How to Determine Your Organization’s Training Needs

A great training program should never cost your organization anything. Instead, it should provide a positive return on your investment in the form of increased productivity, improved employee retention, and lower overall costs for the organization.

As our economy continues to struggle in the face of the crisis du jour, more and more employers are recognizing they must invest in training programs to develop the skills of their employees in order to remain competitive. Older workers continue to retire, taking their experience with them. Advances in technology require new skills to harness the benefits. Gen Y employees are on the ascent in the workforce, and they demand training and development to remain engaged in their current organization.

So how should an organization best determine its training needs? Here are eight ideas to consider:

1. First, ask your workforce. Your front line employees, supervisors and managers live the day-to-day problems and challenge areas of your business. Front line folks interact with your organization’s customers and must defend against your competitors. Because of their ground-level exposure, they can help you identify areas in which training is most needed. Balance this input with what you learn from your industry’s associations and discussion boards, other senior leaders, your customers and your suppliers.

2. Define your need area(s). Once you believe you have identified a need area in which your organization should be trained or developed, define the need area with specifics. Can you validate that the need exists? What could excellence in this area do for your organization? How will excellence impact your organization’s overall KPIs (key performance indicators)?

3. Analyze and assess your current state. In addition to traditional analysis, use an assessment. You can find an assessment today that will measure just about anything, from technical skills to soft skills, from leadership competencies to attitudes, and from behavioral tendencies to teaming skills, and everything in between. Look for instruments that are research-backed and will reliably measure the specific area(s) you identify. A good assessment should provide comparative norms against which you could benchmark your organization, and then measure individual’s progress following training.

4. Develop your plan. Effective training and development should change behaviors and performance, so it is never something into which to enter without a plan. With Step 3’s benchmark in hand, establish your goals and objectives that describe where you want to be, and when you want to be there. Determine the resources you will need. Think about what can go wrong during the execution of your plan and develop contingency plans. Focus on measurable outcomes that result from employees successfully applying on what they have learned.

5. Engage experts. Face it – if you had the expertise in house already, then you would not have the gaps in performance, knowledge and/or behaviors! Instead, you need the expertise of outside resources with a proven track record of helping clients succeed. The good ones will help you design your plan and may recommend assessments and tools that will help you benchmark and measure progress. The best ones will help you to become self-sufficient (note to self: beware of those organizations that want to perpetually train you).

6. Train your leaders first. Always train your leaders first. Leaders should model the new skills and behaviors themselves. And they must know the training well enough to accurately observe performance, reinforce the training, and coach employees who are trying to apply and master the training. Effective leaders schedule observation time to follow up training, and have the necessary tools to provide formal and informal feedback to employees. Unless management observation and feedback is intentional, what is learned will not be retained and the organization will have wasted the opportunity and resources spent on a training program.

7. Train your staff and institutionalize the training. The most effective training programs are those which follow this sage advice: Never do for the learner what the learner should do for himself. The learner will only master a skill or behavior through repeated application. Repetition is the heart of learning, so what is learned during the training must be reinforced in the days, weeks, and months following the training.

8. Catch them doing it right. Leaders should plan on catching their people correctly applying the training and provide immediate feedback to encourage continued use and development. An excellent practice following training is to dedicate a portion of staff meetings for employee discussion and skills reinforcement. Recognize those staffers who have done well in applying what was learned. Finally, remember that people don’t always do what you expect, but they do what you inspect.

In order to be effective, training is an investment that should always produce a return far greater than its cost. Ineffective training, poorly implemented and not followed up on, is a drain on any organization. Fortunately, you can make some excellent choices for 2013 in training and development, to help you meet you meet the challenges of both the present and future.

Since 1998, Boyer Management Group has worked with employers and job seekers alike to help both become more successful. We’ve published over 125 training programs in use with companies, institutions and organizations large and small, domestic and abroad. For employers, we offer world-class talent acquisition and onboarding tools, training and programs, including management/leadership development training, as well as programs for new managers and supervisors. To find out more, please visit us at to view and download our course catalog, view course descriptions, and look at our wide array of world-class assessments. You can email us at, or
call us at 215-942-0982.


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