How certain are you about your key common training needs?

Elva Ainsworth describes five traditional ways to gather the training needs of an organisation and proposes an ‘integrated’ approach that will allow you to deliver a high impact plan with confidence.

Reading time: 5m 30s.

Your training budget is precious and your resources are limited so being totally sure that you are focusing on the best possible priorities is important. But how do you build a training plan that addresses the real needs of the organisation as well as fitting your budget?

Perhaps the best place to start is to turn this question inside out. Perhaps the key question is; what training will serve the needs of the organisation and the employees best and make the biggest positive difference? And then you can ask for the appropriate budget and resources.

Training needs analysis has traditionally been described as an evaluation of the gap between the current and future knowledge/skills/attitudes required to achieve the organisational goals that can be bridged by training or learning activities.

Who is really clear on the detail of what is going to be required in the future?

But this only takes you so far.

Who is really clear on the detail of what is going to be required in the future? How are you assessing this gap? Via a competency model that is five years old? Using what measures? Whose perspective on what is important are you focusing on?

What training are employees hungry for? What is really needed to shift the current culture in the desired direction? Whose view is really important here – those at the top or those who may be trained elsewhere in the organisation? All this leads to an element of confusion on the matter – and so it should!

Key to addressing this issue is an understanding of the conditions under which training can be effective. For training to land positively and be integrated effectively back in the workplace you need:

  • A desire or appetite for the training
  • Appropriate timing, location and space for learning
  • Credible, skilful delivery appropriate for the audience
  • Fit with the audience in terms of level
  • Relevance with today’s pressures and participants’ current roles
  • Participants to have something at stake, something they want out of it

This list of conditions is not easy to fulfil but if you train without all of these being ticked off then the training will be working against a resistance or passivity that will make it hard work. The results can then be disappointing at best and no change at all plus complaints about ‘having to attend training’ at worst.

So, how can you create a training plan ready to fit these conditions above? The simple answer is to gather data and views from a number of different sources – both internal and external. Here are five useful methods, critical to successful training planning:

  1. Listen and record employee requests. Listen to what is behind any requests to understand the true motives. This is pure gold because, if people really want something, you can then tick off three of these conditions straight away.
  2. Request, consult and collate manager requests. Again listen carefully to what they think they need for their teams and compare it against what you think they need. You can find a way to sell what they need by positioning it inside of what they think they need.
  3. Review appraisal documentation. Analysis of perceived challenges and identified training needs can be very useful if you have it. Set a deadline and be sure people know when this analysis is taking place (it will help encourage completion in future years).
  4. 360 degree feedback data. Analysis of recent 360° surveys should show you the common trends, strengths and weaker areas as well as defined areas for focused development. In addition to this it will show up perceived blind spots for individuals and for the organisation as a whole. Close attention should be given to the weakest areas as perceived by the individuals themselves as this will guide you as to how position your training.
  5. Strategic input. This critical input can be covered by addressing the following questions with your senior managers and your HR/OD team:
  • What culture do we want to have in the future? How will things be different from now and how does that translate into behaviours and attitudes?
  • Who are our critical players? Which individuals or particular groups/levels do we need to motivate, energise and invest in?
  • Who are our future leaders? Where is our senior succession coming from and what do we need to do develop their leadership over the next few years
  • How to ensure a competitive position? What skills/attitudes/knowledge is critical for the business to maintain a  competitive edge in the market place?
  • What are the current business-critical issues/skills/attitudes required? Ask what training is essential for this year’s business plan to come good. It could be around use of technology or sales or it could be more subtle and be about putting the customer at the heart of the business.

The trick then is to integrate these inputs and a strategic, as well as operational, plan will emerge. It is useful to be sure there is something for everyone, there is real investment in the important people and that your most business-critical initiatives have sufficient resource to have real and credible impact.

It is also useful to have a clear way to sell all the pieces in your plan – addressing the acknowledged desires of key people. This is the time to draft it, present it and consult with your key stakeholders in order to prioritise and develop it further.  

The end result you can aim for is an integrated plan with clear deliverables, cost-benefit estimations and listed priorities as well as timed phasing. You will then have full commitment from the key people and a way to deliver it that will land positively and satisfy the conditions needed for training to work well.  


About the author

Elva Ainsworth is founder and CEO at Talent Innovations.


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