A report from the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board last month cites definite improvements that could be made in regard to training the federal workforce. The three top recommendations:
1) Educate managers at all levels.
2) Identify and make appropriate investments in employee training and career development.
3) Monitor trends, patterns, and factors in employee retention and employee engagement.
The report issued to President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress is titled “Managing Public Employees in the Public Interest.” It begins by stating the obvious: “Employees should be provided effective education and training in cases in which such education and training would result in better organizational and individual performance.”
A survey of federal workers from which the report grew found that a majority of respondents (50% to 69%) agreed that their organizations provide necessary training and resources. But a significant percentage of non-supervisors (11% to 40%) disagreed.
“The provision of necessary training and resources should not be a matter of debate or uncertainty,” the report states. “Yet survey results and previous research suggest that it is for many federal employees. Additionally, there is a difference between training that is necessary to get the mission done and training that is necessary to get the mission done effectively and efficiently.”
Another question about providing opportunities for growth and development was contested. Only half of non-supervisors said that their agencies are adequate. “Given the distinctive characteristics of Federal work and the Federal workforce, that is problematic,” the report states. “In-service training and development of current employees are essential for the federal workforce to possess the collective knowledge and proficiency needed to accomplish its various missions. Restated, unless the federal government makes prudent long-term investments in its employees, its human capital will depreciate.”
As the private sector has already determined, training must be treated as an organizational investment, “an expenditure of resources that will benefit the public through improved productivity or performance – rather than an employee benefit. Accordingly, agencies may not fund training for the sole purpose of obtaining a degree or certificate, nor may they pay for individual memberships in professional or trade organizations, except in limited circumstances.”
The focus must be on competencies that will serve the public rather than credentials that serve the individuals, the report further notes.
Finally, “Agency support of training and development is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Agencies can support employee training and development without covering the full cost (tuition and time) of every activity.
[And] agencies do not have to wait for the need for training and development to become pressing — or for a suitable training course or developmental activity to present itself — to demonstrate their commitment to employees’ continuing education and growth.
To those ends, the reports that agencies establish individual learning accounts (ILAs), in which employees are allotted resources to pursue job-related training and development. Based on successful pilot experiments, the Office of Personnel Management has encouraged broader use of ILAs.