Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

3 Steps for Planning to Learn

1.  Assess Your Needs  

You likely have organizational goals to consider. Either they’re in place or you may be working on them right now. Going directly from goals to training needs can lead to quick conclusions about what’s required.  For example:  “A key company focus for the next year is customer service, so we better put our reps through customer service training.”

While that may be true, there is a lot more to determining the best training, approach and content. That’s where a needs assessment can prove very valuable.

The needs assessment is about looking at:

  • Where you are?
  • Where you want to be?
  • What the gaps are?

It helps ensure training is effective and that training is, in fact, what you need to bridge the gap. The assessment can identify:

  • Barriers to success
  • Necessary tools to complement training
  • Approaches or options other than training

The final recommendation following a needs assessment in the situation above could be any combination of the following:

  • Remove roadblocks to providing good customer service, such as improving policies or providing supervisors with training on how to coach reps.
  • Create more tools to support customer service representatives to make decisions.
  • Provide tailored customer service training to complement other recent training.
  • The needs assessment not only helps meet your goals, it ensures effective use of time and resources.

2. Plan for Individual Learning  

It’s wise to plan for your own learning, rather than waiting to be told that you have a need.  Look for learning opportunities:

  • When you recognize a skill that could be outstanding if strengthened
  • When you see an area that needs improvement
  • When you find an opportunity to expand into related or new skill areas
  • When you’re planning for growth or change in your organization

The above approach works equally well for:

  • Identifying your own training needs
  • Providing just-in-time feedback to employees
  • Recognizing and finding ways to help the people on your team grow

Pointing out learning needs and opportunities outside of performance review meetings may be less intimidating for people. After all, the context and timing of feedback have a lot to do with how we take it. This approach also helps make sure you’re on the same page when review time comes – a hallmark of effective performance management.

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. ~  Mahatma Gandhi

3. Consider the Options  

In addition to the topic and content of training, there’s the question about what type of training is best. That choice involves really understanding the learners. It’s another important part of the needs assessment.

Among other things, it should consider how people learn. Some people learn by reading, some by listening, others by watching and still others by doing – or some combination.  It may need to be interspersed with on-the-job practice.

Ultimately, effective training takes into account:

  • The behaviour change you’re trying to achieve
  • The organization’s strategic direction and goals
  • The learner’s needs – not just the needs identified by other people

I enjoy helping others learn – as much as I like learning myself!  Contact me if you’d like to discuss the learning needs of your team or organization.