September 2015
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The Public Manager

New ATD Resource Focuses on Training a Dispersed Team

Thursday, September 10, 2015

What does the government training landscape look like today? What are the key training challenges that agencies face given a distributed environment? In the August bonus issue of TD at Work, "Maintaining Cohesiveness in a Distributed Government Workforce," Sardek Love and Timothy D. Howell explain how to design successful training for a distributed government workforce.

Telework options for federal employees have greatly expanded since they were first adopted in 2010, and to a greater degree in 2014 when President Barack Obama issued a presidential memorandum calling for enhanced telework and other workplace flexibility. But how do federal leaders maintain cohesiveness in a virtual workforce, especially as government training budgets shrink and the workforce faces the loss of talent and knowledge of the older generation when they retire?

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Through case studies, Love and Howell offer advice on how to construct a successful training solution.

For example, one scenario presents an agency that needed to increase lagging employee satisfaction scores, train employees in multiple locations on a new system, and obtain buy-in from union representatives—all on a limited budget. To address these issues, the agency asked senior leaders to help develop and execute the strategic training plan to ensure buy-in and support from the whole organization and emphasize its priority status. Managers were required to attend and apply concepts from an employee engagement training program; the agency used best practices from other government areas that were applicable to its culture. Finally, post-training follow-up was conducted to identify and address any gaps in the transfer of training back on the job.

The good news: Employee satisfaction scores went up, and the agency received kudos as a "best place to work in government" for its strategy and tactics. Finally, the agency union representatives expressed their enjoyment at working with the agency's senior leaders.

Conversely, another example examines an unsuccessful training campaign in which the training designers used only face-to-face training and were penny-wise but pound-foolish—reducing training travel expenses beyond what was reasonable, and reusing office supplies to the point where it lowered morale.

Bottom line: Love and Howell provide guidance on how to identify specific training content that will meet the needs of today's government workforce, how to define the audience and the training that works for them, and how to follow up with learners to confirm that training is applied and retained.

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They also outline a checklist of potential training challenges that helps users determine whether the training challenge is urgent, widely shared, or expensive, to determine its priority ranking. The most critical challenges that need addressing are the ones that have multiple checks in the urgent, widely shared, and expensive columns.

Love is president and founder of Infinity Consulting and Training Solutions. Howell is the director of human resources for the District of Columbia Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services.

About the Author

The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is a professional membership organization supporting those who develop the knowledge and skills of employees in organizations around the world. The ATD Staff, along with a worldwide network of volunteers work to empower professionals to develop talent in the workplace.

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