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Note: This article originally appeared in the May 19, 2008 issue of Federal Times.
Gone are the days when employee training meant flying to the Atlanta office for the day and spending three hours in the board room. Today’s employees want interactive, on-demand training options, from the comfort of their desks — whether those desks are in the office or at home. Corporations are revamping training programs and focusing on the demands of younger employees. The question is, will the federal government follow suit?
In today’s federal environment, training often takes the form of traditional in-person classroom interactions — 89 percent of respondents in a recent survey conducted by Tandberg said their agencies use this format. However, to ensure active engagement from all individuals in the learning process, it is essential to implement additional training methods. New technology-enabled tools offer agencies opportunities to improve effectiveness and efficiencies of training, minimizing costs associated with bringing people to one classroom, while providing a variety of options to employees. Online and video-based distance learning provides viable alternatives to in-person training sessions. Further, video-based solutions consider the attitudes and aptitudes of the next generation of federal employees who grew up with the Internet, immediate access to information and visual interactive tools.
As baby boomers reach retirement age, the government must consider ways to retain tacit knowledge and bolster training options, ensuring that critical knowledge transfers effectively to the next generation of federal employees.
As many potential retirees spent the majority of their careers in government service, the value of their knowledge runs far deeper than simply understanding operating processes. They have seen both successful and failed initiatives, ingrained optimal operating efficiencies and learned from time-consuming processes. To transfer collected knowledge to new employees, most agencies provide new-hire training on processes, procedures and technology; however, many lack continuing education programs for employee development.
Post-hire training enables employees to stay abreast of market trends, new legislation and evolving requirements. Research conducted by WorldatWork, a not-for-profit professional association dedicated to knowledge leadership, identifies training and development opportunities as one of the most important predictors of retention.
The Chief Human Capital Officers Council in August 2006 formed a subcommittee on learning and development to help create a culture of continuous learning and employee development throughout the federal government. To enhance and improve organizational performance, the subcommittee examines, explores and proposes learning and development programs.
Video technology allows agencies to bring learning and development programs into focus, offering benefits not available through traditional mediums.
Generation Y values mobility, technological tools and work-life balance. Agencies looking to improve training programs and appeal to the younger generation should:
• Go beyond traditional in-person classroom training and provide a blended environment with a variety of different learning methods to keep employees engaged.
• Improve effectiveness and efficiencies of training while minimizing travel costs by implementing technology-enabled formats such as online and video-based distance learning.
• Consider the benefits of video-based solutions, which utilize a medium with which the next generation federal employee is accustomed.
While agencies face significant challenges in capturing the tacit knowledge held by departing and transitioning employees, they own the opportunity to adopt new tools that support the next generation. Leveraging infrastructure in place in nearly every agency, video-based knowledge management and educational programs provide agencies with a user-friendly, practical and cost-effective solution to enable knowledge retention and next-generation training.
Joel Brunson is the federal president of Tandberg, a provider of high-definition videoconferencing and mobile video products and services.
Note: This article originally appeared in the April 28, 2008 issue of Government Computer News.
In the past decade, early federal adopters of visual communication technologies have reaped a variety of benefits — especially as changing times brought an increased need for global collaboration, continuity of operations planning and increased productivity.
The ability today to meet anytime and anyplace dovetails with the federal government’s workforce goal of attracting and retaining the best and the brightest. It allows greater emphasis on work/life balance, minimal travel requirements, more face-to-face interaction and stronger support of telework initiatives.
However, as the government prepares for the impending wave of federal workforce retirements, it must also consider how to capture outgoing employees’ knowledge and pass it along to the next generation of federal workers.
In a 2005 report, Input analysts predicted that the federal government would spend at least $1.3 billion on knowledge management solutions by fiscal 2010. The retirement wave is a big factor. The Office of Personnel Management reports that nearly 40 percent of current federal employees are eligible for retirement in the next five years, and federal agencies risk losing tacit knowledge, on a vast scale, with those departing employees.
However, according to a recent study conducted by Tandberg, only 39 percent of federal agencies use and adhere to established knowledge management policies. The agencies that do capture knowledge typically focus most heavily on the formats used on a daily basis, such as electronic documents and e-mail messages. However, they typically do not employ other systems, such as video and voice recordings, nearly as widely. The study also indicated that 86 percent of federal managers agree that videoconferencing technology is effective for knowledge management, yet only 20 percent of agencies take advantage of the benefits that video provides.
Agencies stand to miss significant opportunities to capture critical information for the future workforce. Visual communication technologies — including telepresence, high-definition videoconferencing and PC video — give agencies the tools necessary to effectively capture and transfer knowledge and maintain continuity in the face of major employee changes.
Often, federal workplace training and new-hire orientations take the form of traditional, in-person classroom interactions, coupled with formal knowledge management tools and documentation. Agencies that fail to take advantage of opportunities to expand their training programs through distance education applications — such as Web, teleconference and video courses — risk failing to elicit less top-of-mind, yet important, information from departing employees.
Many potential retirees spent the majority or the entirety of their careers in government service, so the value of their knowledge runs far deeper than an understanding of operating processes. Those individuals have seen successful and failed initiatives and understand what approaches work best. To empower the next generation of federal workers with the knowledge of its predecessors, agencies must identify means to capture and document lessons learned, best practices, and performance tips and tricks – information that is often the most helpful during transitions and the most valuable to new employees.
Visual communication solutions also have the potential to significantly reduce the amount of time required for training. For instance, it generally takes a systems engineer about six months to get up to speed at an agency. However, with visual communication applications in place, the new hire could complete his or her training in half that time. A variety of providers are developing applications to help agencies easily create and archive training and performance-based content for live video and video on demand — anywhere and anytime.
Considering the impending resource turnover and access to today’s technology, federal agencies are in a unique position to reshape their approach to knowledge management and training and development programs. Visual-based programs provide agencies with user-friendly, practical, and cost-effective knowledge retention and next-generation training solutions. Furthermore, capitalizing on such tools empowers agencies to effectively respond to the significant challenges of capturing knowledge from departing employees to ensure a seamless workforce transition.
Joel Brunson (Joel.Brunson@tandberg.com) is president of the federal division of Tandberg, a leading global provider of telepresence, high-definition videoconferencing, and mobile video products and services.