Gaining Insights Into Employee Development Needs

  • Ezra
  • September 21st, 2021

Your organization can gain valuable insights into the development needs of your employees at all levels which helps to inform future training or L&D program planning. Ezra discusses how to go about this in a series of simple steps.

Gaining Insights Into Employee Development Needs

Most brands understand the value of employee training. It enhances morale, improves productivity and – most importantly – gets workers to stick around. 

Did you know, for instance, that retention rates rise in firms with strong learning cultures by 30 to 50 percent? Or that 76 percent of millennial employees believe that professional development is a critical component of healthy company cultures? 

However, many firms fall into the trap of providing generic training. Such approaches often fail to meet their objectives because they are not personalized. Any professional development you offer should be tailored to the needs of your staff and not done “for the sake of it.” Anything less than personalization to your teams’ needs risks becoming a waste of money and time.

But how do you gain insights into employee training needs? That’s the $64,000 question! Fortunately, we have some answers for you – the following step-by-step approach gives some solid pointers. 

Step 1: Define organizational roles 

Before you even begin figuring out the training needs of your staff, you need to accurately define roles in your organization. If you don’t have a clear picture of what each person in each position should be doing, you can’t tailor your professional development. 

Take a look at each of the positions in your organization and ask what skills and abilities the ideal candidate in that role would have. Then write them down. Be mindful of any recent job structure changes or redefinitions of roles made by your HR department or executive team and account for these in your planning. 

Step 2: Evaluate employee performance

The next step is to evaluate whether existing employees meet the standards you require for their roles. Judging their performance isn’t about penalizing them. Instead, it is so that you can work out where precisely you should be investing your training dollars for maximum effect. 

Employees can perform poorly for a number of reasons. These include: 

  • Lack of motivation
  • Burnout
  • Lack of pressure to perform
  • Lack of resources
  • Low ability
  • Lack of skills

Given this reality, we suggest that you avoid jumping to conclusions about why they are performing poorly. Take your time and work out what they need. Training often works best in combination with improved management styles and, sometimes, more time away from the office. 

Step 3: Interview employees to gather feedback

Asking for feedback is perhaps the best way to find out what is irking your employees and how you can remedy the situation. Avoid conventional surveys. Instead, show personal interest. Ask questions such as: 

  • What tools do you need to perform better in your role?
  • What support can I give you personally? 
  • What are the obstacles getting in the way of you reaching your goals? 
  • What is going well with your work, and what is going wrong? 

These questions can then open up conversations that encourage employees to provide you with honest feedback on how they are doing. It also builds trust in a way that impersonal surveys do not. It opens a door to your employees’ struggles. 

Employees will often directly tell you what their developmental needs are. For instance, you might discover that they are finding their job hard because they don’t have certain technical knowledge or they lack the necessary people skills. As a senior figure, you can then take this information onboard and use it to design a training schedule tailored for the individual. 

You can also try setting up focus groups – a technique for collecting data through group interactions. Group settings often give individual employees the confidence to openly discuss their needs, particularly if they have the support of their colleagues. 

Start by inviting a diverse mix of employees from across your organization to a meeting room and then install an expert facilitator. Make it clear from the start the staff are free to express their minds. Get the facilitator to show interest in employees’ personal development needs, carefully noting the points they raise. 

Step 4: Identify your training needs

Once you’ve defined roles, monitored employees and asked them for feedback, you are in a position to define your organization’s training requirements. Gathering all of the data into a single document shows you precisely where you stand. You’ll find that your training needs usually fall into one of three categories: 

  • Skill- and technical-related needs specific to a role
  • Personal development requirements
  • Industry knowledge and safety training

Skill-related needs are what staff need to perform their roles at the highest level. Sometimes, you will identify that they lack these, so training should address any shortcomings here. 

Personal development needs are a little more ambiguous. However, employees may tell you in their feedback that they lack confidence or they struggle with professionalism. This again lets you get super specific with the training you offer. 

Lastly, employees may be highly proficient in their roles, but they may feel siloed because they don’t understand how your industry works. Training that provides industry knowledge provides them with context and lets them make more holistic decisions to benefit your brand. 

Step 5: Implement personal development plans

Once you know the training individual employees require, set up a personal development plan for them. In the plan, you’ll need to:

  • Describe why the employee requires training
  • Define the results they should achieve
  • Specify the required level of skill
  • Provide some means of assessment to check their skills

You can keep track of employee development plans using spreadsheets or off-the-shelf software solutions. 

Step 6: Set up support systems

The last step is to set up a support system such as a coaching program. These systems sit alongside conventional in-person or online learning. A good coach is a person who has already been through the situations employees face and can help guide them through them. 

Coaches don’t have to be senior managers or executives in the firm. In fact, the best coaches will generally come from outside of your business so that they can offer impartial advice.

Gaining Insights Into Employee Development Needs

Once you learn what your employees’ needs are, you can often implement far more effective training. This approach reduces your overall financial outlay while improving results. If there’s one point we want to make, it is that training should be specific to the role and needs of employees.

Get to grips with your personal and organizational development alongside Ezra. We’ve redesigned leadership coaching for the digital age to transform your company’s workforce through affordable, scalable and high-impact solutions that promote equitable access through our world-class coaching app. Find out today how everyone can be better with a coach.

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