| informal development opportunities

Development is about more than just training. Most agencies offer both formal and informal development opportunities. The formal type of development encompasses traditional training programs, while informal development occurs during every day work. Do not neglect the multiple informal opportunities most of us have to improve ourselves at work. And, in these times of increasing budget pressures, it may be easier to take advantage of informal, rather than formal opportunities.

The following describes some examples of typical formal development programs. Not all agencies offer all of these opportunities.

Tuition Assistance Programs
Agencies may offer employees assistance to attend academic courses that are job related.

Targeted Career Training
In the case of the Career Intern Program, a centralized effort is used to provide effective and consistent training. This training often combines formal coursework with rotations and is based on defined competencies. Such program designs provide professional, technical, and leadership training.

Professional Development
Agencies may establish professional development programs designed to provide technical and general knowledge and experience to career employees. Agencies may also establish leadership development programs to ensure leaders continue to develop and “grow” the knowledge and skill necessary to effectively lead the organization. Such programs usually include well-rounded orientation consisting of formal coursework and on-the-job training assignments throughout the agency. The Senior Executive Service (SES) Candidate Development Program (CDP) is one such example.

Individual Learning Account
An Individual Learning Account (ILA) is a base amount of resources expressed in terms of dollars or hours, or both, set aside for an individual employee to use for his or her learning and development. Accounts may be used to develop knowledge, skills, and abilities directly related to the employee’s official duties. ILAs provide employees with flexible learning opportunities, and put the responsibility for learning in the hands of the learner.

Informal Development Opportunities

Managers can create development opportunities by creating situations for employees to learn informally. This type of development sometimes has a greater impact than more expensive formal training. Examples of informal development include the following:

Job rotations
Employees are appointed to new positions to learn about a different facet of the organization.

Special assignments
Tasks are given to employees to help them explore new areas and learn new skills.

Employees are asked to analyze their needs and the efficacy of past training.

Coaching and counseling
Managers, team leaders, other employees give assistance and feedback on employee’s performance.

Job Aid/Demonstration
Sometimes a performance problem can be addressed with a quick demonstration or a simple instructional tool.

Senior colleague works with employee to help network, clarify goals, etc.

Learning teams
A team that is formed to address individual or group learning.

Employees identify their own development needs and manage their own learning process.

Nancy Segal is a federal human resources training and job search expert. Following her own 30-year federal HR career (much of it at the senior level), she founded Solutions for the Workplace LLC in 2003 to provide an HR management perspective to both federal managers and astute applicants to U.S. government positions. Nancy has unmatched federal career management insight, high standards, and respect for people’s time, and her clients use this to their advantage.