As my time with FlexGC comes to an end, I have been thinking about what it means to me, and what the long term vision for FlexGC is.
When I first was asked to join the Canada School of Public Service to start a teleworking pilot project I was overjoyed; I couldn’t believe that someone would offer me to work on such an important project. Working outside of Ottawa; let alone a regional centre like Vancouver, Winnipeg, Halifax, Montreal, etc; is something unheard of unless you are in a front line position for a department like Service Canada. I wanted to prove that if I can change government from Comox, BC; then anyone can from anywhere. Such as Newfoundland/Labrador, Yukon, New Brunswick, Manitoba; or basically any remote location that has access to the internet and cell phone service.
Immediately I thought of how this can impact Reconciliation with the Government of Canada (GC), through new hires of Indigenous people. Too many times I have had conversations, read stories, or had stories shared with me about an Indigenous person getting that illusive government job, only to leave that position within a short amount of time after starting. Why would this be? Most times it is because they have moved from their home communities to Ottawa, or other large urban centre, and they don’t have the same environment that they are used to. Be it: family, language, culture, food, environment, etc; these are important things in a person’s life that cannot be replicated. So, instead of keeping that well deserved job, they return home. They did not get fired, were not incompetent, they just decided that something was more critical to their wellbeing that having a job in a different city.
What does that mean? For starters, the Indigenous person doesn’t have a job with the government anymore, and the government loses a valuable and talented employee.
So how can the GC solve this issue? The GC can implement a new hiring strategy, one that goes right to the heart of how the GC operates. It is by offering flexible work schedules, remote/distributed/teleworking, and having these options available to all employees at point of hire and to existing employees. I recognize that there will be some positions that will not be able to work remotely, such as a Coast Guard Employee or a Border Officer; but so many jobs can be done remotely, and we already know that a majority of public service jobs are in the regions.
By offering this option from the beginning, the GC will foster a new culture of openness to flexible work options, changing the paradigm that exists today, and making this a normal option for employees to have. There will still be people who like to go in to the office for a variety of reasons, and that is great too; what I am suggesting is that the GC move away from having the formalization of telework/remote work agreements and instead offer the employee (new hire or existing) three options to how they can come to work: show up every day at the central office, work remotely full time, or some combination of the two.
For this to work, three things must be in place, which are pillars to the FlexGC program: Communication, Relationship Building, and Trust. Without the first two, the Trust will not grow; that said we “Trusted” the employee enough to hire them, why don’t we trust them to work remotely? We can give them trust from the start, and continue to grow that trust as the relationship evolves.
This also means that both employees/managers will have critical roles to play in this new environment. Managers will now need to learn how to manage differently, by overseeing all employees and taking into consideration how each employee functions effectively. It is not as a simple as governing the office with a broad view, because of issues with non-performance of one or two employees. Rather it is changing the focus to the deliverables and outcomes instead of traditional methods of managing people. Employees also have to adapt and change; focusing on delivering a quality product on time, rather than getting fixed on the process of how they function.
Bringing this back to Reconciliation, if we offer this model to new Indigenous employees we will provide real, practical action to bringing in Indigenous voices/lenses to the GC; and to enable Indigenous people to actively participate in changing government while staying in their home communities. This will also provide an economic impact to that community as the salary will be spent in that community.
Further to this, it is not just a Reconciliation tool it is a tool for Everyone; it is a way to bring in diversity to the GC. We can open this up to new hires regardless of ethnicity, geographic location, and bring that regional lens to Ottawa.
Taking it another step further, we can allow internal employees in the GC to work remotely; again bringing in that diversity and flexible options that will retain employees. FlexGC is truly a tool that can be used for everyone, and in a majority of situations.
What exactly is FlexGC trying to accomplish then? FlexGC is focusing on the FlexGC triangle of education: Virtual Employee-Manager-Central Team. If any one side of the triangle is broken or interrupted then the success of the team will significantly be reduced. Even if you have 1 employee who is working virtually, you should treat your whole team as being remote as at some point everyone will have to engage with that employee and they will need to know how to effectively do that.
FlexGC is a support program that aims to normalize remote/teleworking in the GC through education, productivity support tools (tool kits), and continuous learning; so that public service work can be done from anywhere!
I loved my time as the original FlexGC Program Manager and to build something from scratch to a place where #FlexGC is being used as a noun on social media and in discussions across the country is amazing!
FlexGC will always be close to my heart, and I will continue to be an Ambassador for Telework/Remote Work/Distributed work.