Learning to Invest in an Agency’s Most Valuable Asset: People

June 16, 2015 Sarah Thompson

As of the first quarter of 2015, millennials now rule the roost (aka the workplace). For the first time, millennials are now the largest segment of the workforce and make up more than one-third of the U.S. workforce, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. At the same time, projections show that by 2020, nearly 25 percent of the workforce will consist of those over 55 – and many of those, especially in the U.S. federal government workforce, will be eligible for retirement, a phenomenon known as the “silver tsunami.”

While many analysts and workplace experts have differing views on baby boomer vs. millennial preferences, skills and outlooks, the one thing we know for certain is that this shift affects everyone in every industry, including government agencies.

The key to overall success within an agency is ensuring that employees have the necessary tools to develop and grow over time. The question becomes how do we encourage, motivate and prepare our employees, no matter their age, for success? Now more than ever, it’s important to invest in human capital and training programs to level the playing field for all generations and improve overall performance.

Not sure how to build the right program to appeal to your digitally savvy employees, as well as those who are less savvy? Here are some things to keep in mind that will ensure employees get the most out of ongoing education:

  • Technology is your friend, not your enemy: Every day we are bombarded with new technology to improve our personal lives, but it can also improve our work lives. Technology, coupled with today’s fast-paced work style, is transforming how learning content is delivered. We’re currently seeing a shift away from structured learning systems to more web-based, eLearning platforms that integrate with the learner’s daily workflow and focus on user experience and outcome. While this approach is very different than traditional training program delivery, don’t be afraid to try different platforms and push new boundaries. If you don’t, you run the risk of becoming archaic and losing valuable workers.
  • Flexibility is critical: Everyone learns at a different pace and prefers certain delivery channels. Some may thrive through social training with peer learning, while others would rather receive short nuggets of content with hyperlinks to dive deeper when needed. If you’re invested in employee performance and success, it’s important to understand how your workforce wants to learn so you can develop a flexible program that offers options to meet everyone’s needs.
  • Calling all true detectives: Human capital management and training doesn’t have to be all serious, it can be fun too. Use experiential, problem-centric approaches to make learning interesting and appealing; this way, employees will feel invested rather than burdened. This strategy gives learners a realistic challenge to solve and puts their problem solving, critical thinking, and detective skills to a test. Gamification is the new buzz word. If you have a competitive group, try assigning a point system to this strategy to motivate employees to work harder and learn more. Even better, use a formal gamification framework, with points, badges, levels, and achievements to motivate employees to solve problems and learn by doing so.
  • Thoughtful design: Ongoing training and education is only valuable if the exercises align directly to agency objectives. Building programs that move the needle on agency objectives and enable learners to meet those objectives will bring value to both the agency and employees. Applying analytics can help track and measure success by showing how learning has improved processes and impacted the goals of the agency.

Through training and education, both millennials and baby boomers can grow their skill set, teach each other best practices, and work together towards a common goal. Human capital is invaluable and, ongoing growth and development is important to everyone no matter their age. Keep in mind that your employees may not get it “perfect” the first few times they try, but failure is also a great way to learn!

What do you want out of your training program and what tips can you offer government agency managers as they develop learning services?

For more information on Xerox Learning Services, check out: http://www.services.xerox.com/learning-services/enus.html

About the Author

Principal Consultant, Xerox Learning Services

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