Training diagnostics is the process of examining and evaluating training and organizational performance through systematic assessments, analysis and data collection. Typically conducted by training professionals, the function is considered a critical competency of training leadership and an important organizational capability of training organizations.

Training diagnostics helps organizations link solutions to the needs of the business, while improving success probability. It is often regarded as the bridge between understanding a training department client’s needs and performance problems and delivering needed requirements or specifications to resolve it.

Training managers execute diagnostics to determine and evaluate the performance levels of their organizations, as well as the impact of training on the overall enterprise. In short, managers can learn what is working and what is not. Additionally, examination of key performance metrics enables them to determine the root causes of problems and create solutions to enhance performance for both the training organization and its clients. Results can include improved content development and better strategic alignment to business goals.

Diagnostic activities often follow the process of strategic alignment, in which training leaders work with their clients to determine needs and understand client objectives. In addition, strategic alignment allows learning leaders to uncover problem areas so they can execute diagnostics.

Despite the importance of diagnostics ensuring peak proficiency among individuals and organizations, many training industry experts consider it to be one of the least developed and understood skills among training professionals.

How do training managers execute training diagnostics?

Common diagnostic tools include data collection, needs assessment, gap analysis and root cause analysis. In addition, organizations also employ surveys, interviews and focus groups. As they apply these useful tools, training executives can employ key performance and training consumption metrics used to design curricula.

Leading professionals recommend that the following best practices be followed in the execution of diagnostics:

  • Ask prudent questions. Listen carefully to uncover bona fide business problems and needs – not just symptoms. Focus on getting to the root causes rather than accepting the word of others.
  • Be prepared to recommend a variety of solutions beyond merely training. Recognize that there are occasions in any organization when performance issues do not reflect a lack of employee knowledge. The solution to every problem is not always more training.
  • Conduct a systematic analysis to develop a plan. Instituting a formal, systemic and structured approach is what differentiates high-performing organizations from others. A complete and consistent approach to analysis will identify more precisely the quality of solutions desired.
  • Employ a variety of approaches. Fact-finding interviews, field surveys and focus groups can yield surprising insights not necessarily uncovered by formal analytical tools. They can help the team define and quantify the nature and cause of performance or knowledge gaps.
  • Leverage experience learned from others. The performance problems of any organization are seldom unique.  Benefiting from the experience of others saves both time and money, and can provide a blueprint for success.

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