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Developing a Digital-Ready Public Service in Canada


David so I just want to set the
context a little bit about why this I’m so far away why we’ve got this group
scooch over a little bit why we’ve assembled this group, so a number of
months ago we pulled together a round table working with the Public Policy
Forum just to identify some of the issues that we were seeing in Canada
were in terms of the path towards digital modernization and really
the discussion that was sparked really focused quite a lot e on the
skills gap and Olivia was a big part of that was really the sort of spark that
got us on this path and out of that we worked with the Public Policy Forum and
Wendy to develop a paper which the link we’ll have on a slide at the very
very end but at record and Wendy will walk us through her research but I just
sort of want to set the context of why we’ve sort of brought this group
together and we’ll walk through some of the discussion points and
recommendations and talk a little bit about global best practices on the panel
today and we’re hoping there’s some time for questions from you in the audience
so yep please start thinking about your questions that you might like to ask, but
maybe I’ll just start asking you each to kind of we know who you are in your
title but maybe a little bit about your your background and the subject just to
introduce yourself a little bit to the to the group could you introduce
yourself to start. Well yes I I’ve been working in the industry since
before many of you were born so pre-internet I graduated with degree in
Medieval history but made a transition into the tech industry at a time when
there weren’t a lot of people with formal training and I worked with groups
like the Institute for the Future in Menlo Park IDC, I worked on Don Tapscott’s
first book The Digital Economy and I’ve been interested in technology
trends and innovation and the implications they have for the workforce
for many many years. And my main observation
is that you know Don will say this is going to happen and I’ll say no it’s not
and half the time he’s right and half the time I’m right but here in 50,000
dollars an hour and I don’t, and I do think it’s important to think about
because one of the the biggest things that’s framed my research and my work in
this space is the fact that we have lots of incredible technology tools but if
they’re not being used you’re not driving innovation and I work in the
healthcare sector for example where I can show you quotes about the
transformational effects of electronic health records from 30 years ago and yet
here we are in my city Toronto it’s easier to make a reservation at a
restaurant than it is to get an appointment with your doctor online. So
that’s sort of my orientation to this issue is not that on anti-technology
quite the contrary I’m Pro technology but I’m really interested in what it is
we need to drive the adoption of technology to actually achieve its
potential. Thank you so much for having me. So many people have stuck it out to the last session of the day and
then we’re interesting enough to keep you all here or maybe you’re just
staying for the reception afterwards I’m Olivia Neal. I work in the Treasury
Board Secretariat here in the Government of Canada as you can probably tell I am
NOT a Canadian. I have been in Canada for two years but prior to that it was with
the UK government. So I spent a couple of years outside of government but
fundamentally I am a public servant and I am incredibly proud to be a public
servant. I think that we have a huge responsibility and a huge opportunity in
the roles that we do and I care deeply about making the public service an
organisation that can be successful in a world that is changing very very quickly.
And in my current role one of the areas that I’m responsible for is the
community management for the communities that work underneath CIOs in government
departments so we’re looking at at least 17,000 people in that community and one
of the reasons that we started having this conversation was because we got
some statistics in on the gender breakdowns for different age groups in
that category and the stats which I think Wendy is going to go into are
getting worse for gender breakdown and that was something that I find deeply
deeply concerning and I really want to think about how we can fix. And we don’t
have the answers that we don’t there aren’t quick fixes this so I was really
glad when when Amazon and when Public Policy Forum and when Wendy came
together to say okay we can help get some solutions that we can start
thinking about together. So I think this is the start of a conversation
rather than anything nearing a middle or an end. Michael. Thanks Nicole. My
name is Michael Punke. I’m the vice president for a global public policy for
Amazon Web Services. My background includes
some experience both in the private sector and in the public sector. I’m a
lawyer by training. I started off working at a law firm I then worked on Capitol
Hill the other Capitol Hill south of here. I went into the Clinton
administration and later was a lawyer and private practice. Immediately prior
to this job I was the US ambassador to the World Trade Organization in Geneva
for seven years another government stint and started this job about two years ago
so technology for me is the newest piece of this the piece I’m
grappling to learn as quickly as possible hopefully bringing some
experience to bear from both public and private sectors. Thank you. Olivia maybe
you could just start you talked a little bit about the gender breakdown in terms
of that challenge but maybe you could also just look a little bit further
around what you’re seeing in terms of the talent gap and and while we
did talk about a specific gender and diversity lens on the talent gap where
the talent gap is in the government in Canada. So I think I mean I think I would start
by saying I don’t actually think this is just a government problem and it’s
certainly not just a Government of Canada problem this is something that is
it’s something that lots of organizations and companies as well and
other governments are grappling with. So I work in an area where we are thinking
about how digital change is going to affect the way that we run governments
and we are seeing the world around us change at a far greater pace than we
have ever seen before so as public servants our organizations have
successfully adapted in the past we have adapted to the instruction of
electricity, to the introduction of automobiles. We have changed laws and we
have changed regulations within our organizations to adapt that but that
piece of those changes was much slower. And what we’re seeing happening in the
outside world is happening at a pace which we aren’t used to in government so
we’re seeing all of the opportunities that are out there with new technologies
for making us more efficient for delivering better services for serving
our citizens and our businesses out there better in a way that they deserve
for spending taxpayers money more efficiently but we don’t have the skills
to respond to those as quickly as we might want to. So there is a real real
challenge for us in the public service to think about how do we grow the people
that we’ve got, how do we prepare the people in the public service right now
for a future which we don’t know when we don’t understand. We have to start
changing our mindset and our thinking to think about how we build lifelong
learning into our career planning within the public service. We put a lot of effort into this
and a lot of effort at the moment on front-loading education. We expect people
to come in with degrees, with master’s degrees, with PhDs and think that that’s
going to serve them for their whole career. We have to really fundamentally
change the way that we are supporting our staff throughout their careers to
give them the skills that they need. So we have to think about that angle but we
also really have to think about how are we getting in the right people with the
new skills, how do we keep our views fresh, how do we challenge ourselves and
I think I would really like us to start changing our thinking
from thinking that people are going to come into the government and have a
35 year career and a wonderful pension to thinking about how do we support
people going in and out of government, how do we support people to go into the
private sector gain some skills there and back into government there maybe go
to a not-for-profit how do we build a more more of a community in that space
because what we’re hearing from a lot of younger people is that actually they
want that variety. We’re seeing a growth in a gig economy where people are taking
that opportunity to work on projects that fascinate them. We have hundreds
thousands of fascinating projects in government. I really want to start
thinking about how we expose those to get the most talented people in because
there’s so much opportunity here and so I think we really have to start acting
on this because otherwise we make government less attractive and then we
get into a cycle where we can’t get the best people in so I think there are a
very wide range of issues here for us to delve into but some that we want we’re
already starting to think about. Perfect and maybe that’s a great segue to ask
Wendy to give us the executive summary of her fantastic paper and maybe
walk us through what you sort of came through and came across in your
research. Ok hello. I was asked to sort of summarize it in just a few slides and
you know professors are used to talking in three-hour blocks so you can imagine it’s been
a challenge for me but I think the first issue which Olivia’s sort of alluded to
has to do with gender in the sector broadly but in government in particular.
And one of the things as well as as the skills gap so a study was done worldwide
by one of the big consulting firms of people in the public sector. And it
concluded that 40 percent of public sector respondents to that survey said
that they were not prepared for digital transformation and given the demands
that citizens are placing on governor given the rate of change, given the
impacts of Technology globalization and so on. That’s something that’s very
concerning particularly in a country like Canada where so much of our GDP is
public sectors. So it’s something people often forget about when they talk about
the innovation agenda that if we don’t innovate within government we are
missing huge opportunities. So I think that’s one big thing. The second thing is
that overall compared to other sectors government it does pretty well
on on equity issues generally in fact all of the employment equity categories
whether we’re talking about women, racialized minorities, indigenous people
or people with disabilities the government tracks and has pretty
good results and overall in government the percentage of women in
tech roles is roughly comparable to two other sectors but one of the biggest
concerns is that you know for people like me aging boomers who will be
transitioning out or dead in a few years I hope the former not the latter in my
own case, about forty percent of that cohort are women when you look
at younger people however it’s only 16%. Now why might that be? I would argue and
I’ve been working on issues related to women in technology now sadly for 30
years and today there are fewer women in computer science than there were in 1989
and they’re only marginally more women in engineering and yet the demand for
people with technology skills broadly and increasingly for women specifically
has increased dramatically. So I don’t think that government has gotten worse
as a place to work for women in fact most of the evidence suggests that it’s
it’s pretty female friendly but the competition from the private sector and
it’s not just ICT companies it’s big financial institutions, its
retail organizations, its manufacturing it’s virtually every sector,
its Amazon. For people with ICT skills but women in particular you know
most of those sectors now have programs to try to attract women has created a
much more competitive environment. So effectively the PI has not grown in the
competition has so that was one of the one of the one of the big issues. Another
issue from my perspective and of course I have
a bias because I’m a you know I started with a master’s degree in history and
eventually did a PhD in management science, I think we have to make sure
that when we talk about digital skills we’re talking about more than science,
technology, engineering and math. And I can provide you with lots of evidence to
support what I’m going to say. But science, technology, engineering, and math
for sure are are critical they’re fundamental and we hear about
you know the Waterloo grads with PhDs in machine learning who are going to
earn more in a year than I’ll earn in five because there’s such demand for
what we would define as deep technology skills at the top of the pyramid and of
course that’s important and we have to keep focusing on that and government has
to compete for some of those people. But I think that the two areas that are not
getting the attention that are required that is required particularly if we want
to advance innovation and remember innovation is about doing things
differently so having the technology is only a piece of it, if nobody’s using it
you’re not getting innovation. We know in the province of Ontario 30 percent of
small medium enterprises don’t even have an internet presence right. They’re huge
gaps still in the application of the technology and I would argue that that
middle layer which I often referred to as hybrids
are increasingly important and a typical hybrid would have deep sectoral
expertise but they would have enough knowledge of technology to be able to
bridge between technologists and end-users. And we did a study for example
even in AI companies and you know AI in Canada’s is a really important growth
area and even in AI companies while they signaled that they needed people with
the deep technology skills their biggest shortages, people in sales and marketing,
project managers, and other hybrid roles. And I would argue, how many of you are
engineers or computer scientists in the room, put up your hands confess. I would
argue in some instances it’s easier to take someone who is a sales and
marketing person from another sector teach them technology and transition
them into a sales and marketing role in an AI company than it is to take someone
who’s got deep technology skills but has no aptitude or instinctive ability in
sales and marketing. and I’ve talked to lots of big tech companies who are
starting to recognize that that becomes an important pathway so I would argue
that second layer is important and then of course basic digital literacy. And
when we look at how technology skills or digital skills currently are defined in
many public sector organizations they’re still viewed as almost always
synonymous with computer science even when they’re not always hiring computer
scientists the designation is often computer scientists. That has profound
impacts for the pool of people that you have access to it also has profound
impacts for how you deal with your current workforce. And we believe that if
you take a more comprehensive look at what digital skills are and what’s
required and how they’re defined and how you acquire them
you can end up with a much bigger pool which includes upskilling which includes
people with alternative pathways. And then the final thing I think that came
out in this study was really that we need to think about diversity and
digital skills as more than just a simple narrow HR function. We need to
think about talent as the core to success right across the
public service and understanding that diversity you know many would argue is
Canada’s competitive advantage in the current environment, that
needs to be really communicated at senior levels. We also need
accountability and metrics and it’s ironic because I’m I lead the women
entrepreneurship knowledge hub which is funded through I said and what we’re
finding is that through government programs and government agencies there
are actually big gaps in terms of the metrics and the counting and how things
are reported. So you know what gets measured gets done targets are different
than quotas and we need to pay attention to that. Culture is everything you know
Drucker said culture eats strategy for breakfast and thinking about the
environment in which people are working how we address don’t like to talk about
work-life balance because that’s not exactly something I have experience with
but recognizing especially if we want to attract and retain and retention is a
huge issue younger people we have to be more flexible. There’s research that
shows for example among Millennials flexible working arrangements are as
important to them as salary, salary still number one but the kind of working
arrangements that they have the ability to work at home and so on critically
important and historically government has not exactly been leading edge in
terms of providing the tools and the policies to support that kind of
flexibility. People in the room and and hiring understand I think what some
of the gaps are I forget what the latest stat was but it wasn’t it wasn’t it
wasn’t days it wasn’t weeks it was months from when a job ad goes out to
when somebody is actually brought in as a regular employee in the federal public
service and if you’re competing with the private sector and consulting firms and
so on for top talent you’ve got to you’ve got to address those
practices and you know there are some really interesting new models in
government like the GC talent cloud that may be an avenue building on what was
previously mentioned. Committing to new approaches to training so you’re not
just looking at you’re not just looking at credentials coming in but you’re
looking at upskilling and there’s been some interesting work going on in the
digital Academy. There’s some examples of US companies where they retrain 50
percent of their workforce over five years. 50 percent that’s massive. And if
we look at Canada’s economic and social development that’s certainly a much
better strategy than closing down operations and laying people off so
thinking about new and clever ways that we can upskill becomes really really
important. Applying a diversity and gender lens right across the value chain
and governments doing a lot of work now for example on procurement, something
that the US has been ahead of us on for many years, but if you’re serious about
diversity and inclusion you really have to think about it at every single level
of your operations from procurement to your research and development strategies
through the way in which you design products and services the ways in which
you outreach to citizens you support them and so on and in a country like
Canada that’s becoming massively important. And we know some of the
what happens if you don’t do that with some of the feedback we’ve had on AI
products for example that we’re developed by non diverse teams and as a
result embedded certain kinds of certain kinds of biases. Finding new sorts of
public-private partnerships like the one with Amazon Web Services, really good
examples and I think the rebranding and the communicating what government is
about is fundamental if you want to attract and retain young people because
there’s really good research that suggests kids my daughter’s age
want to work for organizations with social purpose. You know some private
sector companies for example are embedding CSR related activities to try
to attract and retain younger people and particularly women. Social purpose is
what the public sector is is all about and yet somehow that’s not necessarily
communicated in the recruitment process and so I think there’s an enormous
opportunity to really rebrand and remarket what it means to be a public servant
what it means to advance social and economic development in this country and
I think that’s a really important way of attracting new blood to the organization.
Thank you I mean it’s interesting what you said because I don’t think there was
any coincidence that the head of our worldwide public sector business is a
woman and she talks a lot about and she’s one of the most I think she’s
probably the most senior executive who’s a female in our company and she talks a
lot about being motivated by mission driven work. She’s not really
that interested in the bells and whistles of the technology she’s really
excited about what it can do. And Michael maybe you could talk a little bit about
you’ve got a global role what you’re seeing in terms of the global workforce
trends and and where do you see AWS playing a role. Sure well one of the fun
things about my job is I do get to travel around a lot and be in a lot of
different countries and speak with a lot of different governments. And it’s
interesting how much come there is often times in the different
issues that different governments are grappling with and there’s a lot of
potential there I think for for finding best practices out of all of that. One
piece of I think incredibly good news to start off with and something I really
see as far as a global trend is there are areas if we are strategic and
thinking about them where there are going to be a lot of jobs in the future
for us to aim at in terms of training. And certainly cloud we see at Amazon Web
Services is one of those areas in a really exciting way all of these
technologies that we talk about all the time AI and machine learning Internet of
Things voice recognition all of those technologies live on top of the cloud.
And I think the people in this room are a group of people that already know how
important cloud is. That said there’s an interesting study indicating that so far
only about 12% of the world’s data resides on the cloud and I think one of
the trends that we can see remarkably clearly is that in the coming five ten
years a whole bunch more of that data is going to be on the cloud and that
presents both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge for a company
like AWS and for governments who are looking at the cloud is there aren’t
enough skilled cloud technicians to help that transition from traditional on-site
storage to the cloud. There’s a shortage of those people all over the
world and as a company and I love seeing the public-private partnerships in
the recommendation it’s in our selfish interest to have those trained
people. But it’s also our responsibility to help create those
trained people and one of the programs that AWS has that I’m most excited
about is called AWS educate. And it’s a program that works at all
different levels of the educational process I should mention by the way that
I’m a lawyer by training I’m the black sheep of the family
both of my parents are teachers and I think they’re fine they’re happy that
I’m finally coming back to what they were trying to get me to do the whole
time not that I teach but at least I’m somewhere in the in the neighborhood. But
one of the programs that I’m personally most excited about is work that AWS
is piloting in a number of two-year colleges focused on cloud
technician skills and one of the things that makes me so excited about that is I
think that’s really a sweet spot in economies in lots of parts of the world
where there’s a need for jobs good jobs high-paying jobs. And it takes a couple
years more than high school but it doesn’t necessarily take a four-year
degree and yet people coming out of these pilot programs are having
opportunities in really high-wage high-skill jobs with what we see is a
very exciting future. And so that’s one example
I think of a trend that we see namely lots of cloud jobs coming down the pike
but also an opportunity in terms of training where we’re both government and
the private sector need to step up in order to provide the training that these
people will need to have those jobs in the future. Thank you. Olivia so there was
a number of recommendations and Wendy’s report and was really curious and
there’s a lot there’s a great menu to choose from so are there some that you
went aha yes about that one oh you know
either we’re doing it or I see that’s something we can grab and run with
really quickly that you sort of think that the there’s some opportunities to move
some of those forward. So the one that left hurts me immediately was the
the modernizing human resource in HR hiring practices. hiring
practices and and this is because it is something we are absolutely thinking
about because not we’re not thinking about this is something that we are
doing something about and so Wendy mentioned talent cloud earlier and and
anyone who is here for the keynotes will have heard Alex Bonet who is our CIO
also talking about that and I’ll maybe just explain a little bit more
about what that project is because then what it’s part of my team so I’m really
proud of it although I can’t really take any credit for it. So this is a project
that is and being led finds some really entrepreneurial people in the public
service who have seen the pain that we go through when we try to hire in new
employees and it takes us a long time to hire people. And we have flexibility to
hire people in for term positions for project based work but it’s the really
difficult thing for managers to do because it takes them a very long time
to get there and because it takes them a long time to get there they tend not to
do it and what we do instead is we spend billions literally billions of dollars
with staff augmentation firms. So we spend more as government we get people
in we’re here we don’t really know we don’t really understand they’re there
for short periods those people coming in don’t necessarily get benefits don’t get
any kind of union representation it’s it’s not a great situation for anybody
and so what this this talent cloud team are doing is really thinking end-to-end
how do we attract people how do we make that hiring process seamless pain-free
frictionless to get people in through the door quickly into jobs which are
good fits for them and how do we also make it very easy and simple for
managers who are hiring. So when we look at the hiring process at the moment
there are lots of points in that which just kind of are not that easy to get
through and if you’re a hiring manager and you have sometimes 300, 400, 500
applicants for a role sifting that kind of pool it’s near impossible and it
takes you ages and you’ve already got 100 other things to do. sSo we’re really
looking at that end-to-end and thinking about how can we make it very
easy for people to come into the government of canada for those
short-term project-based roles to do it do a term position if they enjoy it
maybe apply for another term position or maybe go back to the private sector how
can we create that as an easy kind of easy place to be so that when this gig
economy and we see we can be a part of that but we can be a responsible part of
it where we’re offering people the protections that we think they should
have in a role. And so it’s interesting because it really is
fundamentally addressing some of these issues in a very practical way but it’s
also an interesting thing for us because we are building this ourselves that
we’re building the digital platform ourselves in line with the principles
which were espousing so we’re building it in the open we released it as a early
beta phase it’s out there right now it’s talent.canada.ca. We’re iterating
through it we’re improving it all the time and we’re learning as we’re going
with it so I think that one really lets out maybe because I okay we’re not there
yet but we know we’re doing something about this. And the other one which I
really I really resonates with me is this idea that we need to really brand
and promote working in the government because there is this huge value
proposition that is it’s really really unique to what government does. But also
we hear a lot well you know government salaries can’t compete with private
sector salaries and and yep that’s true so someone said to me okay an AI
engineer at Google and the same as a senior deputy minister and the
Government of Canada and that is very likely to be true, but equally we live in
Ottawa where we’re talking about the Government of Canada there are a whole
lot of benefits there inherent in that the average house price in Ottawa is
four hundred and nineteen thousand Canadian dollars, the upper edge house
price in San Francisco is 2.2 million dollars. So ok you might be adding a
little bit more if you work at Google your quality of life is not necessarily
going to be better so we need to get much better at thinking about how do we
sell as government what the benefits are that we have because it’s very easy just
to say oh well the private sector pay more so we’re never going to be able to
attract the best talent. I actually think that that’s kind of a lazy response and
then we need to put more emphasis on us to be better salespeople. I agree and I
mean there definitely are I think the mission is definitely compelling and
I’m pretty sure that you can compete homework life balance as well. Wendy one of the things that really
struck me in your research was the fact that we’re seeing fewer and fewer women
going into engineering schools and coming out of engineering schools and it
seems like the antithesis at least sort of the antithesis of what we’re seeing
in other parts of the university we’re seeing more more women graduate than men
in terms of the medical profession and the legal profession and why are
we so far behind in terms of the engineering side of things? And I should
should clarify engineering we’re doing marginally better it’s computer science
where it’s going backwards. So I think there are a couple of reasons. One is
we’ve had 30 years of good intentions but not in my view serious effort so you
know if you want more women in engineering you change the accreditation
standards so engineers Canada makes it a priority the universities will follow
suit. If you look at Canadian universities for example Queen’s is at
about 30% Lassonde at York which is a new school
is aiming for 50 and you have other engineering schools that are at 10 that
tells you it isn’t an issue of the pool it’s an issue of intentionality and
processes and procedures. So I think that’s part of the issue is that there
have been lots of rainbow posters and astronauts going into the schools and
saying this is good you know become an engineer but we haven’t had real
integrated strategies with accountability using believers that will
change how organizations operate and frankly employers have
incredible influence if they started to say we don’t want we want to see for 30%
of the co-op students women, universities would response. So that’s
part of the answer. I think the other piece of it though is recognizing as I
said at the outset that digital skills are more than computer science and
engineering and arguably with the advent of artificial intelligence coding is
becoming at the time when people are putting more and more emphasis on coding
I would argue there’s evidence to suggest that artificial intelligence is
actually going to make coding skills less important than understanding what
the applications of the technology are supposed to be. So I think that’s that’s
something else we maybe need to continue to push for real change in computer
science and engineering but we also have to think more about those hybrids and
how to move people into roles where they need some technology but maybe not a
full computer science degree. Infomatics is a good example big data analytics you
don’t need to be a mathematician and it’s a long story but I’ll summarize it
by saying I experiment on my only child. she graduated with a master’s degree in
fine arts. I put her through a bit maker course she was the top-ranked graduate
and when I talked to someone at one of the bank’s she said yeah of course we
don’t actually in analytics we don’t necessarily need people who can run them
off in their heads we need people who can tell stories about data and you can
take someone from art from psychology from many other disciplines and teach
them what they need to know about data analytics to be sort of advanced users
and drive the adoption of that technology forward. Michael you’ve had a
career in both the public sector and the private sector is there something
you’re now on the private sector obviously is there something that you
would say that they either the private sector could learn from the privates I’m
gonna mess it all up the public sector should learn from the private sector now
that you’re here you know what what do you see working at AWS that you wish
you’d known working in the public sector? Well you definitely learn things
wherever you’re working if you’re paying a little bit of attention and I have
learned a lot from both public and private sector. ON the public
sector side if I can start there I really like the way that you emphasize
the value of the mission that people are working on and I think you’re absolutely
right that government can do a much better job in pitching that and that
was the thing that I think I appreciated the most of my time in government as I
liked I admired the people who I worked with who were part of a mission and
liked being a part of a mission. And I appreciated a group of people who were
who cared about something that was that was bigger than themselves in such a
direct and obvious way and I really do think that’s something that the
government’s can emphasize a lot more than they do. On the other side from
the private sector and certainly in technology one of the things that I
appreciate about the culture of Amazon is and not just the culture of
Amazon but I think technology more generally is a fail fast mentality
and a nimbleness and a willingness to experiment and culture I love I like
that the your culture reference earlier to about culture reading strategy for
breakfast I didn’t turn that one around and I can that makes a lot of sense to
me because I think culture makes such a huge difference in how entities act on a
day to day basis. And one thing I like about Amazon is you are
encouraged to take chances recognizing that
many times things that you will do will end up in failure and that’s encouraged
because I think there’s a recognition that you learn from your failures
especially if you move on quickly. In government too often we failed slow and
that’s that’s painful and depressing and so I think one thing government can
learn from the private sector is failing fast. But that means leadership
that creates a space where people can take chances and where actually failing
is not penalized but rewarded assuming it’s part of a process. I’m
wondering if there’s any questions for the panel from the audience anybody ask
a question go to the bar. Here we go. Please got a mic there we go thanks
David. Hi I’m curious about what you talked about with HR and about flexible
work schedules and I was wondering especially what AWS does with flexible
work schedules especially to hire those new Millennials and make it really a
great workplace for them. I’ll tell you my personal experience and I don’t work
for HR so I want to be careful not to make any new policy pronouncements here
that might get me in trouble but I think there’s a recognition that at AWS that
we very much have to accommodate to the extent that we can things that
people do to have a life outside of Amazon. And I don’t want to pretend that
the people at Amazon don’t work really hard and that there’s not requirement to
be in in the office for certain meetings and that even in a virtual
world where we can do video conference that we still don’t have to be
certain places at certain times but I consider myself very lucky for example
to live in Montana where my family is and I have the
flexibility to commute during the week to Seattle, sleep there three nights a
week I usually work from home on Friday. So that’s not exactly typical but that
was something that the company was very good in helping me to accommodate and I
know on my own team there are versions of that we try and
accommodate in part for the very reason that was described that we recognize
that that’s one way that we can attract talent and have people want to stay in
those hard working jobs if there’s a side benefit that there’s some
flexibility like that. If I can just add I think the one really fascinating thing
about going through the hiring process at Amazon and its really to Wendy’s
point about culture being so important the interview process focuses almost
solely on certain leadership principles that we have in the company
and so your ability to kind of adapt into the culture and well used to be
adaptable actually as well as one of the aspects of the culture but is really the
company really focuses on hiring the kind of individual that thinks a certain
way and behaves a certain way almost even there’s almost an assumption that
you have the qualifications to do the job if you’ve even made it to the
interview process so once you get there they’re really looking for
culture, they’re looking for based around the leadership principles. So it was a
hugely eye-opening experience to go through to go through it and very
different than any other place I’ve ever interviewed. Are there any other questions
from the audience? Great.
Perfect I just want to circle back the concept of using engineers Canada and
leveraging them to target different demographics and to increase that
recruitment in the undergraduate programs how exactly like what kind of
recommendations would you ask them to implement and how would that look
just wondering if we could expand on that. So you know one of the principles
in Canada has been compiler explain legislation and that dates back to the
employment equity legislation where federally regulated companies were asked
to report on the participation of women racialized minorities indigenous people
people with disabilities in the workforce at different levels and also
their strategy. I think I said and we now have bill C is C 25 which is going to do
something similar I think that transparency and shedding light on why
is it that Queens is over 30% and university that shall go nameless is
only at 10% I think that that would incentivize behavior very very quickly
and right now it’s simply not and I know this because I was the vice president of
research and innovation at Ryerson and I supported a lot of the accreditation
operations, right now there isn’t any real attention focused on reporting even
on diversity data. We’ve seen the transformation in the the funding
research councils around the Canada Research Chair all they did was start to
ask people to report on diversity data and it changed behaviors. So I’m a big
believer in reporting and transparency driving driving change because I think
that the public in Canada in general cares about those issues and I think
there’s a very strong business case for advancing diversity and inclusion in
absolutely every sector and particularly in post-secondary where we you know we
have less data in post-secondary institutions than you have in most
private sector companies which is bizarre. Does that answer your question?
We have two minutes left really squeeze in one more question. Hi there so I agree we had one of
your point one of the points that you made about salary difference between
public sector and private. Someone who’s new to the government who came from the
private sector salary for me was not a
motivation it was you know the purpose but I guess my the question that I want
to ask is we’ve all experienced and noticed a lot of times we lose talent
just because they don’t fit the language profile and that’s especially true in
a city like Ottawa where we have a tech sector in Canada right. So we do have top
talent sometimes they don’t make the cut because they don’t speak French or
vice-versa and yeah of course they’ll they’ll go to
Canada or join Shopify or so any thoughts on that? It was
actually one of the things that Wendy identified in her paper as well so it
was definitely identified in the research and I don’t know if you.Yeah
I agree ie it’s something CIOs from across
government departments raised frequently and as an issue for them in terms of
retaining people and promoting. I think it depends a little bit per Department
on the flexibility of that Department with the language training. So there are
some departments who are very generous with the language training and that’s
great where that isn’t in place it’s difficult. So we are having some
conversations on with with people within government at the moment to look at
those kind of issues to try and get some data to drill into those those areas
particularly for the the kind of some of those CS roles where they might be maybe
non-supervisory and more technical specific but at a more senior level
where we tend to have to apply language requirements and but at the same time it
is a fine balance because we are the federal government and we are
being a country who have two official languages and that is an important thing
for us to respect I do think there’s an easy answer it’s a recognized problem
where it’s a recognized issue that we’re trying to look at some ways to address.
But I hear you and I hear from other people as well so we’re trying to look
for some ways but suggestions would be great as well.
Great on that note we’re at zero time and I do not want to keep people from
the bar so I want to thank the panel so much and for participating today and the
ongoing conversation that we’ve been having on this this topic which I’ve
really enjoyed so thank you so much for joining us and thank you all so much for
joining us I hope you stay for the reception thank you.

Stephen Childs

One Comment

  1. Perhaps it makes sense to look at why women and minorities may not be drawn to high-tech and digital jobs. These professions are often excluded from employment standards act — definitely so in BC, for example. Even if public sector goes above and beyond what the private sector may be doing in terms of accommodations and matching or exceeding ESA regulations, it's probably just a numbers game, and could be argued that the work-life balance and other aspects of tech professions may still be discouraging to women, and especially younger women.

    As noted in the recent interim report of the Ontario Changing Workplaces Review Special Advisors, “Unwarranted or out-dated exemptions may have unintended adverse impact on employees in today’s workplaces. The concern is that many employees may be denied the protections under the ESA that are essential for them to be treated with minimum fairness and decency.”

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