Legislation would require more training for federal managers

Bill also would establish new performance management criteria for supervisors.

Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, has introduced legislation that would provide more training and new performance standards for federal managers.

"The performance of our federal employees and managers is essential to the success of our government," said Akaka, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Federal Workforce Subcommittee. "We will do well to invest in them through training and professional development."

The 2009 Federal Supervisor Training Act would require all agencies to provide new managers with training on developing performance expectations with their employees and evaluating them within their first year on the job. Current managers would have three years to take the training for the first time. After the initial guidance, all managers would have to receive refresher training every three years.

Akaka's legislation also would require that managers receive training on whistleblower, collective bargaining and anti-discrimination laws; have mentors; and learn how to mentor their own employees.

And the bill would set new performance expectations for managers. Depending on the results of their own annual evaluations, managers would receive training in areas identified for improvement.

"Federal employees perform at their best when they are led by well-trained, highly competent supervisors and managers," said Max Stier, president of the Partnership for Public Service. "Sen. Akaka's Federal Supervisor Training Act will ensure that federal supervisors develop and maintain the skills necessary to engage employees in achieving better organizational performance."

Akaka introduced similar legislation in 2007. Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., who chairs the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, issued a report supporting the legislation in November 2008. It was placed on the legislative calendar at that time, but the Senate did not act on the bill before the end of the 110th Congress.

"The price to federal agencies of poor supervision can be enormous," Lieberman wrote in his 2008 report. "Weak supervisors not only cause job performance to suffer, but also harm morale and drive good employees away, adding to recruitment and training costs. And supervisory behavior affects the number of complaints and grievances, which can impose large costs and burdens on agencies to resolve."

Paul Rowson, managing director of WorldatWork, a global human resources association, said Akaka's bill could help federal agencies catch up to the private sector in management training.

"The private sector has acknowledged this for years and many organizations have elevated first-line leader training as a core part of ongoing leadership development efforts," he said.