Five Guidelines for Effective Government Training

Conceptually, everyone understands that training is vital for both brand new government employees as well as for those who’ve been in their jobs for some time; however, it becomes even more important as huge percentages of each agency’s workforce begin to retire over the next few years. So how do you ensure that your training will accomplish your agency’s goals?

We’ve developed five guidelines that training professionals should employ when designing education, training, and development programs and initiatives for government workers. 

Guideline #1: Take a life cycle approach to training

According to research conducted by CEB revealing that effective onboarding programs can improve employee performance by up to 11.3 percent, yet many employees report that the initial process is often dismal -- an experience that can negatively impact morale and long-term retention. Robust education and training from the start brings new hires quickly up to speed with the organization’s culture, values, and work expectations.

But it’s also important to keep employees trained throughout their careers. Training and continuous learning can give them a sense of control and competence in doing their jobs, and thus impact their degree of engagement and empowerment on the job.  And helping employees feel more empowered on the job is at least as important as giving them specific, content-based knowledge with which to do their jobs

Guideline #2:  Conduct regular assessments to determine the real training needs and knowledge gaps of your workforce

The changing composition of your workforce affects the knowledge base and skill sets you have available to address new requirements and future objectives. Regular assessments are essential to understanding your workforce’s education and training needs. Along with specific training curriculum requirements, an effective assessment can identify learning style preferences as well as the tools and delivery methods best suited to the achievement of your goals.

Effective training will use a variety of learning technologies and formats with students. These include traditional classroom sessions, online courses, and Smartphone applications – all part of a dynamic, integrated curriculum.  Effective training works with students’ own learning styles.

Guideline #3: Develop a strong succession plan by developing future leaders now.

Enhancing the skills of middle managers has been identified, time and time again, as a critical need in government today and as a potentially powerful way to drive workforce and workplace transformation. The reasons many middle managers in government lack critical soft skills are largely systemic: Many have been promoted into management jobs because of their previously demonstrated technical abilities, not because of their ability to successfully manage people. Education and training interventions designed to enhance management skills can do a lot to address this problem.

Guideline #4: Recognize the different learning styles and preferences of your employees and apply the appropriate type of training.

Today’s government workforce is made up of at least three discrete populations of workers, including Baby Boomers (born between 1940 and 1960); Gen Xers (born between 1960 and 1980); and Generation Yers, or Millennials (born between 1980 and 2000). Each generation has specific learning style preferences, and distinct attitudes toward work and authority.

Boomers are probably the most acclimated to instructor-led, classroom-based training, having generally completed their formal education before the widespread use of online education.

Gen Xers, by comparison, are technology-conversant multitaskers. Designing programs for them requires mixing technology with more traditional training approaches.

Gen Yers (Millennials) are even more tech-savvy than Xers and very “social” as well. Designing training programs for this group means incorporating social media and other technologies into training programs, making learning fun and fast-moving, and keeping in mind that Yers have generally shorter attention spans than either their Boomer or Gen X counterparts.

Guideline #5:  Create a strong learning culture to maximize employee satisfaction and retention.  

Continuing education, skills training, and other employee development opportunities can serve as powerful recruitment and retention tools -- if organizations know how to use them. Agencies should promote training opportunities to prospective college hires as part of their annual recruiting efforts on the nation’s college campuses. Doing so can help them become “employers of choice” to more young college graduates, especially those with an inclination to national or public service. 

Continuing education and professional development can also be used to reward high performers and to give highly valued employees opportunities for continuing professional growth and career advancement.

Following these guidelines can transform your agency’s training and development programs into a catalyst for increased employee performance and satisfaction.

Dr. Jerry Ice, CEO , ... ]

Jerry Ice, Ed.D., is CEO and President of Graduate School USA, formerly the Graduate School, USDA. Based in Washington, DC, with eight field training sites around the U.S., Graduate School USA is a full-service, nonprofit, continuing education training and academic institution. It provides classes, certificate programs, degree programs, and other offerings in subjects ranging from governmental accounting and auditing, human capital management, and acquisition to foreign languages, economics, and leadership development. For more information, visit


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