How to Identify Employee Training and Development Needs

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 2 August 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Training and development usually refer to a strategy involving several processes that improve a workforce's skills and knowledge. There are many factors, such as industry change and process innovation, that determine the type and extent of training a workforce requires. Understanding how to identify training and development needs can help you plan strategies that achieve the organisation's learning goals. In this article, we define employee training and development and provide a guide on how to identify training needs in the workplace.

What is employee training and development?

Employee training and development is a set of processes that improve the skills and industry knowledge of a workforce. These development processes can involve varying learning methods and content, such as examinations, seminars, research studies, practical training and theoretical discussions. Depending on the workforce, industry and operation, some development processes might be more effective than others. For example, if a workforce requires first-aid training, a practical lesson conducted by an industry expert can be more effective relative to an online seminar.

Training and development can be a crucial process in maintaining operational compliance and quality. Some operations require licensing to operate machinery or provide services. While training and development primarily provide employees with additional skills and knowledge, it can also be an excellent method of credentialing and licensing. Through a training and development program, an organisation might plan external certifying courses for varying fields, such as first-aid, machine operation and systems operation.

Related: What Is Training and Development? (Types, Benefits and Tips)

How to identify training and development needs of a workforce

There are many factors that can determine the type of training and development employees require. Some industries continuously evolve and require updated credentials, skills and process knowledge. Ensuring the organisation's workforce has current and relevant skills can be crucial for maintaining industry competitiveness and operational compliance. Below, you can explore a guide on how to identify the training and development needs of a workforce:

1. Determine appropriate benchmarks for roles

The first step in identifying employee training needs is usually to determine the organisation's expectations of a specific role. These expectations are essentially performance benchmarks. The type of measurements used in a benchmark can depend on the role. For example, a performance benchmark for a sales representative might be quantifiable sales metrics, such as conversion rates, average deal size and average profit margin. Other roles might not include many metrics, so the benchmarks may be their competency in specific job responsibilities.

When determining benchmarks, it can be helpful to review the industry description of a specific role. This can provide you with an insight into the common responsibilities of the position relative to the industry. If the organisation's job description doesn't include several typical duties, it might suggest the organisation's benchmark is too low. Raising a benchmark might involve delegating additional responsibilities to a workforce, which can require training and development programs. Determining benchmarks can help you identify potential training needs, but its primary purpose is usually to provide a comparison point when evaluating employee performance.

Related: What Is Benchmarking in Business and Why Is It Important?

2. Monitor employee performance

Monitoring employee performance and comparing it against the organisation's benchmarks can help you gain an accurate insight into the training requirements of specific roles. If you monitor employee performance and discover they aren't meeting the benchmark, it can suggest they require training and development. For example, if sales representatives aren't achieving the desired conversion rate, it can suggest their communication processes might require improvements. A sales training program may benefit the sales team and help them develop their expertise.

Employee performance evaluations can also help you determine if individual or group training may benefit the organisation. If you conduct evaluations on a team and only one member underperformed, it can suggest the individual requires training, rather than the entire team. If the performance results show an entire team underperformed, then it may be a clear indication that either their operation processes require improvements or the team requires additional training.

Related: The Performance Management Process: Your Ultimate Guide

3. Gain employee feedback

Employee feedback can be an excellent method for identifying their training needs. It can be important to gain an honest response, so anonymous feedback can be a viable option. If a manager directly asks an employee about their perception of work processes and training programs, they may feel pressured into a biased response. A survey can be an excellent method of gaining honest feedback, though it can also be relatively broad. It may be a good idea to ask specific questions about current training programs and employee learning expectations.

Performance reviews, while not anonymous, can also contribute extensively to employee feedback. If employees are honest, it can provide you with an accurate insight into individual training needs. For example, if a performance review outlines an employee's underperforming, you might ask them why they believe they're not meeting current expectations. Their response might outline a lack of training and development. If their response is consistent with other employees, it can be an accurate gauge of the improvement requirements for the organisation's training program.

Related: Why Is Feedback Important In the Workplace? (With Tips)

4. Conduct extensive analysis

One of the most critical steps in identifying employee training requirements is usually analysis. There are many operational and industry aspects to analyse that can suggest training requirements. Analysing performance reviews, job descriptions, current training programs and competitors can usually provide an abundance of helpful information. For example, you might analyse the performance of the current training program. If employees are progressing through the training, but their performance isn't improving, it might suggest employees require additional training and development.

An important aspect of providing employees with the training they require is usually the analysis of future skills and credentialing requirements. Planning the workforce for eventual change can be crucial for ensuring the organisation's change readiness. Some industries may continuously evolve, requiring new licences and involving additional responsibilities or professions. For example, with the emergence of cyber attacks, cyber security is now a crucial part of technological industries. If you can identify these future changes through analysis, you can determine the training and development requirements to ensure the workforce is ready for change.

Related: 11 Examples of Analytical Jobs (With Salary Information)

5. Use personal development plans

A personal development plan is essentially a combination of a self-evaluation and action plan. Employees may review their strengths and weaknesses and use this review to set goals and milestones. They identify actionable steps that can help them achieve these goals and milestones. For example, a sales representative assesses their strengths and weaknesses and identifies opportunities to improve their knowledge of customer success management. They set goals, such as achieving a specific repeat purchase rate. The employee then develops an action plan, including the research of customer success strategies and customer management software.

A personal development plan can be excellent for improving self-motivation and encouraging self-development. It can also help you identify the employee's training needs, as they essentially conduct an in-depth review of their own development requirements. Their performance during the self-development program can also outline the requirements for an effective learning method. It can be important to understand that a personal development plan might be a more time-consuming and resource-intensive method of gaining employee feedback relative to a workforce survey.


  • Understanding Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

  • How to Create an Individual Development Plan (Plus Benefits)

6. Organise focus groups

A focus group is essentially a planned group discussion between employees. A focus group often involves an external facilitator who oversees and directs the discussions. The facilitator is usually an external hire, as an internal facilitator might influence the bias of the discussions. A focus group's purpose is typically to gain collaborative and honest feedback from a cross-section of employees. Focus groups typically encourage constructive discussions and aim to produce solutions.

When planning a focus group, you can select the employees to participate and provide the facilitator with a list of topics for the group to address. A focus group can technically discuss any work topic, but it might be a good idea to prioritise discussions about the current training program and work processes. The results of the focus group might provide you with excellent employee feedback about the current training and development program and potential methods for improvement.

Related: 4 Types of Communication (With Examples)

7. Consider mentoring programs

Mentoring programs can be an effective method for individual development and training requirement identification. A mentor program typically involves assigning an employee to a more experienced employee. They may discuss processes, set appropriate goals, collaborate on tasks and attend conferences. The mentor may conduct performance reviews and identify the employee's strengths and weaknesses. This can highlight their potential training requirements for operating at or above the organisation's benchmark.

A mentoring program usually focuses more on individual employees or candidates involved in a succession plan. A mentor program may be for junior management employees or employees receiving a promotion to a managerial position. It can be an extremely effective method of determining management training and development requirements. Relative to surveys or personal development programs, this may be the most resource-intensive method of identifying training requirements.

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