Developing a new employee training program (or revitalizing an old one) is a big endeavor, but it's often doomed to fail right out of the gate. Why? Companies that skip the crucial first step – a training needs analysis – may find their training ineffective on every level. Knowing how to identify training needs of employees is the foundation on which your entire training is built. It makes sense to get it right. Here's how.
Why do a training needs analysis?
A training needs analysis looks at the knowledge, skills, and abilities of employees globally to determine what types of training they need to move your company towards its objectives.
But why is a training needs analysis so important?
A training needs analysis focuses on your organizational goals and objectives and then figures out the tasks and people needed to get there. It gathers some baseline data about where your employees are starting, so that you can give them the tools they need to meet your company’s goals.
If you don’t do this step, then it’s like setting your employees adrift on a raft in the middle of the ocean with no land in sight. They won’t know which way to paddle, and eventually they will all get tired and give up.
Where to start: How to identify training needs of employees
Many companies balk at conducting an analysis because they it seems overwhelming to figure out where to start. Here are eight concrete steps to get you started on how to identify training needs of employees.
1. Decide what you are trying to achieve
Some folks place evaluating employees’ baseline knowledge before goal-setting, but your data will be much richer if it has context. Decide on organizational goals and objectives for your company before gathering employee data to decide where to spend your valuable training time.
Your goals might be very concrete (e.g., migrate the entire office to a new software) or somewhat intangible (e.g., improve customer service), but if you can think of it and set it as a goal, you can train it and measure your progress.
Whatever your goals, make sure the entire C-suite is onboard and ready to focus on moving towards them.
2. Identify the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to meet your objectives
As your company grows and changes (and the world right along with it), your employees may have gaps in their knowledge, skills, and abilities.
This step carefully breaks down and articulates what employees need to know, understand, and be able to do at the end of training to meet your stated goals. These learning objectives for individuals help further guide and focus your training.
3. Figure out what employees know
Piggybacking on step two, take your list of knowledge, skills, and abilities, and determine where on the spectrum your employees fall. Give employees a chance to show what they know (and identify any gaps) before you start designing your learning programs.
There are a variety of ways this information can be collected, including:
- Using questionnaires or surveys
- Observing employees and examining their work
- Conducting formal assessments
4. Talk to employees
Take the time to ask employees what they need to do their jobs better. Are they happy in their work, and, if not, what might make them happier?
Encourage open feedback by separating these conversations from any type of HR setting. Make it clear that you are really interested in setting goals and objectives for training that match employee needs, not deciding who gets the next pay cut. This can help you find deficiencies you would have never thought to check.
5. Talk to managers
Managers are the bridge between executives and workers. As such, they have a unique perspective on how things are going in the boardroom and on the street.
Talk to your managers to see what they feel can be improved on and what can be put on the back burner.
6. Decide on the data points that are valuable to your team
In the collected data, what do you want to focus on? If employees across the board think that lunch is too short but that doesn’t meet your goal of implementing a more efficient bidding or invoicing process, don’t focus on lunch for now.
Match the feedback you get to the goals you set at the beginning of the process.
7. Evaluate your current training resources
Once you figure out what employees know and have taken the temperature of your managers, it’s time to figure out what training resources are already in place to support progress towards your objectives, and what needs fine-tuning (or scrapping altogether).
If you have only ever conducted employee trainings in a few marathon sessions in a stuffy conference room, you may not want to use any of your old tools. These days, just-in-time employee training meets employees exactly where they are with technology that makes training efficient and effective. You might consider replacing your old three-ring binders, Power Points, and workbooks with:
- Geofenced learning opportunities that are delivered to specific job sites
- Experiential learning
- Microlearning modules
- Gamified assets and delivery methods
Your training needs assessment might also uncover how employees prefer to learn, which can reduce training friction once you do roll the training out.
8. Match your training to your needs
Matching your training to your needs means making sure you have the right amount of training, focused on exactly what employees need in order to meet your organizational goals from step one. Because employees have so little time for training as it is, you want to make sure they are getting what they need, when they need it.
If you are trying to revamp your procedures for checking compliance with local regulations, now isn’t the time to also train employees on how to order office supplies. Focus on giving employees the training they need without a bunch of extras that are distracting or time-consuming.
Even if you are completely overhauling the way you do business, including all of your office and field procedures, taking it one logical step at a time will prevent employees (and managers and executives!) from getting frustrated and overwhelmed.
If you want to know more about how to identify training needs of employees, EdgePoint Learning can help. We are experts at helping businesses of all sizes design and implement the training that’s best for them.
"This post was originally featured as an "Editor's Choice" article on eLearning Industry."