Gov Careers

By Phil Piemonte

Blog archive

'Insufficient training' not an easy excuse

In an automotive factory many years ago, after about five minutes of “training,” the author of this blog was put to work operating an industrial lathe.

That very first day, as he was operating the machine, he looked down and noticed that one of the long, freshly cut ribbons of steel spinning out of the lathe had begun to curl around his ankle like a snake. Seconds after he shook his foot free, the steel ribbon whipped back onto the mandrel and — in a flash — was reeled up back onto the lathe. Had it continued to wrap around his ankle, it probably would have sliced off the author’s foot like a band-saw.

Clearly a case of insufficient training.

Which brings us to the question: Has a lack of training ever gotten you into trouble?

Here’s what the federal government says: “Employees should be provided effective education and training in cases in which such education and training would result in better organizational and individual performance.”

That’s Merit Principle No. 7. But the Merit Systems Protection Board says more: “As jobs evolve, agencies should invest in the training necessary to assure their employees possess the skills to adapt and excel — even, and perhaps especially, in hard budgetary times.” And ideally, as cited above, that training is meant to boost two things: The overall performance of the organization and the employee’s individual performance.

But when it comes to removal or demotion based on performance, training can become a sticky wicket if an employee claims that too little or improper training is at the root of his or her performance shortcomings.

In fact, MSPB says, “it would be a rare case in which an employee could not show that additional or different training might have led to some improvement in her performance, even though at a prohibited cost to the agency, considering the benefit derived.”

Meaning: Without some boundaries on what constitutes an appropriate level of training, employees could almost always use “lack of training” as a sort of get-out-jail-free card when it comes to performance deficiencies — even if that training would have cost an agency a mint.

So, what are those boundaries? For one thing, training has to serve the agency’s interest in promoting better organizational performance. Also, it has to fit into the agency’s overall strategic plan. And of course, the training has to be funded and cost-effective.

Or, as MSPB put it, to show a violation of Principle No. 7, “an employee must show that she did not receive at least the minimum training reasonably calculated to give her the skills and knowledge required to do the job; that additional or different training would have provided those skills; and that such training could have been provided in a cost-effective manner in light of the agency’s mission and its need to apportion limited resources among its numerous programs and objectives.”

Sounds like a high threshold. If you want to see how it works, here’s a pivotal case.

Posted by Phil Piemonte on Jul 05, 2011 at 12:13 PM


Featured

  • Cybersecurity

    DHS floats 'collective defense' model for cybersecurity

    Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen wants her department to have a more direct role in defending the private sector and critical infrastructure entities from cyberthreats.

  • Defense
    Defense Secretary James Mattis testifies at an April 12 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.

    Mattis: Cloud deal not tailored for Amazon

    On Capitol Hill, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sought to quell "rumors" that the Pentagon's planned single-award cloud acquisition was designed with Amazon Web Services in mind.

  • Census
    shutterstock image

    2020 Census to include citizenship question

    The Department of Commerce is breaking with recent practice and restoring a question about respondent citizenship last used in 1950, despite being urged not to by former Census directors and outside experts.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.