These programs, while differing in length and the number of attendees, both require state-of-the-art facilities, housing, catering and months of planning. Judy Leitner, program manager of ODAS, said the organization tried many off-site facilities for its programs. It found that conference centers that offer a complete package of conference support, high-end technology and on-site housing and food best meet its needs. “We had tried some hotels in the Oklahoma City area,” said Leitner, “but it never totally worked, from being billed for catering from some other entity, from the cost of audiovisuals from somewhere else to people who come in and drape the tables for something else. In some of the hotels, you get bills from four or five or six people.”
Leitner now believes the only facility in the state capable of offering all the amenities required by her group is the U.S. Postal Service’s National Center for Employee Development (NCED), located in Norman, Okla.
“I was used to dealing with hotels that didn’t have staff on-site to help with all the audiovisual needs, where you had to contract with someone else to get those needs met,” said Leitner. She also believes on-site coordinators are integral to the success of her training programs since she has few staff planners. “You just didn’t get the kind of support from other facilities as you get from NCED. So it’s been a wonderful thing, as far as we’re concerned, to have the level of support you can get.”
Steve Mosier, executive manager of NCED, believes attendees of the ODAS training get the biggest benefits. “You’re away from your home office,” said Mosier. “You can really get focused on your conference event, your learning event, and you don’t have all those disruptions that you have at your home office. And you get an opportunity to focus on networking, both within your group and with people from other organizations or other agencies. That gives you a venue to find out about best practices from other places and to take those best practices home and adapt them for yourself.”
The training programs hosted at NCED also contribute to the Postal Service’s employee development goals. William Stefl, manager of employee development and chief learning officer for the Postal Service, explains the beneficial relationship the Postal Service shares with external clients, such as the ODAS. “One real advantage when we have a client who uses the facility to a great extent is that we are able to learn from them,” said Stefl. “We pick up techniques as we’re invited to audit or sit in on what they’re doing to better develop training opportunities for the Postal Service.”
Leitner believes the facility an organization chooses for training can make or break a training experience. “First, the facility and then second, the support staff you get there,” said Leitner about the needs for enhancing a training experience. “The facility has got to meet your needs, and NCED certainly well meets ours. We think learning takes place best in a facility where there are as few worries as possible.”
NCED is Leitner’s choice for off-site training facilities, “as long as I’m the director here and we can afford it,” she said. “With the budget crunch right now, we have to sometimes pare things down, but as long as we can afford to be there, we’re going to be.”
November 2003 Table of Contents