Its start of the New Year, 2015 and the training departments armed with new budgets are busy deciding how to best use them.  Training as an activity helps in pushing morale of the employees, as they feel cared for, and it can be a booster dose for enhancing work performance. It’s important to put wings behind real business needs and use the training dollars judiciously, this will not happen unless you use a filtering mechanism to identify the hitherto hidden training needs.  A popular and effective means of identifying the training needs is the usage of “interview”, Interviews can provide you with an in-depth view of the specific skills that need to be honed or learned. These are some of the candidates whose input would be worth its weight in gold.

Where to get the input

Managers who are highly successful in their first management position (subject matter experts) should be interviewed.  Objective of the interview should be to find out which skills and areas of special know how are crucial to successful performance at the workplace. Senior management team members must be interviewed too; to ascertain which strategic management skills they think should be broadly implemented widely throughout the organization. Use questions like, what are the three things which you want your old manager to stop doing? , What are the things new hires do good as compared to older employees.

In case you are planning to develop a module for a pre selected audience group, it best to interview them, they will give you deeper insight into their understanding of performance inhibitors. Taking input from the audience also helps in making them more receptive; they feel that the organization is working hand in hand with them to improve their deliver capability. This could be one of the biggest drivers of employee engagement and makes the candidates more receptive to change. Lastly, don’t forget the customers, organizations exist to serve their customers and therefore who would be better than your customers, to give input on the product or service deficiencies. The customers give an outside perspective and always remember customers have the right to choose between the service providers, listening and engaging them can be excellent retention strategy too.

Have a plan & be flexible

It is important that you conduct the interview in a systematic and structured manner to get reliable and accurate data; you don’t want to base your assumptions and risk company money on a bunch of hunches. In majority of the cases interview questions are decided beforehand, though the interviewer has the flexibility to pursue and probe other pointers that arise during the course of the interview. This flexibility helps the interviewer to look at the issue as a sum of different moving parts.  In addition to this, a good tool to use during interviewing is the critical incident technique, where the interviewees are asked to describe situations in their job, which they consider critical as well as the skills necessary to respond to those situations.

After you have finished conducting interviews, collate the quantitative and qualitative data to figure out what are the key needs that have emerged from the survey. At this stage, I would recommend usage of Pareto and statistical tools like multivariate analysis to get to the real inhibitors of performance and don’t get emotional if your favorite training session is ranked last. Developing training sessions using this scientific approach will definitely move the needle of performance in your organizatio

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