Federal Manager's Daily Report

Federal agencies “are capable of mounting successful leadership development programs” but face “unique challenges when developing programs, including underwriting and sustaining them, and managing unstable coalitions of supporters,” according to a report from the IBM Center for the Business of Government.

It says that such programs are critical as the government faces retirements of its older generation of workers while those under age 30 constitute only 6 percent of the workforce, and as the nature of federal work changes.

“Most federal agencies have very small leadership development budgets that are carefully marshalled, thereby limiting participation to very small cohorts,” it says. Further, the while the government prefers to provide traditional classroom-style training, today’s younger workers prefer to receive “online and cohort-based trainings, with higher degrees of flexibility and opportunities to build broad networks.”

Meanwhile, agencies struggle to document the return on what they do spend on such programs, undermining the “case for sustaining or expanding such programming, particularly in the face of competing budgetary pressures.”

Also, “there is an absence of an agreed upon model for agency-based leadership develop¬ment programs, or even if such a model should exist. Instead, the current situation is akin to having many different pilot programs convening simultaneously with neither a rigorous assess¬ment of the effectiveness of those programs nor any coordinated effort to enhance next rounds of programming.”

Among the recommendations are that OPM strengthen its role in providing knowledge about such programs and their best practices; career leaders make it a priority to gain the buy-in of top leadership; and that agencies better document the results such programs produce.