Training Public Sector Employees: Which Employees Gain the Most?

February 1, 2013


Public sector employees face particular challenges because of the nature of the work and limitations in opportunities for salary increases and career advancement. In this paper, the Forum explores the extent to which formal training programs can enhance the performance and quality of workplace experience for public sector employees. Our objective is to determine what factors explain variation in the efficacy of training and for which types of employees training was must valuable.


A series of two-day training workshops were administered for employees of a Midwestern state department that offers career development and job search services to unemployed people. The training took place at different regional offices over a period of several months and was provided by a private consulting firm. The training program featured numerous work management skills such as in-person interviewing, note-taking, document management, and using job databases and other online tools.

An online survey was conducted in the spring of 2012 to evaluate the degree to which employees felt the training improved their performance. The survey also evaluated employees’ overall perceptions of the workplace and their experience in it, including perceptions of supervisors and descriptive information on the employees. Just over 900 counselors were asked to complete the survey. A total of 513 completed the survey for a response rate of 56%. The high response rate can be attributed to the fact that regional supervisors sent the requests for participation directly to the counselors in their region.

Between four and ten months passed between the time employees attended the training and when they and were surveyed. The survey was administered at a single point in time. The survey was intentionally administered several months after the training to give employees time to apply the skills they learned in the training and reflect on the impact of the training. For survey questions regarding work management training, the analysis was intended to determine how effective the training was and, in particular, for which employees the training was most, and least, effective.

(Please visit our "Also See" section to the right for the full PDF of the Research Report.)


"Training Public Sector Employees: Which Employees Gain the Most?" Frank Mulhern and Jenna Massey, Northwestern University; February 2013.

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