Competency Based Workshops Help Internal Revenue Service Employees Manage Their Careers
by Dan Vale
This article will describe these workshops, first generally, and then individually. In general, teams of IRS Career Consultants and Training Center Administrators created these standardized workshops. IRS Career Consultants, who have education and experience in human resources and career development, teach these workshops. Career Consultants can deliver these workshops, by themselves or as a team of facilitators. The workshops are open to managers, employees, or intact workgroups. Delivery can be in a face to face mode, in a CENTRA virtual classroom arrangement, or in a Kadix video conferencing format. These workshops are adaptable and, depending upon the amount of discussion and the number of exercises used, they can vary in length between one to three hours. These workshops can accommodate challenged employees. Each workshop has learning objectives which describe the behaviors that participants will be expected to exhibit at the end of the workshop. An automated database sorts evaluations of these workshops and makes it easier to spot trends from the feedback of workshop participants. Another software system records employees' attendance at these workshops and allows employees to print out, at any time, their IRS learning history.
Description of Workshops
The following specific workshop descriptions reveal the unique elements of each workshop. One of these workshops helps IRS employees deal with the transition that the IRS is undergoing. The Managing Change and Transition Workshop teaches employees about the different stages of transition. Employees learn how to let go of the old realities and to move on to new beginnings. There also is an emphasis on transferable skills and a flexible attitude.
Four of these workshops facilitate employees' career planning. The Basics of Career Management Workshop helps employees to evaluate their work related interests, values and skills, and teaches them how to research occupational possibilities. The Career Learning Plan Workshop helps employees to enhance their current job performances and to plan for future opportunities. Since managers and employees work together on the employees' Career Learning Plans, managers benefit from the Coaching Solutions Workshop, which helps managers to effectively use coaching techniques. The Career Change: Switching Gears Workshop helps employees assess their skills. While these skills might be common to IRS positions for which employees might apply, these skills probably are transferable to other government or private sector positions. Then, employees target the best-fit positions based on their skills, interests and values.
Three other workshops help employees in their job search process. The Merit Program Questionnaire Workshop helps employees master the IRS resume form. The Write on Target workshop helps employees to write behavioral accomplishment statements. The Mastering the Interview Workshop teaches employees how to effectively prepare for interview opportunities.
The last three workshops have generated two informal career development groups. To complement the Merit Program Questionnaire (MPQ) and Write on Target Workshops, some Career Management and Learning Centers (CMLC) have formed cadres that review the MPQ or KSA (Knowledge, Skills and Abilities) supplemental information that is sometimes required for non-bargaining unit positions. These cadres are initiated and facilitated by a career consultant who provides training and guidance to the group.
In addition to the Mastering the Interview Workshop, some CMLCs have established Mock Interview Cadres. The career consultants train the cadre members to conduct mock interviews and to provide feedback to the candidates. Cadre members conduct mock interviews for IRS employees upon request and provide feedback on interviewing skills.
Retention and Reorganization Challenges
Historically, IRS executives have used career management workshops to help the IRS meet retention, and reorganization challenges. Each of these challenges is worth some discussion.
Retention of good employees has become even more critical in the federal government since 1983. After that year, the more portable Federal Employee Retirement System began replacing the Civil Service Retirement System. An incentive like career development services helps the IRS to retain good employees.
Since 1998, the IRS has been reorganizing to modernize, and to become more user friendly to taxpayers. Competitive sourcing and downsizing also have contributed to reorganization challenges. This reorganization required that some IRS employees find new IRS jobs. The IRS career development services have helped IRS employees in their search for new and compatible IRS jobs.
These competency based workshops have helped IRS employees and managers meet the challenges they confront in the IRS today. Feedback on these workshops, from both managers and employees, has been positive. In particular, our role in supporting organizations impacted by restructuring or competitive sourcing has been valued by employees and by the RIF (Reduction in Force) implementation teams. Our capability to use remote technology has made it possible for a small number of career consultants to deliver workshops to our customers nationwide at little or no cost, which is a tremendous contribution.
Daniel Vale is a career consultant who works for the IRS in the New Carrollton Federal Building in Lanham, Maryland. He has a doctorate in counselor education and 35 years of experience in government and university sectors. He has been a career counselor, a career counseling center director, a graduate school instructor, and a career consultant. For more information about these IRS Competency Based Workshops, contact Dan Vale at 202-283-1449 or email him at Dan.Vale@IRS.gov .