identifying learning needs.

Some learning needs are obvious: new IT or new equipment might require some form of training, while individual skills may need refreshing due to changes in roles. Others are less clear, based on assessment of existing levels of skills, attitudes and knowledge against the requirements to meet future needs.

This ‘learning gap’ approach – the gap between existing and desired levels – has been criticised as limited only to deficiencies, putting things right that have gone wrong. Positive learning should be concerned with identifying development needs to help people acquire new skills for changing demands or to take on extra responsibilities.

The implementation of a formal learning needs analysis, based on data about employees’ capabilities and organisational skill demands, can be seen as a ‘health check’ on learning needs arising in teams, groups or departments. This can be identified by working with line managers to understand the needs of individual teams, and using data on productivity, quality and performance to establish differences between actual and required performance.

Analysis can take the form of an ongoing approach (e.g. from annual appraisals), a project-based skills audit, or a combination of both. Analysis can also cover several levels: 

linking individual personal learning needs to those of the business 

for specific projects or areas of work, where new opportunities or restructuring require new ways of working, or 

for the organisation as a whole to ensure all employees have the right capabilities to deliver its strategy.

The CIPD has also developed its approach to focus analysis on key business outcomes – called RAM (for Relevance, Alignment, Measurement) – by establishing:

relevance of existing or planned training provision to new business opportunities

alignment of the plan to other key organisation strategies (e.g. reward, engagement)

measuring and evaluating learning in terms of expected change and improvement, ROI and KPIs.

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