Learning from the Best: Leveraging the Practices of Top Work Units in the BC Public Service

The BC Public Service Agency sought to understand how to better foster employee engagement in the BC Public Service. Towards this end, the agency commissioned BC Stats to study and interview the most engaged public service work units to find out what they are doing to increase the engagement of their staff. This report presents the results of that consultation, specifically the practices, insights, and examples of organizations and work units that were effective in engaging employees.

The methodology was as follows. Based on the results from the 2013 BC Public Service Work Environment Survey as well as consultations with human resource professionals, work units seen as leaders in fostering employee engagement were identified. These work units were interviewed by BC Stats in 2014 to identify the specific actions they believed to be driving the positive results. A total of 53 representatives from 30 different work units participated in the interviews. This summary synthesizes the best practices identified during the interviews and presented in the report.

The following are practices that highly engaged work units employ and that should be considered in by managers seeking to more fully engage their employees:

  • Senior management: Executives communicate decisions in a timely manner and provide a clear direction for the future using electronic media, holding open forums, and interacting with employees face-to-face.
  • Vision/mission/goals: These are well understood by the entire team and day-to-day work is aligned with organizational priorities.
  • Supervisors: They use a variety of formal and informal communication strategies to clarify work expectations and keep team members informed, while fostering collaboration and mutual trust and support among team members.
  • Staffing practices: These are considered fair and merit-based, by using interviews to not only assess desired behavioural competencies but also to find a good fit between employees’ skills and interests and the work they do, and by investing in succession planning.
  • Pay and benefits: Units have positions with higher pay compared to other workplaces, ensure employees are aware of available benefits, and support employee proposals for new benefits.
  • Respectful environment/teamwork: Units are characterized by collaborative working relationships, supportive team members, and effective communication, while creating a safe environment to speak up, addressing human resource issues proactively, and supporting social activities.
  • Empowerment: Leaders provide opportunities and support for all employees to offer input into workplace decisions, while assigning responsibility, providing opportunities to try new roles, and supporting innovation.
  • Recognition: Organizations have a culture of ongoing formal and informal appreciation for the efforts made by everyone and every unit, by rewarding achievement, encouraging mutual understanding and recognition of team members’ work and efforts, communicating positive feedback from clients, etc.
  • Professional development: Leaders support employees’ learning and development by providing access to training and opportunities to develop the skills and experience necessary to achieve their career aspirations and by supporting knowledge-sharing and mentoring and coaching.
  • Workplace tools: Leaders ensure employees have access to the workplace tools needed to excel in the workplace, as well as the guidance to use them.
  • Stress and workload: Management sets a direction that is perceived as realistic and manageable by employees, while assigning workload fairly and ensuring accountability, monitoring and reviewing workflow and workload volume, creating a comfortable work environment, creating a culture of productivity and mutual respect, and supporting work-life balance and flexibility.

This report will be of interest to practitioners and employers, inside and outside the public sector, interested in improving workforce recruitment and retention.