Chapter Advisories
Details and Cross-Training

The NTEU-FDA National Labor-Management Cooperation Council was created in an Appendix to the NTEU-FDA Collective Bargaining Agreement. It has functioned since the effective date of the CBA, i.e. 1 Oct 99. The Council is made up of equal number of NTEU representatives and FDA managers. One of its activities has been to explore issues that create dissatisfaction throughout the agency and attempt to resolve the dissatisfaction so that the quality of FDA work life may be improved. The ability of FDA employees to participate in details has been a recurring source of consternation.

The Cooperation Council's paper on details is reproduced in its entirety below in attempt to lay out for all FDA employees, managers, supervisors and bargaining unit employees approaches that should seriously be considered and implemented. The Chapter would like to know which of the several approaches laid out in the paper were tried and how well they worked or did not work. The union intends to explore this area when the CBA is renegotiated.

The paper reproduced below was electronically scanned and some of the formatting was lost.

Posted 28 Feb 03

Details and Cross-Training
Creative Approaches and Alternatives


The NTEU/FDA Agency Cooperation Council (ACC) (formerly the Partnership Council) is encouraging managers and non-managers to think creatively about ways to conduct detail and other cross-training opportunities. The critical need to focus on succession planning places a greater emphasis on employee development. The increased and more considered use of employee details is a logical step to take. The ACC recognizes that a key component of employee development is for supervisors to provide and employees to take advantage of a variety of employment experiences throughout one's career. Employee development is the responsibility of both the supervisor and the employee. Details and cross-training, along with formal and informal training, on-the-job training and targeted development programs, are all useful means to assure meeting the agency's mission. The purpose of this document is to provide a variety of ways to meet the demand for details and cross-training. Recognizing that "one size" does not fit all situations, supervisors and employees should think creatively about how to balance the needs of the organization and the needs of the employee.

Current State

  • Through a variety of focus groups and surveys, FDA employees have expressed concern over the lack of opportunities for detail assignments
  • Employees are seeking detail opportunities in order to develop themselves and enhance their learning and the overall effectiveness of the Agency
  • Some employees reject detail or cross-training experience because they are concerned about the workload they leave behind and will return to
  • Some supervisors are reluctant to permit employees to go on details because their organizations are short staffed and have heavy workloads
  • Some supervisors and some employees are concerned about the increased workload on the other employees when an employee goes on detail
  • Some employees are so specialized that there is no one available or qualified to fill in behind them
  • Some supervisors are concerned that employees that go on details will not be coming back to the organization from which left
  • Some supervisors are concerned that their office will have to continue to pay for an employee's salary while on detail and the office may not be reimbursed or receive any other compensation to make up for the loss
  • Details are often for long periods of time (120 days or more)

Desired State

  • Employees are able to go on details and supervisors have the resources to assure that the work continues to get done without having an adverse impact on the work or the organization
  • Details are viewed as an important component of employee development and training
  • Details are viewed as an important component of creating an agency-wide learning environment
  • Employees are offered opportunities to share their experiences with and learn from other employees
  • Supervisors and employees are able to re-distribute workload to create opportunities for employees to take details or other cross-training opportunities

Benefits to Employees

  • Enhanced vision of the overall Agency by providing new experiences New knowledge and understanding
  • On the job training in new program areas
  • Increased opportunity to interact with different Agency components .Opportunity to explore other program areas or functions for future job opportunities
  • Applicable to all employees regardless of grade level

Benefits to Supervisors

  • Employees attain new knowledge and experience
  • Improved employee morale, thus increases overall productivity
  • By cross training other individuals, adequate back ups are available for highly specialized positions
  • Enhanced employee skills

Benefits to Agency

  • Employees' perspective of Agency becomes more global and less local .More cooperation and understanding between Agency components which enhances mission accomplishment
  • Agency continues to a learning organization
  • Employees gain job competencies necessary to increase their effectiveness and value to the Agency.

Options for Encouraging More Details

Establish part-time or short term details
  • Part-time details could be for one pay period per month, one week per pay period, 3 days per week
  • Short term details could be for 30-45 days
Specific Benefits:
  • Supervisor is not without an employee for an extended period of time
  • Supervisor knows that the employee is not gone permanently
Specific Challenges:
  • Creating meaningful detail opportunities that can be completed on a part- time or short term basis
Establish an Employee Detail Fund
  • An organizational component (e.g., Center, Office, Division) could set aside a small fund to encourage a limited number of details outside of the organization
  • The fund could be used to as an incentive to permit details by reimbursing the detailee's home organization for the cost of the employee's salary
  • The reimbursement could be used to hire a temporary replacement for the detailee, to temporarily promote another employee into the detailee's position, supplement operating funds, etc.
Specific Benefits:
  • Supervisors are recognized for their commitment to permitting employees to go on detail
  • Supervisors are able to backfill positions while the employee is away or otherwise have resources to maintain the effectiveness of their office
Specific Challenges:
  • Setting aside funds for this when there are so many other priorities ~
  • Viewing this as a "ceiling" on the amount of resources available for
Set Aside "Detail" Positions
  • An organizational component (e.g., Center, Office, Division) could set aside a position to be filled on a detail basis by someone from outside the component
Specific Benefits:
  • There is an opportunity to bring in someone new to the organization without a long-term commitment
  • The new employee gains insight into the new organization that can be used to establish better relations with the employee's home organization
Specific Challenges:
  • The turnover creates a built-in learning curve that reduces short-term productivity
Share and Learn Program
  • Employees in similar grades and positions pair together to share and learn each others' jobs
  • Employees team up and work together part time in each of their organizations
  • The program is informal and self-initiated by the employees with supervisor's concurrence
  • Each employee maintains their present position and schedule time for sharing and learning each other's knowledge and experience
Specific Benefits:
  • Employees continue to be responsible for getting their own jobs done while at the same learning a new one
Specific Challenges:
  • May be necessary to let some deadlines slip since the employee team will only be working part-time in each position
Job Exchanqes
  • Employees "swap" jobs for a period of time. For example, 90 days or two days a week.
  • This is especially appropriate when the organizations work together frequently or depend on each other
Specific Benefits:
  • Employees learn what the other organization is like and can bring that perspective back to their home organizations
  • Establishing closer relations with other organizations
Specific Challenges:
  • There will be a learning curve for both employees and the same amount of quality work may not be done in same amount of time.