Not your average town hall

The room was dark, with glimmers of purple lighting giving the space a certain aesthetic. Electronic music encouraged the energy in the room and halted the usual afternoon fatigue. Live tweets poured in and were showcased on the large screens throughout the room.  No, this wasn’t the release day for the newest smartphone, this was the Shared Services Canada (SSC) town hall.

Nearly 900 employees were in attendance and others from across Canada attended the meeting using web conferencing and remote connections. With employees from across the regions, SSC has prioritized town halls as a key initiative in order to bring the entire department together. Not only do these town halls connect employees and encourage engagement, they also serve to share important information, departmental updates and visions for the future.

SSC’s plan for the future, also known as SSC 3.0, isn’t just a plan that will benefit their department alone, it’s a plan that includes the Government of Canada (GC) as a whole by enabling services and employee experience.

Spoken like a true leader

SSC’s President, Paul Glover took the stage alongside SSC’s Executive Vice-President, Sarah Paquet, who joined the meeting via web conferencing from Calgary. Although they admitted that they were taking a risk by relying on a webcast, there were no technical difficulties as they video streamed Sarah into the conversation. As Paul said, “we have to be the first ones to take this risk before we can even consider pushing it to the regions”. He also mentioned that, although the last town hall occurred recently, today’s town hall was just as necessary. Why? “To be accountable,” he said, “and to let you all know that I heard what you said last time.” This town hall focused primarily on what employees voiced was important to them, how SSC 3.0 was taking that into account and the importance of it all for every public servant across the GC.

Network and Security: when do we want it? Now! Where do we want it? Everywhere!

“Without a good network, we cannot support our advancement in becoming more digital.”

As we advance in the digital age, one thing that is essential to all of us as public servants is a reliable network in order to do our work. “Without a good network, we cannot support our advancement in becoming more digital,” Paul said. He explained that SSC 3.0 is making it a top priority to create a network that is available anywhere, that is fast and reliable. Currently, there are 50 GC networks available across the country, SSC 3.0 will focus on reducing the number of physical networks in order to reduce the system’s complexity, which in turn, helps increase reliability. So let’s say goodbye to those pesky connectivity issues when trying to send that important email from your mobile phone.

Workplace Collaboration Tools: one size does not fit all

“A one-size-fits-all approach is not the way to go and they are creating a tailored set of options based on users’ needs.”

Across the GC, there are a wide variety of collaboration tools available to assist employees. However, public servants have voiced that they need these tools to be more modern and effective. SSC has heard these concerns and is making it a priority to support “a government-wide Enterprise Digital Workplace Platform” – this means that as public servants, we will have access to devices that make it easier for us to do our work, based on our needs. They recognize that, “a one-size-fits-all approach is not the way to go and they are creating a tailored set of options based on users’ needs.” With the introduction of tools such as Office 365, it is clear that the GC is keeping collaboration at the forefront of their vision for the future. Employees will soon be able to access the necessary tools to help them succeed in their work. I’m talking emails, instant messaging with colleagues, social networks, video conferencing, and the list goes on!

Application Health: got my head in the cloud

“SSC 3.0 is committed to working with strategic partners to find the apps that are ‘most at risk with the greatest potential impact on services to Canadians’ and finding an appropriate housing solution to update or create new and reliable apps.”

Let me make this as simple as ABC. Currently, the GC has about 18, 000 applications (apps) but many are living in old data centers, which is less than favourable. As such, they run the risk of service outages and failures. SSC 3.0 is committed to working with strategic partners to find the apps that are “most at risk with the greatest potential impact on services to Canadians” and finding an appropriate housing solution to update or create new and reliable apps. This will allow our apps to work more seamlessly and as a result, allow us to work with less complications. As such, it is with the utmost joy that we will be saying goodbye to aging data centers and hello to the cloud or to one of SSC’s four new, secure enterprise data centres.

Investing in ourselves

What was the biggest takeaway from the feedback received from employees? “We need to invest in our employees. We need to understand how we can support you in the best way possible” Paul said. He went on to explain that this could be done by:

  • Creating faster, more streamlined services to employees
  • Improving the onboarding experience for new employees
  • Having automated security screening to help speed up staffing
  • Improving the mobile experience
  • Inclusive by design, accessible by default

With a promise to remain open, accountable and engaged, SSC 3.0 encourages employees to share ideas and join them for the ride. As Paul said, “this isn’t happening to you, it is happening with you.”

There is no question that SSC (and the GC) is taking the right steps forward towards a digital government and making sure we are equipped with the tools to succeed. But it is even clearer that they put a high value on employee feedback and are embracing digital in order to make employee engagement more dynamic and inclusive. At the end of the day, as SSC’s Vice-President Sarah put it, “it is you who make things come to life. It’s our employees we need to value and we want to show you that we heard you and we are making positive changes.”

SSC 3.0 is going to have a big impact on not just SSC, but the entire GC as a whole. I came away excited and enthusiastic about what it means for GC employees. Oh, and a small public service announcement for other departments: upbeat electronic music and cool lighting does wonders for the vibe!

 
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