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How Do I Contribute to an Employee's Career Development?


Typical Scenario:

You want to enhance an employee's skills to optimize performance and reinforce the employee's ability to take on broader responsibilities; or changes in your organization's functions require your staff to develop new skills.


An important part of every manager's job is that of continuing the development of the people who work under his/her direction to ensure a productive workforce and the on-going ability to meet changing job requirements. There is a clear strategic value in continuously training and developing employees in order to enhance the organization's ability to meet its mission and to increase the ability of employees to achieve rewarding careers within the organization. As a manager, you have several responsibilities in this area: analyzing organizational needs and identifying specific training requirements, developing training plans for the overall organization and individual employees within it, obtaining and allocating resources effectively to accomplish training needs and produce desired gains in organizational efficiency, and evaluating the impact of training efforts and making necessary adjustments to ensure maximum results.

Where Do I Start?

You should start your training effort by carefully thinking about the organization's strategic goals and objectives, your unit's goals and objectives, what work is to be performed, and the strengths and weaknesses of your staff. Then think carefully about the knowledge and skills needed to do the job. Knowing what a job requires and how well you want it done will give you data to make training decisions. You should also look at broad performance issues and opportunities needed to change or improve the organization and the individual employee's strength and growth opportunities. An individual "needs assessment" focuses on the specific knowledge, skills, and abilities required of each employee. (Individual needs should be viewed within the context of strategic goals of the organization in order to ensure professional growth and development of employees within established career paths.) Your servicing human resources office (SHRO) can direct you to resources to help you assess the individual training needs of your employees.

Rules and Flexibilities:

Managers must consider all employees fairly for training opportunities. Selection of employees for training must ensure that all employees are selected without regard to political preference, race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, or handicapping condition, and with proper regard for their privacy and constitutional rights as provided by the Merit System Principles. Additionally, merit promotion procedures must be followed in selecting employees for training which is primarily to prepare trainees for advancement and which is not directly related to improving performance in their current positions. Managers have wide flexibility in the training area in choosing training sources, curricula, etc. Depending on your office budget, you can pay all or part of the costs associated with training, including registration fees, books, materials, etc., that will contribute to your office's mission. You should be aware, however, that training requests cannot be funded "after the fact" (after the course has begun).

Basic Steps:

  • Determine training needs by forecasting the direction your organization will take in the next 2-5 years. Determine what skills will be required. Determine whether your employees possess the necessary skills to plan and implement programs and activities required by the anticipated direction.

  • To determine individual employee needs, examine the difference between projected necessary skills and current skills. You can also meet with employees to discuss career goals and determine what additional capabilities are required for career progression.

  • Once you've determined your training needs, you will have to decide how best to meet them.

  • Rather than relying solely on formal classroom training, you should explore all alternatives and select the most effective one.

Alternatives include:

  • Workplace approaches - formal on-the-job training, mentoring, developmental assignments.

  • Some university programs offer financial assistance to Government employees (e.g., Cornell's School of Business and Wharton). Some programs last eight weeks, while others last up to two years. Some are part-time; some are full-time. Self-study approaches - self-paced instruction, correspondence courses and independent readings.

  • Technology-based approaches - computer-based training or distance learning.

  • Formal classroom courses, seminars, conferences and workshops conducted by colleges and universities, private companies, contractors, Government agencies, professional and scientific organizations, and professional associations. In those cases where a training need exists for a number of employees, an on-site contract course may be the most cost- effective alternative.

  • Your SHRO can direct you to information on available training courses and seminars.

Good Management Practices:

  • Be sure that training and career development are related to organizational needs or employee needs in the current position. Look for opportunities to provide career enhancement such as details, job rotations, etc., rather than relying solely on formal training.

  • Some offices require that you develop an annual Individual Development Plan (IDP) for each employee. When it is not required, it is strongly recommended that you develop an annual IDP for each employee. Your SHRO can assist you in the preparation of an IDP. It should be reviewed periodically during the Year to determine if any changes need to be made because of new priorities, changing budget situations or new organizational goals.

  • Once training is completed, it is critically important to assess the effect it has had on the organization and/or the employee's performance. You may want to set up a meeting with employees immediately after formal training to "debrief" them. Similarly, you might require a written summary report of what was accomplished or learned and how it will be applied on the job. Often the lessons learned can be passed to other employees in a summary form, thus extending the value of the training without additional cost.


  • Budget and plan for training and development efforts
  • Meet with employees and identify their needs and career goals
  • Identify most effective training resources
  • Develop Individual Development Plans (Optional)
  • Look for opportunities to provide career enhancement


  • In recent years, there has been an emphasis on providing mobility opportunities for SES executives to foster a "corporate" perspective. Details and job rotations are excellent ways to increase an executive's exposure to other organizations and management styles.

  • In certain circumstances, career SES employees may also be eligible for a sabbatical lasting up to 11 months. Appropriate activities for employees on sabbatical may include teaching, study, or research at a university; study or research in a "think tank"; work with a private sector or nonprofit organization; or assignments with State, local or foreign Governments. Regardless of the activity, a sabbatical must clearly benefit the Government as well as the individual.

  • The Department offers an SES Candidate Development Program (CDP). The SES CDP is a competitive program open to employees serving under career appointments at the GS-15 level or equivalent. The SES CDP is a part-time program, not to exceed two years, that varies in length depending on the candidate's individual developmental needs. At the completion of the developmental period, each candidate's activities and experiences must be approved by the Departmental. At that time, the candidate must submit a request to OPM for QRB certification.



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