Studying Wants Evaluation Ideas For L&D Managers
Tips for Assessing Learning Needs: Adopt the counselor’s mindset and be a trusted partner
It is a sad fact that when times are tough, the L&D departments’ budgets and resources are often the first to cut. L&D is still seen by many companies as a cost center rather than a business partner. And when executives and stakeholders cannot establish the correlation between
Your investment and business results – if they fail to see the value training provides – drive costs down.
In a recent survey by the CEB, only 33% of executives believe the L&D role affects business results, and fewer believe the role is relevant or timely. 
That is an alarming statistic.
So how do we win the other 67%? How do we show stakeholders and members of the C-suite that L&D is relevant? How can L&D managers ensure that our role is seen as a trusted partner rather than a resource? How do we also get the all-important buy-in?
Read on as I answer these and other questions with my three steps to buy-in your vision.
The playbook for needs analysis: How to make L&D a trustworthy partner in your company
Expand your eLearning solutions and achieve business goals. Uncover inside secrets to conduct a needs assessment and get a stakeholder buy-in.
Step 1: adopt the counselor’s mindset
Stakeholders are not learning professionals and therefore often come to L&D with solutions or requests – “The Northeastern sales team needs a CRM training refresher” – instead of problems and requirements.
In this example, it would be easy for L&D managers to take a position as a contractor and give the stakeholders what they ask for – after all, the request is pretty specific. But what if something else affects the performance of the Northeastern sales team? Would it make a difference to take them a CRM refresher course? It is highly unlikely. And where would the L&D leave?
What the stakeholder wants and what the stakeholder needs are often two very different things. Your job as the L&D manager is to make sure your team is helping them tell the difference.
To do this, you need to get out of the client’s mindset and become more advisory in your approach. You need to show stakeholders that L&D is a trustworthy partner and a valuable resource.
While working together, be open and curious and listen carefully to what the stakeholders have to say. Share your insights, offer your expertise and don’t be afraid to push yourself back if necessary.
Step 2: Involving the stakeholders in the needs assessment process
Buying in your vision becomes easier when stakeholders are involved and invested in the process. To be clear, you don’t need to be involved in all of the needs assessment activities, but rather should be kept informed of the steps you are taking and why the process is important.
L&D managers need to undertake three main activities to assess learning needs (or enable your teams to do so): (1) stakeholder analysis, (2) learning audience analysis, and (3) constraint analysis. Here you can find out how and when you can involve stakeholders in the entire process.
1. Stakeholder Analysis
Here you will learn what really drives the need, who it affects, what the desired results look like (what success looks like), how success is measured and what, if anything, could hinder or enable success. Most of all, you determine whether training is the right and only solution.
Stakeholder participation: High
Stakeholders should be fully involved and involved in this process. This is your opportunity to tell you what’s going on and define what success looks like. Nobody else can do this for you.
For a full list of Stakeholder Analysis questions, see Chapter 1 of our new guide, The Needs Analysis Playbook.
2. Analysis of the learning audience
Here you will get a deep understanding of the wants and needs of your learners. You will build empathy with your learners as you discover the types of learning experiences that engage and motivate them.
Stakeholder participation: Low
You need to ask the stakeholders to identify a representative sample of learners with whom you should meet. Once you have your list, work directly with the learners.
Note: Some stakeholders may want to “help” you with this article, but this is one place where you don’t want stakeholders to be involved. They can tell you that they know the learners well and therefore know what the learners want and need. But the truth is, no one can tell you how learners like to learn except the learners themselves. Put your full consultant self in the foreground here and gently push back the stakeholders who want to stand up for the learners in this crucial step .
For more help with analyzing the learning audience and pushing back stakeholders, see Chapter 2 of our new guide, The Needs Analysis Playbook.
3. Analysis of the limitations
Here you can determine the time, cost, and resources it will take to complete your training project and anticipate the constraints you may face. They also determine whether and where you can possibly use or influence the restrictions.
Stakeholder participation: Low
If the stakeholder has firm constraints in mind, then you need to establish these before analyzing what you actually need for your project. You then run the analysis independently.
If the stakeholder wants you to estimate the size, time, and cost of investment, ask yourself if there are goals or limits you should know before you begin.
For help analyzing the limitations, see Chapter 3 of our new guide, The Needs Analysis Playbook.
Participation = investment
When you involve the stakeholders in the needs assessment process, they will have a deeper understanding of what it takes to ensure the solution is set up for success and they will be more invested in the results. More importantly, engaging and keeping the stakeholders informed should mean fewer surprises, and therefore fewer setbacks, when the time comes to share your findings and recommendations with them – which leads us straight to step 3.
Step 3: Share your results and recommendations and validate your vision
If you want to be bought by stakeholders and you want L&D to be seen as a trusted partner, you need to speak their language. You need to show stakeholders that you listened to and understood their needs. That you care about the learning experience as much as you care about the results. That you understand the restrictions and have anticipated possible red flags.
Most importantly, you need to show them how your referrals meet all of their needs.
You need to create a needs assessment report.
The needs assessment report consolidates your position as a consultant by:
- Translate the work you’ve done as a Learner into a language that stakeholders understand
- Turning desires and needs into problems and solutions
- Show what success looks like, what it takes to get there, what the risks are and how to measure it
- Back up your recommendations with data and insights
While the needs assessment report is a business document, it should also tell a story. Your report should convince the stakeholders and help them make the best decision for their organization and their learners. Here is the story you want to tell.
To tell your story, I recommend structuring your needs analysis report like this:
- Summary (summarize the story)
- Table of contents (provide navigation)
- Description of business needs (setting the scene)
- Analysis methods (reveal your methods)
- Results (share what you found and what it means)
- Recommendations (turn your results into recommendations)
- Assumptions (provide an opportunity for reflection)
- Unsubscribe page (leave a call to action)
- Appendix (save your results and recommendations)
Notice that I’ve added an unsubscribe page. This is probably the most important detail to add to your report. When the stakeholders know they need to unsubscribe from what’s in it, you can be sure that they will read it and pay attention to the details.
In Chapter 4 of our new guide, The Needs Analysis Playbook, we created step-by-step instructions for summarizing your needs assessment results and creating a needs assessment report.
Top tip for assessing learning needs: When L&D managers consult with stakeholders, buy-in is easier
If you are an L&D manager and you want to buy in for your vision, you need to adopt the advisor mindset and demonstrate that you are a trustworthy partner. You need to involve stakeholders in the needs assessment process so that they feel invested in the solution. And you need to share your findings and recommendations in a language they can understand and ask to unsubscribe.
If you’re interested in this idea and want more insights, more tools, and more examples, check out our latest eBook, The Needs Analysis Playbook: How to Make L&D a Trustworthy Partner in Your Business. This vital guide provides L&D managers with a play-by-play account with all the activities, tools, and resources necessary for a successful needs assessment. Set your team up for success – download a copy today.
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