• Friday Question (FQ): How do you answer a question marking more than one element?
    I received a really interesting question from a commenter who wanted to know how to handle a specific type of element in an interview process. Let’s say the interview is evaluating you on four elements A, B, C and D, with perhaps D being communications. In a traditional interview process, and the default of most managers, they’ll ask you three questions: And then they’ll grade D for communications on how you did across all three questions. Sometimes they’ll give you a question and evaluate your Comms only on that question, but most do a global score for Comms. But today’s Continue reading →
  • Friday Question (FQ): Why would my boss not approve an assignment?
    I mentioned in a previous post that I was going to do some Friday Questions, and there is a really persistent question that people in non-managerial positions have trouble wrapping their heads around. In the shortest form, someone wants to go on an assignment, and their boss said no. They think it’s mean of their boss, and they want to know why the person is such a jerk. Even some inexperienced managers frequently want to say, “Well, of course, you should say yes. Holding people back is just short-sighted”. If that is your frame, it DOES appear to be mean Continue reading →
  • Friday Question (FQ): Can a PM-06 report to an EC-07?
    Someone on Reddit asked this question this past week, and it is a great question because it brings in a combination of culture, classification, and delegation authorities. I’ve decided to use it for my first Friday Question for HR issues in the federal government. The question is often answered with an easy response — no — but not quite for the reasons most people assume. And when you drill down, the answer is actually wrong. The question actually has three separate components. A. Can a PM report to an EC? If you ask the question of classification experts, you will Continue reading →
  • An unusual type of interview
    When people ask me about HR interviews for government, my answer is pretty standard. As per the guide, all interview questions are tied to the statement of merit criteria. And, in almost all cases, that means they are focusing on Experiences, Knowledge, Abilities, or Personal Suitability. Seems relatively straightforward, right? Now, if you add in the fact that your cover letter / initial screening deals with experience, and a written exam normally knocks off most knowledge if there was a knowledge component identified at all, then the interview becomes more about abilities or personal suitability. In those instances, the popular Continue reading →
  • My HR Guide: Detailed answers to a Q&A session at Health Canada
    This past week, I had the opportunity to speak to the Young Professionals Network at Health Canada about HR processes and what happens after a pool is established. Earlier sessions had already covered how to get into the public service and how to prepare and participate in various processes. There were a LOT of questions provided before the session and even more posted in the chat during the event, so I offered to try and do a blog response for some of the pieces I didn’t get to during the event or where I didn’t have the luxury to go Continue reading →
  • WFH vs. RTW: Links to the 9 posts
    Yep, I started with a trilogy and ended up with 9 posts. A few people have said, “What if I miss one?”. I don’t think of that as a normal risk per se, but sure, I can do a single post with all nine linked… Related posts: WFH vs. RTW, part 6: If management is left to their own devices WFH vs. RTW, part 7: No black swans required WFH vs. RTW, part 4: It’s not about Subway Stargazing 2019, outing #22 – Outing to the AstroPontiac Observatory
  • WFH vs. RTW, part 9: It’s showtime!
    When it comes to figuring out the way forward, we’re pretty much at showtime. In September, departments started mandating RTW options, “forcing” people into the office as it is pitched by employees and unions. Some people want to argue whether the government as the employer has the right to make the decision unilaterally. Others want to argue that the employer has consulted with employees on the best way forward and many have said RTW is a good thing that offers benefits that WFH don’t. They did pilots, and the people have spoken! Others want to argue that it isn’t safe Continue reading →
  • WFH vs. RTW, part 8: A rare Call to Action
    My normal schtick is description. I explain why something is like it is, why seemingly opaque decisions or processes are not as dense as people might think. Other than sharing tips and tricks in my HR guide, I rarely try to tell people to do x or y. I’ve been a bit more directive on some of these topics, maybe a bit more rant-y. But, today, I have a different goal. I want to tell people what to do if they want WFH as a continued option for the future and not as a slowly diminishing option until everyone is Continue reading →
  • WFH vs. RTW, part 7: No black swans required
    When I started this series of posts two weeks ago, it was with the intent simply to share some views on what’s going on for preparations around Return to Work options in the federal government. I’d been seeing a bunch of stuff online where people were saying, “Hey management is a bunch of idiots, everything is working fine, blah blah blah”, and while that may be an employee/bottom-up view, it is NOT what management is seeing looking “down”. While people in the past might have complained about stuff if they were actually AT work to colleagues, etc., the growth of Continue reading →
  • WFH vs. RTW, part 6: If management is left to their own devices
    I’ve been struggling to figure out how to organize this post, ever since I started the first one in the series. I want to talk about what departments are doing, but I don’t want it to be some sort of inventory. That’s not why I’m writing. I don’t care if Fisheries is doing one thing and Environment is doing another. I don’t care if one person reports that Transport is doing something and all heck breaks loose arguing it’s either not what someone else heard or it’s not the right thing to do or they spelled cluster truck wrong. But Continue reading →
  • WFH vs. RTW, part 5: If an employee falls in an empty office, does anyone hear it?
    So let’s recap my series so far and reorder the elements a bit. Hardly revolutionary, but decisions about RTW will be taken in a larger context: Pre-pandemic “norms” that assumed everyone was working “in the office” but that even face-to-face interactions were not enough, transactions and communications were not enough, you still needed intentional effort to make proper connections; Early pandemic transitioning to WFH and rolling out of all the cyber tools we take for granted now, while managers have been left to mostly “muddle through” too; Throughout the pandemic, public servants have been working with their paycheques intact, and Continue reading →
  • WFH vs. RTW, part 4: It’s not about Subway
    If you’re reading this, you’re probably in the public service (not necessarily federal, but mostly), and unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will have heard the story about the health townhall meeting where one of the executives suggested that going back into the office was a good thing because you could go to Subway for lunch and support local business. There are lots of people who argue there was more to it, and memes blew up about Subway-gate, with many of them coming from people who weren’t even in the room nor work in the same department. It Continue reading →
  • WFH vs. RTW, part 3: The research (mostly) shows…
    For all the departments looking to have people back in the office, they frequently will use the phrase, “So, yeah, we’re looking to have people back in the office at least some of the time because the research shows that it’s better.” And when they say it, most people listening think it is complete bullsh**. Particularly EC policy wonks who see and hear that phrase every day from stakeholder groups, academics, think tanks, lobby groups, Joe who works at the corner deli. Everyone. And our job is to look at their evidence. “Really, you have research? Well, let’s see that Continue reading →
  • WFH vs. RTW, part 2: A baseline year…
    In the world of performance measurement, a friend and I have a cynical joke between us that it seems like every year is a baseline year for some programs…if you’re always moving the baseline, there’s never anything to measure or report other than activities undertaken. There’s no standard for success. When it comes to the question of working from home, any year up to the end of 2019 would have been a baseline year, and there is still not much evidence of a performance standard for success. What did it look like? If you looked around the government on January Continue reading →
  • WFH vs. RTW, part 1: Something to talk about
    As everyone has seen over the last 2.5 years, every business entity has had to deal with the labour organization aspects of the pandemic. Separate from all the labour and health and safety issues, or supply-chain issues, one of the most pervasive questions has simply been one of location. Could employees work from home or did they need to return to work at a specified location? In the private-sector goods and services world, many of those business decisions were obvious. For example, fast-food restaurants in set locations needed employees to be on-site to work. It’s hard to flip a burger Continue reading →
  • Great practice from PHAC on HR notices
    If anyone has read my HR guide, you already know that there are notices of appointments that go up on the Jobs.gc.ca portal. When it is a non-advertised appointment, and it says promotion, you really have almost no idea why the person is being promoted. It just says “non-advertised” and “promotion”. Common rationales for non-advertised appointments From a process perspective, a non-advertised appointment is a perfectly valid tool to be used by any manager. The requirement isn’t to assess everyone everywhere in the world for the position, nor even to choose the best candidate available, it’s to demonstrate that the Continue reading →
  • Demonstrating merit, non-advertised appointments, and frustration as a manager
    Normally when I write about HR, I do so as a public servant talking to other public servants on how to prepare for competitions. I might draw on my own experiences competing or running processes from the other side of the table. But rarely do I write as simply a manager talking about my job. Today, I’m frustrated with the tools available to me as a manager for a specific type of non-advertised appointment process. I apologize for the upfront context, but it takes a bit to get us to where the problem comes up. If you already know all Continue reading →
  • Is work-from-home the new government normal?
    For those who work in government, almost universally around the globe, the workforce response to the pandemic was pretty much the same. Everybody pivoted to work from home (WFH). And as time goes on, people are generally coming to the conclusion that WFH was not as terrible as everybody used to think, the current “normal” is generally working in many if not most areas, and so as people discuss how to “build back better” (BBB), there is a general informal consensus that BBB means WFH is now permanent. In short, while WFH started as an accidental outcome of the pandemic, Continue reading →
  • Articles I Like: 21 HR Jobs of the Future
    Harvard Business Review’s mailing include a link to a cool article by Jeanne C. Meister about what HR people will be doing in the future, or doing “more of” in the future, given the impact of COVID-19 and the likely enduring switch to working from home. It’s based on a think piece from one of the thousands of organizations looking at the “future of work”, and there are tons of these reports coming out, as they have for the last five years. Most of them are, quite frankly, wrong. They’re pie-in-the-sky visions of “what could be”, not very practically tied Continue reading →
  • Why I hate “inventories” in Government of Canada HR
    There are processes in GoC HR called “inventories” and they are often done in one of three instances, all of them generally bad for the applicant: A. They are hiring for LOTS of different categories You’ve likely seen these, as it will say “Come work at Transport! We’re hiring AS-01, AS-02, AS-03, AS-04,…” and they then list 7 levels of AS, 5 levels of PM, 7 levels of EC, etc. It’s called a “cattle call” and it is basically the equivalent of having a large drop box in front of their building that says “drop your resume off here and Continue reading →
  • Articles I Like: Five Changes Facing Public Employees When They Return to the Office – If They Do
    As a public servant, and similar to every other industry, there is a lot of speculation about what post-Covid workplaces will look like. Many of our operations can be done well-enough from home, and the challenges we have now are mostly about IT infrastructure, home office solutions, and privacy. Much of our work is digital and email-enabled, so it’s not a giant leap to work from home. We just traditionally haven’t done that transition for all the usual pressures related to remote workers and supervision/monitoring, and some unique pressures related to privacy, taxpayer dollars, and supporting Ministers in person. Paul Continue reading →
  • Lynda.com: PowerPoint 2013 Specialist – Lesson 03: Working with slides
    While Lesson 03 is only 14.5 minutes long, I started following along with the video and pausing it here and there so I could do the steps myself. It drastically increases the training time, but it really helps with learning the new stuff that goes beyond the simple basics of Lessons 1 and 2. This lesson is about working with the actual slides, managing their order for example, and so it includes adding and removing slides, changing the slide layout, organizing slides into sections, and simply rearranging slides. I confess, as I mentioned previously, I was pretty confident that I Continue reading →
  • Lynda.com: PowerPoint 2013 Specialist – Lesson 02: Working with presentations
    Since I’m working from home, I’m doing some training to improve my Powerpoint skills, training that I probably can’t access from the office normally nor would I ever have time to do it. I can see from the names of the videos that Lesson 02 (22 minutes) looks at creating and saving, changing themes, slide masters, headers and footers, and file properties, which seems pretty basic. In fact, it opens with things like save and open, and I thought, “Really?”. It’s not like that is any different in any other software package. I started to worry I might be wasting Continue reading →
  • Articles I Like: The Best Mentors Ask These 8 Questions
    Because of my interest in helping people with HR processes, and learning techniques to be a better manager in general, I am frequently attracted to articles about mentoring. I’m also frequently disappointed with those columns that advocate a “one size fits all” closed approach to mentoring. So colour me surprised when I saw an article on Pocket recently about questions that the best mentors ask, written by Gwen Moran (and originally shared on Fast Company). Some of them are pretty common-place in my view: What does success look like to you? What do you want to change? (usually as “where Continue reading →
  • Lynda.com: PowerPoint 2013 Specialist – Introduction + Lesson 01: Navigating Powerpoint
    Since I’m working from home, and I have an opportunity to do some additional training, AND I found out that the Ottawa Public Library has free access to Lynda.com training, I thought I would try to improve my Powerpoint skills. I use Powerpoint for various things at work, as well as some basic graphics work for my website from time to time, but I’ve never really had any formal training in it, particularly not in really getting the full bang for my buck. Lynda.com has a 14-hour training package to “become a PowerPoint 2013 MS Office specialist”, so why not? Continue reading →