recruitment

My friend Mike Morgan published a web-exclusive op-ed in yesterday’s Globe entitled “Attracting talent: How to make the civil service a sexy thing.”

The idea of having government pay for university tuition in exchange for a term of service is worth exploring. Interestingly it isn’t just the military that uses this model. Numerous elite consulting firms – such as McKinsey – often offer to pay the tuition of employees graduate school work in exchange for a period of service. If the employee elects to leave before the term of service is up then they take on a portion of the tuition. The model is not perfectly analogous since this is for graduate and not undergraduate work, but there are companies out there doing something similar.

One thing is for certain however, the government needs a scalable program that is front, as opposed to backend loaded. At the moment the “reward” for being in government comes after 20 plus years of service when you start gathering your pension. I know of few 20 year-olds who are thinking 25 years down the line, or who want a single employer for their entire life. Knowing that your entitlement is 25 years out isn’t as strong an incentive these days. Mike’s idea flips this, creating an immediate and tangible incentive – a university education – that can be leveraged for other opportunities across one’s career, not just at its end.

Most importantly, it is scalable. It addresses a system wide demand for talent, not just demand at the elite level, which is the focus of the Recruitment of Policy Leaders and Accelerated Economist Training Program target. We are not going to solve the recruitment problem by attracting 50 RPLers and 14 AETPers every year.

Special shout out to Jascha J. who caught a typo in this post. People regularly email me when the notice something is amiss – I’m deeply grateful to everyone for that.

14 thoughts on “Public Service Recruitment

  1. Sameer Vasta

    Excellent timing in posting this David. I’ve been having several conversations recently on why so many of my friends not only prefer private sector work, but actively ignore public sector opportunities when coming out of school. There really are very few tangible incentives to consider a career in the public service, and that should be changed.

    Reply
  2. Sameer Vasta

    Excellent timing in posting this David. I’ve been having several conversations recently on why so many of my friends not only prefer private sector work, but actively ignore public sector opportunities when coming out of school. There really are very few tangible incentives to consider a career in the public service, and that should be changed.

    Reply
  3. David Eaves Post author

    Danistan, the problem is that people are finding other rewarding and effective ways to serve their country. Some in the public service cling to the myth that it has a monopoly, or even a competitive advantage, in the space. That is less clear to me – I think the legions of young people who join non-profits, charities, social enterprises, thinktanks, etc… might argue they are also serving their country.

    Reply
  4. Patrice Collin

    Thanks for posting this Dave; although I think this is a great step in the right direction, I believe that getting qualified grads is but a small portion of the overall strategy for attracting top talent in the Federal Government. 3 points to consider:

    1) I would actually like to know what success the Canadian Forces have had with their program….from my knowledge of it…it hasn’t brought in the folks they expected….and the numbers required? I have quite a few friends who went through RMC…who were a bit disillusioned with the process. But I am confidant Mike is more educated on that piece and has based the article on real numbers.

    2) I agree with you Dave…sadly it’s not by bringing in a small group of uber smart grads that we will tackle the main issue which is hiring people who truly give a Heck and more importantly…keeping them!

    When I read this passage in Mike’s article: I felt like it was a bit of utopian thinking:
    “Students would get free higher education, focused training, and a guarantee of challenging work and serious responsibility after university. They could take pride in serving their country and have the satisfaction of finding creative ways to advance the public good.”

    One of my concerns of bringing in the best and the brightest straight from school and aligning them to “mentors” is the fact that they would be more likely assimilated to the “way things are done already (i.e. Status Quo)” and would not be given the decision power they expected. They might be disappointed about having been sold a bill of goods about how great the experience was going to be. I certainly don’t want to sound negative/pessimistic; however reality has sadly shown the contrary of his statement 9 times out of 10.

    3) Although higher education expectations have become essential requirements in both Private and Public sectors, I just had a conversation with a friend who attended an EX workgroup a few weeks ago on the questions of attracting top talent at the Exec level and one main question was should they keep the minimum university B.A requirement for hiring? They are concerned that many folks who have industry and “work experience” would be overlooked or simply turned away. I think one realization facing the government recruiting groups is finding individuals who have “operational” knowledge especially on how to manage teams or projects effectively. There are already too many Policy gurus in place at the Ex/management level but too few true people managers or effective leaders…..I am taking a page from Etienne Laliberte’s book on this one ;-)
    “An Inconvenient Renewal: Are Public Service Managers Ready to Change the Way They Manage? “

    I want to qualify my comments above by saying…I believe we are going in the right direction and there is a hell of a lot of good people who want change in the Federal Government…I certainly don’t want to sound jaded…I just want to encourage a real dialogue of the issue! As always…keep up the great posts on your Blog!

    Reply
  5. David Eaves

    Danistan, the problem is that people are finding other rewarding and effective ways to serve their country. Some in the public service cling to the myth that it has a monopoly, or even a competitive advantage, in the space. That is less clear to me – I think the legions of young people who join non-profits, charities, social enterprises, thinktanks, etc… might argue they are also serving their country.

    Reply
  6. Patrice Collin

    Thanks for posting this Dave; although I think this is a great step in the right direction, I believe that getting qualified grads is but a small portion of the overall strategy for attracting top talent in the Federal Government. 3 points to consider:1) I would actually like to know what success the Canadian Forces have had with their program….from my knowledge of it…it hasn’t brought in the folks they expected….and the numbers required? I have quite a few friends who went through RMC…who were a bit disillusioned with the process. But I am confidant Mike is more educated on that piece and has based the article on real numbers.2) I agree with you Dave…sadly it’s not by bringing in a small group of uber smart grads that we will tackle the main issue which is hiring people who truly give a Heck and more importantly…keeping them! When I read this passage in Mike’s article: I felt like it was a bit of utopian thinking:”Students would get free higher education, focused training, and a guarantee of challenging work and serious responsibility after university. They could take pride in serving their country and have the satisfaction of finding creative ways to advance the public good.”One of my concerns of bringing in the best and the brightest straight from school and aligning them to “mentors” is the fact that they would be more likely assimilated to the “way things are done already (i.e. Status Quo)” and would not be given the decision power they expected. They might be disappointed about having been sold a bill of goods about how great the experience was going to be. I certainly don’t want to sound negative/pessimistic; however reality has sadly shown the contrary of his statement 9 times out of 10.3) Although higher education expectations have become essential requirements in both Private and Public sectors, I just had a conversation with a friend who attended an EX workgroup a few weeks ago on the questions of attracting top talent at the Exec level and one main question was should they keep the minimum university B.A requirement for hiring? They are concerned that many folks who have industry and “work experience” would be overlooked or simply turned away. I think one realization facing the government recruiting groups is finding individuals who have “operational” knowledge especially on how to manage teams or projects effectively. There are already too many Policy gurus in place at the Ex/management level but too few true people managers or effective leaders…..I am taking a page from Etienne Laliberte’s book on this one ;-)“An Inconvenient Renewal: Are Public Service Managers Ready to Change the Way They Manage? “I want to qualify my comments above by saying…I believe we are going in the right direction and there is a hell of a lot of good people who want change in the Federal Government…I certainly don’t want to sound jaded…I just want to encourage a real dialogue of the issue! As always…keep up the great posts on your Blog!

    Reply
  7. Michael A. B. Lewkowitz

    Dave,

    Neat idea – we need more good people taking this up. And actually – the folks at http://www.d-code.com/ have been finding that young adults are placing public service as the top or near top desired work place. Completely shocking to me but it seems to be relating to the public service desire and lifestyle (stable and limited work hours).

    Would be interesting to get the actual stats.

    Reply
  8. Michael A. B. Lewkowitz

    Dave,Neat idea – we need more good people taking this up. And actually – the folks at http://www.d-code.com/ have been finding that young adults are placing public service as the top or near top desired work place. Completely shocking to me but it seems to be relating to the public service desire and lifestyle (stable and limited work hours).Would be interesting to get the actual stats.

    Reply
  9. Patrick Baud

    To some extent the problem of reproducing the status quo through the mentorship of young candidates could be countered through the careful design of the training programme. People are fast-tracked in all sorts of contexts and the results vary. There are plenty of successful mentorship programmes for bright youth that are run through various fellowships and scholarships (I’m thinking of the Loran or Trudeau scholarships). I’m confident that the public service could design an equally good process, drawing perhaps on the model of the Accelerated Economist Training Program, which “puts its recruits through four six-month rotations in the government’s central agencies and line departments.”

    A connected idea which might be of interest was expressed in MASS LBP’s recent Offline Engagement provocation paper: http://masslbp.com/journal_detail.php?id=39.

    Reply
  10. Patrick Baud

    To some extent the problem of reproducing the status quo through the mentorship of young candidates could be countered through the careful design of the training programme. People are fast-tracked in all sorts of contexts and the results vary. There are plenty of successful mentorship programmes for bright youth that are run through various fellowships and scholarships (I’m thinking of the Loran or Trudeau scholarships). I’m confident that the public service could design an equally good process, drawing perhaps on the model of the Accelerated Economist Training Program, which “puts its recruits through four six-month rotations in the government’s central agencies and line departments.” A connected idea which might be of interest was expressed in MASS LBP’s recent Offline Engagement provocation paper: http://masslbp.com/journal_detail.php?id=39.

    Reply
  11. Salima

    Great post. Some departments already do this for which credit needs to be given to DM’s who foresee the demographic issues within the public service; but unfortunately, their plan falls short when people come back from their respective degrees only to find themselves in the same position they left. This is both disheartening as well as poor planning. One of the key things that will help is having the key players at the table- unions, senior management and middle managers, the latter whom actually have a lot of the hiring power in the feds after the PS Modernization Act was brought down. Unfortunately a number of them also equate ‘putting in one’s time’ with promotion which causes a number of young people to leave. A number of people who have left have done so to go to the world of corporate giving which has given them the benefit to give back to the community and see tangible results in quick turnaround time.

    Reply
  12. Salima

    Great post. Some departments already do this for which credit needs to be given to DM’s who foresee the demographic issues within the public service; but unfortunately, their plan falls short when people come back from their respective degrees only to find themselves in the same position they left. This is both disheartening as well as poor planning. One of the key things that will help is having the key players at the table- unions, senior management and middle managers, the latter whom actually have a lot of the hiring power in the feds after the PS Modernization Act was brought down. Unfortunately a number of them also equate ‘putting in one’s time’ with promotion which causes a number of young people to leave. A number of people who have left have done so to go to the world of corporate giving which has given them the benefit to give back to the community and see tangible results in quick turnaround time.

    Reply

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