How To Identify Employees Training Needs And Improve Effectiveness of Training Programs

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HR expert Liz Ryan identifies three things all employees need. Do you know what they are? Training, guidance, and encouragement. But the reality is that only a small percentage actually receive them all. You probably know this already if your training budget has been cut. Unfortunately, that is the situation for far too many training professionals. And yet, we all know how valuable employees training is to morale, productivity, and performance. We need it to avoid employee burnout, high turnover, and inefficiency. The Forbes Coaches Council of top business and careers coaches explains it well: “The most important asset any company has is its people. Like any other business resource, you must invest the proper time and money into developing your employees and helping them grow.” Forbes So if you’re feeling undervalued in your workplace, hold your head up high. Remember: the work you do is integral to the success of your organization. Even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes.

Tips for developing employees training

So how can you give your work more impact? The Forbes Coaches Council provides eleven tips for making your efforts go further. They are:
  1. Account for all different learning styles and personalities
  2. Tie your learning objectives to business strategy
  3. Ask for employees training feedback
  4. Be flexible and let employees learn at their own pace
  5. Connect people to the overall purpose
  6. Focus on the skills you need to build internally
  7. Recognize employees for their efforts
  8. Equip managers to become better leaders
  9. Design employees training based on organizational values
  10. Keep your company’s future in mind
  11. Develop every employee

Assessing employees training needs

Embedded within the tips outlined above is the necessity to identify employees training needs. These needs relate to individual learning styles, timelines, skills gaps, and development objectives. So, conducting a needs assessment is imperative. In fact, Training Industry calls it “the single most important thing” in planning effective training programs. Methods for carrying out a needs assessment include:
  • Holding a staff meeting to identify issues and initiate a commitment to training.
  • Asking managers to add training to team meeting agendas.
  • Using anonymous suggestion boxes to collect ideas for your training programs.
  • Using focus groups with 8 to 10 people to help you gather more in-depth information. Ask specific questions to find out ‘how’ and ‘why’ needs can and should be met.
  • Conducting a survey. Questions can cover: an individual’s own assessment of training needs; current performance and behaviors; willingness to make changes in those behaviors; and interest in participating in training.
  • Getting feedback from customers, suppliers, and other key business partners.
An incomplete or inaccurate needs assessment could render your efforts completely pointless. So, to ensure you cover all your bases, it’s wise to use an employees training needs checklist.

Checklist for identifying employees training needs

It’s helpful to categorize your assessment in terms of organizational needs, task related needs, and individual needs. In fact, this is the most common approach to assessing employees training needs.

Step 1: Organizational assessment

Training that arises from the needs assessment must be in sync with the organization’s goals and vision. Some things to consider:
  • Is this an organization-wide need?
  • Are there resources elsewhere in the company that can be leveraged?
  • Will the resulting training align with company aims objectives?
  • Are there company-wide training barriers to remove first?
  • Is management willing to support the results of a needs assessment?
  • Is there available funding?
  • Review any legal requirements such as health and safety training.
  • Are any major changes planned or expected (e.g. new products, procedures, or technologies)?

Step 2: Job-task analysis

Start with these questions:
  • Who does the task?
  • How often is it performed?
  • How should it be done correctly?
  • What skills are needed to do the task?
  • What tools and resources are used/needed to do it?
  • Are there standards and metrics to evaluate the task?
For more knowledge-based (compared to activity-based) jobs, a cognitive task analysis may be required.

Step 3: Individual assessment

Research shows that employees who perform poorly often have no idea they’re underperforming. An individual assessment identifies departments, or even individuals, with performance challenges. Consider:
  • How common are these challenges?
  • What is the profile of individuals with these challenges?
  • Do they have the underlying skills and capabilities?
  • What are their learning styles?
  • Are there other factors (poor work-space configuration, lack of leadership etc.) contributing to performance gaps?
  • Can improving systems or equipment resolve problems?
  • Identify any dependencies — for example, where only one employee has crucial skills or knowledge.
  • Consider how employees’ roles may change over time. Do you have any plans to promote individuals or develop new employees?
  • Consider a wide variety of different training options.
If you have the resources, consider trialling a pilot training scheme. Then you can assess the outcomes before rolling the full programme out. Remember to review the outcomes of training regularly. This ensures you’re able to identify additional employees training needs. And you can assess the effectiveness of your needs analysis.
Jason is the Lead Author & Editor of TrainingStation Blog. Jason established the Training Station blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to training, learning and development.