Management training targets contractors

Niche consultants attract businesses eager to learn specialized skills

Government contractors face special workforce challenges that arise from their close association and collaboration with federal agencies, according to several training firms that have moved into that niche.

Helios HR, a human resources outsourcing and consulting firm, has joined forces with Workforce Learning, a management and leadership instructional company, to establish a management and leadership training program to help government contractors cope with their workforce challenges. The firms launched the new offering, the Cohort Learning Program, in October. The first series of courses will begin this month.

The program’s creators, Helios President Kathy Albarado and Workforce Learning President Alice Waagen, said the program will offer a structured sequence of integrated topics that teach the critical components of effectively managing people and resources.

The October launch of the program generated a lot of interest from our client base, Albarado said. Many of the early clients are small to midsize government contractors.

The training firms may have identified an unfilled need, said Phil Kiviat, a consultant at Guerra Kiviat. “There is no question that people moving up or across an organization need training in general and specific management skills,” he said. “These companies [seem to] have picked out a sweet spot and tailored an offering for it. Good for them, as they saw a need and reacted to it successfully.”

Other federal contracting experts are more skeptical about the value of specialized management training for federal contractors. Larry Allen, executive vice president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, said the training might be useful but only to a point.

“Management training can be somewhat useful for contractors in terms of giving them the basics they need and familiarizing them with the fundamental differences between the government and the private sector,” he said. “Essentially, this training is a good orientation tool. After orientation, however, I think
management training becomes more problematic.”

Situations shift rapidly, missions change, and new managers may bring different ideas to the forefront, Allen said. “Too much training can lead to sclerosis and not bring about results originally envisioned,” he said.

Spatial Data Analytics Corp. (Spadac), a geospatial predictive analysis company that provides advanced technologies to government agencies, has been a Helios client for a little more than a year. During that time, the company has grown from 35 to 72 employees.

Barry Culman, Spadac’s president and chief operating officer, said Albarado conducts off-site management training sessions for the company about once a month. “We’re doing a career-path exercise because we have a lot of young and smart technical people, and we want to show that we care about them,” he added.

The Cohort Learning Program consists of monthly half-day workshops. In addition to the training sessions, participants collaborate on mutual learning techniques. They participate in private coaching sessions between program sessions to address specific, confidential challenges.

Participants also have homework assignments. They are part of a peer group that will meet on a regular basis when the program ends. The ultimate goal, Albarado said, is to create a development and support network that can continue after the program ends.

Albarado said participants will sign a confidentiality agreement at the start of the program so they can freely discuss specific issues and problems. “There won’t be any competitors in the room,” she said.
A syllabus for managersHelios HR and Workforce Learning’s Cohort Learning Program teaches contractors and other business leaders how to build stronger management teams to work in federal agencies. The program addresses management and leadership challenges such as:
  • Building a line of business while maintaining productivity.
  • Building effective employee teams.
  • Managing conflicts in a way that generates new ideas.
  • Retaining and developing employees.
  • Structuring strategic and tactical communications.
  • Providing effective feedback to employees to enhance performance.
  • Holding employees accountable.
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