With competition for talent mounting in today’s global marketplace, providing meaningful training and development opportunities is crucial for both staff members and the business as a whole.
From the business’ perspective, upskilling employees is a shrewd investment that can boost productivity and engagement, leading to lower staff turnover, increased profits and a positive brand reputation. For employees, learning new skills can help them move into higher positions within the business or take on different roles, helping to further their own career.
It’s rare that someone enters a job with all the skills needed to conduct their work at an optimum standard; or that they’re happy to stay working at the same level for long. So, here’s a five-step guide to identifying training and development needs, and what to do next.
Step 1: Identify training needs
First things first and that’s establishing the training gaps or needs. According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), this analysis should be conducted at four levels: Legislative, Organisational, Job and Individual/Team.
- Legislative: External factors should be identified – namely, the legal imperatives and regulatory requirements that are applicable to your industry. Keep in mind new or impending legislations in the UK and Europe that are likely to affect your business.
- Organisational: Taking into account the current organisational climate, its wider goals and the future market, what skills are necessary for the organisation to provide the best possible service? And, looking at future forecasts – including new technology and structural changes – how might this change or develop over time?
- Job: In order to enhance the performance of certain roles, you’ll need to consider what capabilities are required to carry out a specific job, or group of jobs, in the organisation. This includes skills, knowledge and attitude.
- Individual/Team: Look at the profile of individuals or small teams. What personal skills, knowledge and attitude does each employee (or team) need to perform their tasks to the required level; and what new skills might they need to continue working effectively in the future?
Step 2: Tie in with business goals
To further support this analysis, the organisation’s existing training and development policies should be explored. The learning needs should factor in the organisation’s wider goals, vision and values; then it will become clear which of these require additional understanding, exploration or reinforcement.
This might include, for example, the reinforcement of organisational values and/or standards through company-wide learning events, which show employees how to assimilate the company mission into their daily activities.
As the CIPD’s head of learning and development, Andy Lancaster, advises: “The closer that L&D is to business performance goals, the easier it is to measure outcomes and the more likely you are to get value for money.”
Step 3: What to do once the need is identified
Once the training needs have been established, all the information that has been obtained should be collated which will allow for the following:
a) An overall learning needs report for a specific department, or the organisation as a whole. This can be used as a framework for the learning and development strategy, or be incorporated into the business planning process.
b) Identification of which learning needs are the most critical or time-sensitive, by talking with senior managers and concentrating on learning outcomes.
c) Development of learning and development plans with input from line managers, once priorities and budgets are in place. These should prioritise content or methods that will meet the needs identified in point b).
d) Creation of personal development plans for individual learning, using available resources.
Step 4: Examples of development
Think beyond structured training schemes and classes. Coaching or mentoring, for example, can be highly effective for developing an individual’s knowledge and performance based on specific skills and goals. Through one-to-one discussions and on-the-job learning, this development intervention can help to advance employee potential at all levels.
Remember that coaching and mentoring are slightly different techniques, with coaching being more skilled and directive, and mentoring being more of a collaborative process, where both parties benefit. Both techniques are flexible and relatively low-cost, and provide employees with immediate feedback on their strengths and weaknesses.
Step 5: Learning technologies
Technology should be exploited wherever possible to assist the learning and development strategy. In fact, as workplace demographics continue to change, there will be a progressive move towards digital and mobile technology – not to mention flexible working patterns – that will push managers to consider new training approaches based on partnership, collaboration and independent learning, as opposed to traditional top-down techniques.
Although classroom-based learning still has a role to play, the use of digital technology and virtual learning will grow in popularity among users and businesses, due to its flexibility and cost-effectiveness. According to further CIPD research, more than half (57%) of companies believe mobile learning will have the greatest impact on learning and development in the next five years, followed by virtual classrooms (40%) and social media (30%).
Continued learning and development are essential for both business success and individual engagement and motivation. Is it time you revisited your training needs?