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How to Assess Your Team's Training Needs
Training is one of those company efforts that seems straightforward — until you get started. Do you focus on the individual or the company goals? The obvious answer is both. But that's the problem. Team training can quickly turn into a quagmire of potentially conflicting priorities with a harmonious middle group. That's why you need to figure out the needs on both sides and then couple them.
There's plenty of information out there about assessing an organization's training needs. Just do a quick search on "training needs assessment." You'll see that you need to:
- Know your organization goals,
- Do a 'gap analysis',
- Review your training options, and
- Define your training plan.
Sounds simple? Let's take a deeper dive. There's a bit more that goes into creating a successful internal training program.
Know your organization's goals
What are the business goals of your organization? Business goals can be easily divided into two categories — getting better at what you do or preparing for the future. In most cases, you'll be planning for both.
While preparing for the future, you'll want talk to both the top and bottom of your organizational structure. First, figure out where your company is heading strategically. Take that big picture information and keep it in the back of your mind while listening to the training needs of the front-line and customer-facing workforce. Implementing the big ideas will become that much easier once you determine what your workforce needs.
While trying to make your organization better, you'll have to talk to the people who own the processes. Listen carefully and ask them not only training they need but also what training they'd like to have for career progression. When we're talking about your team's training needs, it's two-pronged. Sure, you want to make sure they can do the job they have. But you also want to train them for the job they want. You might be shocked to find that your teams are excited about company-sponsored education — especially if you're hiring engaged, curious people.
A final note on organizational goals: It's likely that your workforce has foundational skills. Don't take those for granted. Even foundational skills can be refreshed. Often enough, getting back to the basics helps instill best practices that often shed with experience. Take note of the current skill sets because you'll want to track performance as you fill the "skills gap."
Perform a 'gap analysis'
You might have a good idea of where you're going, but where do you need to focus? You need to perform a gap analysis. A gap analysis takes into consideration the skills your current workforce possesses — and where they need to be.
You can gather input by using resources such as HR records and performance reports, individual team member interviews, focus groups, or surveys and self-assessment tools. These are great tools to figure out tactical and technical skills. You should also talk with management about how to unlock cultural opportunities with training.
Don't forget about soft skills. For instance, everyone in an organization could benefit from a bit of project management training. Similarly, productivity or cybersecurity training might be a good refresher for your entire workforce.
The gap analysis should identify training in four key training areas:
- Skills for future innovations
- Day-to-day process improvements
- Employee career progression
- Company-wide cultural opportunities
With input both from leadership and your learners, you'll be ready to build individualized training plans that holistically address both company and employee goals.
Review your training options
Once you've got a handle on who has to be trained and on what, you must turn your attention to how you're going to fulfill those training needs and what the cost will be.
You have a list of training needs, but you're certain to be faced with constraints: Time, budget, and staffing. Score your training needs, with a system such as critical, important, or 'nice to have'. This will allow you to prioritize and focus resources where they are most needed.
You can also look at how to source and deliver the training. Can the individual training modules be acquired from external sources, or must they be developed by your own staff or third party training developers?
Will training be delivered by instructors or self-paced? Will it be in a traditional classroom setting, through on-demand eLearning, or with a self-paced study?
Define your training plan
Now you should be ready to lay out your plan, which describes who needs to be trained, in what topics, and how. You'll identify the appropriate resources, either those to develop and deliver custom course materials or third parties from whom you will acquire off-the-shelf training.
Importantly, your plan must include the estimated cost and timeframe for the training, as well as how you intend to measure its effectiveness. Given the likely cost of training, this is sure to be a hot-button issue for your CFO. Talk to your senior technologists, subject matter specialists, and leadership team for their input.
You will probably end up with a selection of metrics — some objective, some subjective — related to employee performance, training completion rates, project effectiveness, roll-out success, operational efficiency, business growth, customer satisfaction, etc. Whatever you chose, be sure that your metrics are clearly and broadly communicated prior to, during, and after the training.
Remember that there will be multiple ways to achieve your goals — don't be afraid to seek opinions or alternatively to challenge conventional wisdom.