Thoughtful Training Develops Better Employees
Developing a new employee training program or renewing an existing training program is a big effort in play at many companies. However, these efforts often fail to meet either the business needs or the employee needs or both. Why? While most training efforts have some learning development budget, they often skip the first step—Training Needs Analysis—to save time and money. Yet without the guidance and targeting that comes from needs analysis, the whole program can go off track and end up being a waste.
Today, we’ll focus on the often-overlooked approaches necessary to align business and employee training needs. (For a deeper dive into Training Needs Analysis from an Instructional Design perspective, read more here.)
To align business and employee training needs, look at these three perspectives:
Company-level training needs consist mostly of onboarding programs to introduce employees to the company’s values and organizational culture, and compliance and/or legal training.
The training needs of a department come from its function (sales, accounting, customer service, etc.). An org chart and a clear and explicit job description are indispensable for identifying these needs.
The training needs of the employee are related to their specific personal competencies, their desired career plan, and their personal needs that support the business needs. The analysis of training needs is extremely important and can have ramifications in many areas of a business.
When done, Training Needs Analysis has been, in many organizations, dictated from the top-down. It is now time to be a bit more revolutionary and give people the power so we can maybe turn the training needs analysis on its head. Instead of a traditional top-down approach where managers or Learning and Development departments assess training needs and create course materials, adopt a bottom-up approach, and empower the employees to say what they want to learn.
An analysis of the training needs starts with the organizational objectives but then focuses on the tasks and people needed to get there. Gather some basic data to know where employees start the process, so you can give them the tools they need to meet the company’s goals and their own needs. Training programs must empower employees and support their development, which in turn will support the department and company goals. Without this alignment, employees will not have anything concrete at their disposal and, in the end, everyone will get tired and give up.
How To Identify Employee Training Needs
So where do you start? And how do you identify employee training needs?
1. Define Proper Goals
Some organizations set company-level goals without reference to employees’ basic knowledge and developmental needs. Setting an organizational goal that requires certain skills your employees may not have will not be successful, and setting unachievable goals demotivates employees. Instead, clearly identify employees’ strengths and needs to give the organizational goals support and input.
2. Talk To Employees
Take time to ask employees what they need to continue to develop their careers. Are they happy with their work and if not, what could make them more satisfied?
Encourage open feedback. Indicate that you are truly interested in setting goals so that the training meets the needs of employees, not deciding who will receive the next pay cut. This can help you find training deficiencies that you would otherwise never have thought to check. And developing training that truly fits their needs and wants can boost retention so that your investment in employees continues to pay off over time.
3. Evaluate Your Current Training Resources
Once you’ve mapped out what your employees know versus what they need, it’s time to evaluate existing training resources that could support progress toward goals. What needs fine-tuning? What needs an overhaul? What’s missing? Use the blended/distributed learning concept to determine the learning deliverables that will serve the needs best. Reuse and repurpose where possible. Leverage some of the learning deliverables for double duty as performance support.
4. Prioritize Your Training Program According To The Biggest Pain Points
Don’t forget that training means investment, which implies a subsequent profit. For this reason, do not aim to solve all training problems at once. Consider cost optimization and logistical aspects to focus on training needs that are most urgent and will give the highest yield.
Because employees have a very busy work life, you definitely want to make sure they get what they need when they need it. Focus on giving employees the specific training they need without a lot of distracting or unnecessary information.
Carefully review how the learning process is going to prevent employees, managers, and executives from becoming frustrated and overwhelmed.