State of Alaska, Department of Administration, Division of Personnel and Labor Relations

Classification: Training Changes

This page focuses on assisting you with situations that you might encounter and questions or concerns that you might have about changes in training needs as they pertain to the work of your department, division, unit, and staff. Within the following you will find information and guidance on the role of Classification in personnel administration and dealing with various issues related to changes in training needs. Some of your own questions or concerns may lead you elsewhere within our site. However, we may also be able to address them here. We encourage you to investigate all of the prospective questions and concerns, even if at first glance they don't initially appear to cover yours.

What if we train our people and they leave?

What if you don't train them and they stay?

Contemplated by Michael Wade as a little tongue-in-cheek thought experiment in his blog, Execupundit, this is (perhaps) the best presentation to start us out on the critical importance of training for any workforce.

As a supervisor, you are an agent of the State of Alaska and responsible to ensure that all of your staff:

  • Have PDs that are supported and appropriately updated;
  • Are regularly evaluated and provided constructive feedback; and, most-importantly,
  • Receive appropriate, up-to-date training.

It is a quandary that a large amount of time (and often money) will be invested in employees only to see them move elsewhere in search of better career progression, work conditions, pay, etc. This problem is pervasive across the full spectrum of work, from clerical through professional/managerial; affects both public and private sectors alike; and presents no easy solutions as it will always be essential to the effective performance of any body of work that there is a capable workforce with the appropriate competencies to adequately perform it.

I'm a new supervisor. What should I be considering as I assess training needs for my unit?

First of all, congratulations on your new responsibilities! Assessing your unit's training needs also provides a great opportunity to assess your own. Have you considered participating in the Academy for Supervisors?

Determining your training needs should be based upon identifying gaps in the current and needed competencies (i.e., knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors) necessary for your staff to properly perform their responsibilities and should cover:

  • Orientation to the policies, missions, and functions of the department;
  • Response to changes in technologies, mission, programmatic delivery, or procedure within the employee's occupational field;
  • Response to assignment of new duties and responsibilities;
  • Development of previously unavailable skills as the department is the only source of the requisite work experience;
  • Career development or succession planning in preparation for meeting future staffing needs for advanced or managerial positions; and/or,
  • Benchmarking and improvement of employee performance as part of a performance enhancement plan.

In addition, you should ensure that:

  • PDs for all positions that you supervise are accurate and up to date; and,
  • You complement your training plans with consistent constructive evaluations.

For further assistance with conducting skill gap analyses and other training needs, please contact the appropriate HR staff serving your department and/or theTraining & Development Section.

What types of training should I could consider and/or provide to my staff?

  • In-house training:
    This may be informal, involving job shadowing, coaching, mentoring, and knowledge banks of prepared references; or formal, where skilled staff conduct courses per established and accepted curricula or follow competency development plans such as those utilized in flexible staffing.
     
  • Courses presented through our Training & Development Section:
    The Training and Development (T&D) staff provides professional supervisory, management, leadership, EEO compliance, and interpersonal skills training development and delivery. Courses are offered on an open-enrollment (scheduled), special session (request), and customized basis. T&D staff is also available for training and performance development consultation.

Can I reduce the training requirements of my staff (and, therefore, their drains on my time and budget) by developing more stringent minimum qualifications (MQs)?

To be forward, it is an erroneous assumption to plan for or expect that even well-experienced candidates or current employees will not require at least a modicum of training effort when faced with the assignment of new duties or other changes in the work environment. Efforts to reduce training through excessively stringent MQs or other recruitment and screening efforts often result in unnecessarily restricting applicant pools as otherwise capable and qualified applicants don't apply out of an assumption that they are not qualified.

You may also reference the Recruitment Concerns page for further assistance on this topic.

What can I do to increase my effectiveness at attracting and retaining a better qualified or prepared workforce?

Strong "onboarding" efforts (i.e., the mechanism through which new employees acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, and behaviors to become effective organizational members and insiders) lead to positive outcomes for new employees such as higher job satisfaction, better job performance, greater organizational commitment, and reduction in stress and intent to resign. Request a consultation with the appropriate HR staff serving your department for more assistance.

Also, have you considered utilizing the State of Alaska's Internship Program to engage and encourage high school, college, and graduate students into pursuing a career with the State?

I keep hearing about "onboarding" as a tool to improve training and reduce turnover. What is it?

"Onboarding" is a human resources term that refers to the process of thoroughly assimilating new employees into an organization. By providing a support structure and process to help newly hired employees transition and integrate into their new roles and organizations, they are able to hit their stride and become successful in their new roles as quickly as possible. This in turn results in more productive and satisfied employees who feel engaged in the organization and stay longer in their new jobs.

Onboarding goes well beyond the typical new employee orientation process of filling out employment paperwork and reviewing company policies and procedures on the first day of work. It is usually a 3 to 6 month process that includes coaching, mentoring, follow-up meetings, training, job shadowing, on the job coaching, etc. A successful onboarding process includes helping new employees learn about an organization's history and culture, strategic direction and initiatives to support current priorities. It provides new employees with the information, resources and support they need to succeed at their new jobs.

Fully onboarding a new team member takes time and effort. Without it, new employees are more likely to flounder, become isolated, misunderstand their role and not meet performance expectations. With a little thought and attention, you can take steps to ensure that your new hires feel comfortable in their jobs and don't head back out into the open market.

Request a consultation with the appropriate HR staff serving your department for more assistance.

Over the past several years, I'm finding that I have to provide increasing amounts of training to my staff. Any ideas on why this is?

This may be indicative of minimum qualifications (MQs) that have been made too broad. Overly broad MQs will lead to larger applicant pools; however, many of these applicants may not have adequate competencies to perform the work without excessive training. Departments wishing to reexamine the MQs of job classes should request a consultation with Classification Studies to determine if the MQs should be amended through a Maintenance Request, which changes the MQs and MQ Questions but not any other part of the class concept(s).

The first person to ask is your supervisor to ensure that you have departmental approval to pursue this option. You should also contact your appropriate Management Services Consultant.

Your Division Director (or appropriate delegate) should submit an email to:

  1. The Classification Section; and, carbon copies to,
  2. Your department's Administrative Services Director (if submitted by a delegate, please also cc your Division Director); and,
  3. The appropriate HR staff serving your department.

This email should include:

  1. A description of the change or concern.
  2. The job class(es) impacted by the change or concern.
  3. Any solutions proposed by your department.
  4. Any additional agencies who utilize the impacted job class(es).
  5. Your department's designated contact for this request.

Amendments to MQs typically take from one to ten business days to complete and, like other actions completed by Classification, are interactive and collaborative processes.

Help! I keep getting all kinds of answers about how I establish flexible staffing. I was wondering if there is a single source of information?

Information regarding flexible staffing may be found in the Alaska Administrative Manual; specifically, AAM 130.270.

For additional information on the process for establishing flexible staffing, please contact your appropriate Allocations Supervisor.

As always, when considering changes that may impact the responsibilities and/or expectations of a given position (or group of positions), these potential changes should be discussed with the appropriate HR staff serving your department.

What makes a good training plan for flexibly-staffed positions?

All training plans for flexibly-staffed positions should have the following elements (Word):
  • A Learning Objectives and Training Section, which details:
    • The specific learning objectives;
    • What each segment of training covers, identifies whether training will be in-house or outside and the name of course(s);
    • Who provides and certifies the training and the position(s) or organization(s)responsible;
    • How long the plan is expected to take, what schedule has been set for each phase, and the length and time within which the incumbent is expected to have completed the course if it isn't available year-round; and,
    • In what sequence the training occurs.
  • A Rating Method and Criteria Section, which:
    • States what objective the incumbent is being evaluated for;
    • What criteria needs to be met for the incumbent to complete the objective; and,
    • How the incumbent will be rated for each criterion.
  • A Certification Section, for the supervisor to certify that the incumbent:
    • Has met the criteria and completed the flex training plan;
    • Meets the minimum qualifications of the higher-level job class; and,
    • Is capable of performing the duties at the higher level.

Creating a good training plan for flexibly-staffed positions sounds pretty involved. Are there other uses for it besides flexibly-staffed positions?

Great question! Yes, even though this type of training plan is required to establish any flexibly-staffed position, the steps and end product do not have to be limited only to such positions. Its fundamental elements can be used as the basis to create plans for regular positions as well.

We were studied only a short time ago and collaborated closely with Classification to develop minimum qualifications (MQs). Our recruitments have seemed to be adequate, with strong responses and applicant pools. Any ideas why we're still having issues meeting our performance standards?

It's time to ask if there are there other factors, such as documentable performance issues or prohibitive restrictions on the available training time of instructors/mentors and/or new employees, contributing to the inability of employees to complete their training within their probation. If at any point your assessment indicates the class specification still adequately describes the work performed and that the current knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) and/or MQs are either adequate or actually somewhat restrictive, but employees are still not meeting their training objectives within their probationary period, there may be issues that are best resolved in consultation with the appropriate HR staff serving your department, as they involve addressing other factors and are outside the purview of what Classification may assist with.

Your supervisory staff may also consider attending any combination of the Academy for Supervisors, Performance Coaching, and/or Performance Appraisals: the Basics courses provided by our Training & Development Section.

Broadly speaking, when should I involve Classification if my department, division, or work unit experiences changes in training needs?

During any reassessment of the training process, departments should assess if this retraining is a reflection of changes in work, staff performance, or other factors within the work environment. The need for and extent of Classification's involvement depends upon the nature and scope of the changes in work that have instigated the changes in training.
  • Processes, organizational structure, regulations, and/or technology:
    In scenarios where your department, division, or work unit requires training in response to changes in workflow processes, staffing/organizational structure, technology (e.g., web-based forms and processes, computer accessible information, remote access and entry of information), or regulations (e.g., new steps required in process, additional criteria must be applied, reports must be made to additional regulatory bodies),your needs may be best addressed through structured on-the-job or ad hoc classroom training. Please consult with the appropriate HR staff serving your department with regards to best establishing revised or new training plans and related goals and expectations.
  • Regular and recurring duties:
    If the training results from changes to the scope and latitude of assigned regular and recurring decisions and supervision exercised over other staff by some employees, the individual PDs for any affected positions should be updated through the OPD System and reviewed by Individual Allocations. For additional information, please contact your appropriate Allocations Supervisor.
  • Professional licensing or certification:
    You should reference the Licensing Changes page for further assistance regarding scenarios in which new training is required as a result of mandated changes professional licensing or certification.
  • Responsibilities that don't fit the existing class structures:
    If the training results from changes in the nature, type, or level of the work, or staffing/organizational structure that either creates a new level of hierarchical authority and responsibility or does not otherwise fit into the existing class structure(s), and effectively leaves a group or nearly all involved staff unable to perform their duties, you should consider requesting a consultation with Classification Studies.

    To request such a consultation, the first person to ask is your supervisor to ensure that you have departmental approval to pursue this option. You should also contact the appropriate HR staff serving your department.

    Your Division Director (or appropriate delegate) should submit an email to:

    1. The Classification Section; and, carbon copies to,
    2. Your department's Administrative Services Director (if submitted by a delegate, please also cc your Division Director); and,
    3. The appropriate HR staff serving your department.

    This email should include:

    1. A description of the specific aspects of the work that appear to be no longer appropriate to the existing class structures and why.
    2. The job class(es) impacted by the change or concern.
    3. The PCNs of all impacted positions.
    4. Details regarding pertinent prior recruitment efforts (e.g., scope and duration, number of applicants, disposition of applicants, and hires made), ongoing training efforts, turnover, and non-retention, etc.
    5. Any solutions proposed by your department.
    6. Any additional agencies who utilize the impacted job class(es).
    7. Your department's designated contact for this request.

The primary body of our programmatic work requires significant experience that is not typically found outside of employment with the State of Alaska. Candidates with more relevant experience are unavailable, and this experience cannot be reasonably acquired within the time limits of the probationary period. What are my options?

First-up, assess if the class concepts still seem applicable to the body of work. If they do not, please refer to the Work Changes page for additional information.

If the concepts still seem appropriate, you may explore the following options:

  • Flexible Staffing:
    If there is a lower level (or multiple levels) of work, a flexible staffing plan may be considered and developed to facilitate development of the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to perform duties at the higher level(s). Flexible staffing plans are established individually for single positions and must be directly related to achieving the ability to perform the duties required at the next higher level job class. Briefly, when submitting a request to Classification to establish flexible staffing, a department must:
    1. Create a position description submission describing the duties and other responsibilities for each of the job classes included in the plan; and,
    2. Develop the flexible staffing plan, which consists of a training plan that establishes how the incumbent will be trained to perform the higher level work for movement to each of the higher job class levels; and,
    3. Submit a rating sheet used to determine when training has been successfully completed.

  • Multiple Job Class Positions:
    Another option available may be multiple class positions where management may fill a position for either licensed or non-licensed work, depending on applicant qualifications. Multiple class positions use more than one job class, all of which are performing related work (e.g., Licensed Practical Nurse, Nurse I, and Nurse II).

    Classification must approve and establish a position as multiple class before recruitment or reallocation of a filled position may be conducted using the multiple class provisions. It is recommended that you contact your appropriate Allocations Supervisor to verify the appropriateness of requesting multiple class positions before submitting a request through the OPD system.

    Classification may approve the establishment of a multiple class position when all of the following conditions are met:

    1. The highest level job class requires licensure to perform specific duties (e.g., Nurse); Similar work is performed in the non-licensed, or differently-licensed, lower level job classes (e.g., Licensed Practical Nurse);
    2. The job classes must be determined closely related for purposes of voluntary demotion;
    3. Management must be able to assign either licensed or non-licensed duties to the position;
    4. PDs exist that adequately describe the duties for each job class (e.g., licensed and non-licensed work);
    5. The work is within the same bargaining unit at all levels; and,
    6. A memorandum outlining the licensing or certification requirements is drafted and approved.

    Multiple class positions may be combined with flexible staffing.

  • Coupled Job Classes:
    In some cases where a specific body of training and eventual certification (e.g., Alaska State Troopers) is required, a department may consider establishing coupled job classes through a class study.

    Classification Studies may establish coupled job classes when all of the following conditions are met:

    1. A trainee level job class exists in the class series;
    2. The journey level of the class series has specific certification and training requirements;
    3. For every position in the trainee job class, the same specific training program is needed and provided to all new employees, and must be completed by an employee prior to advancement to the journey level in the class series; and,
    4. The work at all levels must be within the same bargaining unit.

    To request a consultation regarding the establishment of a coupled job class, the first person to ask is your supervisor to ensure that you have departmental approval to pursue this option. You should also contact the appropriate HR staff serving your department.

    Your Division Director (or appropriate delegate) should submit an email to:

    1. The Classification Section; and, carbon copies to,
    2. Your department's Administrative Services Director (if submitted by a delegate, please also cc your Division Director); and,
    3. The appropriate HR staff serving your department.

    This email should include:

    1. A description of the specific aspects of the work that appear to be no longer appropriate to the existing class structures and why.
    2. The job class(es) impacted by the change or concern.
    3. The PCNs of all impacted positions.
    4. Details regarding pertinent prior recruitment efforts (e.g., scope and duration, number of applicants, disposition of applicants, and hires made), ongoing training efforts, turnover, and non-retention, etc.
    5. Any solutions proposed by your department.
    6. Any additional agencies who utilize the impacted job class(es).
    7. Your department's designated contact for this request.

    As always, when considering changes that may impact the responsibilities and/or expectations of a given position (or group of positions), these potential changes should be discussed with the appropriate HR staff serving your department.

    For additional information on the process for establishing flexible staffing, multiple class positions, or coupled job classes, please contact your appropriate Allocations Supervisor or review AAM 130.270.

Why is it that the time it takes to adequately train our employees to reasonably perform the full range of their duties regularly exceeds their contractual probationary period?

This general issue typically manifests within two common scenarios:

  • Scenario A Inconsistent Training and Probationary Periods (No Preexisting Flexible Staffing):
    Most typically, this scenario occurs when the given level of work requires a specialized body of knowledge that is primarily acquired through on-the-job training and experience, as opposed to or in conjunction with, specific education. If there is a viable lower level of work within the class series, a flexible staffing plan may be developed and established. For additional information on the process for establishing flexible staffing, please contact your appropriate Allocations Supervisor.

    As always, when considering changes that may impact the responsibilities and/or expectations of a given position (or group of positions), these potential changes should be discussed with the appropriate HR staff serving your department.

  • Scenario B Inconsistent Training and Probationary Periods (Under Preexisting Flexible Staffing):
    In this scenario, established flexible staffing plans typically start all new employees at a range 13 trainee level and a 6-month probationary period. The primary body of the department's programmatic work is currently at a range 14 journey level. The 6-month probation does not allow for sufficient training time to adequately train employees and they become permanent in the trainee class prior to entering the most difficult portion of their training, from which many are prematurely advanced to the journey level, are not able to complete their training, and are ultimately not retained. Per Collective Bargaining Agreement, these non-retained employees are to be either returned to a position in the class in which they held permanent status or placed in layoff. Either way, the department doesn't have this ongoing lower level of work as it is purely for training purposes.

    Under this scenario, the work is almost entirely appropriate to the higher level. Per Collective Bargaining Agreement, employees earn permanent status (with its subsequent layoff and rehire rights) to the lower level of the flexible staffing plan but may be unable to complete training and earn permanent status at the higher level.

    Provided that the main body of work has not otherwise changed, it may prove best to consider discontinuing flexible staffing and adjusting formal plans to accommodate training within the 12-month probationary period of the journey level. This will require that the PDs for all affected positions are updated through Classification in order to:

    • Only reflect the appropriate journey level work;
    • Reallocate the position to the journey level; and,
    • Remove the flexible staffing criteria.

    For additional information regarding this part of the process, please contact your appropriate Allocations Supervisor.

    In addition, the minimum qualifications (MQs) of the journey level should be examined by Classification Studies and may require a Maintenance Request to amend them to reflect the removal of flexible staffing. For additional information regarding this part of the process, please contact Classification Studies.

    It is essential that all new training and development schedules are strictly adhered-to and the progress of all incumbents is carefully documented in the event that progressive discipline is required. For additional information regarding this part of the process, please contact the appropriate HR staff serving your department.

I wasn't able to find my particular questions and concerns here. What other options do I have?

We encourage you to continue reviewing our other pages. However, if you are either certain that your questions and concerns are not covered elsewhere, or have looked and still not found an answer, please do not hesitate to email us directly at the Classification Section.