Learning Needs Analyses - a Practitioner's View
"That may be true," says Roger Mayo, L&D specialist, "but it's no reason not to have a battle plan“ and the same thing is true of learning needs analyses (LNA)." In Roger's view, L&D professionals who fail to complete a thorough LNA for the business are missing a great opportunity. He says, "They deny themselves the chance to present their findings and associated solutions at the appropriate levels. They also lose the chance to raise their business profile, transforming L&D's contribution and its perceived value." An LNA must be grounded in the organization's strategy, demonstrating that it has the unique "feel" of the organization about it. It needs to be written and, if appropriate, illustrated, to communicate "organization feel" to maximize its credibility. "It may, if done well, mimic the structure and approach of the business strategy itself," says Roger. "It can then directly demonstrate that it provides contributory and complementary solutions to the organization's needs and business requirements." This means that L&D professionals need to be able to bridge the gap between "now" and "then" - shaping and then delivering well-formed outcomes. In order to complete this activity, L&D professionals must be able to speak and write the unique language of their business, and fully understand the direction it is going in. "This only comes from a thorough understanding of what people actually do - the tasks and processes of their everyday working lives," says Roger. "Knowing your target audience from the analysis is critical. And it's important to keep the language crisp and avoid words and phrases that create negative responses. "Sense checking, if possible with someone who's respected for their approach and ability to bring about effective change, is always a useful step in document creation." Developing organizational capability and delivering on the promises to the customer with the appropriate profitability are the prizes that L&D can help an organization to win. "Yet, credibility is essential if this is going to be carried out effectively." Senior managers and other leaders in the organization may still regard the L&D function as simply a provider of courses from which they do their shopping following the annual appraisal. In Roger's view, demonstrating thorough business knowledge is an edge that the L&D function must maintain if it's to avoid becoming a candidate for outsourcing - which, over the last decade, has been the fate of many HR and L&D functions. "Done well, LNA can be a great tool for impressing and raising the profile for the whole learning function," Roger asserts. "It can provide a reference point and authority for L&D work for a significant time into the future. It promotes the function as an enabler of business results. This makes L&D a business partner - and that can bring you, as an L&D professional, to the top table." Completing an LNA requires further competencies that help in turning business priorities into learning needs, engaging stakeholders and senior managers, and getting them to shape the L&D strategy. For example, imagine that an organization announces its strategic intent to raise its On Time in Full (OTIF) ratio from 87 percent to 99 percent. It's seen the need to get closer to industry norms and avoid business loss. The L&D professional needs to help this change process and engage the relevant business managers in the process. At its highest level, an LNA establishes the organization's macro learning needs, which, if unfulfilled, could mean that the business won't adapt to tomorrow's challenges. So, starting with the end in mind, what will the final document look and feel like? Where will it be discussed? What questions will be answered by its completion? And what actions will result? With these questions answered and with a well-formed outcome, the L&D professional can consider the processes and actions needed to bring about the required results. Questions at this tactical level include:
- What are the areas to be covered?
- Who are the main people to be involved?
- What business division and departments are to be visited?
- What time is available and when are the critical milestones?
- What tools will be used?
- What are the current sources of data?
- Business plans and strategies.
- Future staffing levels.
- Audits of current knowledge and skills.
- Capability requirements of new technology.
- Customer comments and feedback.
You may also be interested in…
Nowadays, Laura Kelly is Senior HR Business Partner at Arkk Solutions across London and Belfast. But she started her working life as a circus performer, touring the world with her gasp-inducing aerial acrobatics. What’s the connection?
January 2020Read More