Learning & Development

Prioritizing Training Needs

As business becomes increasingly global and interconnected, competition can come from virtually anywhere in the world. And as business becomes more complex, there seems to be an ever-growing list of necessary skills and capabilities required to succeed.

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These, among other factors, have companies desperate to upskill their staff. Employee training and development was one of the biggest focuses of HR departments in 2019, and that trend seems to continue on into 2020.

One of the many challenges for companies facing a multitude of crucial training needs is where to start. Here, we discuss some strategies for prioritizing training needs.

Identify Key Needs

The first step is putting together a list of needed skills, knowledge, and other training objectives. This should be a collaborative effort among company leadership, with input based on industry benchmarking (What skills do the top companies in my industry possess?), input from managers, and input from employees themselves on what skills are needed to make the company as successful as possible.

The list should include all desirable skills, not simply those that are currently lacking. 

Analyze Current Skill Sets

Once the universe of desired skills is documented, evaluate the company on where it stands on those needs. Again, input can come from comparisons to other organizations, as well as from managers and employees. Encourage an honest assessment.

Road Map

The next step is to put together a training road map. It’s not possible to focus on everything right away—hence the need to prioritize. Prioritization doesn’t necessarily mean focusing on the most important skill—the company might already be fairly proficient here.

It doesn’t necessarily mean focusing on the skill that’s most lacking—it might not be extremely important to others. And prioritization doesn’t necessarily mean picking the top need, focusing 100%, and moving to the next on the list.

Instead, prioritization requires evaluating the needs for skill sets that provide the greatest advantage against available training resources and current deficiencies.

Based on a balancing of those factors, a road map can be put in place that develops a short-, medium- and long-term plan for developing the top-priority skills. That road map should include regular progress checks and reevaluations.

There’s no silver bullet to prioritizing training needs, as there are multiple factors that influence what the greatest needs are. And today’s priorities can quickly change based on changes in staff, the market, and the competitive landscape. But it’s important for L&D staff to stay on top of the current situation and be proactive in providing training and development to close identified gaps.