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TRAINING PROGRAMS, PROCESSES, POLICIES, AND PRACTICES SUMMARY State departments of transportation (DOTs) offer an impressive array of training products and services to their very diverse workforces. Many have developed not only the more traditional course offerings in workplace skills (e.g., planning, interpersonal skills, communications, dealing with difficult people, and a great deal more), but also provide a wide variety of tech- nical training, registration and certification programs, and assistance to their engineering, information technology, and other technical and professional staff. State DOTs either directly or through partnerships with colleges, vocational training organizations, and similar institu- tions offer technical and workforce skills training for the road construction and maintenance staff. Based on the information provided by survey responses and discussions with state DOT training directors at their annual conference in August 2005, there appears to be a culture in many agencies that values employees and understands that a successful organization must make strategic investments in its workforce both to maintain current skills and knowledge and to acquire new skills and knowledge. A number of the state DOTs have taken advantage of new technology and new adult education learning tools and techniques. Thirteen of the 16 state DOTs responding (of the 50 receiving the survey questionnaire) identified one or multiple technology tools, including learning management systems, video conferencing, and web- based training to enhance their training management and delivery capabilities. This level of investment was reinforced by the directors of training and others from state DOTs who attended the 2005 Training Directors conference. Finally, almost all of the DOTs responding to the survey and attending the 2005 Training Directors conference reported that they have either a strategic plan that clearly articulated the organization's programmatic goals and out- comes or a similar document that guided the content of their training programs and the infra- structure needed to support those programs. This direct correlation between the organizations' strategic goals and outcomes and the content of training programs is an essential ingredient for successful employee development in the first quarter of the 21st century. These organizations also described being in the midst of major transformations that pre- sent complex program and management challenges, especially with regard to developing the workforce. In a number of state DOTs, parts of the agencies' training programs, particularly in the areas of planning and execution, have gaps and missing links when it comes to com- pleteness, integration, and specificity. The majority of the responding agencies has strategic or business plans with measurable goals and outcomes and has identified some or all of the competencies required in the workforce to accomplish the identified goals and outcomes. However, fewer than half of these DOTs noted that they had assessed the competency level of the workforce, and even fewer have well-developed and implemented succession plans for occupations at any level of the organization. This proportional relationship was reinforced by discussions with training directors and others who attended the 2005 Training Directors conference. Therefore, although the training function understands the importance of ensur- ing that the workforce has the competencies to produce the products, goods, and services required, it does not yet have in place mechanisms to assess the presence or absence of those competencies in the current workforce. Similarly, most of the training organizations have evaluation methodologies that provide insight into the quality of the program and the learn- ing that takes place for participants, but few then link the evaluation results with funding requests or with the distribution of funds to ensure that the most critical needs are being met.
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2 The lack of strategic alignment and linkage is a significant issue for the state DOTs and one which, if not addressed, can undermine much of the successful work and programs that are currently in place. Studies of public and private organizations have documented a direct relationship between their performance and their effective management and development of employees. For exam- ple, a recent study based on surveys of more than 400 U.S. and Canadian publicly traded companies showed that those with effective human capital programs have more than three times the shareholder value as do companies that do not have strong human capital programs. The American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) has replicated this kind of finding in the winners of its BEST Awards. The ASTD Research Department's analysis of organizations that have won ASTD BEST awards "has found that companies with best prac- tices in learning functions are among those with high levels of financial performance. The 21 public companies that won ASTD BEST awards in 2003 and 2004 outperformed the S&P 2005 Index by 2 to 1 for the past 5 years." Although the ASTD research focused primarily on private-sector organizations, there is a clear translation between those findings for private-sector firms and similar results for public organizations. However, for those results to occur and for public organizations to reap the ben- efit, there must be a seamless alignment and linkage between and among training and all other components of the human capital management program, and a similar linkage and alignment between and among training programs and the funding mechanisms to support training. Synthesis responses indicate that state DOTs are building from a solid base; however, sub- stantial executive leadership and attention will be required to move the programs to the next level of strategic alignment. This implies that directors of state DOTs will need to be directly (implicitly) involved in setting the strategic direction for training programs based on the orga- nization's strategic goals, objectives, and desired outcomes. It also means that the director must hold accountable those individuals who are responsible for ensuring that training and develop- ment activities--courses, developmental assignments, and the like--are viewed as essential tools for ensuring a workforce that is qualified to accomplish the work of the organization effec- tively and efficiently. Finally, it implies that training and development activities must be viewed as "value added" activities that are on the critical path for organizational success.