The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is responsible for delivering an incredibly complicated product to its residents and visitors in the form of a functioning multimodal transportation system. To do this, training professionals in every region, mode and business area are tasked with developing a workforce capable of delivering the best results for the state. This results in a multitude of shared needs for the hundreds of trainers at WSDOT like training facilities, philosophies surrounding delivery techniques and evaluation of how effectively the training meets the needs of the workforce. The training community of practice at WSDOT was born from a necessity to train and empower a diverse workforce.

WSDOT operates around three strategic goals: inclusion, practical solutions and workforce development. Inclusion itself is paramount to good training. Beginning with the concept that a trainer will be engaging a diverse audience and developing training to meet their needs is a fundamental requirement. Practical solutions are an internal concept aimed at garnering the best results by doing the right thing, at the right place, at the right time and using the right approach. Since training is a pillar of any company and is central to the foundation of workforce development, it was the right time to invest more in training.

All About Value

From the beginning, the training community of practice was focused on providing the best possible outcomes with the least time expenditure, delivering high value at a low cost. To achieve this, all available and engaged trainers attended a day-long workshop including an agile, immersive meeting to answer one question: How do we deliver the best training at WSDOT? During the course of the activities, the goals of the group were expressed, refined and prioritized to address what exactly WSDOT needs to deliver exceptional training and development. That meeting produced a handful of overarching goals and people who would take on the responsibility of stewarding those goals to fruition.

The group built a set of guidelines into a Kanban board to communicate themes and objectives. Through candid discussions and collaborative meetings one theme began to emerge – the less time trainers spend scheduling and facilitating their courses, the more time they have to address the needs of their audience, allowing them to put more effort into improving the quality of the material they deliver. What emerged is an initiative to make each meeting an opportunity to train forward. The goal is simply to create value for the people who attend through virtual and in-person engagement around training and development. With a typical attendance of around 20 people, the objective is for the meetings to hold valuable bits of strategy, tools for success and people sharing challenges, as well as learning experiences.

Emerging Results

The training community of practice has taken the challenge of coordinating learning development and improving the quality of the WSDOT workforce as an opportunity to build relationships and share ideas. As a result of those relationships, face-to-face contact is made between trainers who may never have met before, and it’s easier to connect with trainers around the state. Better coordination between trainers allows WSDOT as an agency to develop a workforce prepared to meet emerging challenges in the transportation sector.

With hundreds of individuals around the agency, the community allows trainers to connect and share their experiences, expertise and resources, no matter what type of training they deliver or mode of delivery. For an agency like WSDOT that creates and delivers hundreds of different kinds of training, the knowledge shared with one another in these meetings is highly valuable. This quarterly forum creates a low cost opportunity to share that expertise and work through challenges as a community, which only adds to the diversity and effectiveness of each of our trainings.

Training is more than delivering content for an audience, and it has more impact at WSDOT than simply increasing skills and competencies. It develops communities, coordinates efforts and creates connections between groups that were previously siloed. The emergence of a group with a unified goal to share ideas, strategies and tools is a critical component for successful learning and development in an agency as large and dispersed as WSDOT.

The results from the WSDOT training community of practice include a SharePoint site to facilitate easy access to a collection of resources, complete with a discussion board for continuing conversations after meetings conclude. The community has also started a growing photo inventory of training rooms and locations and a Kanban-based tracking system for agency-wide training improvements.

Through this work, the group of trainers has gained valuable space and time to participate in sharing and reviewing challenges and success stories associated with the implementation of new tools and techniques. Because of the community of practice, the group was able to engage in a collaborative discussion to identify the most valuable features in a new learning management system.

Creating Connections

Connecting individuals across a widespread organization with complex and variable business areas allows WSDOT to develop more robust networks and working relationships. As the business of transportation continues to shift and change, a welcoming environment that fosters idea sharing and innovation is a result in its own right, but the processes and tools shared in the training community of practice also plant ideas in the minds of trainers that can transform how they go about their work. That simple shift in how each member creates a concept of what it means to be a trainer at WSDOT can help them create and deliver training in a way that continues to prepare the workforce for the challenges and opportunities ahead.

As transportation and the technology that drives it continue to evolve, the WSDOT training community of practice continues to grow and adapt to meet the needs of the agency.