Agencies could make smarter training program investments, watchdog finds

Better guidance could help avoid duplication and ineffective program, GAO says.

The Office of Personnel Management could do a better job guiding agencies on investing in training programs to avoid ineffective and duplicative efforts, a new report finds.

The Government Accountability Office reviewed the processes that chief human capital officers use to establish and prioritize such investments, as well as OPM’s directions. The report found that CHCOs and OPM could improve their efforts in overseeing training decisions.

“Many CHCOs reported they are not implementing some practices that support making more cost-effective training investment decisions, such as prioritizing training so that the most important needs are met first and evaluating the benefits of training,” GAO wrote. The report also found that CHCOs often don’t have enough information from other agency leaders regarding investment levels and priorities, leading to duplicative investments.

The office guides agencies on how to submit training investment data “but considers this data to be unreliable because it is incomplete,” GAO wrote.

“OPM officials have not internally assessed improvements in the completeness of the data over the last three years, or the quality of the data in the six years that agencies have been required to submit it, and have only provided agencies with one summary of their data for correction,” the report stated.

Agencies and OPM told GAO that duplicative investments can be reduced. A website that OPM administers -- HR University -- has saved $14.5 million by sharing human resources instruction across the government. GAO recommended in its report that OPM expand HR University to include the best existing courses that fulfill governmentwide training requirements.

OPM fully or partially concurred with four recommendations. It did not concur with a portion of another, stating that HR University was created primarily to serve the needs of human resources professionals. “It is not the mission of HR University to be a centralized source of training and development across other functional or occupational areas,” OPM Associate Director of Employee Services Angela Bailey wrote in response to the GAO report.