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Conducting a Training Needs Assessment: A Mad Lib

The conversations around the need for training can sometimes seem like they’re taken out of a book of Mad Libs.  Perhaps you’ve heard a version of the following Mad Lib before:

Conducting a Training Needs Assessment - Mad Libs Style

All too often some managers, HR professionals, even some trainers propose training as an automatic response to address performance issues.  Training – in the form of an in-house refresher course, an industry-specific conference, an article, a book, a multi-million dollar eLearning module or anything in between – is certainly one tool.  But it’s just one tool, it’s not the overarching solution.

Questions to Ask when Conducting a Training Needs Assessment

Before training enters a manager’s mind, conducting a training needs assessment focused on an employee’s performance gap(s) can save a lot of time and money:

  1. Is it actually within the employee’s job description and duties?
  2. Is it related to a core competency necessary to be successful in the employee’s position?
  3. Has the employee’s manager identified and shared specific, observable behaviors describing the perceived performance gap?
  4. Have specific actions, goals, and milestones been identified for the employee to illustrate what success in addressing a performance gap would look like?
  5. Has the employee received prior education/training on how to competently address the performance gap?
  6. Has the employee been given time on the job to allow him/her to attempt to apply new knowledge, skills, abilities or behaviors learned in training?
  7. Has the employee been observed and had an opportunity to receive feedback on his/her initial attempts to apply new knowledge, skills, abilities or behaviors in addressing the performance gap?

Addressing performance gaps requires managers to play the role of a detective, asking the right questions and gathering information.  While training can offer enormous dividends if it’s connected to specific learning needs and performance gaps, employee development also requires a manager that is invested in the continuous development of his/her staff.  Ongoing coaching, support, and feedback will trump the idea of “more training” almost every time.

What is your approach to conducting a training needs assessment for your employees? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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