Training Needs Assessments: Identifying Skill Development Gaps

Training Needs Assessments: Identifying Skill Development Gaps

There is a thin line between well-designed training teams find useful and mandatory training that employees don’t really want to attend. How do you know which one you are organizing?

Training needs assessment, when done right, helps you understand the priorities, domains, and timing for introducing new training to the employees. Apart from reviewing employee performance, the training needs assessment process helps you identify:

  • Skill gaps in each department;
  • Knowledge gaps across different teams;
  • Engaging methods for delivering a training course;
  • Scale on which the training should be delivered - team level, company level, etc.

Conducting training needs assessments prevents unnecessary expend of resources - time and budget allocated for a training course that results in poor impact. Moreover, it reduces the risk of employee dissatisfaction that comes with those trainings that feel like a waste of time.

Read on for actionable tips and examples of conducting a training needs assessment that makes you a favorite HR in the company.

How to conduct training needs assessments

The key to understanding the needs of the employees within a company is for HRs and managers to work together. The first assumption for training needs comes from a well-trained manager who recognizes the skills and skill gaps of the team members and addresses them to HR.

The ground for improvement is a feedback session with the manager. As in performance reviews and career development analysis, a thorough training needs assessment envisages a detailed and comprehensive approach and involves different levels of management.

There is a clear roadmap for training needs assessment - from learning about the gap analysis to conducting a set of recommendations for training programs. Let’s see how to conduct a training needs assessment step by step.

1. Conduct a training needs assessment on all levels

A good training needs assessment is conducted on 3 different levels:

  • Organizational,
  • Operational, and
  • Individual.

The organizational level assessment evaluates the company's skills, knowledge, and performance, and how it aligns with business goals and objectives. It scans through the competencies of staff as the whole and enables HRs to conduct training to address crucial skill gaps.

The operational level assessment focuses on the differences between expected and actual performance of the employees. It helps you identify gaps in the efficiency of conducting set tasks. On this level, you are comparing job descriptions and industry standards with actual results within the company, and organizing employee training to help them reach expected performance.

Assessment on an individual level highlights employee performance, skills, competencies, and potential for improvement and optimization. This part of the analysis also enables you to reach beyond job performance and learn about employees work-life balance, chances of burnout, career satisfaction, and overall wellbeing.

Not every employee training has to focus on job performance. Sometimes what your company workforce needs is a personalized approach and training course that focuses on personal development and career development.

2. Identify business needs and desired outcomes 

Before going further with questioning employees and determining operative gaps, reflect on the business needs and priorities.

For example, when your business strategy is oriented towards the development of new products/services, moving your resources to organize sales training might not contribute to the desired business outcome, and vice versa.

If you are using a performance management software such as Peoplelogic, this step takes only a few minutes. Simply check your dashboard for OKRs (Objectives and Key Results), and review the current status.

Identify business needs and desired outcomes with Plai

3. Perform a gap analysis

Conducting a gap analysis is more than just creating a mandatory survey and pressing “send to all”. For deeper insights into performance gaps, you should first check the stats and performance data.

After putting initial information and numbers on the table, continue by crafting personalized surveys to understand the employees' perspectives on their current skills and competencies, and their contribution to the team and the company overall.

For example, Mike works as a graphic designer. Through performance review on your Peoplelogic dashboard, you can tell that he has been delivering high-standard graphics, in a timely manner, and through the peer-to-peer feedback feature conclude that the team is satisfied with his contributions.

However, in his personal growth plan in Peoplelogic, Mike has stated that his desired career path is to become a UI/UX designer. With a quick overview of Mike’s profile, you can evaluate his current workplace, and schedule a one-on-one call with him to discuss his further involvement within the company.

A good HR would start by evaluating his current job performance, praising his success, and then coordinating what would it take for Mike to start practicing his skills within the UI/UX team. Perhaps now is the time for Mike to attend a training program for UX designers.

Perform a gap analysis with a team

To be regularly up-to-date with the needs of each team and personnel within the company, gaining insights should go beyond a yearly training needs assessment. A useful practice for HRs is to organize regular workshops for managers.

First of all, a survey for managers is needed to map out the potentials, strengths, weaknesses, and needs of their teams. After gaining the first insights from the survey, HR should organize a workshop for the managers to brainstorm ideas for improvement and share their best practices among themselves.

4. Assess training options

Training needs assessments also imply considering different options in which the training program can be executed. Training effectiveness can vary depending on the length of the training, the format in which you decide to deliver training, training agenda, and other factors.

First and foremost, a good training needs assessment considers the relevance of creating a new training program. For example, in Mike’s case, there is no need to create new training solutions to help him develop the skills required for his desired job. Instead, he could start by attending already available online courses and work under a UI/UX designer supervisor. 

Another relevant factor in deciding on training employees is the budget you can allocate for the training needs. Financial circumstances will also help you understand whether the timing is good to invest in in-person training or organize it via another medium of training (such as an online Zoom live course).

Depending on the needs and company resources available, you can create anything from a short online workshop to a full two-week training course. 

Say, you discover that your CSR (corporate social responsibility) manager lacks skills and ideas for generating a good CSR strategy for your company. Then, answer the following questions:

  • Does being more socially and/or ecologically responsible fall under the company's priorities? 
  • Do you have enough budget to invest in his/her skill development?

If the answer is yes to both, you can map out the best CSR manager training courses in Europe and conclude your recommendations.

5. Report training needs

Report training needs

After gathering all the data, it is time to report on your findings. Training needs should be communicated clearly with the stakeholders, for each level your analysis took place.

Here’s an example of what should be included in your report:

  • Job to be analyzed
  • Goal
  • Job behavior
  • Skills
  • Status

Training needs report example

6. Recommend training plans

For each training need you have spotted in the training needs analysis, a recommendation for an adequate training plan should be delivered in the report. There are multiple models you can estimate and decide what works best:

  • An online course;
  • A workshop;
  • A training program;
  • An intense in-person training course or
  • Mentor-supported course.

Simply add a column on recommendations to your training needs assessment template, or use Peoplelogic to save time and avoid multiple and messy spreadsheets in the process.

Best practices for conducting training needs assessments by HRs

The best HR professionals are attentive to employee satisfaction. They know how important employee training is to fill in skill gaps, but understand that the effective training programs are delivered in an stimulating and captivating manner.

“Training helps teach the vision and mission, but employees must put the training into action to have meaning.” 

- Shep Hyken (CAO, Shepard Presentations)

Hands-on approach to learning results in faster and creative adoption of new skills. Employees benefit more from a shorter presentation training and opportunity to practice what they’ve learned.

“Nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day, you bet on people, not strategies.”

- Lawrence Bossidy (Former CEO, AlliedSignal)

Lawrence reminds us that investing in people is investing in business. Sure, it matters how the employee performs, but bare in mind that a good training needs assessment analyzes not only the operative skills of employees, but also the people skills, social and emotional intelligence, and communication skills.

“I still consider that the manager should be the gate. We should teach managers to develop their people.”

The key is to develop the skills of the managers in order for them to gain a deeper understanding of their team's needs. Introducing gamification in manager development workshops gives great results. For example, you can assign tasks within a teamwork activity and learn how your managers work under stress, with tight deadlines, etc. After observing the way they operate, HR prepares feedback and recommendations on how to improve their management skills.

Some challenges at the workplace can be resolved by employee training, especially when you identify there are new skills required to perform the job. However, internal communication, healthy feedback, and desired career paths matter big time when it comes to assessment on a individual or personal level.

Best tools and techniques for a training needs assessment

There are a few simple HR techniques to conduct a training needs assessment. If you are using performance management software such as Peoplelogic or Betterworks, it is even easier to collect the data and schedule interviews with employees.

Let’s review what are the best ways to estimate skill and performance gaps, and how to identify training needs.

1. Focus groups

Focus groups come in handy, particularly for a team evaluation. When talking things through with a team, you get to ask questions and hear their own ideas.

Some root causes of poor performance can be solved by a training program, while others such as bad company culture, low salary, etc., cannot. Within a focus group, you can easily discover the pain points and causes of performance gaps.

Schedule a meeting using team management tools and organize a focus group easily with Peoplelogic.

2. Surveys and graded assessments

Surveys remain a very efficient way to quickly gather a lot of information from your employees. With an adjusted set of questions, learn about communication effectiveness and team effectiveness, while each employee does a graded self-assessment of job performance and their contribution.

Surveys are the first step in understanding the employee satisfaction levels and improving the

motivators that help them reach expected performance.

3. Peer feedback

With enhanced people management software such as Peoplelogic, it has never been easier to run 360-degree feedback and get essential information on employee performance and a sense of belonging within the company.

4. Past performance metrics

The key metric to determine one’s progress trajectory is time. With Peoplelogic, you can track analytics to gain insights on employee performance, goals, and engagement over the entire course of their employment.

5. One-on-one interviews

Nurturing a healthy company culture means respecting everyone’s opinion and making sure the employees feel included. Hear their concerns, thoughts, and ideas in direct conversations, and involve them in the training needs assessment report and recommendations.

Apart from asking them about their job performance, try also involving them with change management within the company. Sometimes it is easier to spot the solution from within the process.

Training needs survey template

Crucial questions for employees:

  • When was the last time (if ever) you were trained for this skill?
  • How satisfied are you with the previous training programs?

Essential questions for managers:

  • How quickly do employees need to learn these skills?
  • What is a realistic timeframe for learning, while taking employees’ current workloads into consideration?
  • How can you ensure that training is completed successfully, without learners feeling bored or overwhelmed?

Key questions for HRs and trainers:

  • What platforms and devices can be used to access training material?
  • What content formats are available to learners?
  • Is the training flexible enough to accommodate individual schedules?


Training courses and workshops are a way of investing in your employees and your business. To deliver training that is both interesting and useful, run a training needs assessment on all levels and make the best decisions for your company.

With an HR software such as Peoplelogic, you can easily track all relevant performance metrics, distribute surveys, collect data, and schedule one-on-ones with all employees. Sign up for a 14-day trial and begin the next chapter of easy people and performance management.


Paving the way for organizational health!


Peoplelogic gives me access to real-time data about my workforce that I can't view in any of our other talent systems!

Onboard, develop, retain, and grow
every employee - from day one