The pandemic is transforming workplace culture, pushing daily activities, including on-the-job training, to an online space. Aiming to assist Georgia’s civil service in adapting to the “new normal”, UNDP and the UK Government assessed the benefits and challenges associated with e-learning opportunities for civil servants.
The research conducted in 2020 by the Georgian agency PMC Research Centre together with the Civil Service Bureau (CSB), analysed the e-learning experiences of Georgian civil servants amidst lockdowns. Its quantitative part is based on the results of phone interviews with 1,654 civil servants from 30 municipalities, while a qualitative part comes from analysing focus group discussions and the reports of the online training sessions.
The study reveals that civil servants appreciate an opportunity to study online, stating that it saves time and helps blend professional development with daily duties. 63 percent of all respondents fully or partially agreed that online training can be as effective as a face-to-face class, and 45 percent said that online training saves transportation costs.
Limited social interaction between colleagues and difficulty concentrating on learning tasks were commonly mentioned as e-learning drawbacks. Respondents also noted that some of the training providers were not skilled in organising the engaging and interactive training sessions online. When given a choice, the same 63 percent of all respondents opted for face-to-face training.
In phone interviews, 30 percent of women respondents said that e-learning is an opportunity to combine work, studies and family duties. However, the discussions in focus groups revealed that e-learning can be a challenge for those civil servants, mostly women, who carry a burden of family care.
“Professional development of civil servants is vital for the success of ongoing reforms in public administration,” said Gigi Bregadze, UNDP Team Leader for Democratic Governance. “Our research aims to help civil service and training providers to identify weaknesses in the e-learning process and design an effective training system that will meet the needs and expectations of civil servants.”
UNDP and the UK research examines the gaps in digital skills and access to technology – computers and the internet. It shows that the majority of Georgian civil servants has access to computers at work (91 percent) and home (83 percent), as well as webcams (72 percent) and microphones (75 percent). Stable broadband internet connection is available to civil servants both at work (74 percent) and home (77 percent).
“The success of public agencies is defined by the qualification of employees,” said CSB Head Ekaterine Kardava. “We created a strong and flexible training system that equips Georgian civil servants with the knowledge and skills they need to achieve their professional goals.”
Professional development of civil servants is one of the requirements of Georgia’s Law on Civil Service (2015) that ensures high-quality learning opportunities for all civil servants. Even during the pandemic lockdowns, over 1,500 civil servants benefitted from the mandatory training courses offered by accredited providers.
UNDP and the UK are assisting professional training in civil service as part of their wider support to Public Administration Reform in Georgia, implemented in partnership with the CSB and other public agencies.