The public sector, which includes local government offices and other municipal organizations, relies heavily on regular training sessions to ensure their day-to-day operations succeed. However, navigating the intricacies of employee training, particularly within city and state governments, can present a perplexing challenge. Unlike private enterprises that often utilize sophisticated tools, public entities often rely extensively on spreadsheets to schedule and manage training programs for their employees across all services. While using this method can get the job done, it’s certainly not ideal as it can lead to increased administrative work for an already administratively burdened workforce.

Below, we delve into the complex topic of employee training within local governments and discuss the complexities of managing learning for city departments for training coordinators. We’ll also explore the limitations of the current approach to training in government departments, training challenges within the public sector, and the emerging role of training management solutions in bolstering government functionality.

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Managing Training for Government Employees

Efficiently managing training for government employees is crucial for ensuring the smooth functioning of local governments in cities of all sizes, from small towns to sprawling metropolises. With responsibilities ranging from public safety to sanitation and community services, government employees play a pivotal role in delivering essential services to residents. To maintain high-quality service provision, training becomes a must.

The challenge of managing training becomes particularly pronounced in cities with populations ranging from 200,000 to 500,000 residents. The diverse needs of these communities require a workforce that is not only well-equipped with the necessary skills but is also adaptable to changing circumstances – but there is rarely a large budget to realize all your plans. Therefore, training government employees takes on an added significance to ensure they can address the unique needs of their constituents. 

Overcoming constraints when training government employees

The primary obstacle in providing training for public entity employees is the constraint of time. Most municipal or government employees are required to work either the standard Monday through Friday work week or, in some cases like emergency services, are required to work weekends and odd hours. Couple that with the average city employee’s busy schedule and it can be almost impossible to incorporate supplemental training for them.

To address the issue, local governments have attempted innovative approaches to provide training for their employees that take into consideration the time constraints faced by employees. Instead of in-person instructor-led training workshops that would take a considerable chunk of time in the week, city training officers have implemented flexible and remote training options as well as modules that allow them to learn at their own pace. 

With the increased usage of smart devices and mobile tech, it’s standard for city officials and their employees to continue training via a hybrid learning model for full-time workers. Learning programs will utilize a combination of online courses and virtual workshops that are mandated by the city or county’s L&D department. However, for most local government L&D offices, optimizing instructor-led training for efficiency and convenience has long been a challenge for training managers. This is mainly due to the desire to reduce disruption with daily responsibilities on top of providing the required training needed from their employees.

Embedding learning in the flow of work

Another strategy is to incorporate training into existing work processes. This means integrating learning opportunities into the employees’ workflow so that training becomes an ongoing part of their job rather than a separate task. This approach can be facilitated by assigning mentors or supervisors who can guide employees through on-the-job learning, ensuring that new skills are acquired while actively performing their duties. 

Additionally, adopting a tiered approach to training can also prove beneficial. Prioritize training sessions based on immediate needs and job roles. This targeted approach ensures that employees receive training that is directly relevant to their responsibilities, making the most of their limited time. 

Partnering with local institutions

Government agencies can also consider partnering with local educational institutions, training centers, or industry experts to develop specialized programs tailored to the needs of their employees. By collaborating with external resources, local governments can tap into a broader pool of knowledge and experience, enriching the quality of training, and leveraging local expertise. 

Training Programs in Local Government

For most cities and states, training officers are responsible for ensuring that employee training programs meet and exceed the education expectations requested. The scope of this challenge can vary wildly. For instance, the City of Los Angeles employs over 50,000 employees in 44 departments, while the County of Los Angeles employs 100,000 employees in 38 departments. The government of the state of New York mandates required employee training on a variety of topics to reskill and upskill while New York City alone has over 330,000 city employees who service the needs of the Big Apple. 

What are the parts that make a local government?

Typical departments in a local government whether at the state, county, or municipal level can include: 

  • Public Works – construction projects carried out by the government, including city infrastructure and buildings 
  • Economic & Workforce Development – finding ways to boost economic activity and to help members of a city improve their ability to meet current and future economic needs
  • Fire Department – responding to fires and other hazardous incidents throughout the area 
  • Police Department – crime prevention, responding to major events, and keeping the peace
  • Planning & Zoning – recommending zoning districts and boundaries across a city and any relevant restrictions 
  • Engineering and Facilities Management – ensuring the safety of building and engineering projects across the city 
  • Health & Public Safety – setting and upholding health and safety standards at venues throughout the city 
  • Human Rights and Equality Department – monitors human rights and protected characteristics and ensures fairness 
  • Recording and Assessor’s Office– collects taxes for public funding but also maintenance of records for property, businesses, and vital records. 
  • Parks & Recreation – maintaining and developing the city’s green and recreational spaces, including children’s playgrounds and sports sites 
  • Transportation – managing the smooth running of the city’s transport, including public and private transport 
  • Airports and Port Authority – ensures the safe and efficient running of the city’s airports, ports, and other transport hubs 

Each of these departments has its specific training guidelines based on the specific modules set forth by training management specialists. Playing a critical role in government-wide learning operations, each training program within each department must be specific to the needs of the personnel working within that job role. When one takes into account the number of departments and the number of employees within each, it’s easy to see why managing training programs for government employees can be difficult.

What’s even more eye-opening is that government jobs whether in a city or at the national level are here to stay for the long run. According to a recent McKinsey report, government jobs in a variety of departments at all administrative levels could be the key to closing the talent gap. With a hungry workforce and local T&D departments ready to roll out training, there’s no better time to look into improving personnel development and growth.

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Learning and Development Departments in Public Governments

In the intricate web of city and county governments, the seamless functioning of diverse departments is paramount for the well-being of the community. Behind the scenes of every efficiently functioning government lies a dedicated team responsible for a crucial aspect – learning and development. These departments play a pivotal role in ensuring that local government employees across various departments receive the training they need to provide top-quality services to residents. 

The crucial role of training officers and coordinators

The majority of training for employees and staff will be headed by a training and development manager. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Training, and Development managers are responsible for the “planning and coordination of knowledge enhancement programs for an organization’s staff”. However, there’s no logical way that one T&D manager is going to manage training for every single employee in each of the departments we listed above. 

That’s where the manager’s learning team comes in with training officers and coordinators. Under the direction of the training and development manager, government training officers and coordinators work specifically by department, section, and learning program type to ensure that employees in each are getting the training they need and under the T&D manager’s expectations.

Why training officers are masters of L&D

At the heart of learning and development departments in city and county governments are the training officers. These dedicated individuals serve as the primary controllers of learning initiatives, responsible for the planning, organizing, and execution of training programs of varying complexity. They are the architects of knowledge, crafting training modules that empower employees to excel in their roles. 

The responsibilities of training officers extend far beyond merely organizing training sessions. They are strategic thinkers who analyze the requirements of each department, design targeted training programs, and ensure that the learning outcomes align with the objectives of the local government. By doing so, they contribute significantly to the overall efficiency of government services, enabling employees to effectively tackle the challenges presented by their roles. 

Navigating complexities with finesse

The task of managing training for city and county government employees is no small feat. Different departments often have distinct training needs based on the nature of their responsibilities. Training officers and their teams must navigate these complexities with finesse, tailoring programs to suit the unique demands of each department. This requires a keen understanding of the intricacies of various roles and a comprehensive grasp of the skills required to execute them proficiently. 

In the grand tapestry of local government, learning and development departments weave the threads that connect skills, knowledge, and effective service delivery. As they work tirelessly behind the scenes, training officers and coordinators play a pivotal role in shaping the capabilities of government employees. Their dedication ensures that government services remain efficient, adaptable, and responsive to the evolving needs of the community. 

Learning and Development Programs in Action

Learning programs administered by a training and development team can carry several functions within the wider scope of a local government’s training initiatives.

  • Workforce Development: programs established to help train residents to be a part of their local government workforce. Large cities like Chicago’s Workforce Development and Los Angeles’ Workforce Development Aging & Community Services have extensive workforce development programs offered to the public.
  • New Employee Onboarding: Regardless of department, programs aimed at onboarding new employees are usually provided to hires so they can complete it at their own pace during a set time. For example, the City of Pasadena established its own Pasadena Training Academy that lets city employees from all departments focus on courses that will get them adequately prepared for their new roles.
  • Continued Training and Personnel Development: Akin to upskilling and reskilling, continued training for both personal and professional development has been a continued learning trend since 2022. For municipal and local government training initiatives, it’s no different. The City of London offers continued learning for professional growth for both new and seasoned employees via its City Learning portal for lifelong continued success.

Getting a training plan solidified for an entire department within a local government entity is only one small portion of a government training officer’s job. 

Think about the training or L&D lead in any organization – they’re responsible for much more than the initial plan. They must also ensure any content is researched and built, quality checked, tested, rolled out, monitored, and improved. They must know how to interpret reports and learning analytics, how to budget, how to collect meaningful feedback, and how to create a thriving learning culture over time. 

Add in the watchful eye of the local jurisdiction and any governmental regulations, and it all becomes a whole lot more complicated. In the private sector, training professionals have a lot more leeway in all but the most heavily regulated industries, whereas in the public sector, training officers must jump through many hoops to ensure that training is fit for purpose and adheres to any relevant rules. 

Then on top of that, how do training officers ensure their training programs align with those of other departments in the city to avoid mixed messages and maintain consistency across the entire jurisdiction? 

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Why is Managing Training for Government Employees So Difficult?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, training for government employees is riddled with bureaucracy. We’re talking huge stacks of paperwork, red tape, and rounds of approvals from numerous bodies within the government when it’s finally time for the training to get scheduled, training specialists are tasked with organizing courses via a daunting array of spreadsheets.

Why is using spreadsheets not recommended for training management?

Using a series of spreadsheets to schedule courses for instructor-led training isn’t recommended as it is prone to human error and takes a significant amount of administrative time to match trainers to courses, among other duties.

Couple this with the complexity of planning and organizing a training schedule for employees in each department and you can find your entire learning and development slowdown, stuck in bottlenecks, or held up in lengthy approval processes. 

But of course, the world moves quickly. Cities or counties aren’t going to stop just because the local government can’t keep up, so it’s up to the governments themselves to streamline processes wherever possible and ensure that the right people can access the training and information they need – even, and perhaps especially, if this means supporting thousands or tens of thousands of government employees. 

Additionally, governments and public sector organizations tend to have fairly limited training budgets. When budgets are tight, every cent counts, which means getting technology procurement right the first time and keeping everything cost-effective and running smoothly wherever possible. 

Using a TMS to Manage Training for Local Government Employees

Within local governments or public sector organizations, training tends to be managed using a combination of third-party software and databases, which forms a training management hub for coordinators working within the L&D department of a municipality.  

Often, this will include: 

However, while training officers do their best to make this work within the local government’s logistical, financial, and time constraints, most of these necessary tools are native and relatively manual, requiring extra administrative work from training coordinators to manage scheduling and instructor selection. 

So, is there a better city employee training platform, or a more appropriate training scheduling system for local and city governments? 

Utilizing a Training Management System for Municipal Learning & Development

Many local governments or public sector organizations would likely benefit from the efficiency advantage of a Training Management System (TMS). A TMS makes it super easy for training officers and coordinators to schedule, reschedule, and staff training sessions, whether they are Instructor-Led Training (ILT), Virtual Instructor-Led Training (vILT), or hybrid training sessions. 

How can a TMS help improve Government Training Programs?

learning software and training management systems like Training Orchestra offer a suite of tools to make the administration of learning easier and more efficient. Instead of a myriad of spreadsheets holding all the information for your municipal or state training programs, a TMS has various tools to make back-office functions seamless. What’s included in a TMS?

A government department using a TMS can expect to see a 20% reduction in administrative work, potentially saving the equivalent of a full day per workweek! 

The streamlined nature of using a training management system to plan, organize, resource, and schedule training for municipal departments saves organizations time and money and of course, the paperwork involved in getting all managed.

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