The competition for skilled workers is driving the need for continuous learning and a capacity for ongoing training and career development. As job and career demands evolve rapidly, training options must be flexible to meet individual needs. Limited interventions during times of restructuring and emergency training do not address the necessity for ongoing long-term training and employee development. ILAs could fill this gap. They provide a perfect vehicle for supporting training customized to the specific skill requirements of the individual and strategic human resources development goals of the agency.
ILAs generate a partnership between managers and their employees to design and fulfill employees' long-term career objectives. They can be used to obtain the continuous learning necessary for an individual to enhance his/her overall professional development and, therefore, can be used as a recruitment and retention incentive. It is also an opportunity for managers to have more satisfied and highly trained employees to obtain the organization's long-term objectives. ILAs can focus individual employee responsibility on training outcomes and thus organizational.
This guidance is intended to help Federal managers and human resources professionals understand what an Individual Learning Account is, and how it can be used strategically as a flexible learning tool to develop Federal employees. ILAs offer unlimited opportunities for customization of learning to meet organizational goals. The examples of ILAs in this guidance demonstrate how existing human resources flexibilities can be used to provide a more dynamic approach to continuous learning.
An ILA is a specified amount of resources such as dollars, hours, or learning technology tools (i.e., access to the internet, use of government computers away from the office, etc.), or a combination of the three, that are set aside for an individual employee to use for his or her learning and development.
This 21st Century ILA tool addresses the changing nature of learning and employee development. The use of ILAs moves agencies' focus from a one-time learning event to continuous learning; from required training to strategic workforce development; and integrates resources for training with balancing work and learning time.
The accounts may be centrally designed and universally applied across the organization, or decentralized to allow individual components the flexibility to create accounts that target their specific skill gap needs. ILAs can benefit both management and employees. They improve organizational performance through targeting employees' specific learning needs and involving employees in their own development.
Based on the pilot results, agencies identified key components that are critical to the successful implementation of ILAs. An agency ILA implementation plan should include, but is not limited to:
With the exception of Schedule C appointees and uniform personnel in the U.S. Department of Defense, an agency may establish ILAs that include any executive branch Federal employee, including career, career conditional, part time, temporary, or excepted service employees in professional, trade, technical, clerical, administrative, or management positions.
Are agencies required to establish ILAs?
No. Implementation is voluntary.
Will OPM assist agencies in implementing ILAs?
Yes. OPM, along with the cadre of ILA pilot agency coordinators, can provide technical and consultative assistance to agencies in the design and implementation of ILAs. In addition, OPM is planning an ILA forum to bring agencies together to discuss implementation strategies and lessons learned from the pilots.
What is the role of line managers in implementing ILAs?
First and foremost, line managers can "champion" the ILA initiative by communicating a consistent message of support to their staff. In addition, managers can serve as mentors to their employees by assisting them to identify ILA activities that support the organization's strategic goals, assessing the impact on their performance, and coaching them through completion. Finally, since managers will be working directly with employees, they should be able to recognize any issues with the ILA program and recommend changes to senior management.
What are some ways that managers can increase employees' awareness of how important it is to update their skills by utilizing ILAs?
Managers can communicate the connection between the organization's strategic goals, and how their employees' current and future skills will assist in the achievement of those goals. In addition, the use of ILAs promotes the concept of continuous learning, which is critical in today's rapidly changing workplace. Therefore, managers can discuss with their employees the link between continuous learning, the competitiveness of the workplace today, and the future skills necessary for them to advance in their careers.
What is the role of employees in implementing ILAs?
The employees' role is to be knowledgeable of the ILA and what it offers; determine how they can use it to enhance their personal and professional skills; and be accountable for their development and the resources provided by the organization.
Will there be additional funds allocated to agencies to implement ILAs?
No. To the extent permitted by existing law, ILAs may be established with the funds allocated for employee training.
Can an agency roll appropriated funds over from one fiscal year to another to fund their ILAs?
There have not been any changes to appropriation law. Absent specific authority, appropriation law requires monies appropriated for a given fiscal year be expended in that fiscal year [31 USC sec. 1502].
What measures can be used to determine the effectiveness of ILAs?
Methods for measuring ILA effectiveness are varied and dependent on the objectives established for the ILA program. There are generally two basic types of performance measures. These are in-process indicators and outcome indicators. In-process indicators tell if the plan is on course. They track such things as number of employees trained, number of training courses completed or number of hours employees used for the ILA. For example, an agency participating in the ILA pilot provided 24 hours of official time to employees to participate in developmental activities. Consequently, the ILA Coordinator tracked the hours staff used each pay period as an in-process indicator, and periodically notified management of progress.
Outcome indicators contain measures of service or performance results. These measure such things as an increase in employee and/or customer satisfaction, increase in employee job performance and/or increase in organizational performance. Outcome indicators may require prolonged periods of measurement and multiple types and levels of measurement methods to include surveys, customer and employee feedback tools, training impact measures, and return on investment analysis. For example, an ILA objective to provide training and development to increase the warrant authority for all procurement staff might use the number of staff who pass the warrant test as a measure.
Where can I find more information about ILAs?
Description of agency pilot ILAs can be found at www.opm.gov/hrd/lead/ila/ilaspot2.asp. The report on the results of the ILA Pilot Initiative can be found at www.opm.gov/hrd/lead/ila/ilarpt.asp.
ILAs may be implemented to meet general or specific agency needs. For example an ILA could be: