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Education and training in the IRS today.

IRS Efforts to Reengineer Training

Since 1986, the Service has conducted at least eight formal studies of its training function, organization, processes and priorities. Many of the recommendations in these studies were not implemented, for a variety of internal and external reasons; however, all resulted in the following conclusions and recommendations.

* The IRS must become a continuous learning organization in which ongoing employee skills development is recognized as crucial to achieving the Service's mission and business plan strategies.

* Education and training should be corporate assets and considered an investment.

* Involvement of the highest-ranking IRS executives is critical to the success of a Corporate Education system.

* Corporate Education should be elevated to a position of prestige in the Service hierarchy and participate as a full partner in all decisions affecting the education and training of IRS personnel.

* The Service's work force diversity should be evident in all Corporate Education decisions, products and services.

* All training is the ultimate responsibility of Corporate Education, through a macro-education system encompassing all aspects of training and continuing education--from initial orientation through the executive selection and development process.

* All training is based on desired competencies and skills, rather than on job services, position or organizational level.

Corporate Education

In 1994, the IRS responded to its organizational needs and concerns by establishing Corporate Education--essentially, a corporate university with special schools and institutes that support the Service's mission. Over the past decade, many practitioners and scholars have developed an evolving model of the corporate university; this model is well-supported by the body of knowledge related to adult education and continuing adult education programs. Key guidelines that have emerged as central to the success of training are now generally well-recognized, and include the following principles:

* Training starts with inculcating employees with an understanding of a company's values, culture and mission.

* Effective training is carefully tied to a business's strategic needs.

* Training must evolve from a one-time event to a continuous process of lifelong learning.

* State-of-the-art training extends beyond a corporation to include key constituencies in a company's customer/supply chain and beyond the traditional training delivery methodologies.

The Corporate Education mission is to integrate organizational values and career-long learning within the Service, and to train and educate the work force for sustained excellent performance in fulfilling the broad IRS mission. IRS education goals include:

* To provide up-to-date training materials when needed.

* To send trained personnel to new jobs and reassignments.

* To offer professional career and vocational counseling.

* To encourage career-long learning.

* To train staff and resources operating within a connected community.

* To produce a dedicated, professional training cadre responsive to the field.

* To offer technologies that support learning and job performance.

* To operate in a quality achievement community.

* To provide in-depth measurements, evaluation and feedback.

* To formulate and execute a budget for in-house education.

Organization and Structure

Corporate Education is organized with a National Director of Education in the Chief Management and Administration area, and consists of three schools: the School of Taxation, the School of Information Technology and the School of Professional Development; there is also a Field Operations/Academic Affairs component. The schools are directed by Deans who, along with the National Director, are Senior Executive IRS personnel. This places four executives in leadership roles within education and training, signifying a major IRS investment in training. (Prior to Corporate Education, there was no executive in a training leadership role.)

The School of Taxation: The School of Taxation is responsible for tax law and procedure training and all taxation-related education of IRS professionals, paraprofessional support staff, customer service representatives and technical specialists. Of the approximately 105,000 employees, about 84,000 employees are considered taxation employees, with the remainder divided between information services and management. The training responsibility of the School of Taxation extends to all compliance personnel, service center operations, and taxpayer and customer service operations.

The core of the school will contain a competency-based curriculum. Training will be designed based on complete sets of skills and knowledge (competencies) needed to perform in the ever-changing organization, not just tasks associated solely with a particular job. These career-based curriculum tracts will be designed, developed and delivered using the Corporate Education concept of institutes.

Various field institutes are placed throughout the country and are structured with education experts and technical and functional experts who work as a team in the design, development and delivery of training and educational products. The institutes contain a core of education professionals located within the institutes and subject matter experts and resident lead instructors located throughout the Service.

The school will establish partnerships with academic and professional organizations, industry, other government agencies and IRS Chief Counsel to enhance course design and development, faculty and course delivery.

Office of the Dean: The Dean is responsible for the leadership of the School of Taxation. The Dean's vision is for the School of Taxation "to discover, design, develop, and deliver to the tax community, in an efficient manner, a quality professional education and training system which is responsive to the needs of the U.S. taxpayer." The Dean is responsible for

--building business partnerships,

--being a systems thinker,

--being the senior learning officer for tax, and

--building alliances.

To build business partnerships, the Dean will align employee learning and development to business strategies. As a systems thinker, the Dean will fit together the entire learning and development operation into a system bound by interrelated actions. As the senior learning officer for taxation, the Dean is a functional expert who shapes the learning vision and communicates it to the entire work force.

Innovative Training Development and Delivery

To accomplish its mission and achieve its goals, the School of Taxation is implementing a number of innovative training initiatives within the Corporate Education structure. For example, an Electronic Performance Support Systems (EPSS) Institute has been organized to build electronic performance support systems (including embedded training, computer-based training, online help and electronic information retrieval) to meet training needs as the Service makes significant investments in upgrading hardware and software. The Coordinated Examination Program (large case) and International are making significant investments in upgrading agents' computers and systems; the EPSS Institute is developing real-time training modules that agents will be able to access from laptop computers.

The School of Taxation is also leading the effort in distributive education, with both development and delivery being offered electronically via the Internet and an intranet. For example, the new training materials for worker classification issues, entitled "Employee or Independent Contractor," can be accessed and downloaded from the IRS's Homepage "Digital Daily" under Tax Info for Business at:

Another innovative initiative of Corporate Education is Interactive Video Teletraining. The Service recently completed the conversion of 82 satellite downlink sites to digital technology. This coverage provides interactive tele-conferencing to approximately 70% of the employees within their own commuting area across the continental U.S., and includes two-way audio and electronic innovations, from registration to testing and immediate instructor and participant feedback. The School of Taxation will be using this technology in a variety of situations; for example, one of the first uses is to train Revenue Officers in auctioneering skills remotely and interactively. Previously, about 70% of the cost of this training was travel; with the technology, it is expected that most training travel costs will be eliminated.


Recent reengineering efforts in the training and education organization, processes and priorities at the IRS promise significant improvements in employee performance development by improving employees' competencies and development opportunities.

Editor's note: Mr. Porter chairs the AICPA Tax Division Tax Education Committee.

The opinions in this column are Mr. Izard's own and cannot be viewed as representing Internal Revenue Service policy.
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Article Details
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Author:Izard, C. Douglass
Publication:The Tax Adviser
Date:Feb 1, 1997
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