Lawmakers seek better training for supervisors

Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., unveiled the measure. Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., unveiled the measure. Alexis C. Glenn/Newscom
Three Virginia lawmakers introduced the 2010 Federal Supervisor Training Act on Tuesday, which would require managers to receive initial training within one year of being promoted and once every three years after.

The bill (H.R. 5522), introduced by Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., would establish a program to educate supervisors on a range of common managerial issues, including developing and discussing goals with employees, communicating about progress and conducting performance appraisals. Supervisors also would receive training on prohibited personnel practices, and employee collective bargaining and union participation rights.

The bill would mandate the creation of mentoring programs within departments, encouraging new supervisors to learn from the experiences of more seasoned managers.

"Proper training is critical to improving delivery of government services, reducing costs associated with mitigating employee grievances, and enhancing morale throughout the entire civil service," Moran said. "Whether it be processing tax returns or providing immigration services, the men and women who comprise the federal workforce need the proper institutional support and management training to do their jobs effectively."

Moran noted that many agencies already have established programs that build strong managers and, in those cases, the law would simply codify best practices. But "in some cases, federal agencies need legislative direction to kick-start good management programs," he said. If the bill is passed, then the Office of Personnel Management would be responsible for monitoring compliance.

The Federal Managers Association applauded Moran, along with co-sponsors Reps. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., and Frank Wolf, R-Va., for the legislation, saying it represents a "critical investment" in the people who lead and direct federal programs.

"The development of managerial skills is one of the greatest investments an agency can make, both in terms of productivity gains and the retention of valuable employees," FMA National President Patricia Niehaus said. "An agency's ability to meet its mission directly correlates to the quality of workforce management."

Niehaus said if an agency promotes an employee to the managerial level based on technical prowess but then fails to develop his or her supervisory skills, the agency jeopardizes its ability to deliver an acceptable level of service.

The bill is similar to legislation (S. 674) Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, introduced in March 2009. Moran said the Senate bill is likely to be marked up next month.

Akaka said he was pleased Moran had introduced a companion measure. "With more federal workers nearing retirement, training current and future supervisors is a matter of national urgency," Akaka said.

"FMA is optimistic that bicameral support for this legislation will help its chances moving forward," Niehaus said.

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