You don’t need to assess the skills of your learners — if you don’t need them to improve, demonstrate learning and development (L&D) impact or choose development solutions that add value.

Otherwise, let’s talk about assessment and the essential questions that surround it:

What Should You Assess?

If you work with technical skills, we’ll assume you already have a list to work with. If you work with strategic capabilities, behaviors or energies, let’s explore how to create that list.

Maybe you already have subject matter experts (SMEs) for each of those strategic capabilities. If you don’t, find them. You’ll thank yourself later. Reach out to your SMEs and ask them to come up with the most critical skills / knowledge / behavior / mindset for their specific capability. They should take the following into account:

  • Current needs of the organization.
  • Potential needs in the next three to five years.
  • Alignment with company strategy.
  • Industry trends.

Review what they share and consolidate it.

What Tool Should You Use?

Good old Excel will do. A shared file will simplify the analysis later. Whatever technical solution you choose, here are the fields you might want to have:

  • Name of the team (if it’s a group assessment).
  • Location (if there is more than one in your company).
  • Number of employees on the team (if it’s a group assessment).
  • Assessed by.
  • Assessed skill.
  • Strategic capability/behavior/energy to which it belongs.
  • Current level.
  • Level needed within three years.
  • Immediate need or not.
  • Additional critical information (e.g., reason behind immediate need).

Think about how you want to present the results of analysis afterward and what information and format you will need to build an action plan. Then consider what other fields you might need and how to structure them to make it easier for you to consolidate and work with the data later.

How to Make Sure the Assessment Is Done Properly

Arrange a mandatory session for all people managers to explain how to assess the teams. Share the capabilities you want to assess and what they mean, what levels you have, and how one differs from the other. Remember, what is obvious to you may not be to others. They don’t work with that topic every day like you do. Record the session and share with everyone, including those who were not able to join.

Schedule a few open Q&A drop-in sessions where people can attend or log in to ask a question. Give people at least one month to complete the assessment, taking into account holiday periods or other global activities. Ideally, align with the performance management process. Then when it’s time to create development plans for the next year, your colleagues will already have the results of assessment and development solutions.

What Now?

If you used a shared file, you already have consolidated results. Otherwise, you’ll need to consolidate everything. Once everything is in one file, create your pivots and look for trends.

How to Prioritize

Look at the number of people impacted by each capability gap. Another important criterion is the number of people for whom it’s critical to close the gap immediately. For instance, let’s say you have a capability gap that impacts 50% of the population, and they need to close the gap within three years. And you have another gap impacting 30% of the population, but for them, it’s an immediate need. Which one would be your priority?

What’s Next?

Once you have prioritized who needs training, an action plan is important. Here are a few ideas for the next steps to take:

  • You might want to differentiate between the leaders of your organization and other teams, considering the difference in the purpose of the roles.
  • Select three to five priorities for the whole organization or for those differentiated groups, whatever works best for you. You don’t want too many priorities. Focus is key.
  • Draft an action plan focusing on those priorities. What development solutions do you have already? What needs to be created?
  • Discuss your findings with SMEs. Does everything make sense? How can they support the action plan to close the gaps?
  • Share the outcomes with leadership.
  • Once everyone is aligned, communicate the findings and action plan to the organization.

Remember to repeat in a year or whenever it makes sense for your organization and enjoy the progress you’ve made.

It is important to assess the skills of your learners — if you need them to improve, demonstrate L&D impact and choose development solutions that add value.