dictionary picture by Joshua Hoehne

Are you fluent in Government?

18 months ago… a lifetime before Covid it seems…. I was attending a workshop (Elliott Masie’s Curation’s Lab) and our guest speaker spoke to us, learning professionals, about the shift from speaking Learning to speaking Business… which triggered a reflection about career transitions (mine but in general too).

In 2006, I left the teaching world and I started working full time for the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF)… I remember feeling frustrated and saying: ‘why did you hire me if you’re asking me to draw inside the lines?’ I felt my wings had been cut off… Until I transitioned…. until I learned this new language.

In 2017, I retired from the CAF and I joined Public Service. I remember feeling lost. I spoke learning and I was competent in my craft, but I didn’t speak government. Until I transitioned…until I learned this new language.

As a leader, I’m seeing this “frustration” in my staff. It’s hard to explain. It’s like feeling ….. Powerless… To unpack this, I reached out to my great friend Michel Singh, who joined the Public Service a few months ago. He got it right away and helped me remember the feeling I had when I changed job. Surprisingly, he compared this feeling to grief. Leaving the Higher Ed world and onboarding the Government felt as if he was losing (some of) his academic freedom, losing a part of his identity. Crazy right!

After a great chat, we identified 2 main differences which we thought were key when both, onboarding a new job (a.k.a contextualization ) and learning the language of the environment (a.k.a. understanding the culture).

IMPACT: How do you create impact? In the Government and especially at Canada School of Public Service, the outcome/impact has to be planned for the whole Gov — coast to coast to coast. In most cases, we feel the impact by proxy through the public servants we train. If you onboard the Government from the private sector for example, this could be a choc!

MEASUREMENT: How do you measure success? In the Government, no single person is responsible and accountable for one single success. Contributions comes from many team members and every angle is supervised/handled by a different department/team. And sometimes, this can take a long time… For better or worst, the system is huge. Again, if you onboard from the private sector where you’re used to a weekly or monthly bonus… you’re in for a ride right!!!

As leaders in Public Service, we serve both Canadians and our staff. We have a responsibility to ensure that every minute and action has the widest and greatest impact.

So my question to you, my fellow leaders out there, how can we support & onboard our new employees so they can speak this new language better & faster? What are your tips?



Reflections from Learning Professionals along their journey navigating the government context. Building on each other’s ideas and initiatives will make us better at offering amazing learning experiences for learners.

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Kony Trudel

Passionate about learning, people and how the two co-exist and connect at work. Striving to be a caring leader and novice at blogging!