1 Question you Should Never Ask During Industry Consultation

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training needs assessmentI recently met with a client who was preparing a industry consultation questionnaire for a new Training Product. Here is the crux of what he was planning to ask: What do learners need to learn?

This is one question you should never ask employers (senior leaders). You are asking a tactical question to people who function at a strategic level. Simply put, they don't know the answer. Senior leaders live in the world of results. So, ask them about results. You can then drill down into what employees need to do—and learn—with tactical managers in the organisation (supervisors).

Here is my interview guide for assessing "training" needs with senior leaders.

Start by asking: What are the company's goals for the coming year? Goals include both problems to solve and opportunities to exploit. For example, a problem might be to improve customer service scores and an opportunity might be to launch a new product.

Then, for each goal, you can dig deeper by asking the following questions:

  • Could you describe this goal in detail? This discussion helps ensure that you are completely clear on what senior leaders have in mind.
  • What operational results will indicate you've successfully achieved the goal? Knowing what senior leaders are aiming for allows you to make sure that the training product you design supports achieving these results.
  • What do you plan to do to achieve this goal? Who will support to achieve this goal? What are the tasks required to be completed? Listen for answers that indicate employees might have to learn to do something new or different. Such answers could include implementing a new system, changing job responsibilities, purchasing new equipment, launching a new product or service, entering a new market, and changing work processes.

At the conclusion of this conversation, you won't have all the information you need to fully develop the training product, but you will have a good idea of the job outcome, and tasks associated to that job outcome, criticla information to select elective units of competencies. We define this stage as a preliminary consultation that also provides information about where you'll need to follow up, and how to establish a continuous engagement for the whole life-cycle of the new training product. 

In other words, who will be "touched" by this new training product, stakeholders? During your industry engagement activities, you'll need to interview tactical managers and supervisors to access information about the workplace context (procedures, equipment, conditions, etc). They are in the best position to identify what employees will need to learn to implement the measures senior leaders are planning to take.

It is only after you talk to these supervisors that you'll have the answer to the question my client posed, "What do learners need to learn?" More importantly, the answer will be tied directly to the industry's strategic objectives.

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