What are the learning needs?

The traditional definition of training needs refer to an observable gap between the individuals’ or groups’ present knowledge or competence and the standards identified as necessary to do the job effectively.
Even though the definition of learning needs is simple, the actual analysis is not. There are several related problems:

    – How is the present level of knowledge and competence analysed, and by whom?
    – How are the standards of better job performance identified and defined, and by whom?
    What are the concrete skills, competencies, knowledge and attitudes needed to bridge the gap?

A systematic and concrete way to define and analyse learning needs have been developed by Eduard Scissons. The model which is used in the LE2000- training planner is based on the basic ideas provided by Scissons, and therefore a short introduction is needed.

The model proposed by Scissons is based on three independent need components:

    skills which are relevant in the present or future situation
    individual’s ability to handle them
    motivation to learn more about it

‘True’ needs can be defined when all the components are taken into consideration (relevance of the task – individual’s current ability to handle it + individual’s motivation to learn more about it = derived need). Motivation to learn is usually taken as granted in work situations, but managers should be aware that in some situations it is necessary to prioritise needs and then motivation plays an important role – as well as the company’s own priority investment areas.

To summarise:
Learning needs are those skills and qualifications which

    1) can be used in the future or present situation (context, company level)
    2) are relevant in the individual’s situation (relevance, individual level)
    3) the individual doesn’t have yet (competence)
    4) can be developed using training or learning activities
    5) the individual is willing to learn (motivation)
    6) in order to learn the individual and the organisation are willing to invest money and time