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How should you identify training and development needs?


Every employer wants to maximise their ROI on training & development initiatives. There is an intrinsic value in investing in your people of course, but there should also be a definitive business advantage to spending the time and money on development. It is therefore crucial that organisations properly identify what their training & development needs actually are.


Indeed, very often it is the lack of focus on looking properly at training needs that reduces the ROI on training in the first place. Companies who run generic courses on a regular basis with no real consideration of the need they are fulfilling may continually find that the course is poorly received and adds little to the skills of their workforce.


Better to take a step back from the urge to start training, and conduct a formal or informal Learning Needs Analysis that can focus on the specific skills and competencies of a particular team, a department or the whole company. Supplemented by a performance management process aimed at individuals, this can provide an in-depth picture of the current skills available in a firm, and the potential for future development.


Such analysis needs to bear a few considerations in mind to be as effective as possible. It should be focused not only on the needs of the organisation at the present time, but consider the future strategy and plans it may be working towards. Right now, a lack of international sales experience may be of no concern, but it might be critical when a plan to expand to new markets comes to fruition.


Paying due attention to business needs also helps to closely align the training & development effort with the core aims of the business, making it a central aspect of what the organisation needs to do to be successful. This helps remove the cynicism and lack of interest that can often accompany training initiatives, and make sure it is understood as the important business need that it is.


The process should also be relatively simple and proceed in a timely manner. This comes from good planning and from being clear from the outset on what it should achieve. There are almost infinite attributes that such an analysis could investigate, so an organisation will need to be clear on the most important to ensure the process is completed while it is still relevant.


One of the most effective ways to approach the Training Needs Analysis is to engage an external consultant who is able to apply their skills and expertise to the process, as well as benefiting from a perhaps more extensive understanding of the training & development solutions actually available to meet any identified needs. This allows an organisation to benefit from a holistic insight into their present and future development needs, and can produce a customised and sustainable solution that meets their needs into the long-term.

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