Lessons in federal training - straight from your garden

Thursday - 6/26/2014, 3:48pm EDT

Listen to Francis' full interview with Mike Casey.

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By Stephanie Wasko
Special to Federal News Radio

Agencies should start providing employees with what they need to learn for their careers, not just marking off training checklists, according to Chief Learning Officer Mike Casey from the General Services Administration. He said the federal workforce needs to change its training mindset to be more performance and learning focused.

Casey said he pictures the ideal federal training system being more like a "self-weeding garden" where workers are provided with career paths, training opportunities, assessments and strategies that they can use when needed. And, he said, there needs to be a switch to a "life-long learning" mindset.

"Training is important and we still need to do it right," Casey said in an interview on Federal News Radio's In Depth with Francis Rose radio show. "But training is not an end. It is a means to an end. Learning is half-way home for us. Our job is to shift the dialogue from training, to what people are learning, to the most important thing — are they performing better in the workforce?"

Part of that cultural shift involves employees taking charge of their own learning and development, said Casey, and discarding the idea that training is solely the responsibility of human resources.

Chief learning officers and training officials still need to provide the right training for workers, but the methods of delivery need to change, Casey said.

"We know so much more about how people learn," he said, "and how to deliver that training so that they learn it and when they walk out of that room, they've got something they can take back to the workplace and use."

By changing the methods to give employees what they need when they need it, workers will use what they learn because they "actually learned it."

Casey admitted that it will be a long process to implement this cultural change. The first step, he said, involves reevaluating the expectations for training programs and asking the right questions aimed at performance.

"It is less of a question of what we're teaching them and more of a question of why are they there?" he said.

The ability to measure success must be built into training development, said Casey. Calculating return on investment for training programs does not necessarily indicate that employees are learning. Casey said evaluation must be done to see if employees are performing better every day, not on ROI of training programs or how employees "feel" about the programs.

"By understanding what our expectations are for the program we are in an infinitely better position to be able to measure whether or not we're getting there," Casey said.

Although training would progress toward a less-structured and informal process, Casey said the trend follows other aspects of life and is better suited to the younger generation.

Stephanie Wasko is an intern with Federal News Radio.

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