Federal Training Investments
Constrained budgets and the need to address gaps in critical federal skills and competencies make it essential that agencies identify the appropriate level of investment and establish priorities for employee training and development.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and agency Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCOs) play an important role in ensuring that federal training dollars are invested effectively. For example, as shown in Table 1, many CHCOs reported implementing such leading training investment practices as determining the best mix of decentralized and centralized training.
Table 1: CHCOs Reported Implementing Leading Training Investment Practices
Leading Training Investment Practices
Number of Agencies With the Response
Identify the most appropriate mix of centralized and decentralized approaches for its training and development programs
Consider governmentwide reforms and other targeted efforts when planning its training and development programs
Have criteria for determining whether to design training and development programs in-house or obtain these services from a contractor or other external source
Track the cost and delivery of its training and development programs agencywide
Evaluate the benefits achieved through training and development programs, including improvements in individual and agency performance
(a) Has a formal process for evaluating employee satisfaction with training
(b) Has a formal process for evaluating improvement in employee performance after training
Compare training investments, methods, or outcomes with those of other organizations to identify innovative approaches or lessons learned.
Source: GAO analysis of CHCO responses to a GAO questionnaire.
At the same time, agencies can do more to ensure cost-effective training investment decisions. For example, as shown in table 2, many of the 27 CHCOs we surveyed reported they are not implementing such leading practices as prioritizing training and evaluating its benefits. In addition, many CHCOs do not have information from component or sub-agency leaders regarding their level of investments and priorities. Consequently, some agencies are duplicating internal training investments and missing opportunities to leverage economies of scale across their agencies. Federal agencies also need reliable information on how much they spend on training and for what purposes.
Table 2: Leading Training Investment Practices that Many CHCOs Reported Not Implementing Routinely
Number of CHCOs With the Response
Identify the appropriate level of investment to provide for training and development efforts
Prioritize funding so that the most important training needs are addressed first
Compare the merits of different training delivery mechanisms and determine what mix to use to ensure efficient and cost-effective delivery
Have a formal process for evaluating the impact of training on the agencys performance goals and missiona
Source: GAO analysis of CHCO responses to a GAO questionnaire.
aOne agency that reported I dont know was included in the category No.
OPMs guidance and assistance to agencies on federal training investments are in line with a number of the leading practices, but improvements are needed in other areas some of which are problematic to agencies such as identifying the appropriate level of investment in training and development and prioritizing training activities. In addition, agencies and OPM reported that there are opportunities for OPM to help reduce duplicative investments government-wide by identifying existing training that can be provided centrally to all agencies.
To help address these issues, we recommend that OPM, among other actions, improve guidance and assistance to agencies in
- establishing a process for setting and prioritizing training investments
- improving the reliability of agency training investment information
- identifying the best existing courses that fulfill government wide training requirements, and offering them to all agencies through appropriate platforms.
In responding to our recommendations, OPM said it plans to work with the CHCO and Chief Learning Officer Councils to prioritize training, revitalize training assessment guidance, determine appropriate data elements to facilitate agency decision making, regularly provide training investment data to agencies and develop resources to assist agencies in building a ready workforce. OPM said it will also share with agencies information on the best government wide mandatory and critical occupations training.
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