I suggest we change the governmental mentality of employees from day 1 by restructuring new hire orientation and training. Here at the IRS, recruitment uses several catchy and effective slogans when hiring like, “It all adds up.” or “Count on me.” For new hires though, the slogans stop. It is time to adopt one – “Let’s be accountable.” Under my proposed philosophy we will stop promoting waste among employees and shift the frame of mind towards accountability. The way private corporations strive to hold employees accountable to its shareholders; we need to hold our employees accountable to the taxpayers.
I am newly hired with the Internal Revenue Service and I recently attended new hire orientation in Dallas, TX – one of the three most popular destinations for orientation and training of similarly situated positions at the Service. This orientation could have been done entirely at my POD the way it is with other positions and by my calculations (using external gain reports) it would have saved well over $5,000,000 from the beginning of 2009 to date. That number seems rather large by itself, but keep in mind that is just using my position along with two others (also in examination) at this agency. Three positions, the past year and a half, one agency….just orientation. This figure is extremely conservative and again, only takes into account the one week of new-hire orientation for external gains.
Moving on to training….
I have been told, and it is completely viable, that I will not “pay for my training” until I have been on this job for two years. This is far too long and it causes the government to lose money when an employee leaves their position (either internally or externally) before that breakeven point (whatever the exact time point is). By lessening the cost to orient and train we will shrink that timeframe and make fleeting employees less of a financial burden on the books of the nation. The problem with long breakeven points will be exaggerated even further once the economy fully rebounds and more and more employees will venture into the private sector for ongoing employment.
Personally speaking, my training will be completed in three phases, and while I am not recommending that all training be conducted online, a majority can be. I think that once students are trained in the methods and material needed to succeed, the delivery of those methods and materials are susceptible to change without falloff. If we use the three positions mentioned earlier within the Service as a model and we cut out the smallest training session, the last one and conduct it solely online, we can save the government over $18,000,000. Three positions, the past year and a half, one agency….just the shortest and last training phase. If we were to cut out the final two phases, which are in my case three weeks and two weeks respectively, we could save over $33,000,000. Three positions, the past year and a half, one agency…. the final two training phases.
These figures take into account flights, mileage, baggage, M&IE, etc. but they do not factor in the approximately 500 instructors who are also on these collective trips (along with weeks of pre-plan education) nor do they factor in all of the behind-the-scenes expenses which are created by this training….in other words, these estimates are extremely conservative and would likely yield millions of more savings than presented.
Of course with any change as drastic as this, one must look at the lateral effects brought on by it too. In this case there are several. By staying within our POD for the final two phases of training we are able to stay on top of our existing files rather than have them sit for three and two weeks without touching them, again – showing accountability to our taxpayers and enhancing our on the job performance. We can train for four days per week and work on our files the other day ensuring that taxpayers get prompt service and timely results. This problem does not exist during the first phase of training because we do not have clients at the time. Despite this, there exist several cost-saving methods that could still be employed to that initial phase. Further, our on the job instructors would be able to train us in an “on the job” manner, employing what we are learning into the real-life scenarios of our actual cases without the need to delay such practices for weeks at a time. Our coaches in the field will be more in touch with what we are learning in training and will provide a more seamless transition than the current system. If we finish classroom training early on a given day we can be given that time to return phone calls, etc. This will enable employees to absorb the material, an opportunity to retain it, and more immediacy in its application.
I was given my initial legal training in the conventional sense, but after graduating law school I decided to try an online LL.M. program for taxation and have found it to be incredibly successful. I would not endorse the initial legal education to be conducted online, because the groundwork that is established during those three years is invaluable much like an initial phase of training. But with the methods of success already in place, one can venture outside of the conventional and take advantage of what technology has to offer. My LL.M. program is designed to be completely interactive; I can still be called on to answer questions, asked to perform calculations in front of the class, ask the professor questions, have access to the materials presented after class is over, etc. The flexibility that the online platform creates allows for far-superior professors than at a conventional law school as well, and each of these benefits, among others, would translate to governmental training too and help to alleviate “zero production time”.
By shifting the accountability of our employees immediately upon hiring we pave the way for their entire careers. Gone can be the days of employees with “The government will pay for it” attitudes, which was actually overheard numerous times on my initial training trip when dealing with expenses like going over the weight limit on baggage, etc.
Let’s be accountable to our taxpayers, the ones who are charged interest on their existing deficiencies each day while we are away to training and cannot act on their case. Let’s be accountable to the government for our spending when we are away at training. After all, we examine and critique taxpayers on reasonable spending and maintenance of receipts and records, yet would scoff if required to do the same. Let’s be accountable.