Governments exist to make the lives of their citizens easier, better, safer and healthier. But, ironically, there is one group of citizens that are all too often overlooked: public servants themselves.
To recognise and celebrate the institutions and teams that are making government a better place to work, Apolitical is delighted to announce the inaugural Public Service Workplace of the Year Awards.
By shining a light on the frontrunners in workplace wellbeing, we hope to inspire others who are working to make careers in the public sector a satisfying choice as well as a meaningful one. After all, government is the world’s largest employer and its success in solving the world’s toughest challenges will depend on public servants.
After receiving nominations from our network of public servants from over 160 countries, a panel made up of Apolitical team members selected a shortlist which we thought best represent our five award categories. Apolitical’s members were then invited to vote for the team which they thought deserved the title.
We hope the award can act as an inspiration to encourage teams in the public service to think about ways to improve the wellbeing and inclusivity of all their staff.
Workplace for Young People Award
An award for a team, department or initiative that is leading action to make the workplace a great place for young employees.
The winner: Indonesia’s Aparatur Muda
Our winner is Indonesia’s Aparatur Muda, launched following the country’s “Golden Generation in 2045” plan to put the country on a path to become one of the world’s top economic giants. With ‘people development’ and ‘technology’ as two pillars of the plan, Aparatur Muda was created to connect and train young Indonesian public servants. The President’s chief of staff attended the launch along with public servants from 30 line ministries. Initiatives include a Youth Action Forum to swap insights about breaking down traditional barriers of communication in government, an Inclusive Talk for young public servants with disabilities, and a Future Cooperation Initiation to build future-ready skills.
The runners up: OneTeamGov & Canada’s Talent Cloud
Many of the skills, competencies and behaviours we need for innovation exist already in our government. Yet this potential remains largely invisible to HR structures and management. Talent Cloud was nominated for creating a gig marketplace that reimagines how government recruits and mobilises talent for short-term work. The marketplace aims to make it quicker and easier for both managers and applicants, and to give gig workers the benefits and advantages that come with permanent roles.
Launched to bring the digital and policy worlds closer together and guided by a core set of principles around new ways of working, OneTeamGov has built an intergenerational alliance between civil servants around the world. OneTeamGov convenes global unconferences, wellbeing camps and bureaucracy hacks to rethink how civil servants interact with each other and with the citizens they serve.
Mental Health in the Workplace Award
An award for a team, department or initiative that is leading action to protect the mental health of team members.
The winner: Veterans Affairs Canada
Our winner is Veterans Affairs Canada, who is working to integrate workplace wellness into the everyday lives of Canadian public servants. Their initiatives range from the introduction of the MINDWELL U 30-day mindfulness challenge, an online program helping public servants to practice mindfulness at work, to the I’m Not Myself Today Campaign, where staff wear buttons and stickers to indicate how they are feeling to colleagues. They have also initiated Wednesday Wellness Tips, weekly advice for employees on what they can do to promote mental wellbeing in their workplace.
The runners up: the United Kingdom’s A-Z to Better Wellbeing Toolkit & Wellbeing Confident Leaders
The A-Z to Better Wellbeing Toolkit is a comprehensive guide of fun and easy ways to improve wellbeing. From A for ‘appreciation’ through to Z for ‘zzzzzz (the importance of sleep),’ the toolkit includes all the latest information on the topic in an easy-to-access format. Compiled by a cross-department team of civil servants, each section comprises of a mixture of personal profiles, useful resources, activities, facts and learning tools.
With Wellbeing Confident Leaders, the UK civil service is working to ensure that all senior civil servants are equipped with the understanding and tools to effectively integrate wellbeing into the work that they do, from communications through to decision-making and planning. The team hopes that senior leaders are the key to transforming the organisation’s culture and building a positive work environment for all.
Healthy Lifestyle in the Workplace Award
An award for a team, department or initiative that is leading action to improve the physical health of team members.
The winner: the Philippines’ Biggest Loser, DSWD Edition
Our winner is the Philippines’ Biggest Loser, DSWD Edition. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) realised that while its goal is to improve the health of citizens, its employees were not healthy themselves. So the Assistant Secretary recruited two celebrity fitness coaches and launched “Biggest Loser, DSWD Edition” to emphasise the need for a healthy body to become better public servants.
The runners up: Canada’s Carrot Rewards & Kigali, Rwanda’s Exercise Hub
The Canadian government has partnered with Carrot to offer their employees Carrot Rewards, a highly successful wellness app that allows participants to track health progress in exchange for reward points and receive tips in response to health questionnaires. The initiative is designed to improve public servants’ workplace wellbeing and awareness, encourage strong colleague relationships and measure employee health levels through surveys. Approximately 1,400 public servants are using the app, with benefits ranging from encouraging active competition through Step Together challenges and promoting walking through daily step goal rewards.
Every Friday at 2:30pm, Kigali’s public servants are permitted to leave work early to dedicate the rest of the day to physical exercise. Activities are compulsory for all employees and run right up until the early evening. Venues — such as the Amahoro Stadium in Remera — open their doors to staff, giving free access to facilities for all. The scheme is an excellent way to ensure that all employees are getting a weekly dose of physical activity, whilst also providing an opportunity for team bonding and improved employee wellbeing.
Workplace Inclusivity Award
An award for a team, department or initiative that is leading action to create a more inclusive workplace.
The winner: New Zealand’s Tupu Tai Pasifika Public Sector Internship Programme
Our winner is the Tupu Tai Pasifika Public Sector Internship Programme, available across seven agencies in the New Zealand public service. The initiative supports Pasifika students, who may not have the networks or exposure to consider a career in the public sector, to explore career pathways The program’s name comes from the words ‘Tupu’ and ‘Tai’ which mean ‘to grow’ and ‘tide’ in a number of Pacific dialects. The ministry says that this name refers to the growing ‘tide’ or potential of Pacific young people who make up a growing part of the New Zealand workforce.
The runners up: Ontario’s Inclusive Diversity Office & the United States Department of Health and Human Services Ignite Accelerator
Our runners up are Ontario’s Inclusive Diversity Office & the United States Department of Health and Human Services Ignite Accelerator.
The Inclusive Diversity Office works with the wider Ontario Public Service (OPS) to ensure workplaces are inclusive environments. Their innovative work, policies and programs have contributed to racialized employees forming 23% of the workforce at the OPS, compared with 25% of Ontario’s total labour force. The office’s inclusion and diversity blueprint includes projects such as the Inclusion Lens which helps staff identify existing or potential barriers to inclusion. This includes lenses to assist hiring managers in the public service. The blueprint also includes new tools to address gaps in equity such as the Anti-Racism Impact Assessment Tool.
The Ignite Accelerator empowers teams at the United States Department of Health and Human Services to explore and test ideas that contribute to modernising government. It allows people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalised, to contribute to improving the way their program, office or agency works. Through its individualised coaching, problem-solving principles and community of innovators, it provides teams with the tools and guidance to experiment with new solutions in an entrepreneurial framework.
Workforce of the Future Award
An award for a department, school or programme that is leading action to equip public service employees with the critical skills they need for the future of work.
The winner: Singapore’s Public Service Division Innovation Lab
Our winner is Singapore’s Innovation Lab, housed inside the Public Service Division’s Public Sector Transformation Cluster. The Public Service Division — the central human resources agency under the Prime Minister’s Office — has an Innovation Lab that is charged with making innovation go viral in its public service. A Public Service Innovation Process creates a culture of entrepreneurship and ownership in government, an annual Transformation Awards create a culture of recognition and celebration, and an in-house team coaches agencies to deliver innovation projects.
The runners up: the United Kingdom’s GDS Academy & Argentina’s Public Policy Design Academy
Our runners up are the United Kingdom’s GDS Academy & Argentina’s Public Policy Design Academy (LabGobAR).
The GDS Academy, by the UK’s Government Digital Service, launched a training school for public servants five years ago to build digital capacity across the public sector. There are introductory sessions for non-specialists who want to learn the fundamentals of new tech and more advanced courses for public servants who work in digital. As of February 2019, the Academy has trained more than 10,000 employees at all levels of government and increasingly shares its expertise with governments in other countries.
The Design Academy of Public Policies of the Government Lab of Argentina (LabGobAr) is working in partnership with its government school (INAP) to offer training on data, design, evidence-based policymaking, artificial intelligence and other emerging fields. They nudge public servants to take these courses by offering credit points which are a prerequisite for promotions. Surprisingly, they realized that most students attend because they have a genuine interest in the topic and not because of the credit points. So far, they have reached around 15,000 employees from national, provincial and municipal governments. The Design Academy is achieving what many of its counterparts have tried to do: teach masses of civil servants how to bring innovation into their everyday work.
Congratulations to our winners, the runners up, and everyone who took part in this year’s awards.
(Picture credit: Aparatur Muda Indonesia)