Each year the federal government conducts the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) to measure Employee Engagement (E2). An engaged workforce has higher productivity and reduced turnover. One component of E2 is investing in professional development. This is accomplished by supporting and sustaining a learning environment that drives continuous improvement in performance of supervisors and employees.
In the 2017 FEVS survey the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), had an E2 Index of 72 percent[i], compared to 68 percent for the rest of the Department of Defense. One of the reasons USACE was higher is its emphasis on training and professional development.
In a fiscally constrained environment, one of the first things managers cut is the training budget. This is counterproductive because it limits productivity and reduces E2. It is a major contributing factor to employees leaving the organization, which means managers, in turn, have to go through the hiring and training process. The Sasha Corporation estimated the average cost to hire and train a new employee is over $9,000.[ii] An effective training program can improve performance, productivity, and retention. Let’s look at a training program example.
Department of the Army Civilian (DAC) employee development is a priority. It is achieved through a combination of training and education supported by Supervisors, Training Coordinators, and peers. To accomplish this in a deliberate and methodical method, the Army uses the Civilian Professional Development Model (PDM). The PDM provides a road map or professional reference for a successful DAC career. The Career Programs Proponent Offices create a PDM for each Career Program which suggest training and successive jobs to hold in order to advance.
Using the PDM, the employee and supervisor create an annual Individual Development Plans (IDP). This IDP benefits the employee and the organization, helping to align employee training and development with the organization’s mission, goals, and objectives. At the same time, the organization can budget for anticipated training during the fiscal year. An IDP lets the employee take personal responsibility for his or her career development to improve performance and ultimately advance in their Career Program.
In USACE, IDPs are a partnership between the employee and their supervisor. The IDPs included mandatory and developmental training. Ideally at the start of each annual rating period employees and supervisors set expectations for specific learning objectives and competencies.
The Total Employee Development (TED) Training Automated Information System (AIS) is one way to plan and track your employee’s IDP. Training coordinators load the mandatory training into every employee’s IDP with links taking them directly to the training. Employees request training, and leaders use TED to approve the training through the automated system. This allows managers to track their employees’ training progress in real time.
TED can keep track of all training certificates without Training Coordinators maintaining a file copy for every employee. Training classes are built into the TED system and track when individual employees complete it. TED is useful in projecting training costs in out years to develop a training budget.
Spending $9,000 every time you replace an employee can add up quickly. Professional development and training is a tool for executives and supervisors to increase employee engagement. Higher E2 has proved to improve productivity and help retain good employees. The Civilian Professional Development Model serves as a means of identifying the type of additional training your employees need to enhance their job skills. This discussion should be part of a formal performance management plans, as well as part of ongoing communication with the employee. Supervisors and managers should encourage their employees to take advantage of training and professional development opportunities by making them aware of upcoming professional events. This shows employees that their personal and professional development is a priority. A deliberate, meaningful training plan will quickly pay for itself by reducing turnover and improving productivity.
[i] FEVS Employee Engagement Index (2017 Cross-Command Results),
[ii] Schnotz, Wilhelm, The Average Cost to Train a New Employee, http://smallbusiness.chron.com/average-cost-train-new-employee-44072.html
Stewart Fearon is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.