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An organisation is responsible for ensuring that its employees have the appropriate skills and knowledge to fulfil the organisation’s strategic and operational objectives.

There are many different ways that a public department can facilitate this development. A non-exhaustive list includes inductions, on-the-job training, coaching and mentoring, as well as internal and external workshops and compliance training.

The learning function of organisations in the public sector has a strategic role in five areas:

Attract and retain talent

Learning and development used to focus solely on improving productivity. As many public organisations have come to realise, this is no longer an adequate measure of L&D success.

These days, L&D needs to contribute to employability. It is about investing in employees to ensure that they are well equipped to adapt to changes in ways of working, technology and shifting organisational goals.

Employment has shifted from staying at the same organisation long term to one where workers are fluid in their movements. Workers are now in charge of their personal and professional growth and development—one reason that people list “opportunities for learning and development” among the top criteria for joining an organisation. Conversely, a lack of investment in learning and development is one of the key reasons people cite for leaving an organisation.

As such it is a benefit for both employees and their employers to have the proper skills for this shifting work model.

Develop people capabilities

It’s no secret that an agency’s workforce is its biggest and most important asset. As such, it requires ongoing investments into learning and development to retain its value. When knowledge becomes outdated or forgotten—a more rapid occurrence today—the value of human capital declines and needs to be supplemented by new learning and relevant work experiences.

Those government departments that recognise this and make significant investments into the workforce – as well as into leadership – will be more able to cope with future changes.

It is estimated that organisations which invest in developing both their workforce and leadership during significant periods of change or transformation are almost two and a half times more likely to meet and exceed performance targets.

Motivate and engage employees 

One of the most effective ways a government department can make its employees feel engaged is by providing them with opportunities to learn and develop new competencies. Employees that have the opportunity to learn and grow in their roles are less likely to experience job dissatisfaction or a lack of productivity.

There have been numerous studies to show a connection between learning and happiness. Employees that feel challenged and provided with skills to grow and develop their chosen career path are more likely to remain engaged and stay employed within the organisation.

Build an employer brand

While “brand image” may not be high on many government department’s agendas, it can be hard to ignore the fact that customers are demanding the same level of experience as they would receive from a private organisation.

An organisation’s brand is one of its most important assets; not only does it convey a certain message to its customers, but it’s also crucial when attracting potential talent. Investments in learning and development can help enhance a government organisation’s brand and boost its reputation as an “employer of choice”.

The other thing to note is that as the existing workforce ages and leaves the workforce, the requirements of the new generations of employees is different. This means that is a department does not invest in learning and development initiatives that cater to the needs of this younger workforce, they will be left with a shortage of talent that will affect the entire organisation. To minimise the risk of this, organisations must communicate their brand strength explicitly through an employer value proposition.

Create a values-based culture

The global pandemic has sped up the trend of an increasingly virtual and location dispersed workforce.

As this trend shows no signs of slowing down or reverting, learning and development initiatives can help build a values-based culture as well as a sense of community. When an organisation’s workforce is operating under this new hybrid working model, culture and community become crucial elements in making employees feel less isolated.

To top it off, the new generation workforce – consisting of a growing quantity of millennials – demands more from their organisation than simply a pay check and job security. These “modern” employees are interested in working for values-based, sustainable organisations that contribute to the welfare of society.