How to Identify Employee Training and Development Needs

By Lisa Goodall Ashkinos ● 02/21/2022

How to Identify Employee Training and Development Needs

By Lisa Goodall Ashkinos ● 02/21/2022

I’d like to address a starting point for the all-important professional development topic for companies with too many open tech positions to count, and an outflow of tech employees in the sellers’ market created by the Great Resignation. This piece focuses on how companies can identify employee training and development needs.

Companies that seek to identify employee training and development needs to develop in-house talent – and cultivate talent in the surrounding community – recognize talent cultivation as an opportunity to:

  • Support company growth with a forward-thinking, logically evolving skills foundation, and
  • Decrease turnover costs and increase retention by improving engagement.

It’s been proven time and time again that professional development adds value. Harvard Business Review explains that “when employees are offered and encouraged to take advantage of upskilling opportunities for their personal or professional growth, people metrics, such as employee engagement and retention, also go up.”

How do we identify the skills our people want and need?

The key question to cracking open the value that professional development can bring is,”How do we identify the skills our people want and need?”

Well-meaning professional development efforts that skip the identification step, or training needs analysis, can fail, with far-reaching impact to learning and development budgets as well as decreased employee morale. A piece in calls identifying training needs “the foundation on which your entire training is built,” and said that a training needs analysis helps company leadership plan goals, objectives, and activities – and the resources needed to achieve them. Foregoing the analysis, the author warns, is “like setting your employees adrift on a raft in the middle of the ocean with no land in sight. They won’t know which way to paddle, and eventually, they will all get tired and give up.”

Now that we understand this starting point is critical to the success of your training effort, how do you actually start the process?

The primary step to identify employee training and development needs is to measure current capabilities of your individual employees. Once you have established your baseline, that data can be used for a host of activities. Team leads can measure employee capabilities against:

  • Current and future business priorities
  • Employee personal goals and objectives (identified in their 360 degree reviews)
  • Profitability and retention targets

Following that benchmarking step to identify employee training and development needs, the Society for Human Resource Management recommends following up with a series of steps to:

  • Identify business needs and confirm that training will help the company progress toward addressing the need. Training isn’t always the go-to answer; there may be other avenues to address the organizational issue at hand, such as clarifying goals, restructuring a department, or incorporating new efforts to boost employee morale.  
  • Perform a gap analysis to identify and assess areas of need or improvement, whether for an entire department or an individual employee. By leveraging HR records, individual interviews, questionnaires, or focus groups, leaders can better understand the current state of the department and/or individual employee’s performance and identify ways to work toward improvement.   
  • Seek out new opportunities for training, either internally or through longstanding or new partnerships. For example, training resource partners for a tech team can be a local coding bootcamp that can bring in cutting-edge upskilling training in new technologies and frameworks.

Other follow-up steps include developing an actionable training plan with objectives, tactics, resources, dependencies, and budgets clearly outlined. The key word is actionable. Your training plan cannot sit on a shelf collecting dust. Like your employees, your training and development plan is a living, breathing document to use as a daily guide, with regular performance measurement and periodic iteration.

Last and not least, an integral component of plans to identify employee training and development needs should include outreach to the surrounding community to cultivate future new employee hires. Identifying talented people who may currently be under-employed, lack traditional education, or are simply ready to explore new pathways for their futures – and sponsoring them for training and professional development – can help to fill company pipelines with a vital source of talent.

In closing, identifying employee training and development opportunities includes assessing current capabilities, establishing training objectives by consulting stakeholders, building a logical, actionable plan, and measuring performance against your plan. A thoughtful, organized approach will help you capitalize on training opportunities, for the benefit of your current and future employees, and in support of company growth objectives.

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