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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.

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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

Sometimes

Yes

No

Identify the most appropriate mix of centralized and decentralized approaches for its training and development programs

27

0

Consider governmentwide reforms and other targeted efforts when planning its training and development programs

23

4

Have criteria for determining whether to design training and development programs in-house or obtain these services from a contractor or other external source

15

12

Track the cost and delivery of its training and development programs agencywide

16

11

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

25

1

1

(b) Has a formal process for evaluating improvement in employee performance after training

13

12

2

Compare training investments, methods, or outcomes with those of other organizations to identify innovative approaches or lessons learned.

24

3

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



Leading Training Investment Practices

Number of CHCOs With the Response

Yes

No

Sometimes

Identify the appropriate level of investment to provide for training and development efforts

11

16

Prioritize funding so that the most important training needs are addressed first

12

15

Compare the merits of different training delivery mechanisms and determine what mix to use to ensure efficient and cost-effective delivery

11

16

Have a formal process for evaluating the impact of training on the agency’s performance goals and missiona

8

8

11

Source: GAO analysis of CHCO responses to a GAO questionnaire.

aOne agency that reported “I don’t know” was included in the category “No”.

OPM’s 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.

Looking for our recommendations? Click on any report to find each associated recommendation and its current implementation status.

Federal Training Investments:

Office of Personnel Management and Agencies Can Do More to Ensure Cost-Effective Decisions
GAO-12-878:
Published: Sep 17, 2012. Publicly Released: Sep 17, 2012.

Federal Emergency Management Agency:

Workforce Planning and Training Could Be Enhanced by Incorporating Strategic Management Principles
GAO-12-487:
Published: Apr 26, 2012. Publicly Released: Apr 26, 2012.

Federal Aviation Administration:

Human Capital:

More Reports

Countering Overseas Threats:

Gaps in State Department Management of Security Training May Increase Risk to U.S. Personnel
GAO-14-360:
Published: Mar 10, 2014. Publicly Released: Mar 10, 2014.

Aviation Workforce:

Current and Future Availability of Airline Pilots
GAO-14-232:
Published: Feb 28, 2014. Publicly Released: Feb 28, 2014.

U.S. Merchant Marine:

Maritime Administration Should Assess Potential Mariner-Training Needs
GAO-14-212:
Published: Jan 31, 2014. Publicly Released: Jan 31, 2014.

Human Capital:

Agencies Should More Fully Evaluate the Costs and Benefits of Executive Training
GAO-14-132:
Published: Jan 31, 2014. Publicly Released: Mar 4, 2014.

Workforce Investment Act:

Strategies Needed to Improve Certain Training Outcome Data
GAO-14-137:
Published: Jan 31, 2014. Publicly Released: Mar 5, 2014.

Federal Workforce:

Recent Trends in Federal Civilian Employment and Compensation
GAO-14-215:
Published: Jan 29, 2014. Publicly Released: Jan 29, 2014.

Workforce Investment Act:

Military Personnel:

Actions Needed to Improve Evaluation and Oversight of Reserve Officers' Training Corps Programs
GAO-14-93:
Published: Nov 13, 2013. Publicly Released: Nov 13, 2013.

Health Care Workforce:

HRSA Action Needed to Publish Timely National Supply and Demand Projections
GAO-13-806:
Published: Sep 30, 2013. Publicly Released: Oct 30, 2013.

Border Security:

More...
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  • portrait of Yvonne Jones
    • Yvonne Jones
    • Director, Strategic Issues
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