By William Plunkett
DEGW recently hosted a roundtable event in Washington, D.C to discuss the changing nature of training, education, and learning in the public sector.  In a time when government agencies need to make every dollar go as far as possible, training programs are frequently at risk of being reduced or even eliminated.  Presenters and professionals from across the federal government were on hand to talk about how training is happening today and the trends for tomorrow.

  • How can we leverage cross-agency collaboration?
  • Are shared training resources helping drive government innovation?
  • What have been the impacts of distributed teams on virtual learning environments?
  • How are social networks and social media creating new models of education?

The day started with a discussion led by Gustavo Crosetto, the Chief Learning Officer of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).  He presented his latest thinking and experiences with learning, using a case study on how GAO recently incorporated a learning program on Diversity and Inclusion.  In shaping the discussion, Crosetto explored ideas surrounding transactional vs. transformative learning and how these different models impact learning organizations.

Next, Dr. Alenka Brown of National Defense University led a discussion about “human interoperability networks” and how social relationships are successfully (or unsuccessfully) mirrored in system networks in the Department of Defense (DOD).  She advised the way someone makes decisions is almost always the same way someone learns and emphasized the importance of recognizing the differences in the way people sort, prioritize, and process verbal, visual, and kinesthetic information.

Rosalind Bailey, the Chief Learning Officer and Director at General Services Administration (GSA) outlined her current efforts to integrate training programs, succession planning, and performance management to better support the knowledge network in GSA.  She shared that 15,000 people each year engage in training programs at the GSA.  It was striking in both Dr. Brown’s and Dr. Bailey’spresentations how they emphasized individuals and specific stories, even while designing and implementing programs for large-scale organizations like the GSA and DOD.

The afternoon saw examples of new learning tools in action.  Kevin Kelly a Senior Architect Public Buildings Service Center for Workspace Delivery at GSA presented the Workplace Solutions Library. He discussed the emphasis the tool places on interaction and how the use of a survey customizes the experience of the tool to the user.  In addition to how the virtual tool was conceived to be interactive, he described the characteristics of a successful in-person training session as well, highlighting participants internalize or “remember” things when there is a story behind it.

As the final presenter for the day, Michael Bloom presented the Sustainable Facilities Tool. He reiterated the importance of interaction in the tool and spoke about the evolution of the tool.  Revised content, additional new content, a mobile app, and connections with social media platforms have all helped the tool evolve and improve.

Three key messages from the discussion of the day were:


Think about who you are helping to learn.  How will they learn best?  Might it be verbally in person or through visual means? What motivates this individual or group? Where is the best location physical or virtual to conduct the training?  Does the knowledge and learning need to happen in a formal, structured manner or can informal platforms facilitate?  Are there other organizations that could benefit from the training or might have additional expertise?

Seek Feedback.

Learning is too often one-directional from instructor to trainee.  Incorporate feedback mechanisms both during and after activities.  Does the training have enough flexibility to meet everyone’s schedule?  Were topics applicable?  What were the expectations?  How were outcomes determined?  Has the learning activity delved beyond the superficial to meet real challenges of the organization?


Test what works and what doesn’t and do not be afraid to change.  Does the training need to start with the individual or with the organization?  How is information being received and can the delivery method be modified or improved?  Can training become continual and informal over time?

If you would like to be added to our invitation list for our events in New York, San Francisco, or Washington, D.C, leave a comment (your email will be kept private).

We hope to see you at one of our upcoming events!