Learning in business is vital. That stands as much for the CEO as it does for an employee. An organisation's capacity to grow is defined by how it approaches learning and development. As we're sure you'll agree, getting, keeping and developing the right employees is a massive part of business success.

And the proof is in the pudding: An article by Training Magazine proves that employee engagement, productivity, customer service and quality of performance are all elements that directly correlate with providing the right learning and development.

Staff training and development is also an essential part of growing a positive company culture (which naturally encourages employees to stick around, too).

But, it's all very well understanding the importance of training and development, but actually identifying your employees' needs is the crucial bit. Get it wrong and you could be wasting valuable time and money on training that may not actually be necessary. 

But, how do you find out what training your employees need? Here's a useful step-by-step guide to help you out. 

7 steps for identifying the training needs of your employees

Set clear expectations

To identify training needs, you first need to set clear expectations for each role within your business. In order to monitor performance effectively you need something to measure against. Review job descriptions when new positions are created, or when making any substantial changes to existing roles, as well as periodically to account for smaller changes.

Monitor performance

Measuring and monitoring performance should be embraced as a means to support employees (not penalise them) and can be a valuable tool to help you identify opportunities for development.

Set clear goals for employees and respond to performance blips on an individual basis. Understanding why performance is off kilter puts you in a better position to respond positively and offer appropriate training.

Ask away

Now this may seem obvious, but gathering feedback from your employees is a great place to start. And we’re not talking about traditional employee surveys here - they tended to focus more around business productivity as a whole, rather than individual staff needs.

Instead, use focused employee evaluation to encourage honest and open feedback. This will create helpful dialogue about career development and enable you to identify specific training requirements. Regular one-to-ones or performance reviews are a great way to have an open conversation and give honest feedback.

Ask employees to rate their job satisfaction and performance and what would make it better. Also ask them to comment on your current training programme and whether it's supporting their career goals. 

Also ask managers for feedback on employees and compare with employee self-evaluation to identify differences. It is equally useful to ask for employee feedback on managers.

You can either create your own surveys, or use a service such as WeThrive to accurately gauge your employees' needs.

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Analysis (and lots of it)

An analysis of your business' strategies and goals, as well as an analysis of tasks being performed to achieve those goals should help to identify training needs that are specific to each team and job. Tapping into what's going on under the surface will help you spot where training is needed.

You will be able to identify areas where staff are spread too thinly, or where certain tasks are being duplicated. Training will fall into three categories:

  • Improving staff knowledge about your industry
  • Job-related needs
  • Personal development

Set up personal development plans

Giving employees the opportunity to work on personal development can have a profound effect on their motivation and how much they feel invested in your business.

Setting up personal development plans that you review on a regular basis improves communication and will also help you to identify any relevant work-related training needs.

You can do this easily with affordable cloud-based HR software such as Breathe.

Set up a focus group

Focus groups are a useful starting point in identifying training needs within your business. A focus group looks at a cross-section of employees within the business under the guidance of an expert facilitator.

This is a useful way of gathering employees’ views and opinions about current training and how to improve what is on offer. Focus groups also help to demonstrate that you are genuinely interested in your employees' opinions.

Set up a system of mentoring and coaching

Closely aligning staff with a mentor will help to develop skills, and in the process identify any additional training and development needs. Mentoring programmes are a great way of helping employees succeed in their careers.

The CIPD offer free useful fact sheets on how businesses can identify learning and development needs.

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