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Public sector organizations are connecting training to their missions.
To be effective, government agencies must meet the needs of the public now while also anticipating how to adapt for the future. That requires comprehensive onboarding and training of new talent, consistent professional development, and a constant assessment of the workforce's skills and competencies. United Arab Emirates' Ministry of Interior (MOI); the City of El Paso, Texas; and New York City's Department of Social Services each have succeeded in finding the balance.
Overcoming challengesIn New York City, local, state, and federal rules and regulations for serving the city's 8 million people are constantly changing, meaning the Office of Training and Workforce Development under the leadership of Deputy Commissioner Terrance B. Stroud in the city Department of Social Services must constantly train its employees to deliver for its clients.
The agency is managing a transition from paper to automated systems in tandem with juggling in-person, virtual, and hybrid training. Each new employee gets five full weeks of in-person training, which requires elaborate planning and implementation. That instruction also is available as a refresher to veteran social services staff. In the 2021 fiscal year alone, the agency trained almost 400 new employees.
"Despite the challenges, we're able to develop and deliver elaborate formal internal training programs and staff development to 22,000 agency staff and providers," says Assistant Deputy Commissioner June Coxson. "It is because of the continued commitment to staff performance, improvement, and increased productivity that the agency efficiently and effectively achieves its goals."
Stroud adds: "Everyone has different levels of comfort with technology. I admire the patience, skill, and determination of staff to walk through training."
More than 2,000 miles away, a humanitarian migrant crisis, COVID-19, and a violent mass shooting in 2019 have challenged the City of El Paso's staff like never before at a time when employee recruitment is difficult. The workforce of close to 7,000 is serving a city population of more than 700,000 residents across 255 square miles. The organization is growing talent, building skills, and developing leaders at an unprecedented pace.
Chief Learning Officer Rosemary Crawford says the city has increased and diversified leadership learning opportunities as well as the number and types of courses offered. The city actively plans for employee succession, ensuring that the top 500 leaders participate in targeted training, share best practices, and lead or participate in a cross-functional teams program to gain visibility across operations, simultaneously gaining collaborative knowledge and core leadership competencies.
The training hones participants' leadership skills, increases their visibility in the organization, and provides the knowledge and confidence necessary to lead larger initiatives. The cross-functional teams also provide training in project management, team building, and communication skills.
An inaugural leadership challenge at the City of El Paso Zoo in 2022 provided a full day of interactive fun and challenging learning experiences co-designed and delivered by existing and emerging leaders. "Due to the high level of success and engagement, this has now become an annual offering and a promising practice that we offer other organizations," Crawford says.
A promising initiative for New York City's Department of Social Services is its development and implementation of the Four Pillars of the New Foundation of Agency Training (curriculum development, technology solutions, equity, and evaluation practice). The initiative achieved national recognition and received the prestigious Quality Agency Award from the American Public Human Service Association for exceptional leadership and educational contributions to the field of health and human services.
Supporting external educationOmar Al-Ali, general director of competencies development for the United Arab Emirates' MOI, says the agency's mission is to ensure the safety and security of the residents and visitors in the nation. Consequently, the MOI must ensure its workforce of more than 10,000 employees can meet the highest standards of competence across its entire workforce.
To ensure employee proficiency, the MOI evaluates all employees via its Competency Assessment Center, which monitors the changing security landscape and works with international partners to ensure competencies align with current and emerging practices of leading organizations from around the world. After the MOI identifies needs, it provides staff with vocational and academic training, development, as well as education through 16 dedicated institutions, including police colleges, security institutes, and civil defense academies. The agency also partners with world-class organizations to provide specialized security and leadership development.
The MOI offers scholarships for selected employees to access undergraduate and postgraduate programs with colleges and universities around the world. That focus on rigorous development and assessment has yielded a 35 percent increase in individual competencies during the past five years.
The City of El Paso ensures that an expanded tuition assistance program supports personal and departmental needs. City leaders address barriers to pursuing further education on an individual basis with the use of Personal Strategic Plan workshops. Conducted in both English and Spanish, the workshops help employees identify how the city can support them, from advances to pay for books, certifications, continuing education, LinkedIn Learning courses, and higher education.
New York City's Department of Social Services training division prepares employees for future work with targeted coaching and educational opportunities. Further, it uses assessments and surveys to determine the current status of staff skills as well as to target future skills development. This upskilling and reskilling of staff in their current job tasks prepares them for promotions through courses in leadership.
The City of El Paso, New York City, and United Arab Emirates' MOI are setting an example for government agencies responsible for maximizing the efficiency and effectiveness of the workforce, both now and in the future.