Employee Development – Make it a Priority


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.

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Mark Hammer

When the Canadian equivalent of the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey began in 1999, one of the questions asked was “In your current job, how many supervisors have you had in the last three years?”. We also asked several other questions about perceived support for career development, and aspects of supervisor-subordinate relations. In general, the more supervisors reported, the poorer results were in those other survey areas.

There are probably many ways to interpret those findings, but the lens I put on it was this one. New managers hit the ground running. After all, they have their own management to display their worthiness to. It takes time for them to learn who among their staff they should invest in, how they should invest in them, and why. And as a fairly career0oriented bunch, they have a nasty tendency to move on to another promotion before any of that can be learned. If the employee is lucky, they will have a supervisor who sticks with them. But if they are saddled with a revolving door of new-guy/gal-in-charge, both encouragement of knowledge transfer and employee development tend to get moved to the back burner. Again, not through any malevolence on the part of the manager, but simply because some things take time, and if one doesn’t have/create that time, it simply doesn’t happen.

Some organizations are endowed with a context and business lines that hospitable to planful employee development. For instance, our equivalent to the Bureau of Labor Statistics has an enviable tradition of staff development. But their business lines permit an employee to spend some time in branch X (e.g., tourism or agricultural stats), and acquire useful methodological skills they can bring to branch Y (say, education or employment stats). Other organizations are not quite as fortunate, simply by virtue of the heterogeneity of their business lines.