Human Capital:

A Guide for Assessing Strategic Training and Development Efforts in the Federal Government (Supersedes GAO-03-893G)

GAO-04-546G: Published: Mar 1, 2004. Publicly Released: Mar 1, 2004.

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This publication supersedes GAO-03-893G, Human Capital: A Guide for Assessing Strategic Training and Development Efforts in the Federal Government (Exposure Draft), July 2003. As part of our ongoing review of agencies' efforts to address their human capital challenges, we saw the need for a framework to serve as a flexible and useful guide in assessing how agencies plan, design, implement, and evaluate effective training and development programs that contribute to improved organizational performance and enhanced employee skills and competencies. This guide was developed in response to that need. GAO has used and will continue to rely on the framework presented in this guide to analyze and report on training and development issues both within specific agencies and programs as well as across the federal government. The framework outlined in this guide summarizes attributes of effective training and development programs and presents related questions concerning the components of the training and development process. This guide is intended to help managers assess an agency's training and development efforts and make it easier to determine what, where, and how improvements may be implemented. Managers and analysts can use the guide to review an agency's overall training and development efforts as well as training and development associated with a particular agency program or activity. The guide focuses primarily on training and development rather than other important methods of learning within an organization, such as knowledge management. Consequently, users of this guide should keep in mind that this tool is a starting point and that it can and should be modified to fit the unique circumstances and conditions relevant to each agency. Training and development approaches, and how they operate in conjunction with other strategies to improve individual and organizational performance, are continually evolving and changing.

This guide consists of three sections. The first section provides an overview of the four components of the training and development process: (1) planning/front-end analysis, (2) design/development, (3) implementation, and (4) evaluation. The second section of this guide includes key questions to consider when assessing each of the four components of an agency's training and development process, along with elements to look for related to each key question. These key questions ask, for example, how the agency identifies the appropriate level of investment to provide for training and development efforts and prioritizes funding so that the most important training needs are addressed first (planning/front-end analysis). In looking at how agencies assess the extent to which their training and development efforts contributed to improved performance and results, the guide asks about the extent to which the agency systematically plans for and evaluates the effectiveness of its training and development efforts (evaluation). The third section of this guide summarizes our observations on the core characteristics that make a training and development process effective and strategically focused on achieving results. These characteristics include, for example, ensuring stakeholder involvement throughout the process and effectively allocating resources to maximize training investments.

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