A recent study from consulting giant Accenture has brought some discouraging news. Most organizations are laggards when it comes to capturing and transferring knowledge, with a scant 6% of their own leaders rating them highly on this standard.
But in government, at least, this doesn’t appear to be true. Many agencies recognize the critical importance of sharing know-how, both institutionally and informally, and fund these initiatives accordingly. Case in point: an ambitious government-wide program established by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) for cultivating future leaders. This very selective program, which has been operating successfully for several decades, identifies fast-track managers as candidates for the Senior Executive Service (SES), the elite-level leadership cadre in each agency. Program participants–selected for their demonstrated ability to lead people, to lead change, and to achieve results–typically spend 18-24 months in the program, which includes a minimum four-month stint in an agency other than their own.
What’s more, most agencies and departments assign full-time teams to lead permanent programs for training and development, often referring to them as agency “universities”. They recognize that this is vital to sustaining efficient operations as more and more senior employees retire. My own informal survey of agency training initiatives surfaced a variety of truly outstanding programs, notably those sponsored by (and within) the Defense and Agriculture Departments, along with the more predictable top performers like NASA.
Providing these practical programs goes a long way toward reinforcing the supportive learning environments that agencies should be providing for their people. As I consider the private sector, I can’t help wondering if human capital leaders there need to play a little catch up.