The Joint Learning Program – A 2020 Success Story

The Joint Learning Program’s mandate is to improve labour-management relations and to foster a deeper understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the union and the employer in the workplace. Since 2001, the JLP has fulfilled that mandate by and large by offering workshops to employees of the Core Public Administration. Workshops are one to two days in length. They are co-facilitated by two public service employees, one representing each party.

A total shutdown?

When your success is built on face-to-face workshops with 20 participants and two co-facilitators, what do you do when the in-person approach becomes impossible?

With a general goal of 600 workshops for Fiscal 2020-2021, and all face-to-face activities eliminated, how would the JLP fulfil its mandate?

Corona virus magnified

Rethinking, reworking, rebuilding

In early May, a bold proposal was submitted to the Steering Committee. A three-part discussion series hosted remotely to address COVID concerns and the reality of teams whose work and home lives had shifted abruptly.

The JLP redirected all its attentions to developing and making the first guided discussion a reality. The JLP also built the infrastructure to launch this new kind of product: new web sections were built and tested, a communications strategy was born, and facilitator training was developed and scheduled.

A leap of faith

The JLP was navigating new waters with little to go on but reputation and the dedication of its facilitators and staff. Not even certain there was a need for these among public-service employees, the JLP moved quickly despite the shifting sands under their feet.

On May 13, registration opened for the first in the discussion series, fittingly named Empowering Conversations. The JLP team watched in amazement as the requests for the new product started to trickle in. That trickle soon turned to a flood.

Positive feedback bubbleBy the beginning of January 2021, over 500 guided discussions had been held with public-service employees across Canada. On the strength of the first two guided discussions alone, the JLP will meet its objective for 2020-2021. This in a year when the Program’s entire approach fell apart just as the fiscal year turned.

There’s good feedback, and then there’s great feedback

The response to the guided discussions made it clear that there was and remains a need for this kind of forum. Employees are grateful for the chance to talk about their new experiences and work lives, and to connect with their team in new and meaningful ways.

And this has all been done in a year when the Program faced the possibility of a complete halt of its activities. In a year where in-person contact has been greatly reduced, developing new materials and using new approaches has allowed the JLP to continue to support public-service employees through a difficult era.

Taking aim at 2021

As the pandemic has stretched out over months, it has become apparent that this new way of doing business will be needed for months to come.

Open, honest communication within teams and between labour and management remains essential to a healthy working environment. Employees and their managers still need to connect and discuss subjects beyond the pandemic’s effects.Participant feedback bubble

In response to current events and the needs expressed by stakeholders and participants, the JLP is once again shifting its focus. Empowering Conversations is expanding its repertoire. The JLP is now developing guided discussions that encompass broader topics. The expanded discussion series will not only touch on the pandemic era: it will also explore workplace-specific topics more typically offered in the Program’s original, face-to-face workshop series.

Participant feedback speech bubble

Set to roll out over 2021, these new guided discussions will allow employees and their managers to discuss topics such as anti-racism, preventing violence and harassment, mental health and labour-management relations.

2020 hindsight

During what has been a very challenging year for so many, the JLP has remained agile and true to its mandate in new and innovative ways. Faced with unexpected circumstances, the team has worked hard to develop and deliver relevant and needed content to public-service employees facing their own difficulties. We’ve listened to participants and stakeholders and offered a highly successful new series using new approaches while continuing to improve labour-management relations and bettering the workplace for all public-service employees.

Watch this space for new developments and new Empowering Conversations!