The current economic downturn is hitting L&D pretty hard, with budget cuts and mass layoffs. And, with the UK economy expected to contract by 0.4% in 2023, three-quarters of UK companies are already facing a shortage of skills and workers.
In a volatile economy, training your existing employees and upskilling them becomes even more crucial. But you need to use your training budget wisely, and target courses that meet business objectives and fuel employee growth.
In the UK, L&D funds are already stretched thin as organisations have already been working with small budgets and high training costs. That’s why conducting a training needs analysis—a process that helps L&D leaders assess current performance and business goals to determine which training is most necessary—is so important.
Miss this critical step, and you could end up wasting money on programmes your learners don’t need while overlooking the ones they do need. But, it’s not just about wasting money anymore. Now it's milking every pound from the budget and making it work overtime for learning.
A training needs analysis will help you identify programmes that are relevant and beneficial for your employees’ day-to-day work, so you’re making the most of your budget, even as your employer tightens the purse strings.
Ready to get started? We’ll provide a breakdown of how to conduct a training needs analysis in six easy steps, including our unique bottom-up spin on the process. Plus check out our free training needs analysis template!
Effective training empowers employees to contribute to your high-level business objectives. Identifying your business needs will help you prioritise training that fetches the biggest return on investment. That is, the training your employees need to increase profitability.
But according to the 2020 UK-based Learning & Skills at Work survey, many organisations were already struggling to provide learning solutions that directly support business outcomes—and that’s before the economic downturn. The survey revealed that succession planning and people management were among the top three business priorities for many organisations, but few were identifying the training needs that fulfil those priorities. In fact, only 4% identified the need to reskill employees, and just 8% were focused on developing soft skills.
Hovering near a recession, that goes beyond poor business planning; it’s a big blow to employee retention because your training isn’t helping employees grow. The Great Resignation proved that if you don’t give employees what they want—fulfillment at work, learning opportunities, and work-life balance—they will walk out of the door.
Plus, large-scale quitting widened the skills gap as talented people moved on. As a result, 49% of L&D leaders are facing pressure from executives that their employees don’t have adequate skills to execute business strategy.
So, as a first step, reflect on your current business goals to gauge what your training should emphasise. Say leadership has set an annual goal of increasing customer retention by 10%. After reviewing customer exit surveys, your organisation’s executives determine that many people seem unhappy with your support. Based on this goal and input, you determine that building training for customer support reps would significantly contribute to increasing retention.
Once you have clearly defined business objectives, set your eyes on improving skill sets that will drive these goals forward.
You know which employee groups will need training to contribute to your company goals. With recent layoffs and downsizing, some departments may no longer exist and existing employees may need to pick up on new skills to keep the business running. Review team members’ job requirements to reevaluate training needs. This refresher will give you a solid benchmark to determine knowledge gaps in later steps.
However, tracking down job descriptions to find these requirements can be challenging. You might spend hours manually trawling job boards or sitting down with your Human Resources team. To speed up the process, use a tool like CompetencyCore for pre-built competency profiles or to build custom ones. You plug in a job title and pick from an AI-powered list of behavioural and technical competencies. So for the customer retention goal, you would look up required skills for support professionals — like listening abilities, problem-solving, empathy.
An overview of company roles, along with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes required for each, helps you get a broad sense of prospective training areas. But it isn’t as straightforward as pulling out your org chart and listing job descriptions. Keep in mind that some of the listed competencies may be outdated. Conduct industry research and check out recent job postings from other companies to gauge whether your requirements are still relevant.
A great way to gauge which skills would equip employees to improve performance is to study your top performers. You can’t clone your top talent but you can identify the skills they have that helps them thrive in their roles. Use that insight to make a list of key skills other team members could benefit from. That list is your raw intel—treat it as the foundation for developing your employee training strategy.
Next up — compare your desired requirements for a role with reality. How are team members actually performing?
Only a third of L&D professionals in the UK say they actively identify skills and performance gaps before recommending a solution. But dishing out training without identifying performance issues is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole — the training probably won’t be relevant or useful, and the performance gap will continue to persist. We suggest using a combination of these sources to identify skills gaps in your employees.
Examine individual team members’ performance reports for the department you are hoping to train for. A support team may have a graph that shows the average resolution time for each agent, while a sales team reports on the number of closed deals for each rep.
Compare the data to the job requirements for that role. Are employees successfully executing the tasks? If not, speak with the department head about what skills might help improve these performance areas.
Send surveys to employees to ask about what areas of their job they feel confident in and where they feel they need training. For example, your survey questionnaire could provide a 1-5 scale for each skill and ask them about the level of expertise they believe they have. Make room for open-ended questions, so employees can list ideas for training in areas you may not have thought of.
Taking the time to talk to each employee is the best way to find out about their unmet training needs. But imagine walking around (or scheduling Zoom hours) to ask each employee what training they need to do their best work.
Fortunately, there’s an easier way with a Learning Needs tool.
Our Learning Needs Tool is a collaborative resource for identifying training gaps. The tool regularly prompts employees to request new Learning Needs and provide input. Employees can also upvote Learning Needs that their co-workers share, so you know which training programmes are worth pursuing.
We recommend this bottom-up approach to training because it takes the guesswork out of maximizing the return on investment (ROI) and meeting business objectives because your employees inform your learning and development programmes.
Traditionally, L&D teams operated in silos, deciding on training schedules and identifying courses for roles that they didn’t perform. But it’s hard to make training decisions when you aren’t familiar with the day-to-day needs of the role.
With the learning needs tool, you put learners in the driver’s seat and let them request the training they need to improve performance. This way, you can be confident that employees won’t just complete courses, they’ll actually start to seek them out. In short, higher training engagement and better course completion rates.
Plus, you give learners a sense of agency and control in their own development plan, which keeps them motivated to stay at your company for growth opportunities.
Once you identify performance gaps and get learner input on training, it’s time to choose which courses and resources need to be prioritised. There are a number of operational factors to consider, such as:
The best way to meet training needs when budgets are tight is to rely on internal course authors. Getting your SMEs on board to create courses is a cost-effective and time-efficient method to get the highest ROI. When you develop training materials in-house, you are activating your current people investments and saving yourself the cost of external courses and instructors.
Peer-created courses are more valuable because they are created by people who are in or have been in the same roles and know the problems. It also encourages collaboration, knowledge retention, and a culture of learning.
The next step is to create your training roadmap based on the skills gaps and course authors you identified earlier. Make training recommendations to stakeholders so that they understand what will be taught, who will be involved, and why the education will be useful.
However, recommendations are only the beginning of your training process — you’ll also need to build the courses!
Your course authors need training to create the content. If you’re using a collaborative learning platform, design an onboarding journey that helps them take advantage of features like in-course comments, co-authoring, discussion forums, and reactions. If you haven’t invested in a learning platform yet, this step is a bit harder to do, but your authors would still benefit from a course creation process that includes peer reviews and feedback.
As your business needs evolve and technologies are updated, your training plan, too, will need a facelift. Make room for iterations as and when they arise with the help of a learning platform like 360Learning.
When training is done and dusted, it’s time for a report card. Gauge how well your training programmes performed with a formal review process.
There are many ways to gauge this impact, but a good place to start is returning to the business goals you identified in the first step. Did your company move closer to the objective in the months after the training was implemented? With our earlier customer support example, you would check whether customer satisfaction and retention increased by 10%.
Keep in mind that company goals are multifactorial, so it’s unlikely that your training is solely responsible for hitting (or not meeting) your objectives. Consider other areas of your business that the training might have impacted, like improving employee morale or helping teams reskill to function in a tight economy, to get a more holistic view of its effectiveness.
Build on this training analysis with 360Learning’s bottom-up approach. It lets employees take the lead, letting them declare training needs instead of being mute recipients. This system motivates learners, keeps training relevant, and utilises institutional knowledge — saving time and money in the process. Download our free training needs analysis template to uncover how to get started with a bottom-up approach.