Exclusive: majority of civil servants crave better training opportunities, global survey finds

By on 20/11/2022 | Updated on 20/11/2022
Only 36.3% of civil servants surveyed are satisfied with the training and professional development opportunities available through their department or agency. Graphic by Mohamed Hassan via Pixabay

Just over a third of civil and public servants (36.3%) are satisfied with the training options available to them and only 40.7% of managers feel they have sufficient training budgets to develop their teams, according to the results of a Global Government Forum survey.  

The survey also found that the vast majority of respondents feel that regular and effective training is either essential or very important for building a modern and innovative public sector workforce, and retaining staff. These results are particularly pertinent at a time when governments are ramping up efforts to drive efficiencies and better public services through digital transformation and facing increasing competition from the private sector in the ‘war for talent’.

The survey was conducted by Global Government Forum between July and September this year. It gathered 1,073 responses from civil servants in 45 countries – including Canada, the US, UK, New Zealand, India, Singapore, France, Sweden, Brazil, Nigeria and the UAE, as well as the European Commission.

Of those that took the survey, 11.5% said they were leaders – equivalent to the top five grades of the civil service in the UK – and 38.5% said they managed a team.

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The survey found that only 36.3% of civil servants surveyed are satisfied with the current training and professional development opportunities available through their department or agency, while less than half (44.5%) feel they have access to the learning and development opportunities they need to move to the next level in their career. However, those in the leadership group were more satisfied with the training opportunities available to them and more positive about their ability to access training, at 48.8% and 52.9% respectively.

Responses also varied when drilling down by profession. On the question of whether civil servants have access to the training and development opportunities they need to progress in their career, 57.1% of those working in digital, data and technology (DDaT) roles agree – the highest proportion of any profession. At the other end of the scale, those working in policy were most likely to disagree that they have access to the opportunities they need, with only 40.0% agreeing.

Of the civil servants surveyed, 39.3% did not feel that the COVID-19 pandemic had negatively affected the learning and development opportunities open to them. However, a higher proportion of leaders (47.2%) felt that it had.       

Time and funding biggest barriers

A lack of time, insufficient funding, and a lack of training specific to requirements were most frequently cited as being significant barriers to accessing training, by 64.9%, 41.7% and 41.5% of overall respondents respectively. Of the leadership cohort, 79.7% said lack of time was a barrier and 46.4% of those in management positions cited a lack of funding.

In terms of training budgets, although less than half of managers said they feel they have sufficient training budgets to develop their team in line with the relevant growth and development strategy, managers in DDaT professions are more positive than their colleagues in other professions. Over half (57.1%) believe they have sufficient budgets. Those in IT were the least confident in their training budgets, with only 35.7% agreeing it was sufficient.

Overall, 39.6% of respondents said their department has a sufficient training budget.

On the value of regular and effective training, 86.4% said it was essential or very important for retaining talent, 85.7% said it was either essential or very important to building a modern workforce, and 79.0% said it was either essential or very important for driving public sector transformation and innovation.

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The belief that training is key to retaining talent and driving transformation was higher among the leadership group. For example, 95.1% of leaders said training and professional development was either essential or very important for building a modern workforce.

Positively, when asked whether they feel they are supported by their manager with the training required to develop in their role, the majority of respondents (59.3%) agree. Those in the DDaT profession report they have the most support, with 80.0% in agreement. Those in policy roles report they have the least support (54.5%).

Management and leadership training in high demand

The survey also explored which types of training civil servants would find most useful. Management and leadership training came out on top (67.5% of the overall group said they would find this most useful) followed by project planning (47.4%), communications (46.0%), policy (39.5%), and digital (39.0%).

Lower down the list came public sector strategy (32.9%), governance (28.7%), risk management (37.0%), and public service delivery (27.5%).

More public servants in the US and Canada said digital training would be most useful than their peers in other countries. Of the respondents in the US, 51.6% said they would find digital training most useful, as did 48.5% of respondents in Canada.

The survey found that respondents attend 6.6 courses per year and dedicate 10.7 hours per month to professional development on average. Civil servants in the US attend far more courses per year – 12 on average – and dedicate more hours per month (35.2) to professional development than those in other countries.  

Those in the communication profession attend the most training (9.7 courses a year) and spend the most time on professional development per month (13.1 hours).

Respondents said nearly a third (29%) of the training provided is carried out externally. While the appetite for attending training sessions outside of working hours is generally low, 21% of leaders said they would consider it.

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About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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