The learning process is an important part of the evolution of any business and organization. Companies that are the quickest to adapt to the changing circumstances and customer demands have a competitive advantage (Boshyk 2016). This process involves constant learning and quality improvement. The purpose of this paper is to explain why learning needs arise for individuals and groups, analyze the benefits of identifying learning needs for organizations and outline the main parts of the learning needs analysis.
Key Reasons for Learning Needs
Individuals and groups may express different reasons for learning needs. The main purpose behind learning needs in an individual is to improve the overall performance or learn specific skills. The motivations for it could be personal or corporate. Group learning needs, on the other hand, are almost always motivated by corporate needs. The full list of key reasons for learning needs can be found below (PWC 2018):
- Changes in job descriptions. For example, a translator working in a company may also be tasked to perform as a corrector;
- Acquiring a new job. A switch from the reception desk at the hotel to room service would require a different set of skills;
- Promotion to a higher position. A junior manager or a salesperson promoted to a higher position would need to learn to perform at the new place;
- General skill enhancement. It is often required when the level of service provided does not correspond to the company or industry standards.
- Introduction of new software. The introduction of new forms of CAD tools in engineering requires individuals to learn to use these (Ford 2014).
- Personal request. An individual may be aspiring for a promotion, and may train in advance to prove themselves qualified, driven, and competent.
- Introduction of new standards and practices. Ford adopted the ISO 9001 standards in 1996, which involved the introduction of new management techniques, six Sigma certifications, and the overall improvement in quality (Ford 2014). This required workers and managers to be trained to improve their skills.
- Introduction of new technologies. McDonald’s branch in France had to adopt a new software called OCTO, which significantly simplified the process of receiving orders from a phone application (Ford 2014).
- Changes in vision and mission of the company. Apple’s changes in the company’s vision and mission statements heralded a switch from the strategy of innovativeness towards quality, economy, and production.
- Overall quality improvement. The introduction of total quality management (TQM) and Six Sigma processes often requires workers and managers to re-evaluate their routines to include these tenets into the process. It requires learning and committing oneself to new standards of quality. An example case would be General Electric after the appointment of John Welch (Ford 2014).
- Policy changes. After the disaster of Deepwater Horizon, British Petroleum pursued a new policy to ensure greater worker safety and environmental friendliness (Ford 2014). These concerns had to be integrated into the planning routine (Pollock, Jefferson & Wick 2015).
- Group merges. A merge between large companies, such as Exxon and Mobil, is associated with merging departments, creating new fields, and eliminating redundant ones. It is associated with numerous employees being forced to learn new roles and adjusting to a much larger operation with different rules and standards.
Although some of the reasons between individual and group need overlap, individual reasons for improvement are visibly more personal.
Benefits of Identifying Learning Needs
Individuals and organizations can benefit from identifying their respective learning needs (PWC 2018). Employees may find themselves underperforming because their current skillset is inadequate to the requirements of the position they currently occupy. Identifying their learning needs will inform the future training process or even cause a transfer to a different position. In addition, identifying personal learning needs may help individuals realize their current and future competencies, leading to a better personal performance record and a possible promotion.
Organizations benefit from identifying their own learning needs differently. Firstly, training groups of employees to better achieve the company’s goals yields an increased return of investment (ROI) in the mid-term and long-term perspectives. In addition, it helps improve the quality and quantity of products and services, thus increasing competitive advantage. Lastly, company-sponsored training improves turnover rates by showing the employees that the company cares about its employees (PWC 2018). However, no training can be achieved without identifying learning needs first, making it a necessary prerequisite.
Learning Needs Analysis
To successfully construct a learning program for employees and organizations, a preliminary analysis of learning needs is required. The information collected for the analysis can be divided into three groups (PWC 2018):
- Current group skills and performance
- Current individual skills and performance
- Industry standards
The idea is to compare the parameters of employees and the company as a whole against the general trends in the industry. If the information shows that the company’s level of performance is above average compared to the industry, then it is not in immediate danger of losing market share. Its competencies are considered adequate and require slight adjustments from the training team. If the company and its employees score below average, it is a good reason for initiating a full-scale training program. In addition, this data may help identify the areas where individual and group skills are lacking, thus informing the learning process.
The information can be collected in a myriad of ways. Standard tools used for data gathering are surveys and performance appraisal tests for companies and departments. For gathering information about individual learning needs, one-on-one interviews and placement tests are required.
Identifying the learning needs of groups and individuals is an important part of the HRM process. A company’s capability of increasing and maintaining corporate advantage depends on how well its departments and employees perform. Without training, the company can’t adapt to the changing business environment. Individuals and departments benefit immensely from identifying their learning needs and creating learning programs to address the discovered issues.
Boshyk, Y 2016, Business driven action learning: global best practices, Palgrave, London.
Ford, KJ 2014, Improving training effectiveness in work organizations, Psychology Press, New York, NY.
Pollock, RWH, Jefferson, AMK & Wick, CW 2015, The six disciplines of breakthrough learning, Wiley, Hoboken, NJ.
PWC 2018, Identifying learning and development needs. Web.