Although the learning and development department is usually the one that carries out the learning needs analysis they are not the only, or even the prime, customer. There are a number of interested parties or stakeholders that need to be considered before, during and after a learning needs analysis.
These stakeholder groups include:
- *Middle and junior line managers
*Human Resources colleagues, training managers and budget holders
*Employees both directly and indirectly involved in the analysis
*Internal and external customers, clients and suppliers
*Professional institutes and government departments.
Before starting the analysis, the learning and development manager should take into account the views and requirements of as many of these stakeholder groups as possible.
The sort of questions to be asking these stakeholder groups might include:
- *What results or outcomes do you expect and need from this analysis?
*How involved with the analysis would you like, or need to be?
*What feedback will you need or expect?
*Do you have any concerns or requirements I need to know before I start that may affect the approach?
The answers to these questions will be diverse, considering the different needs of these stakeholder groups.
Considering each stakeholder group in turn:
This group will be the one setting the strategic direction for the business, which the learning needs analysis will be supporting. It is therefore vital that their views are taken into consideration. Without a clear understanding of the strategic direction the Learning and Development manager should not start the analysis (see Chapter 2 Creating a Learning and Development Strategy).
This group will be mainly interested in future significant capability gaps and how these are to be filled. Time scales for deployment and cost and resource forecasts will also be of interest as they will probably have to approve the budget.
Middle and junior line managers
Managers at this level are predominantly interested in converting the strategic direction into tactical short-term objectives. Therefore, they will be particularly interested in how the learning needs analysis can assist them in achieving their business objectives. Their hands-on experience will be very useful in identifying practical helps and hinders, who are the experts and where the problem areas or individuals are likely to be found.
The first line manager and supervisors will have an added interest in the analysis as their own competence is likely to be assessed and their staff will be directly affected by the process. Line managers are often the prime source of learning needs information through the appraisal and performance review process.
Clear and timely communication is the key requirement for the employees. They need to know what is happening and how it will affect them both during and after the analysis. Useful information from the employees will include exactly how the business processes really work, bottlenecks and frustrations with the working practices. Self-assessment by the employees is a significant source of information for identifying learning needs.
Where a union is involved, its prime concern is the protection and welfare of its members. As with the employees, honest and clear communication as early as possible will be their first requirement. The subject of potential job losses, higher productivity targets and extra pressures on their members will be foremost in their mind. The more reassurance the learning and development manager can give, the more co-operative the union representatives will be with the process. Unions will always be in support of the continual skills development of their members.
Customers, clients and suppliers
These groups can be a good source of useful information on product and service quality, reliability and other performance parameters. Their requirement will mainly be the continuous improvement in the products and services they receive and reassurance that the actual learning needs analysis
Human Resources colleagues
Colleagues in the various HR departments can be a good source of information on such items as demographic changes, training states and records, evaluation of past training events, recruitment forecasts, staff surveys, 360-degree feedback processes, appraisals and personal learning plans etc. All this information will be of value during the analysis.
The HR department may also be able to provide resources to help with the analysis. They will be very interested in the output of the analysis to help with future recruitment, job specifications, designing new training courses and forecasting training budgets etc.
Institutes and government departments
These stakeholder groups may also need to be considered before undertaking a learning needs analysis. Most organisations are affected by government legislation to one degree or another. Some of this legislation will have to be taken into account. Health and safety is an obvious area where organisations have a legal obligation to ensure their employees are fully trained. Areas such as equal opportunities, diversity, discrimination and exclusivity will also have to be considered throughout the process.
Organisations employing groups of professionals may also have to consider their professional needs. Institute membership at the appropriate grade will involve a quantity of continual professional development (CPD) and may include passing sets of exams to achieve professional status. The learning and development manager will need to be aware of these professional needs and include them as appropriate in the analysis.