5 best practices for delivering civil service learning and development

Learn why each of these strategies is important for delivering effective public sector training courses and how you can achieve them for your team

In Deloitte’s 2022/23 State of the State report, public sector leaders voice a need for ‘public bodies [to] close their skills gaps and attract the talent they need, so their organisations are fully resourced.’ Continued civil service learning and development is crucial for staff to serve the public effectively, as well as maintain high levels of motivation and job satisfaction.

This is why access to learning opportunities should be a core part of your organisation’s strategy. So what should be the top priorities?

For improved performance and efficiency, you should consider these five best practices for public sector and civil service training:
1.    Select training that covers a wide range of topics and skills areas
2.    Hone practical skills in real-world settings
3.    Choose a format with simple requirements
4.    Opt for short, flexible courses
5.    Promote continuous learning

Continue reading to learn why each of these strategies is important for delivering effective public sector training courses and how you can achieve them for your team.

1.    Cover a wide range of public sector training areas
Multi-skilling – i.e. training staff to do multiple things – which has proven effective in helping governments streamline services and improve communications across sectors where employees’ skill and knowledge gaps will vary.

It’s important, then, to opt for training that covers a wide range of areas. This ensures specific learning and development needs are met while also preparing your team to address complex and varied public sector challenges.

Comprehensive training might cover practical areas such as leadership and strategy, as well as soft skills and theory-based training including ethical considerations in public sector work.
It is always beneficial for staff to refresh existing knowledge or gain new perspectives on areas they already work in. However, you should prioritise training in areas where improvement is needed most.
2.    Focus on practical-based learning
In their report Putting People at the Heart of Public Sector Transformations, McKinsey recommends that organisations ‘design […] training programs that go beyond theory and give participants opportunities to practice and hone new skills in real-world settings.’

Doing this will demonstrate how the training directly impacts organisational performance and increase staff confidence in their new skills. 

For example, having participants respond to a real-world policy scenario using the new knowledge they’ve gained will help prepare them for similar challenges in the future.

3.    Choose a training format with simple requirements
Deloitte’s State of the State 2022/23 report notes that COVID-19, inflation and the cost-of-living crisis have all reduced public sector leaders’ spending power. However, this doesn’t need to be a barrier to effective staff training.

Many civil service and public policy learning opportunities are online, offering your organisation the flexibility to work with resources already available. In addition, due to major advancements in online learning over the past decade, your team can now expect to experience the same high level of engagement with course material and interaction with fellow participants as they would on an in-person programme.

Due to the lack of overheads, these online programmes are also usually much more affordable than traditional courses, so they will not put the same pressure on public sector department budgets.

4.    Opt for short and flexible public sector programmes
With increasing and ever-changing workload demands, flexibility is likely to be high on the agenda of a public sector organisation looking for a learning opportunity. Short, online and flexible public sector programmes minimise disruption to work and can be scheduled and moulded around day-to-day work commitments.

With many courses only requiring a few hours of study per week, employees can continue with full-time work while applying their new knowledge and skills in their current roles as they learn.
Because they are delivered online, these programmes can also be completed at home or in the office without the need to travel to a classroom or other venue.

5.    Promote continuous learning
The needs of the public are ever-evolving, and public sector workers are facing increased pressure to meet the demand for services and support.

That’s why, when thinking about employee training, it shouldn’t just be a ‘one and done’ approach. Instead, to ensure staff regularly top up the skills they need to serve the public effectively, your organisation should promote a culture of continuous learning, where every employee aims to increase their knowledge to deliver better outcomes.

One way to foster a culture of continuous learning in your organisation is to enrol your employees on not just one course but a series of courses that cover a wide range of connected topics. 

This will ensure that your staff are ready to tackle all aspects of a public policy challenge head-on – but it will also mean that they are in a mindset of continuous learning and development, which has huge benefits for both them as professionals and your organisation as a whole.

Online short courses in government and public policy from Oxford University
The Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford has partnered with Pearson to develop a suite of online short courses in government and public policy.

Each course proposes a variety of immersive and practical activities to enhance the online learning experience, from true-to-life simulation exercises to interactive live sessions with expert academics and a final project to reflect on a real-world policy. They are short and flexible, with each lasting just eight weeks, and the opportunity to study around existing commitments.

Customisable options are also available for organisations wishing to enrol multiple employees, with options to adapt the length of the course, the intake dates, and the content to be tailored to your organisation’s specific requirements.

Are you a public sector employer interested in enrolling your employees to study with Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government and Pearson? Get in touch with our team at oxfordshortcoursesonline@pearson.com to find out more about our courses, customisation and multi-course pathway options.



Read the most recent articles written by Oxford's Blavatnik School of Government (in partnership with Pearson) - New online public policy courses to boost civil service staff development


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