Too Many Agencies Rely on Costly, Ineffective Training

Online programs can reduce duplication and costs and expand access.

A new report by the Government Accountability Office points out that many federal training programs are duplicative, costly and/or ineffective, and that governmentwide virtual training may be agencies’ best solution to centralizing training and saving money.

The report, released Monday, found that while many agency chief human capital officers are implementing some leading practices to determine the best mix of training for their employees, many are not making decisions that support more cost-effective training investments or prioritizing training so that the most important needs are met first. Many CHCOs also do not have information on component or sub-agency training programs, resulting in duplicative training investments, GAO found.

The Office of Personnel Management also has a role in ensuring agencies roll out training programs effectively, but much of this guidance and accountability is absent, the report states.

OPM has an opportunity, however, to help other agencies streamline training programs, in part thanks to a training model OPM has administered for the HR community, GAO found. HR University – a website currently administered by OPM – already has saved $14.5 million as a result of sharing the best HR training governmentwide.

“Several agencies and OPM officials reported that HR University could be expanded to provide mandatory training and serve as a model for centralizing training in other occupations or functional areas, which could save millions more and help standardize training,” GAO wrote.

GAO recommended that agencies compare the benefits of different delivery mechanisms, such as classroom vs. computer-based training, to determine the most cost-effective and efficient delivery. The Veterans Health Administration, for example, moved from conducting in-person or audio meetings to providing training online for one of its leadership training programs, resulting in cost savings, more consistent curriculum and greater employee access to training, GAO found.

Meanwhile, Wired Workplace last week highlighted a couple of successful virtual training programs run by the Homeland Security, Defense and State departments for cybersecurity workers. And stay tuned for a report on a top-notch virtual training program at the National Park Service, which recently won a top award from the Federal Government Distance Learning Association.