2008 APEX Conference on: Public Service Renewal

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Remarks by Kevin G. Lynch
Clerk of the Privy Council, Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the Public Service

June 3, 2008

[PDF 1.19 MB]

The Public Service then (1983) and now (2007) ---Same size but very different

  • 255 000 employees (251 000 in 1983)
  • 54.5% women (42% in 1983)
  • 40% of executives are women (less than 5% in 1983)
  • 60.6% of employees in the regions; 39.4% in the NCR (33% in 1983)
  • 70.5% English as first official language; 29.5% French (28% in 1983)
  • 85.3% indeterminate; 10.2% term; 5% casuals/students
  • Average age 44 years (39 in 1983)
  • Public Service now 0.8% of the Canadian population (1% in 1983)

As Canadian society has changed, as the issues confronting governments have changed, so too has the Public Service of Canada.

Trends in the Canadian economy, government spending and the Public Service, 1983 to 2007

Graph demonstrating trends in the Canadian economy, government spending and the Public Service, 1983 to 2007

From 1983 to 2007, real GDP increased 104%, real government program spending by 32%, the Canadian population by 30% and the size of federal public service by 1.5%. Put differently, over roughly a 25 year period, the size of the public service has remained essentially unchanged, while its composition has changed significantly and its “efficiency” has increased substantially.

Thinking about renewal differently: “Our Iceberg is Melting.”

Book cover for 'Our Iceberg is Melting'

"6 Steps"

  • Sense of Urgency

  • Guiding team, strategy for change

  • Communicating like crazy

  • On-going, visible "wins"

  • Expanding the "change team"

  • Not letting up, new culture

Why Public Service Renewal Matters

  • Renewal matters because the public service matters - …“To continue to attract and retain [such] Canadians in the Public Service of Canada, and to provide high quality public services and policy advice in the years to come, is why public service renewal is so important to all of us, both public servants and the Canadian public.” - 2008 Report of the Clerk on the Public Service of Canada
  • Renewal is a sustained effort, and a team effort - ."Renewal is not about fixing something for all time but updating what we do and how we do it in order to remain relevant and effective now and into the future. It is about keeping the institution of the public service dynamic, fresh and respected. And renewal is not something others do; the impetus for renewal has to come from within, and it has to involve all of us." - 2008 Report of the Clerk on the Public Service of Canada

The Dynamic Imperative for Renewal: Aging Workforce and Increasing Complexity of Issues Confronting Government Today

  • …“The world in which the federal Public Service operates has become more complex and unpredictable. This new environment is characterized by an aging population, a globalized economic landscape, ever-changing information and communications technologies, the emergence of new horizontal issues and changing public attitudes to government”… - Prime Minister's Advisory Committee Report
  • ."The reality is that the Public Service of today is Canada's largest, most complex institution with over 250,000 employees, more lines of business than any Canadian private sector organization, more points of service, both nationally and internationally, and ongoing pressures to revamp our product lines in response to demands of a changing world.". - 2008 Clerk's Report

The Dynamic Imperative for Renewal: the Public Service Matters

The Canadian Public Service has a wide scope:

  • Canada's largest employer (255K employees)
  • Canada's most national employer (1600 points of service in Canada)
  • Canada's most international employer (in over 150 countries)
  • Canada's most multi-professional workforce
  • Plus, Canada's military (68K soldiers); reserves(25K); RCMP (25K)

The Demographic Imperative for Renewal: Changes in the Public Service Age Profile Since 1983

Graph of percentage of PS Workforce

The Demographic Imperative for Renewal: Aging of the Public Service

  • Average Age of Public Servants: 44
  • Average age of EXs: 51
  • Average age of ADMs: 54
  • ADMs who can retire now with non-reduced pension: 31+%
  • Executives who can retire by 2012 with non-reduced pensions: 50%
  • Public servants who can retire by 2012 with non-reduced pensions: 25%

Framework for Public Service Renewal

“…so much of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to work.” - Peter Drucker

Focus on Management Diagram

…”We are just at the beginning of what must be a multi-sustained renewal enterprise. We will set out, year after year, tangible renewal commitments, and deliver on them…”

2007-08 Renewal Targets and Results


  • 35/36 DMs with integrated business and HR Plans


  • 4,000 recruited as indeterminate (vs. 3,000 target)
  • Development

    • 30/36 DMs with learning plans covering 90% of employees
    • ADM Talent Management; ALP; new DM performance management system

    Enabling Infrastructure

    • Modest targets, modest results

    Other: Department Specific

    • Various noteworthy initiatives: Health Canada; Citizenship and Immigration; Service Canada; Natural Resources; Canada Revenue Agency; CFIA; and Trade.

    2008-09 Renewal Priorities; specific 2008-09 targets to be announced in May


    • Extend/strengthen new integrated business/HR plans


    • New, higher target
    • Define/communicate “Public Service Brand”


    • Improve performance management for executives
    • Improve learning plan

    Enabling Infrastructure

    • Staffing; systems (pay, web-of-rules); survey

    Responding to PM's Advisory Committee

    • Restructure current governance for human resources management ---shift primary responsibility for HR management to DMs; clear up overlap/duplication among central HR agencies; shift resources from center to departments
    • Strengthen performance management system, particularly poor performance

    Renewal Challenges Looking Forward

    Better balance between risk-taking and accountability - Tackling web-of-rules, building robust risk management systems

    Public Service workforce that is more broadly representative of the Canadian population - Diversity: progress but not enough

    Public Service where it is easier to come and go over the course of a career - More flexibility over career

    Leaders and employees at all levels stay with their jobs long enough to make a meaningful contribution - Post demographic bubble, objective is ≥3 years in position

    Key Public Service Renewal Messages

    • Public Service Matters: The Public Service of Canada is a vital national institution, crucial to the success of Canada in an increasingly complex world.
    • Public Service Matters: The Public Service of Canada should make “Excellence” our brand.

      Cartoon: Being 'average' is not good enough
    • Renewal is real, it is essential and it will be ongoing:

      • it's a multi-year, sustained effort;
      • tangible renewal commitments, year-after-year, and deliver on them.
    • Renewal is tackling tough structural issues. This year:

      • shift responsibility for human resources management to DMs/depts;
      • clearing up HR overlap/duplication among central agencies; and
      • dealing more effectively with performance management, including poor performance.
    • Renewal has to involve everyone

      • it's everyone's challenge.
    • Communications and your engagement are key to renewal;

      • Get Involved!
      • Speak up!
      • Make suggestions!
      • Become part of renewal!
      • Be proud...you make a difference!

      "If not us, who? If not now, when?" - John F. Kennedy.