Lower taxes and better services need innovative ideas and the people to create them

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Everyone says they’re in favour of cutting taxes – until you ask them what services they’d like to give up.

The current climate in the public sector, in many parts of North America, has tilted towards austerity as governments chase tax cuts to appease public sentiment. This may deliver some benefits at the polls, but long term, it undermines effective public-sector administration and creates a backlash as services are cut. Studies have shown public acceptance of taxation depends on the perceived value they get for their money – the popularity of Medicare is a prime example.

The role of government is to provide services to taxpayers as efficiently as possible to keep rates low and value high. Achieving this balance increasingly demands innovation in service delivery and communicating the value of those services. To get there, you need public sector staff who are engaged and motivated to find new ways of doing more with less, as you do with any private business – and yet investment in training is often one of the first things to go in the quest for savings.

Studies also show that employees are motivated by more than just salaries. One of the top reasons people leave an organization is lack of opportunities for learning and growth. They want meaningful work that gives them a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Cutting taxes without improving services not only hurts taxpayers over time, but also makes it difficult to engage and retain experienced employees. Not equipping them with the skills to find efficiencies that add value makes it harder to keep dedicated staff with the knowledge it takes to get there.

But if a government takes the position that the primary outcome of its policy should be creating services that taxpayers value, then much is possible. Investment in training and development helps staff identify changing public requirements and meet them with new solutions, such as public-private partnerships, working with other agencies that serve the same stakeholder groups and creative implementation of technology.

The Masters Certificate in Public Sector Leadership is designed and taught by facilitators who work in the public sector and understand the unique challenge of delivering value in a time of tax cuts. Here are a few of the topics covered in this 15-day program that emphasize strategic thinking and leadership skills that drive innovation:

Leading Innovation

This session focuses on the ability to innovate, to address constant change and solve increasingly complex problems, which has become a critical competency for public-sector leaders. Participants obtain practical advice and new tools to manage the innovation process from idea generation, to idea selection, to idea implementation and diffusion. Learning the techniques of innovation planning and leading successful change management allows staff to embed these values into any team or organization.

Program Evaluation to Improve Performance

Evaluating new and existing programs objectively to assess their effectiveness and efficiency allows staff to discover ways to improve results and value for money. This is a must-have skill in times when demands for services are high, but resources are low. Participants learn how to analyze performance information to assess relevance, effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability.

The Leader’s Challenge

Meaningful impactful change is not easy to achieve. The changing and complex public-sector environment requires a paradigm shift in thinking about leadership. This module explores the dynamics of individual and organizational leadership – how to lead with clarity and authenticity, and with courage and passion, from where you are in your organization. Participants learn how to foster the greatest levels of performance in themselves and their teams by clarifying your vision, values and your leadership “brand”.

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The Schulich Executive Education Centre’s Masters Certificate in Public Sector Leadership (starting Feb. 3, 2020) is delivered in three five-day modules over several months. Flexible enrolment options are available to suit your demanding schedule, including sessions in both Toronto and Ottawa. For more information, visit the program web page.

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