Summary: Your overall training needs assessment is not complete until you know what’s coming further down the road. Here are some ways to assess for future and anticipated training needs.

It is a given in training and development that your best-laid plans tend to change. But having an idea of the organization’s future needs can at least prepare you for what might be coming. In fact, a future training needs assessment is probably something that should occur on a regular basis, even after you’ve initially assessed the organization. For example, you may want to assess for future or anticipated needs at the beginning of every calendar or fiscal year. Let’s define future and anticipated training needs and then look at some ways to assess them.

Obviously future or anticipated training needs are those that will come with organizational or departmental changes in the future. To further define these types of needs, you may need to break them down into functional categories. Let’s start with policy and procedure needs. The question here is: are any policies and procedures slated for a major change or overhaul any time in your future assessment period? For example, are customer service policies going to be made “tighter” or more stringent? Perhaps there is a new customer relations model planned that will change the entire customer handling procedure. Are processes slated to change because of a merger or acquisition? Or are processes going to change because of new rules and regulations? Answering these questions can at least point you in the right direction when it comes to future policy and procedure training needs.

A second area to look at is systems. Is the organization or an individual department planning to implement a new technical system? This could be your own LMS, an HRIS, a new customer relationship management system, or a new overall operating system such as Windows. In relation to system changes, are any existing systems scheduled for changes or upgrades? Some system changes are subtle enough to be a slight update to training, while other system changes can cause a pretty heavy chain reaction in multiple departments, at the same time affecting various policies and procedures.

A third area of assessment is organizational and departmental needs. We’ve already discussed the possibility of mergers and acquisitions, which is always a big training need. Will the merger or acquisition significantly change the way the organization does business? How will new employees be “on boarded” into the overall organization? As always with mergers and acquisitions, the “people” aspect should be something that is considered as part of a future training need. In other organizational areas, will the overall mission, goals, or organizational objective undergo a transformation at any point during your assessment period? If these key organizational measurements are going to change, training should attempt to share the changes, prepare the population for what the change means, and show them how to move forward.

Assessing future and anticipated needs can be tricky. Many times the departments involved are reluctant to “take the lid off” of their anticipated change. But, as with any training initiative, your job is to position yourself as a strategic partner and not a watchdog. For policy and procedure changes, a good way to start is to survey the department that writes or creates those P&P’s. You can conduct this formally, that is, through written or online survey, or informally by simply scheduling brainstorming sessions at the right time. From these surveys or conversations, you may get an idea of the changes that will require new or upgraded training. You should also survey overall division heads and stakeholders to determine what their plans are for the future time period. In fact, a written survey can be a starting point, and then when you review your results schedule meetings to sit down and talk with those key people. As you will discover, system change information can come from both the P&P groups and the department heads. Once you know about a system change, consider having a conversation with the IT department to determine how those changes are going to affect existing or planned training.

As with any of your needs assessment areas, plot the results from a future and anticipated needs assessment into the overall developing training plan. You’ll find that certain needs can be placed further out in the timeline, while others may need to be pulled closer to the present time. Once you have assessed needs in all of the areas we have discussed in this series, you’ll soon be able to develop an overall training plan and feel certain that the major needs have been uncovered and identified.

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