5 Strategies to Increase Training Resources for Your State Agency

State agencies are called on to do more with less, and that requires skilled employees. In other words: engaged, creative public servants who can find better ways to do things; communicate well; and work in a safe, ethical, and customer service-oriented manner.

These necessary skills are not acquired by accident – they require a commitment to training by agency leaders.

Yet, across the public sector, training budgets have been slashed and in some cases fully eliminated. While training investment has recovered in the private sector, in the public sector it remains depressed.

By taking some simple steps, you can uncover hidden resources and make sure your staff has the training and development support they need to meet the challenges of the job.


Coordinate Training and Think Beyond the Immediate Training Need

employee trainingState agencies often approach training needs on an ad hoc basis. The revenue department may arrange customer service training, unaware that the secretary of state’s office is looking for similar training. If departments or agencies work together, they can get higher value and more cost-effective training than they can separately. Not coordinating efforts across departments leaves money on the table.

Secondly, it’s worthwhile to look past the current training need and consider future needs. If employees will need two or more training sessions over the course of the year, then it pays to look into a package or a subscription solution. Subscription solutions in particular are becoming more common and can cost as little as one or two individual training enrollments. They also can provide a wide range of content if unexpected needs arise.


Don’t Make it Easy to Say No

Take a look at your government budget. Oftentimes training is included on the same line as travel, one of the most scrutinized and quick-to-eliminate line items in a budget. This paints a bull’s-eye on the training budget. Budgeting decision makers will have difficulty seeing past the word “travel,” and very likely the training budget will suffer.

Instead of lumping training with travel, dues, publication, and other uncategorized expenses, group it as a separate line item under personnel expenses. It also makes sense to show it as a percent of payroll. A good rule of thumb is 3%-4% of total payroll costs. Local government expert Jerry Newfarmer has noted success with his government clients in preserving training investment, and it can work for you, too.


Use Metrics and Scorecards to Show Training’s Impact on the Agency

Return on InvestmentIf you can show budgeting authorities the value training creates, they are more likely to support it. There are a number of ways to do this, including using scorecards to track direct ROI, tracking inputs and outputs, and quantifying and categorizing the training taking place. Yet formal training scorecards in the public sector are still rare, particularly for smaller cities.

A bit of digging can uncover valuable examples of reports that public sector agencies are using to show the impact of training on a variety of variables, including sick days, employee engagement scores, and customer service.


Get Resourceful in the Search for More Training Dollars

Did you know that the DOL, HHS, and HUD grant hundreds of millions of training dollars each year? Depending on the size and location of your city and specific training need, you might qualify for some of this funding, so it pays to be aware of what support there might be for your agency.

If employees are union members, it’s worthwhile discussing pooling resources with the union for joint training. For example, the AFSCME invests heavily in workplace safety training. As workplace safety is in the common interest of both the agency and the union, it may be productive to discuss a joint training program with your local chapter.


Don’t Overlook the Learning Resources You Already Have

Learn from each otherIn a recent survey, 55.6% of our training participants told us a fellow coworker is the first place they go for support and guidance to do their jobs better. This is a reminder that the most valuable employee training and development resources are available to you right now. The challenge is how to harness and distribute the knowledge and skills employees already possess.

Some state agencies already use knowledge-sharing systems that let employees post their own content, including success stories, best practices, and links to external information sources. This type of system can be a great tool to help your agency’s employees more efficiently learn from each other as well as teach each other.

Mentoring and coaching programs help employees learn and grow with very little cost. A mentoring program can also help transfer essential knowledge from retiring baby boomers to the next generation of public servants.

Another low-cost option is a job swap or talent exchange program targeted at emerging leaders. Exposing younger public servants to various departments and leaders within the agency can give them a big-picture view of the agency, their role in it, and how they can expand that role in the future. These talent exchange programs can also uncover ideas for improving business practices and sharing best practices between departments.

No one can deny that the current public sector climate creates big hurdles when it comes to employee training and development. But by following the simple strategies outlined above, you can do your part to make sure your agency has the training resources it needs.

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