How can you help your people grow?
"What's worse than training your workers and losing them?
Not training them and keeping them."
– Zig Ziglar, author and motivational speaker.
While most managers know that training is essential for team success, many don't take the time to understand team members' individual needs.
Only by doing this can they ensure that their people have the skills and knowledge they need to perform well and meet their objectives.
However, how do you know who needs what training? And, how do you avoid wasting time and money on unnecessary training activities?
In this article we'll explore the importance of understanding your people's developmental needs, and we'll look at a process that you can use to do this effectively.
Clearly, some training needs will be universal, and will apply to many, if not all, of your team members. However, everyone on your team is unique; they have different skills, different levels of understanding, and different responsibilities and objectives.
Therefore, training and development shouldn't follow a "one size fits all" approach if you want it to be effective. Instead, you need to take the time to understand the training that each individual needs, so that you can provide the right training for the right people. As well as improving performance, this saves time, resources, and money.
With this tailored approach, your people will also feel more empowered, and they'll be able to link what they learn to their own personal objectives. This boosts well-being and morale.
The six steps below, which we've adapted from the American Society for Training and Development's Strategic Needs Analysis, will help you better understand people's training needs:
Let's look at each step in greater detail.
Start by thinking about what work your team members should be doing – this will be defined by their job descriptions. Identify the skills that they may need to do things well.
Job descriptions can get out of date. Before using them to think about training, ensure that they fairly reflect what individual team members actually do.
Your next step is to meet one-on-one with each member of your team. Your goal here is to have an open talk about the kind of training and development that they think they need to work effectively and develop their career.
They might not feel that they need any training at all, so it's important to be up front about your discussion. Use your emotional intelligence, as well as good questioning techniques and active listening, to communicate with sensitivity and respect.
Ask the following questions to get a better understanding of your people's training needs:
Then, talk to them about what they would like to get out of additional training, and ask them to visualize the outcomes that they'd like to achieve. What does this future look like to them?
You can pick up some important clues about people's needs by observing their body language. For instance, if they start to fidget and lower their eyes when you talk about their computer skills, it could indicate that they don't feel comfortable in this area.
You may find it easier to incorporate this step into a feedback session or appraisal.
Next, keep an eye on how well your team members are doing with key tasks. (If appropriate, use an approach like Management by Walking Around to do this.)
For instance, could they be quicker with key tasks, or are they procrastinating on projects? This might indicate that they're not confident in their abilities, or are not sufficiently well trained in key skill areas.
Try to be fair and straightforward when you do this. If team members know that you're watching them, they might act differently, but if they discover that you're watching secretly, it could damage the trust they have in you. So be sensitive, ask open questions, and, where appropriate, explain your actions.
Once you've observed people working, it can be useful to confirm your assessment by setting specific, time-bound tasks that give them the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and abilities. Do this positively, though – don't set people up to fail.
If you approach data gathering in a sensitive way, you can learn a lot from others who work closely with the person you want to assess.
These people could include internal or external clients, past bosses, or even peers and co-workers.
Remember the following while gathering information from these sources:
You can also use information from past appraisals or feedback sessions.
Now, look closely at the information you gathered in the first four steps. What trends do you see? What skills did your team members say they needed? Are there any skills gaps?
Your goal here is to bring together the most relevant information, so that you can create a training plan for each team member.
By now, you should have a good idea of the training and development that each person on your team needs. Your last step is to decide what you're going to do to make it happen.
There are several training and development options to consider:
Make sure that you take into account people's individual learning styles before you commit to any one training program. Remember, everyone learns differently; your training will be most effective if you customize it to accommodate everyone's best learning style. A cost benefit analysis might also be helpful here, especially if the training you're considering is expensive.
Also, help your team members get the most from their training. Encourage them to arrive on time, take notes, and communicate with their instructor and each other, about what they have learned. It might also be helpful to perform a type of "after action review" to see how the training went.
Our article on Engaging People in Learning has additional tips and strategies that you can use to get your team members excited about their training and development.
You can also use a Training Needs Assessment to identify your people's needs. This help you look at training and development from the perspective of your organization's objectives.
Take our How Well Do You Develop Your People? self-test to boost your overall people development skills.
Most managers understand that they need to train and develop their people to help them excel. However, it's hard to know where to begin, and sometimes it's even harder to know who needs what training.
Use this process to understand the training and development needs of your team:
With this tailored approach, people will feel more empowered, and they'll be able to link what they learn to their own personal objectives.
With the Mind Tools Club, you get much, much more than you do here for free.
And we'll give you the 4 workbooks above when you join!
Learn on the move with the free Mind Tools iPhone, iPad and Android Apps. Short bursts of business training ideal for busy people.
Sparhawk, S. (2002) 'Strategic Needs Analysis,' ASTD Info-Line, Issue 9408. (Available here.).