Leadership development training is the top priority for agencies' training programs, according to a recent informal survey of government professionals by American Management Association (AMA) Enterprise Government Solutions.
Leadership development was the first priority of 28 percent of respondents for fiscal 2011, and the first priority of 38 percent of the respondents for fiscal 2012.
With budgets tight and so many baby boomers retiring, it makes sense that government organizations are continuing to focus on leadership development and those skills that make a good leader great. AMA is seeing this trend confirmed anecdotally with the government organizations we work with, as they balance tighter budgets with an increased desire for training programs that focus on developing vital leadership and supervisory skills.
It will be harder to fill those leadership positions as people retire, and it is crucial to encourage, inspire and educate that next level of potential leaders so that they, in turn, can continue to motivate and nurture a stretched government workforce.
Training in critical thinking moved up as a higher priority in 2012, reinforcing the focus on expanding training offerings that nurture great leaders.
Critical thinking skills were cited as the second priority by 31 percent of the respondents for 2012, followed by project management, cited by 27 percent; and oral and written communication skills, cited by 24 percent.
Several respondents noted in comments that budget limitations have driven some changes in the training program.
The priorities for 2011 among respondents were ranked as follows: leadership development, oral and written communication skills, supervisory training, project management and critical thinking.
The priorities for 2012 were ranked as follows: leadership development, critical thinking, project management, oral and written communication skills and managing a remote workforce.
These results dovetail with a broader study AMA undertook in 2010 to research the needs of government and commercial organizations when it comes to building and cultivating the leadership pipeline.
The AMA Critical Skills Survey revealed that, by overwhelming majorities, forward-thinking organizations had begun placing emphasis on a specific set of leadership skills that is neither intuitive for most people nor taught in school.
We dubbed these skills "The Four C's":
Critical thinking and problem solving. The ability to make decisions, solve problems and take actions as appropriate.
Effective communication. The ability to synthesize and transmit your ideas both in written and oral forms.
Collaboration and team building. The ability to work effectively with others, including those from diverse groups and with opposing points of view.
Creativity and innovation. The ability to see what's not there and make something happen.
Based on these survey results, it's clear that government human capital management officers are paying attention to broader training trends and integrating the Four C's into their leadership development programs.
That's an excellent indicator that government training and development professionals are taking seriously their mandate to prepare for the future while also providing the training and development needed to help their workforce succeed today.
Challenged with tightening budgets and the loss of significant depth of knowledge through increased retirements of longer-term employees, government training and development organizations are getting adept at an intricate balancing act.
Sam Davis is vice president of AMA Enterprise Government Solutions.