Comparing Weak and Strong Training Assessments

weak and strong training assessments approaches

There Are Big Differences Between Weak and Strong Training Assessments
We have found both weak and strong training assessments during our 25+ years of designing and delivering training solutions.  Most organizations use training assessments to identify the specific skills, knowledge, and attitudes that are most important to the people and the business. However, not all training assessments are created equal.

How Weak L&D Functions Handle Training Assessments
In general, most learning and development functions provide a good sense of training priorities based upon what is most requested by the workforce. But ineffective L&D functions do not scientifically identify the critical few skills, knowledge, and attitudes that are most important to the leaders of the business or to the strategy as a whole.

An Example of a Weak Training Needs Assessment
For example, an assessment that asks managers to force-rank or prioritize training options (i.e. presentation skills versus business acumen skills) will only tell you what people think they want on a preconceived list of comparative training options. This approach neglects the desired performance improvement, the required business impact, and the importance of training compared to other business and people priorities.  While this common approach of asking for stakeholder feedback is certainly well-intentioned, it usually misses the mark.

Forced Ranking
For example, after their employee engagement survey identified a greater need for employee and career development, a recent client asked employees which training options they liked best out of a list of:

  • Presentation skills
  • Communication skills
  • Problem solving skills
  • Decision making skills
  • Sales skills
  • Customer service skills
  • Strategic Thinking skills
  • Business acumen skills
  • Management skills

The Training Assessment Results
The top three with the highest ratings were communication, business acumen and management skills.  The company designed and rolled out three programs, but they had trouble filling the workshops.  Why?  Because employees ranked what they liked best, not what they were willing to invest their time doing compared to other priorities in a way that would be supported by their boss and the company as a whole.

In others words, the training assessment lacked context.  And context matters.

How Strong L&D Functions Handle Training Assessments
Effective learning and development functions do not waste time comparing various training options. They focus on identifying the critical few behavior-based skills, knowledge, and attitudes by person and by group that matter most to:

  • The target audience
  • Their bosses
  • The leadership team

In other words, strong L&D functions ensure high levels of training relevance across the organization.  Relevant enough that each and every training initiative is supported by management because it helps the target audience achieve important company priorities.

Why This Training Approach is Effective
This relevant-driven training approach allows training assessments to effectively support behavior and performance change by initiating the change process, aligning leadership and employees, pinpointing skill gaps against a proven standard, customizing workshops, predisposing participants, guiding coaching and individual development plans, setting baseline metrics, targeting investments, and obtaining buy-in.  All are requirements for successful behavior and performance change to occur.

The Bottom Line
Ineffective L&D functions do not focus on the business and performance relevance from the point of view of their key business stakeholders.  High performance training functions ensure training is relevant to the participants, their bosses, and the company as w hole.

To learn more about taking your training function to the next level and if weak and strong training assessments are impacting your results, download the Top 10 Training Function Warning Signs that You May Be in Trouble

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Director, Team Development

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