How to conduct a learning needs analysis: a step-by-step guide

September 9, 2020
June 26, 2023

At the heart of the learning needs analysis is a pretty straightforward concept, understanding which skills need to be developed to get your company and people closer to your goals.

It’s an assessment of the skills needed to perform current or upcoming roles better, and the tools for understanding the gap between where you are now and where your organisation need to be. The obvious benefit is that you’re able to effectively close the gap through more strategic learning and development, but there are multiple benefits. We’ll cover these before jumping into the steps of conducting a learning needs analysis and your guide for success.

Jump to your step-by-step learning needs guide

Are training and learning needs analyses different?

The two terms are often used interchangeably, but arguably they’re two different approaches or, at the very least, a change of mindset. The term training needs analysis implies an assessment of what training should be delivered to reach company goals. A learning needs analysis ensures your learners are the focus and that you’ll ask which people can we develop to reach our shared goals?

How can a learning needs analysis benefit you?

Close the skill gap, use your L&D budget better

It makes sense to start with understanding the skills gap in your team because this also allows you to identify the greatest areas of need and focus your training budget on those pressing skills. The proactive nature could also allow you to upskill staff before the skill gap has a detrimental effect on your business. In a learning needs nutshell, you’ll get a better ROI on your L&D spend and ensure that it’s directed where it will have a high impact.

Develop your people and culture

If you’re able to provide a better learning and development strategy, one that progresses people towards new skills and goals, you’ll create a culture where people feel they can thrive and grow. It also creates an environment in which progression towards personal and business goals happens in tandem, meaning people can see their contribution more tangibly.

Key questions it will help you answer

Before we dive into the steps and template for your learning needs analysis, it’s important to understand the questions the process will encourage you to answer.

  • Who needs a learning pathway?
  • What is it that they need to learn to help achieve company goals?
  • How do those relate to their personal learning and development objectives.
  • How are you going to create effective learning courses for them?
  • What impact is it going to have on your business and their development?
  • Where does this fit into your learning and development budget?

Free Guide! Your Checklist For A Winning Learning Needs Analysis

Your learning needs analysis: step-by-step process

Think of this as your learning needs analysis framework, the step-by-step guide that’ll help you establish and close your skills gap.

A step-by-step learning needs analysis guide

Which skills are needed to progress?

Consider your company or team goals and what you’re lacking in order to achieve them – think of this as your initial needs assessment. It’s also important to speak with your employees at this point, to understand their perceptions on what might be lacking and anything they’re hoping to improve.

You can also gain insights from current job descriptions, by analysing the skills listed to determine core competencies and in-demand traits across relevant markets and roles. Trawling through job boards and listings would be a big ask, so let HowNow handle that for you! We’ll analyse 500,000 live job roles to give you insights and, more importantly, those hours back to invest in your needs analysis and upskilling.

What are the current skill levels?

Conversations with employees are key at this point, both directly and through their peers. You can combine their feedback with your view of their skill and proficiency in certain areas. Your learning system or platform can be extremely useful at this point if you’ve chosen it wisely. In HowNow, your employees can grade themselves for the skills related to their role, and you can give your own assessment on this one-to-five scale. Your learning platform analytics will also be invaluable for understanding recently developed skills at this point.

Identify the skill gap

No pressure, but this will be a reflection of how well you’ve conducted the first two stages of your learning needs analysis. Determine the current gap between the skills your person, role or team has now and the levels needed to reach your goals.

At the same time, consider the individual learning and development needs of people in your teams, if you can understand how those align with companies, you’ll be more effective at winning people over.  There’s a similar situation when it comes to your stakeholders. Their teams will have targets to hit and hurdles to hop over, they’ll have their own objectives to conquer, and assessing those as part of the learning needs journey will also pull everyone in the same direction.

How can that gap be closed through learning?

Start by establishing the subject matter experts in the business and assessing your existing learning materials. There will be a gap (yes, another gap) between those and the resources you’ll need to develop the necessary skills. Creating all of those resources for yourself would be another daunting task, so it’s important to use or consider platforms that curate learning content from high-quality third parties in order to cater to all your learning needs.

On the subject of learning platforms, you’ll also need to determine how you’ll deliver your content and what format will make it most effective—whether that’s webinars, guides, podcasts or a mix.

Implement a learning development strategy and evaluate

Are your L&D practices or opportunities and personal development pathways developing the necessary skills? What qualifies as success in this aspect and how will you measure it? Again, this can be influenced by the learning platform you choose. If you pick one that seamlessly lets you monitor, measure and assess how your learners’ interact with resources, it’ll be a lot easier. Have a think, you know where to find us…

What happens next?

Well, if you’ve yet to settle upon a learning system or platform, we can help with that! Contact our team today and we’ll discuss your learning needs. Or maybe you need a little more training inspiration before you decide on your strategy?

Free Guide: 37 Lessons For A Winning L&D Strategy

Cover Image 37 Lessons For A Winning L&D Strategy

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