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HR leaders on the value of training management

We recently caught up with two Washington state agency HR leaders to learn how training management supports their agencies’ goals. We asked them to tell us about the intersection of training with strategy, prioritization, professional development, and DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) efforts. Here’s what they said.

Illustration of several people constructing and designing training.

Tell us about your role and how training management connects to it.

Jenny Warnstadt-Stepp, Department of Children, Youth & Families: As the human resource program administrator, I provide oversight to the training and development unit. This unit is responsible for management of the Learning Center and user training, strategic planning and reporting, mandatory training and compliance with state required trainings, the tuition reimbursement process, and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

Jeff Pelton, Department of Transportation: My role is the director of human resources and safety. It includes providing training to support the safety, well-being, and culture of the organization. Within our organization, we have a goal area exclusively dedicated to workforce development. This allows us a lot of space to support employees and various initiatives as an organization. This includes safety, DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion), and leadership and supervisory training. It also includes programs supporting people in achieving their Project Engineering license.

What are your agency’s goals for training?

Jenny: DCYF’s goals for training include clearly defined training requirements and access to the Learning Center for staff by day two of employment. We also strive for those trainings to have a DEI/accessibility lens applied so that we are inclusive and accessible, regardless of ability. The trainings offered to our staff are based on both statewide and federal training requirements and legal standards, in addition to agency requirements. They are tailored to the needs of those we serve.

Jeff: We offer and support a variety of training and development opportunities that are key to professional growth and succession planning. Training includes technical, essential, and leadership components. We want our employees to develop the skills necessary to carry out essential activities of the agency and build career opportunities.

How does training support your agency’s mission and DEI goals?

Jenny: Our training unit supports our agency’s mission and DEI goals by working closely with our customers, contracted counterparts, and our Office of Racial Equity and Social Justice (ORESJ) team. The unit ensures core training programs, academies, and courses acknowledge and address DEI as part of the curricula.

Our ORESJ team currently offers DCYF staff ORESJ Foundational Training, Train-the-Facilitator, Foundational LGBTQ+ Training, Race: The Power of Illusion, and Understanding Tribal Sovereignty. They also offer external racial equity trainers and consultants. Additionally, they facilitate affinity groups, tools and resources, and participate in the Office of Equity’s PEAR Team.

Jeff: Our DEI goal is to deliver training that inspires employees to connect in more meaningful ways to further develop the agency’s culture. Similar to our agency’s goals for training, it’s connected to the agency’s strategic plan that informs a number of training deliverables.

Workforce Development is one of the agency’s three goal areas. Talent development is a strategy within this goal area. This strategy helps the agency develop efforts to invest in our staff through training and other opportunities. The Employee Engagement Survey allows us to survey our workforce annually. We aim to improve the rate of surveyed employees who respond positively to the statement “I have opportunities at work to learn and grow.”

What is your strategy for determining the agency’s training priorities?

Jenny: We work closely with our agency’s leadership team, human resources teams, and agency partners to review, create, and update available trainings based on business needs, legal requirements, and customer requests. We also work with these same groups to determine training priorities which can be driven by mandates, law changes, policies updates, or specific agency needs. We review compliance with state required trainings and use the data from the Learning Center and HRMS to compile current employee data and completion rates of required trainings. When able, we conduct outreach to our divisions/programs to determine if there are any needs or requests that we can address.

Jeff: To determine training priorities, we use:

  • Strategic plan goals and associated elements
  • Input from leadership
  • Input from HR (what they see, what their leaders identify, and what employees identify)
  • Forecasting to identify technical and non-technical training gaps
  • Recruitment considerations (the available hiring workforce and what skill training is needed)

What do you think is distinctive about leading training at an agency your size?

Jenny: Being a large agency with multiple programs that have very different training needs and approaches, we work closely to understand the reasons for a training, including liability and legal requirements based on the critical work of our agency. We are a very small team, and transparency with those we support is key in being successful. We lead a steering committee with representatives from our agency programs to ensure that they are aware of system changes. We teach them how to troubleshoot and discuss impacts to DCYF, as well as request input and needs from them that we can advocate for on their behalf.

Jeff: Our agency has a variety of disciplines and workgroups that require a variety of training solutions to accommodate the needs of each group. Having a workforce comprised of office, field, and fleet workers makes it challenging to effectively deliver a one-size-fits-all training without interrupting service operations.

What is most challenging and/or rewarding for training managers?

Jenny: Being a small team at a large agency, there is a sense of not being able to do everything or enough to make sure that trainings are accessible, relevant, and that we are not overloading staff. The reward comes from the ability to solve problems, navigate a massive platform, and grow as a team as we serve DCYF and its mission.

Jeff: Challenges: quality training at affordable pricing, communicating the importance of attending training, and providing training on similar topics for varied audiences. Rewards: when employees find value in training and are able to personally or professionally grow and develop, and when leadership supports training efforts.

Thinking about your own professional development, what training and education experiences have been most helpful to you?

Jenny: I have taken many of the supervisory trainings over the years including Supervisory Skills training, Leading Others, and Leading Teams. When I worked at Parks, we worked with DES to offer Leading Others to our frontline supervisors. We developed scenarios that were relevant to the work they perform. I served on the panel during the class. It was rewarding to see the discussion points we had been sharing with our managers come together in one class.

Jeff: We have a program called the National Transportation Leadership Institute. It is an immersive professional development experience that focuses on self-discovery. I learned practical management techniques. I also learned to build my leadership skills and knowledge while motivating and enabling employees so our organization can excel and be successful.

Visit the Department of Enterprise Services website for information on leadership development courses and accessible training resources.

Left to right: Jenny Warnstadt-Stepp and Jeff Pelton

Jenny Warnstadt-Stepp is the human resources program administrator at the Washington State Department of Children, Youth & Families (DCYF). Jenny has more than 20 years of human resource experience, including overseeing HR programs at the Department of Corrections and leading HR operations for Washington State Parks. She also worked at Department of Labor and Industries providing comprehensive consultative human resource services. Jenny has an extensive background in classification and compensation, strategic planning, and project management.

Jeff Pelton is the director of human resources and safety at the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). Prior to joining WSDOT, Jeff served four years in the Army and worked four years as a manager of a network operations center in the telecommunications field. At WSDOT, Jeff has held various positions in human resources including labor relations, recruitment, equal opportunity and generalist work. Jeff holds a Bachelor’s degree in information technology and Master’s degree in human resources. He has served 22 years in the Army National Guard as an intelligence officer.



We deliver high quality, cost effective support services to state government. DES features expertise in statewide contracting, training, printing & mail operations, human resources and financial systems, facilities management, and care of the state capitol grounds and buildings.

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