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5 Ways to Improve Government Training in 2014 and Beyond

When it comes to improving government training programs, “it’s a journey, not a destination,” said Mike Casey, Chief Learning Officer of the General Services Administration (GSA). Based on a recent conversation with Casey, I picked up 5 tips I wanted to pass along to people involved in government training activities.

1. Don’t Forget the Future. While Casey and his team are working hard to meet current training requirements, “we’re really building for FY15 and beyond,” he said. “Most of the time, we’re looking further down the road, thinking about big programs that are enterprise-wide, such as coaching, mentoring, leadership development – and setting ourselves up for success in the future.” I’d even take Casey’s suggestion one step further and encourage agencies to project even a few more years into the future. Think about workforce learning in 2020 and start building the infrastructure for that future state now.

2. Tech Is Not the (Only) Answer. Often there is a temptation for organizations to purchase the latest technology and think that the tool itself will make learning more effective. Many agencies have purchased learning management systems only to find that the platform, even if it’s stocked with great content, does not fully engage and equip employees to perform their jobs more effectively. “VHS didn’t make movies any better and eight tracks didn’t make music better,” said Casey. “Technology doesn’t necessarily make training any better either.” Instead, he recommends that an agency starts by defining their desired learning needs and only then ask, “How can technology support the achievement of those outcomes?”

3. Sync Tech to Learning Outcomes. For instance, GSA uses video-teleconferencing to connect an instructor in one room from people in another room hundreds of miles away. “Just about everybody in government is doing that,” said Casey. At the same time, while VTC is often most effective in accomplishing “one to many” training, GSA also leverages its video-teleconferencing capability at headquarters and major field sites to bring together a smaller number of folks. “It can also make the connection more intimate, like being in the same room. That’s why we use it for executive coaching and mentoring as well,” explained Casey. In other words, it’s not about the technology so much as it’s meeting the ultimate outcome of a personnel development activity.

4. Flip the Classroom. Another promising practice that Casey mentioned is the ability to “flip the classroom.” Technology is enabling learning scenarios in which “you don’t spend class time delivering the content,” said Casey. “Rather, you require participants to watch review videos on their own and spend time together in the classroom running simulations that reinforce what people have already learned. In a perfect world, you won’t even need to bring them back into a classroom,” Casey said. “Every day serves as the person’s simulation and every employee that is participating in the training understands how they are supposed to use the training to do their jobs better.” Casey also recommended using the in-person time to engage in robust discussion that connects more directly back to a participant’s specific job function.

5. Learn From Other Agencies. Ultimately, Casey envisions a future where agencies “share a common learning management system across the federal government.” At the present time, each agency has their own library of content and courses, but they don’t really talk to each other or share data effectively. One example Casey cited is the mandatory training for supervisors and managers. Rather than each agency building their own, what if there was a place where agencies could post their course content such that it is visible to others? “There’s a huge opportunity for economies of scale where we can eliminate duplication of effort with an 80% solution that works for everyone. While the idea is a challenge because the scope is so big, it also presents huge promise.” In fact, there are already a couple efforts around sharing government training content, including HR University as a virtual hub for human resources training as well as OPM’s Training and Development Policy Wiki where agency training professionals can share course content.

From my vantage point, these five insights from Casey nicely frame the trends in government training for 2014 and beyond. At GovLoop, we’re looking forward to contributing to the government training space even more in the coming year as well.

How is your agency planning to improve government training in 2014?


If you are looking for guidance and support in standing up virtual events and training at your agency, GovLoop is here to help.

This year’s going to mark big changes in government learning and we’re excited to be part of it!

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David B. Grinberg

Awesome post, Andy! Those five points make a ton of sense. Also, kudos to you and GovLoop for all of the outstanding resources you provide to members.

As the saying goes, knowledge is power!

Thus more power to you, GovLoop and its 100,000+ members in 2014.

Andrew Krzmarzick

Thanks, David. What do you see happening in your agency (or in conversations with peers) when it comes to virtual events and training?

David B. Grinberg

Andy, in general, I think the virtual event train is slowly leaving the station at some agencies, especially larger ones. However, this train definitely needs to pick up steam and move faster in 2014 to keep pace with new and evolving technology in today’s digital/mobile world.

Barbara Sanborn

Something to consider is “blended learning”. This uses several modalities including webex, face to face, self study, and assignment completion. Courses are usually running anywhere from 10-12 weeks for us and provides our learners with the opportunity to apply the knowledge.

Andrew Krzmarzick

Thanks, Barbara. I’m a big fan of blended learning as you get the best of both worlds. I’d love to highlight your agency’s activities, if you think it’s a bright spot in government. Drop me a note at [email protected].