25 Questions HR Should Ask When Assessing Training Needs

We all know that learning and development (L&D) is integral to organizational health—helping employees to learn and grow is a strategic move that can push a company ahead of its competitors. But workplace training isn’t as easy as it seems; if they want to implement change, HR professionals need to fully understand the needs of their organization and employees before assessing training needs. In order to develop a truly comprehensive L&D initiative, it’s important to first ask the right questions.

According to Alison Wood Brooks and Leslie K. John, professors at Harvard Business School, asking questions is a valuable first step that can set off a chain of positive events. By asking the right questions, an organization:

  • Encourages learning and sharing
  • Improves innovation and performance
  • Builds Empathy and trust among teams
  • Reduces conflict and misunderstanding

Every part of an organization benefits when managers ask questions about their people and processes, and it is particularly valuable in the area of L&D. When it comes to workplace learning, the wants, needs and frustrations of employees are not always clear, so it’s important to ask questions that help you understand how to best facilitate learning and development.

Identify Skills and Knowledge Gaps

Before you can start developing lesson plans and training materials, you must first identify the training needs of your employees by assessing skills and knowledge gaps. Dig into the details to understand what their needs are. The more focused L&D initiatives are, the more effective they’ll be. Once you know exactly what knowledge is lacking, you can design better, more specific programs for learning and development. During this phase of assessing training needs, ask:

  • What skills are needed to succeed at work?
  • What skills do employees already have? What skills do they not have?
  • Is this an entirely new skill, or can employees build off prior teachings and knowledge?
  • What might prevent employees from learning these skills?
  • What internal and external obstacles might affect your training programs?

By asking these questions, you can discover not only what skills are lacking at your organization, but why these gaps exist. This is also an opportune time to gain insight into how skills vary across teams.

assessing training needs

Determine Why New Skills Are Needed

It’s also important to assess your training needs at an organizational level. Sure, there are some obvious skills gaps that need to be filled—but there should also be a reason behind your decision to have employees improve. At this stage, ask specific questions about how new skills might contribute to the organization’s overall strategy and growth:

  • How will these skills be used on a daily basis?
  • Why are these skills valuable to your organization?
  • How do these skills align with the company’s mission and vision?
  • How will these skills improve functions across teams and departments?
  • If employees don’t learn these skills, how will it impact the organization?

With these questions in mind, you can more directly assess the costs and benefits of your training programs and determine how much impact they will have on the KPI’s and goals of your company.

Evaluate Former Training Efforts

When assessing training needs, it’s essential that HR and L&D professionals aim to learn from past experiences—which is easy to do by adopting a design-thinking approach. The process of prototyping and testing is an endless cycle that allows organizations to continually improve, especially since it puts the needs of the user first. When studying past initiatives, ask:

  • When was the last time (if ever) that employees were trained for this skill?
  • What was the success rate of previous training programs?
  • How was the training introduced and distributed?
  • Was the training accessible to all employees? Is there something about the program that may have been a roadblock to some employees?

Understand Who Needs to Be Trained

Once the big-picture questions have been answered, it’s time to assess your training programs based on the requirements of the individuals who will be using them. Ask these questions to better understand employees’ expectations and capacities:

  • Who is the training program designed for? Is it being distributed across the company, or is it specific to a department, regional office or an individual employee?
  • How quickly do employees need to learn these skills?
  • What is a realistic time-frame for learning, while taking employees’ current workloads into consideration?
  • How can you ensure that training is completed successfully, without learners feeling bored or overwhelmed?

Knowing what learners need and want out of a training program- and taking how they learn into consideration- can help you to ensure that an initiative is successful. By knowing exactly who will be involved and what they will need to learn, you can create a training program that makes learning enjoyable and goals achievable.

assessing training needs for employees

Make Training Accessible to All

The final step in assessing your organization’s training needs is all about access. This includes everything from mobile-friendly applications to virtual classrooms and bite-size learning modules that facilitate microlearning. When determining what sort of access your employees need, ask:

  • What platforms and devices can be used to access training material?
  • What content formats are available to learners?
  • Can employees work through the training material at their own pace?
  • Is the training flexible enough to accommodate individual schedules?
  • Does the program take learners’ backgrounds (culture, language proficiency) into account?
  • How easily can employees ask for help from HR/training administrators?

The easier and more accessible you make learning, the more successful a program will be. Employees are far more likely to work their way through short videos that they can watch on a tablet or phone than they are to dig through an outdated LMS that doesn’t offer a clear learning roadmap.

There’s No Such Thing as Too Many Questions

If your goal is a comprehensive training program that delivers positive results, asking questions is the gateway to making it happen. By asking the right questions, you’ll have a better understanding of both your employees’ needs and preferences, as well as the company’s timeline and goals for achieving specific, skills-based targets.

So, the next time you assess training needs, try erring on the side of asking too many questions. The more thorough your assessment, the more likely you (and your trainees) are to succeed.

Want to know more about assessing your L&D initiatives? Check out our top tips for measuring success!