By Ann Boehm, January 17, 2023

In-person training all but disappeared during the pandemic. Thankfully, technology enabled us to adjust through virtual training. As in-person training has started creeping back and I’ve ventured back out on the road, I’ve paid attention to the differences in virtual and in-person training.

The materials are the same. The instructors are the same. There is one major difference, though. The greatest benefit I observe during in-person training is how the participants learn from each other. You all, the participants, are the hidden benefit of in-person training.

Let’s reflect a bit, shall we?

It’s hard to believe how things have changed since the beginning of 2020. From January to mid-March, I taught FELTG courses in Sacramento, Calif.; Washington, D.C.; Fort Collins, Colo.; Raleigh, N.C.; Natchitoches, La.; Springfield, Ill.; and Phoenix, Ariz. I taught the occasional virtual webinar, but our typical training sessions were in person. And then the pandemic hit ….

Initially, agencies postponed classes “until the pandemic ended” – you know, for a few weeks. Yeah, that didn’t happen. Weeks turned into months, months into years.

I’m sure you all, like me, remember hearing medical professionals opine that the pandemic and its associated isolation and masking requirements would continue at least until 2022. We did not think that could possibly happen. How would we survive?

Well, we did. We adapted. The world turned virtual. Workplaces changed. Training changed.

What didn’t change was the need for FELTG training. Management still had to deal with unions, poor performers, misconduct, investigations, and EEO complaints. Virtual training worked. It still does.

Virtual training has the chat function. Participants can share anecdotes. They can ask questions. They can even un-mute and address the group. In my experience, however, the virtual world does not lend itself to the kind of sharing that occurs during in-person training.

Not only do participants learn from each other – sometimes things as basic as who to contact about a performance issue or reasonable accommodation request – but I often learn from the participants. People are more comfortable sharing in person than virtually. Even the hourly breaks (which may run longer than 10 minutes during in-person training because people enjoy chatting and connecting) provide an opportunity for brainstorming, questioning, and sharing.

More and more private sector CEOs are seeking to bring people back in the workplace to enhance idea sharing and collaboration. Workers are reluctant because they like the convenience of remote work.

Remote and hybrid work are beneficial, and they are here to stay. However, when it comes to training, agencies should give serious consideration to more in-person training. It really benefits the participants. During a recent virtual training, some participants commented, “Gee, it would be nice to have this training in person.”

Don’t get me wrong. There is great value to virtual training. How lucky we are that Zoom, Teams, and WebEx exist. But in-person training allows the participants to learn not just from the instructor, but from each other.

So, there you have it. Something to think about in 2023. You are the secret benefit of in-person training. It’s an option again. And that’s Good News! [email protected]


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