Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Improving Training in the Public Sector

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Improving Training in the Public Sector

Article excerpt

Conducting training programs in public agencies in a manner that fosters employee development requires identification and management of those aspects of the training program influencing the learning process. This article discusses the importance of managing the learning process in training in public agencies by adapting training methods to a particular employee's learning style. Such an approach creates training activities and training environments which improve the effectiveness of public agency training programs.

Most trainers in public agencies are aware of the ongoing changes in themselves and agency employees. As they facilitate growth and development in employees, public agency trainers struggle to improve themselves, to become more effective training leaders, planners, presenters and facilitators. Most public agency trainers also recognize that different adults prefer to learn in different ways (Kolb, 1976, 1974). In addition, these trainers often are motivated to become more skillful in training employees in a variety of ways in order to be effective with as many employees as possible. Rather than using only the training style(s) with which they may be most comfortable, public agency trainers must learn to use new techniques and behaviors to suit different employees learning styles. Learning, change and growth become more meaningful, more useful, and more exciting for everyone involved when the agency's trainers identify the areas in which they have the greatest expertise and attempt to increase their skills, thereby increasing their ability to address all aspects of the adult learning cycle (Kolb & Fry, 1981).

Malcolm Knowles (1984) says that adults will learn "no matter what." Learning is as natural as rest or play. With or without books, visual aids, inspiring trainers, or training programs, adults will manage to learn. Agency trainers can, however, make a different in what employees learn and in how well they learn it. If employees know why they are learning, and if the reason fits their needs as they perceive them (the "so what?"), they will learn quickly and deeply. In addition, the extent to which agency trainers and administrators take time to manage the learning process through development of training programs, employee's learning will be enhanced.

Public Agency Training Programs and Learning Styles

In the planning and development of most agency training programs very little attention is given to the interaction of trainer and employee's learning styles. This results in several limitations. The first is the failure to take into account different styles. Learning style relates to how the employee prefers to learn, for example, lecture, group discussion, or independent projects. For instance, if in a traditional training program taught by the lecture method, the trainer decided to experiment with the case-study approach, the results, if measured by employee achievement and attitude score, may e inconclusive. If employee preferences are randomly distributed with regard to learning styles, the gains to some employees from a change in method may be offset by the losses to other employees, unless one can control for the differences in employee learning styles.

A second limitation is the failure to control for differences in the trainer's preferred training style: highly structured lectures, group discussion, experiential learning, case studies and so forth. Training styles are personal, develop over time, and are not usually subject to short-term change. It is assumed that the preferred training style generally determines the training method and the learning or training environment of the training program that a trainer uses and develops in their agency. For instance, a trainer who believes that employee learn best when the training program content is highly structured would probably use the lecture method.

A third limitation may occur if the agency training programs fail to realize that simple achievement may not be the only goal of a training program from the employee's, trainer's, or the agency's viewpoint. …

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