The Employee Experience in the Public Sector

9 Practical Ways Team Leaders Can Have A Positive Impact

Research has shown that everyday leaders, such as those with a manager, supervisor, or director title, are "the linchpin to a great employee experience.” But how exactly can you create a great employee experience, support your own career, and contend with the public sector's most pressing challenges? Find out in the following guide, which provides everyday leaders with practical takeaways and highly relevant tools that can be used to do exactly that.

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Building an organization that results in a positive employee experience has been a priority for leaders in the public and private sectors for several years now. Everything from employee retention to engagement, productivity, and performance is influenced by the experience someone has from the day they start at an organization to the day they leave. But who has the greatest influence and impact on employee experience during that time? 

If you guessed everyday leaders like yourself, then you’d be right. 

According to Gallup research, an employee's interaction with their direct manager is one of the most important factors to success over the entirety of the employee journey. In other words, it’s you who “is the linchpin to a great employee experience.” This is especially true given the current challenges and opportunities digital transformation, generational shifts, organizational culture, and change management have created.

While there are many academic reports on the suggested organizational transformation the public sector should undergo, this is not one of them. Rather, the following guide is for supervisors, managers, and directors - not those at the top, but everyday leaders, such as those who lead departments, teams, and projects - with practical takeaways and highly relevant tools that can be used to create a positive employee experience.

The Unique Challenges Facing Public Sector Leadership

Before jumping to the solution, it’s important to note the current set of challenges and opportunities that may be directly or indirectly influencing your employee’s experience on the job. By first defining the challenge those in the public sector currently face, we are setting the groundwork to implement a solution. As Albert Einstein famously said, “If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it.” Let’s get started.

 

Digital Transformation Has Been Slow But Was Accelerated By COVID-19

Before the events in 2020, the public sector was significantly lagging behind the private sector in digital transformation, remote work, and upskilling to meet the needs of the future.

Granted, change has happened recently, albeit out of necessity. According to PwC, “[In Canada], government employees made one of the largest shifts to remote work, with 68% now working primarily remotely, compared to 2% before the pandemic.” While this isn’t the fundamental digital transformation needed to drive greater efficiency and improve the citizen/employee experience, it is a step in the right direction.

Similarly, in KPMG’s Digital: It Is Not the Future, It Is Today report, it was noted that “in Canada, COVID-19 has rushed the adoption of a digital-first mindset across the public sector.  Historically, digital was one of many service options, but now it often represents the only option. From citizen digital identities to public cloud adoption, to embracing a mobile workforce, all change is now on the table and delivery is rapidly increasing from coast to coast.” 

Just look at Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General, who successfully transformed a largely paper-based and in-person justice system to predominately online and virtual services. According to an article by the Public Policy Forum, before COVID-19 digital transformation efforts were drawn out and overcomplicated. But in the face of the COVID-19 crisis, those efforts were no longer a nicety but a necessity. As a result, “the justice system [was modernized] 25 years in 25 days,” according to one employee.

These digital transformations are positively influencing the employee experience, as found in IDC’s report, How Employee Experience Can Drive Digital Transformation: “Employees want to feel valued and empowered with the right tools and technology. They want to have the autonomy to achieve self-actualization through their own work. Over half of European companies agree that outdated device technology is preventing their organization from being more productive and agile - and this is having an impact on employee happiness and engagement.” 


 

The Rise (And Demands) Of A New Generation Of Employees

By 2025, Millennials (43.1%) and Gen Z (20.7%) will make up the majority of employees according to the global labour force participation rate. Moreover, between 2020 and 2025, the tech-native generations of Millennials and Gen Z will replace Gen X and Baby Boomers as the dominant generation in the workplace. 

As this generational shift occurs, the success of the public sector will be contingent on its ability to attract and retain the next generation of employees.

Fortunately, the Public Policy Forum’s report, Building a Dynamic Future: The Next Generation of Public Service Talent, indicates positive interest as millennials were asked about their perceptions of the public sector and what would compel them to pursue a career in the public sector. Note that the findings reflect the values of a generation who have grown up in a financially turbulent, digital, and increasingly socially conscious world.

  • On the whole, students and young professionals view public services as unique organizations where ambitious, talented, and conscientious people can work collectively for the public good. Most participants agreed that public service work can be “challenging and rewarding – an opportunity to contribute to something bigger than yourself.”

  • Students and young professionals alike continue to see public services as one of the few large employers that can offer secure employment in an increasingly uncertain economy.

  • Students and young professionals are drawn to organizations, such as those in the public sector, that can provide enriching work experience and that fulfill their desire for a career, not just a job.

While these findings are positive, the report does point out that “many people lack understanding of what public service work entails and the career options available. A discrepancy, therefore, exists between common perceptions of public service and actual public service experiences, which are often diverse and dynamic.” Not to mention, these same workers “have innovative new types of careers and employers to choose from, including social entrepreneurship, corporate citizenship jobs, and NGOs” (Deloitte). 

All of this is to say that if the public sector is to attract up-and-coming talent, engage them, and retain them long-term, then the employee experience playbook needs to be rewritten, and fast.

 

Culture Continues To Be A Concern

Every organization has its own unique culture. Gallup defines organizational culture simply as, “how we do things around here.” In the private sector, 78% of executives said culture is among the top five things that add value to their company. Culture is how you attract and retain talent, acquire customers, build brand advocates, create alignment throughout an organization, drive employee engagement, and ultimately increase performance. 

The events of 2020 have highlighted the importance of culture. In the 2021 Global Culture Report, they found that organizations who went into the pandemic with a strong culture dramatically fared better than those whose cultures were already struggling. 

Impact of COVID-19 On Company CultureAs important as culture is to success, there are barriers to changing the culture in the public sector. In a white paper published in 2020, Overcoming Challenges to Implementing Change in Canada’s Public Sector, they state, “Public sector culture runs on long-term norms, and many things are done ‘because that is how they have always been done.’ This is good because it means that once employees and the public fully understand what is expected of them, processes run smoothly and consistently. It is problematic because it means that processes are not always as efficient as they could be.” 

When a culture is defined by historical processes and risk aversion, as in the case of the public sector, employees may not feel empowered enough to speak up when they see a better way. Even if they do bring forward input or ideas for innovation, change, and process improvements, their engagement will quickly falter if those ideas are dismissed as a result of complex hierarchical structures and approval processes.  

A global report by McKinsey highlights the challenges individuals face in a risk-averse organizational culture: “A bold experiment that improves service for the majority of recipients are unlikely to win kudos for the responsible civil servants if a small number of vocal citizens complain about the change. Likewise, a public-sector manager who succeeds in improving efficiency in his or her department might be “rewarded” with a reduced budget - but punished with a poor performance review if the effort fails.” While somewhat pessimistic in tone, the premise rings true. 

Those leading teams in the public sector face the unique challenge of working within the defined culture, while also creating an atmosphere that engages their employees with the work at hand. As much as one person cannot change the culture, a team leader's beliefs and behaviours do influence those they manage. In fact, it has been found that managers account for upwards of 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores. 

 

The Challenges of Implementing Change

Whether you work in the public or private sector, large sweeping change initiatives are rarely a success. According to McKinsey’s global report titled, Putting People at the Heart of Public Sector Transformations, 74% of private-sector transformation efforts fail to meet their objectives, while in the public sector, the failure rate is 80%. 

So, why do so many initiatives fail? Here are a few of the most common reasons: 

  • Lack of buy-in and support from leaders and employees

  • Communication is either infrequent, unclear or entirely absent, that would otherwise give employees a purpose for the change and a reason to participate

  • Lack of support in regards to training and resources

  • Fatigue from “flavour of the month” initiatives (in other words, initiatives are rarely, if ever, seen through to completion) 

In a large, complex, and often siloed organization in which many public sector employees find themselves, combined with public scrutiny, change is slow to happen. In the same McKinsey report, it was noted that, “many major change efforts must work across multiple government departments or agencies, as new-generation solutions do not usually fit neatly within existing portfolios. Each institution involved in a transformation is likely to have distinct strengths and gaps in capabilities and frequently conflicting motivations. The implication for change leaders is that they must invest time and energy in building support and collaboration from people they do not directly influence.”

For team leaders to drive change, not only do they need to work with and influence those within their control, but they must also build relationships and partnerships with those in other departments that have their own priorities, expectations, and challenges. 

For supervisors, managers, and directors across the public sector, finding ways to overcome the pitfalls of slow digital transformation, not meeting the needs of a new generation of employees, historical norms and culture, and a resistance to change, it will be imperative to creating an employee experience that employees want to be part of.

 

The Unique Challenges Facing Public Sector Leadership

 

Employee engagement and the employee experience go hand-in-hand. When engagement is high across an organization, it has been shown to result in higher productivity, higher profits, lower turnover, lower absenteeism, and fewer safety incidents than organizations with disengaged employees. The case for why engagement and a positive employee experience are important is clear.

For that reason, employee experience and engagement cannot be delegated to the HR team. That’s because, as mentioned previously, an employee’s direct manager plays an incredibly important role in how employees view work, their level of engagement, and their employee experience. The State of Employee Engagement study found that 81% of employees consider trust in their leaders to be the most important factor impacting engagement, followed very closely by an employee’s immediate relationship with their supervisor.

To tell if an employee is engaged, they should be able to state the following about their manager:

  • I know what is expected of me

  • I have the development opportunities to excel in my job

  • My ideas, opinions, and feedback are heard and valued

  • I know the vision and purpose of our team and organization and understand how my contributions add to each

  • I frequently receive recognition and constructive feedback

  • I believe my manager has my best interest

  • I am provided with opportunities to learn and grow

By taking actions that you can directly influence, these small efforts add up. Here’s where to start.

 

1. Show You Value Their Input

When your employees feel heard and free to share their thoughts and ideas they are more engaged and productive. This was shown in a study conducted by Salesforce, which found that employees who feel their voice is heard on the job are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.

When you seek input before making a decision, it shows those who report to you, you care. The simple task of asking, and then actually listening, goes a long way in the eyes of employees. In fact, a survey conducted by HBR found that better leaders ask for more feedback as those who rank in the top 10% for asking for feedback were rated higher for overall leadership effectiveness by their employees.

Better Leaders Ask For More Feedback Bar Graph

Put It Into Action: 5 Steps For Soliciting Feedback

Get Feedback from Employees by Creating a Safe Space (1)

 

1. Create a Safe Space

No one wants to offend their manager or feel there will be a backlash if they provide feedback that they may not want to hear. To receive real, genuine feedback, ensure you create a safe space where it can be delivered.

Get Feedback from Employees by Hosting One-on-one Meetings (1)

 

2. Schedule One-on-One Meetings

This focused, dedicated time is ideal to get a pulse on how they feel, provide coaching, and uncover innovative ideas.

Get Feedback from Employees by Asking Specific Questions (1)

 

3. Ask Specific Questions

Questions such as “how do you feel everything is going?” are way too vague to solicit useful input. Ask specific questions such as:

  • Is there anything in your work that is causing frustration or delays that could be improved?

  • What is one thing we should improve as a team?

  • Are any of our processes inefficient? Do you have ideas for improvement?

  • What inspires you to do your best work?

  • If you were in charge, what are the three things you would do differently?

Get Feedback from Employees by Listening to Employees (1)

 

4. Listen and Be Open to Change

You do not need to act on all input and feedback, but acknowledge the ideas and provide a response on what can or cannot be done.

Get Feedback from Employees by Having an Open Door Policy (1)

 

5. Keep An Open Door

Encourage input and feedback outside of the times you solicit it.

 

2. Recognize Their Contributions

Everyone wants to be appreciated for their contributions and it does not have to be a big, elaborate celebration. As a study by Deloitte found, 85% of employees would be satisfied with a simple “thank you” for their daily efforts and accomplishments. Moreover, 69% of employees said they would work harder if their manager recognized their efforts. Therefore, as a leader, you should be intentionally seeking out opportunities to provide employees with the recognition they crave as it contributes to their engagement, motivation, relationship with you, and ultimately, their experience on the job.

Put It Into Action: 6 Small, But Important, Ways to Recognize Employees

  1. Provide positive feedback at the next one-on-one meeting

  2. Give a shout-out during a team meeting

  3. Encourage team members to give each other recognition

  4. Send an email to someone senior in the organization who was positively impacted by an action of one of your employees. Be sure to copy your employee.

  5. Throw a celebratory party or potluck

  6. Write a thank-you note

 

3. Take An Active Role In Their Development

Developing employees is not solely the responsibility of the training or talent development department. Good managers strive to continuously improve the skills of each individual on their team through their daily interactions. It's this ongoing, progressive skill development that an individual receives from their manager that shows you’re invested in their success. From a purely selfish perspective, when employees increase their skills they become more productive in their roles, they are better equipped to find solutions to challenges without their leader having to step in, and increase the likelihood of achieving their goals. 

However, there are some challenges public sector managers may face in making this happen. According to a McKinsey global survey of public sector managers, “Public sector managers typically fall short in at least three important interpersonal-skill dimensions: giving feedback, motivating employees, and supporting their development. Public sector participants in the survey were less likely than the average participant to agree that managers at their organizations were trained in these skills.”  

This indicates that to support the development of your employees, you may first need to develop yourself. By enrolling in leadership training, you will support your ability to coach employees at the moment, deliver feedback, motivate a team, and finally, develop others by passing on your own knowledge and strengths. When you have the skills to develop your employees, and in turn apply those skills to develop others that enable them to thrive in their roles, engagement levels rise along with positive feelings regarding their employee experience.

Put It Into Action: Establish SMART Employee Development Goals

The first place to start when taking an active role in an employee’s development is to co-create SMART goals for their development.

SMART Employee Development Goals

 

4. Schedule a dedicated time for them

One-on-one meetings are a time to focus on your employee, give them a chance to ask questions, provide specific feedback, and develop a plan to tackle projects they’re working on. During this time, be sure to ask open-ended questions as they open the door for deeper discovery and discussion. Also, these types of questions will give you a better sense of your employee’s perspective, how they view their current work situation, and their ideal career trajectory. By showing a personal interest in your employees, you are building trust with them, as well as the belief that you have their best interest in mind, all of which contribute to a positive employee experience.

Put It Into Action: Use the One-on-One Meetings Toolkit

In this downloadable one-on-one meetings toolkit, you will find a checklist, template, and list of questions to ensure every one-on-one meeting you host as a manager, supervisor, or leader, has the best possible effect on engagement, loyalty, and productivity of your employees.

One on One Meetings Mockup (1) (1)

 

5. Find Opportunities to Coach Employees and Provide Feedback

Coaching employees is about building relationships and trust, delivering encouragement so they can do their best work, and helping them grow in their careers. It is not about jumping in to solve a problem but challenging your employee to come up with the solutions on their own. By doing so, you’re helping their development by asking questions and offering guidance instead of giving directions. Don’t reserve coaching for only one-on-one meetings or performance reviews. Coaching should be informal and take place as opportunities arise.

Put It Into Action: 6 Qualities to Adopt When Coaching Employees

In Ed Batista’s webinar for Harvard Business Review, Coaching Your Employees, he states there are 6 skills leaders need to be effective coaches. These include:

Have a Coaching Mindset (1)

 

1. Have a Coaching Mindset

A coaching mindset is akin to a growth mindset, where we allow ourselves to experience failure less emotionally to be able to learn from it; when you coach an employee you help move towards a growth mindset. There is a switch from mistakes fueling a negative narrative about oneself to one where we learn from our mistakes. It’s not about fixing but understanding and offering support.

When Coaching Employees Listen To Them (1)

 

2. Listen

It is important that your employees feel heard. This builds trust and relationships, which accelerates the opportunities for feedback, coaching, and growth.

Ask open ended questions to employees

 

3. Ask Open-Ended Questions

Go beyond questions that can be answered with a yes or no. Find opportunities to ask “what” or “how” questions, as they can draw out relevant facts and give you a greater understanding of a situation or individual.

Resist Jumping In When Coaching Employees (1)

 

4. Uncover Information and Resist Jumping In

When coaching employees, you need to balance asking open-ended questions with proving your point. Therefore, resist the urge to weigh in before you have all the relevant information. Instead, wait until you have all the information, as by that time, your employee may have uncovered a solution on their own.

Practice Emotional Awareness When Coaching Employees (1)

 

5. Practice Emotional Awareness

Being aware of your emotions and regulating them, otherwise known as mindfulness, is needed to be a good coach to employees. You’ll be emotionally invested in the results for your employee through your coaching efforts but should not be set on a certain outcome, as doing so, will reduce your employee’s personal discovery journey. Leaders need to understand the distinction between emotionally invested and attached to an outcome.

Give Feedback When Coaching Employees (1)

 

6. Deliver Feedback

Giving feedback is the pillar of coaching. It’s where the leader puts forward their view. Find opportunities to deliver feedback in real-time, on a regular basis, and in bitesize interactions such as debriefing a meeting or an interaction you witnessed. Give feedback when praise is due when it could improve frequently used skills when it is expected during a one-on-one meeting, or there is a behaviour or problem that just cannot be ignored.

Try applying these skills the next time a coachable moment arises with one of your employees. Coaching should happen at the moment such as debriefing after a presentation or when an employee comes to you with a question about a process. It’s these real-time opportunities that help employees learn and grow.

 

6. Give Stretch Assignments

Stretch assignments are temporary projects that give employees a chance to do work they wouldn’t normally get to or to get out of their comfort zone. As challenging as they may seem at the time, they can prove to be an excellent development opportunity, as by design, these assignments require new skill development to achieve the intended outcome.  In fact, one survey of 823 executives found that 71% said stretch assignments had the biggest impact on unleashing their potential. 

The type of stretch assignment will be dependent on the skills that need to be developed. Here are a few examples of typical stretch assignments:

  • Leading the implementation of new technology 

  • Delivering a presentation to a key stakeholder

  • Team leader on a task force created to drive efficiency

  • Managing the communication strategy and tactics for a change initiative

  • Creating and executing a new business process aligned to a key business metric

These assignments provide the employee an opportunity to develop and test new skills, and the leader a new project to provide coaching and feedback against.

Put It Into Action: 8 Questions to Ask Before Giving a Stretch Assignment

Before giving an employee a stretch assignment, ask yourself the following eight questions. The answer should be yes to all of, or close to all of, the questions. 

  1. Does the employee have a history of successful projects and good performance?

  2. Does the employee ask for help when they need it?

  3. Does the employee respect the boundaries you set?

  4. Does the employee proactively seek learning opportunities?

  5. Does the employee take accountability for their actions (whether good or bad)?

  6. Is the employee engaged at work? If not, could a stretch assignment re-engage them?

  7. Do you have the capacity to provide the support an employee will need to successfully complete a stretch assignment

  8. Will the employee come to you if they face a challenge or make a mistake? Or, will they try to go it alone?

 

7. Model the Behaviours They Should Follow

It is incredibly challenging to follow a leader who says one thing but does another. If you’ve ever had this type of leader, then you know how this type of leadership can jeopardize the trust you have in your leader and the experience you have on the job. For this reason, it is imperative as leaders in the public sector that you “walk the walk” by modeling the behaviours you expect of your employees. 

Technically this is called observational learning, which is a component of American psychologist Albert Bandura’s social learning theory. It is a “method of learning that consists of observing and modeling another individual’s behaviour or attitudes.”

Put It Into Action: How-To Be a Model Employees Follow

According to this theory, four steps must happen for employees to see you as a model worth following: Albert Bandura Observational Learning

To help you imagine what this might look like in practice, here is an example. Say your team has been historically risk-averse and resistant to change, but you wish to see that change. The next time a change initiative is announced by your organization, stop yourself from speaking badly of the initiative or all the reasons why it won’t work, as these are the types of behaviours you are going to need to stop. Instead, you could vocalize your support and the ways you plan to help the team embrace it. Then, if an employee replicates those positive behaviours, take the chance to positively reinforce them in front of their teammates to motivate more of the same. 

 

8. Give Them a Feeling of Ownership

For some, the thought of creating a feeling of ownership in employees, either by delegating a task or granting autonomy, induces fear and stress. It causes some leaders to feel a loss of control that leads to strong resistance, or flat-out denial, to delegate or grant autonomy. This is unfortunate because according to Glassdoor, ownership in the workplace contributes to higher performance, as well as improved competency, commitment to work, creativity, innovation, morale, and work satisfaction. Similarly, 70% of employees ranked being empowered to take action at work when a problem or opportunity arises as having a critical impact on their engagement.

Of course, it’s not just fear that stops leaders from delegating. Additional reasons may include:

  • The belief that employees cannot do the job as well as the leader can

  • The belief that it takes less time to do the work than it takes to delegate the responsibility

  • Lack of trust in employees’ motivation and commitment to quality

  • The need to make one’s self indispensable

  • The enjoyment of doing the work one’s self

  • The guilt associated with giving more work to an overworked staff

  • Lack of confidence in one’s delegation skills (could be from a lack of training) 

Regardless of what may be keeping you from creating a sense of ownership within your employees, it is important to do so, not only for your own success but the experience and engagement of those you lead. 

Put It Into Action: How-To Delegate a Task

To help you delegate and create that valuable sense of ownership, the following list was inspired by SHRM’s “Delegator’s Dozen,” and will walk you through step-by-step how to delegate a task.

  1. Look at every task on your to-do list, especially the routine ones, and question if someone else on your team could do it.

  2. Rather than unloading tasks, delegating is about reassigning responsibility. So before you go ahead and delegate anything, be sure you define exactly what you want to be accomplished/what the result should be. 

  3. Pick the person you will delegate the task to. Ask yourself: who has experience/ skills? Who needs to learn how to handle this responsibility? Who has the capacity to accept this responsibility? Who would like to have this opportunity?

  4. Consult the person you have selected to confirm they have the capacity to take on the task and feel comfortable/prepared to do so. Allow them to ask questions and listen if they have ideas about alternative ways to approach it. 

  5. Set a deadline for the task and communicate when you want them to check in regarding their progress. 

  6. Identify any additional resources or specific training this person may need before assuming the responsibility. Also, be sure to offer support and guidance frequently. This will help ensure the person doing the task does not struggle unnecessarily. 

  7. Inform those involved with the task or impacted by the change of who now owns it and who will be their point of contact.

  8. Clarify what the person assuming responsibility for the task has autonomy over and at which point you should be consulted. By setting boundaries, you ensure the integrity of the task and the success of the employee. 

  9. While you may not be the one doing the task, you are still responsible for the outcome of it, for better or for worse. So, be sure to stay involved throughout the process, communicate often, and only interfere if the person is headed into trouble.

  10. Offer feedback, positive reinforcement, and coaching as needed or solicited. 

  11. Once the task is complete, evaluate their performance, as well as your own as the leader. What did they do well? Where can they improve? Is there anything you could have done to support them? 

  12. Finally, ask yourself what you learned from the experience? Also, ask the one who did the task what they learned? Can any of those lessons be applied going forward to improve productivity and performance? 

9. Create a Team They Want To Be Apart Of

While you cannot single-handedly change the culture of an organization, you can have a dramatic influence on the culture of your team and the experience your employees have. The difference of being on a great team, where you enjoy working together and the energy is inspiring vs. being on a team where negativity thrives, can be the difference between an employee staying at an organization or leaving, all of which is independent of the greater organization culture.

In the book, The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, the author Daniel Coyle shares his research on what makes a great team culture. He states there are a few key elements:

  1. Psychological Safety - Great teams create an environment where people feel safe, secure, and feel like they belong.

  2. Vulnerability - When individuals are willing to take risks and be vulnerable, it drives cooperation and trust.

  3. Purpose - Teams need to align around a common goal, values and have a clear vision of the path forward.

Put It Into Action: How-To Build a Team Culture

Define your team culture

 

Define Your Team Culture

Culture requires intentionality. If you want to create a thriving team culture, you need to be intentional with determining behaviours that are expected and what will not be accepted. A team’s culture is not about free snacks and ping pong tables but how your team interacts with each other, the level of trust they have, and how well they work together. To get started, honestly assess where you are now and what changes need to be made.

Create Psychological Safety on Your Team (1)

 

Create Psychological Safety 

Psychological safety, vulnerability, creativity, openness to change, and innovation all go together. It has been found that the highest-performing team has a common element and that is psychological safety. When a team has psychological safety they do not fear that they will be punished for making a mistake. Psychological safety can be a function of the culture you create; the team norms and behaviours. Here a few key behaviours to build psychological safety.

  • Let everyone have a chance to speak and be included - When people feel included, their options are valued, and they have an equal chance to contribute psychological safety flourishes. As the leader, you need to avoid monopolizing the conversation as it was found that teams where the leader spoke 80% of the time were less successful than teams that allowed everyone to speak equally.
  • Listen - Active listening across the team is a pillar of psychological safety as every team member listens to understand an option and perspective and not just listening when it reinforces their own thoughts and feelings.
  • Manage how conflict is perceived - When you have psychological safety on a team conflict shifts from fighting to prove a point to collaborate to find a solution. Conflict on psychologically safe teams is seen as a learning opportunity to better understand the other person's perspective.
  • Show empathy - As a team leader, showing your team you understand their needs, feelings, and thoughts goes a long way. Empathy in leadership is needed now more than ever. In one survey, it was found that 85% of HR leaders at midsize companies agreed that it’s more important now for managers to demonstrate empathy than it was before the pandemic.

Have a Team Vision (1)

 

Have a Team Vision and Purpose

Everyone wants to understand why they come to work each day and how their contributions matter. Having a shared team vision and purpose is a central point for your team to come together. Purpose and vision are two different concepts but equally important to rally a team.

  • Purpose addresses what your team does, who they are doing it for, and why their contributions are important.

  • Vision is the aspiration of the team. It defines the future state of the team, what you’re trying to achieve, and why achieving it is beneficial to all those involved. 

Employees need to see how their contributions are helping make an impact on their organization, as well as the society in which they work. Luckily in the public sector, it is not hard to draw a line to the contributions they make to society. This is great because 83% of employees want meaning in their day-to-day work. Managers are in a unique position to reinforce purpose, develop a vision for their teams, and have frequent conversations on why their work matters.

FOCUS ON CONNECTIVITY, TEAMWORK, AND COLLABORATION (1)

 

Focus on Connectivity, Teamwork, and Collaboration

The shift to leading a remote team was fast and dramatic for many managers in the public sector and proved to be a challenge. 52% of government employees say their biggest challenge during the pandemic is communication and connectivity with their team in a virtual environment. This compared to only 45% in all other industries. 

Help your team feel connected while working remotely by communicating frequently through one-on-one meetings, team meetings, and using collaboration tools such as Slack or Microsoft Teams. Encourage the use of video whenever possible as it adds an extra level of connectivity when you can see your colleague. And find time for fun. Bonds are made and reinforced when we learn more about each other and have a shared experience. 

Put It Into Action: Use the Team Alignment Worksheet

Use our editable worksheet with your team to facilitate a discussion on the goals, values, and behaviors that will encourage team alignment, promote collaboration among employees, ensure the intended outcome is achieved.

Team Alignment Worksheet from the Niagara Institute

Conclusion: Invest in Your Own Development to Maximize Your Effectiveness in the Public Sector

With the ideas outlined in this guide, you should be prepared to make small but meaningful efforts that contribute to a positive employee experience. Granted, there will be challenges along the way. In which case, let this Edward Everett Hale quote serve as your inspiration to forge on: “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” 

In addition to the tips outlined in this guide, you can maximize your effectiveness by investing in your own development. In fact, it is imperative you do so as highlighted by a study the Chartered Management Institute (UK) conducted with over 4,500 managers, CEOs, and HR directors. According to their research, in the public sector “leadership development can have an overall impact on organizational performance of 23%, while any increase in manager effectiveness could drive improvements in public service delivery and economic growth.” On top of that, another study found that an investment in your own development can lead to a 20% increase in overall job performance, a 28% increase in positive leadership behaviours, and an 8% increase in the performance of your direct reports. In other words, the time, resources, money, and energy you put into your own development has far greater impacts beyond just yourself.

Fortunately, providers, like the Niagara Institute, are here to support the training and development needs of everyday leaders in the public sector. In our 50 year history, we’ve had countless public sector leaders enroll in open-enrollment training programs to develop their leadership skills and engage in one-to-one coaching to discuss confidential issues, debrief experiences on the job, apply lessons from a training program, or support a major job transition. Though, whichever development activities you may choose, any investment in your leadership development will support an improved experience on the job for yourself and those you lead. 

Invest in Your Own Development to Maximize Your Effectiveness in the Public Sector (1)

 

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