Investing in people keeps the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on mission.

Tony Bingham and Pat Galagan | ASTD | November 8, 2012

Investing in people keeps the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on mission.

With more than 314,000 employees, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is the federal government's second largest department, responsible for a nationwide system of healthcare services, benefits programs, and national cemeteries for America's veterans and their dependents. As deputy secretary of VA since 2009, W. Scott Gould has shown himself to be a true champion of human capital. He has fought for and won training budgets that support more than 60 learning and development initiatives to help VA employees deliver on their mission of service—and show measurable results. We talked with Gould at VA headquarters in Washington, D.C.

In the book you co-authored with Linda Bilmes, The People Factor: Strengthening America by Investing in Public Service, you wrote, "Training is the single most important step the country can take to reform personnel and to strengthen the civil service." Tell us why you believe this to be true.

It's an observation that stems back to my earliest days as a division officer in the Navy. I've never seen a ship put to sea or a helicopter leave the deck without people. It's people who make organizations. They create its esprit de corps, own the knowledge, and achieve the mission. Any way you put it, people make organizations go. Beyond any question, people are the organization's most important asset. Training and developing them, therefore, is critical to the functioning of the organization. It's that simple.

It seems almost shocking to say, but the extraordinary value you get from investing in people is still dawning on many organizations...