Last week, we exclusively told you about a recent provincial government work environment survey in which just 29 percent of provincial employees gave their executives favourable reviews. Commenting on that number - and other unfavourable results included in the survey - Simon Fraser University public policy professor Doug McArthur told Public Eye Radio, "This is a pretty surprising and - I don't like to exaggerate - but almost shocking survey when you start looking at these numbers and seeing how the employees seem to be feeling about their work these days in the provincial government."
"In most ministries, we've got the executive in the ministries - that's the assistant deputy ministers and the deputy ministers - getting satisifaction ratings that are actually below (sitting American president) George Bush's. And we know how low his have been for a long time," continued Prof. McArthur, who served as deputy minister to premier under both Mike Harcourt and Glen Clark.
"This indicates that the senior executives in the public service are not directing their attention to questions of employee relations and questions of providing and improving workplace satisfaction...And I know that public servants are notorious for not being overly happy with their jobs and some would say complain about their jobs. But these numbers have to be taken as a wakeup call."
And what would he do if heard that wakeup call and was still head of the public service? "In general terms there's a few things I would do," responded Prof. McArthur. "One is I would use these numbers as a basis for assessing the management of the individual ministries and the overall public service management system. So, first of all, deputy ministers and assistant deputy ministers in departments that have failing grades here - recognizing that none of them are great numbers - but those that have failing grades, that would enter into my job evaluation of those people. And I would make it an important factor in assessing whether or not these people should continue in their jobs. I think you can draw no other conclusion that, in some cases, they should not be continuing in their jobs."
"The second thing I would do is I wouild take steps to have these ministeries establish processes that they start listening to and finding out from their employees what the problems are. They've got to talk to the employees to try and fix this. It's not going to be easy to fix it. But this tells you the employees have something to say," added Prof. McArthur, stressing the need to use neutral parties to facilitate that conversation.
And he says it's important for cabinet to also "sit down and talk about this. They talk about having a big agenda for B.C. But they really need to look at the public service." Because, "with a workforce that's showing this much dissatisfaction, this much lack of confidence in their senior managers and their bosses, who are showing as much stress as they do...you know work is suffering. You know the quality of work is suffering. You know the programs and services are simply not being delivered effectively and efficiently."