Learning Insights: Leading Learning in the Public Service

Leading Learning in the Public Service

Contributor: Taki Sarantakis, President, Canada School of Public Service
Published: February 24, 2020

A public service career is roughly 30 to 35 years. So imagine if the skills you started with were the same skills you had at retirement. You would miss out on years of learning, advancement, contribution and overall impact benefitting Canadians. You would be the one driving a horse and buggy when others around you are driving their electric cars. Or maybe you would be driving your car when other cars are driving themselves.

Learning is an important part of career development. It helps us to adapt to continuous change in our work realities. Investing in learning—and especially in our people—is critical for a competitive and relevant public sector.

What I have learned

The best learning experience for me has always been on the job. Here is what I have learned about learning over the years, and especially about what it means for a public servant like you on a day-to-day basis.

  1. Learn from people that are more experienced or knowledgeable than you. In meetings or in any situation, analyze their decisions and reactions. Why did they say that? Why did they do that? Why did they react that way?

  2. Ask questions. Don't be shy. I always encourage people to ask questions, and I encourage the person who answers to explain the reason behind every action.  

  3. Surround yourself with great people. If you are not working for and with great people, change jobs. There is no reason for you to be in a work environment where you don't feel that you can learn from the people you work with every day.

  4. Take advantage of some of the opportunities that are unique to working for the largest organization in Canada. Work in an economic department. Work in a social department. Spend a little time in a policy group. Spend a little time delivering a program. Spend time outside the National Capital Region. You can even leave the country to work! The Government of Canada has offices in amazing places like Colombia or China or Finland, to name just a few.

  5. Pay attention to and continuously improve your communications skills. If you are not capable of communicating rapidly and clearly, in a way that your audience needs you to, whether your audience is your co-worker or your supervisor, your deputy minister or your minister, then you will miss the mark. You have to be able to communicate in a compelling way that everyone can understand—often quickly and on the spot.

The next decade promises to be eventful in terms of technological changes, and this will have a major impact on all of us, at work and in our personal lives. The School will be here to help you adapt and continuously improve your skills throughout your career. As a starting point today, make a note to revisit your learning plan for 2020, to identify the people you want to learn from, to ask more questions, and to learn something new every day.

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Share your comments or blog ideas with us at csps.web.efpc@canada.ca.



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