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5 Ways to Transform Employee Upskilling in the Public Sector

Published Fri Sep 01 2023

5 Ways to Transform Employee Upskilling in the Public Sector

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With unemployment still at near-record lows, the fight for talent can be ruthless. And learning opportunities—or the lack thereof—have a key role to play in who wins the talent race. Consider this:

  • Data from Gallup shows that 48 percent of American workers would switch to a new job if offered skills training opportunities.

  • Almost 30 percent of respondents in Deloitte’s global millennial and Gen Z survey said that learning and development opportunities were the top reason they chose their job.

  • The number 1 factor that workers say defines an exceptional work environment are opportunities to learn and grow, according to LinkedIn data.

In this environment, developing and retaining current employees is increasingly important, while ensuring new hires can learn quickly enough to fill gaps. This often means enhancing talent development, which should include moving learning programs from a nice-to-have to the forefront of agencies’ people strategies.


The public sector’s need to transform its L&D has been evident since the digital revolution. What’s less obvious is how. At its core, learning is a human behavior (rather than a mechanical process) and should be approached as such. This means ensuring learning programs are outcome-based, self-directed, flexible, accessible, multimodal, personalized, agile, intuitive, and rooted in optimizing the learning experience according to needed skills.

To get the most out of learning, it should be designed around the learner. Here are five design principles that can help do just that and transform employee upskilling in the public sector.


Anchor learning against business objectives, capability needs, and performance objectives. Here’s how:

  • Connect learning to mission objectives.

  • Reskill and upskill in high-impact areas.

  • Incentivize learning by connecting it to career growth.


Create personalized learning journeys and solutions based on skill needs, using human-centered design and adaptive learning and pathing. Here’s how:

  • Create personalized learning journeys.

  • Focus on self-directed learning journeys (personalized, user-driven, and adaptive).

  • Identify foundational skills.

  • Understand different types of skills (and nurture enduring human capabilities).


Employ the right use of holistic modalities, enabling learning in the flow by emphasizing smaller, modularized, and point-of-need assets. Here’s how:

  • Use the right mix of modalities.

  • Incorporate macro- and micro-learnings.

  • Incorporate virtual reality training.

  • Utilize university learning via partnerships when applicable.

  • Incorporate experiential learning.


Proactively and rapidly identify future-focused learning needs and ideate and iterate solutions to quickly test, assess, refine, and implement. Here’s how:

  • Continuously and dynamically improve learning.

  • Anticipate skill needs by developing sensing capabilities.

  • Understand evolving learner needs.


Prioritize content curation before new content design, and streamline and automate content for a targeted and intuitive learning experience. Here’s how:

  • Curate, automate, and streamline learning.

  • Prioritize curation over new content design.

  • Tap into the learning ecosystem.

Utilizing these strategies may sound like a daunting task. But like any task, break it down into components and the participants involved and it can become manageable. Understand the individual components of the learning ecosystem, and the whole becomes simpler.

Designing learning for the future means designing for the learner. Humans are born to learn. They enjoy learning, and they enjoy it even more when they see how a lesson applies to their work. Take education apart. Make small pieces available in a variety of formats. Try virtual reality (VR), apprenticeships, self-directed reading, and hands-on experience. Let employees learn continuously as they grow, reinforcing lessons and refreshing their work in new contexts. Identify the skills you need, connect them to the outcomes you desire, and let artificial intelligence (AI) or the students customize their learning journey. Collect feedback. Provide feedback. And by utilizing the new technologies available for education, you can partner with employees for their education. They can bring a renewed understanding of the fundamentals of their work and perhaps stay around a little longer.

And hey, if they leave, and your organization instead develops a reputation for training some of the best talent the private sector can poach, that draws bright minds in for the next round of L&D.


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