How to land on a training topic that meets employee L&D needs

Rather than designing a learning experience that is irrelevant to the employees, how can you determine the best topic, content, and format of the next training?

You’ve put the next employee training on the agenda.

You already know and are convinced how important it is for employee development and retention to benefit from regular training, workshops, talks, E-courses, and so on.

Your next item on the To-Do list is “set up the upcoming training”.

But wait, how do you decide on the perfect topic and content that actually serves your audience, rather than randomly picking a topic and taking the risk that it’s simply not relevant to them?

Choosing the right training topic is crucial for many reasons and could absolutely define the success of the training, and far beyond: it could even impact future training’ levels of engagement, because of the impression that has been created.

Relevant training topic significantly increases the likelihood that the participants are involved and taking an active part in the delivered sessions.

On top of it, well-suited content enables both the short and long term growth, since it’s driven by what employees NEED to continue their learning and development journey.

The perfect timely content, as opposed to a randomly chosen one, will benefit also the company’s growth path as it provides the learned with the capacities needed for the overall success of the organization.

Lastly, carefully chosen content and methodology will strengthen the employee trust in the process and in the company, hence their overall engagement.

So how is it best done? We’ve gathered for you the best practices and experts’ advice on how to accurately choose the right topics, content and methodology for your next corporate training or even stand-alone session.

How to find and decide on the perfect training that actually serves your employees

Needs assesment

“Guessing a thing ain’t knowing a thing”

Patrick Ness

Guessing what your employees need in order to advance their learning journey is like sending your friend on a blind date without knowing the first thing about this friend’s preferences, status in life, previous experience, future expectations… There are many reasons why a blind date could go wrong – but guessing what your friend might want or need is a really bad start.

Before exploring the next training topic, it is highly important to lean on existing and most updated data that point out clearly what your employees actually need and are oriented towards.

Existing data could emerge through a periodical survey (more on how to do that in an upcoming article), or a current short min-survey – “Pulse” – which focuses on a few important questions. Those questions need to aim to understand where are the gaps, and what are the most burning needs for employees (Knowledge gaps? Skills? Wellbeing? Policies? Leadership capacities? and so on).

More data do exist already, but it’s important to plug them into the decision-making process. For example, what were the results of the recent evaluation? Performance reviews?1:1 meeting with their manager? You need to make sure you have access to this information, at least on some confidentially level, to make sure you truly know what gaps are needed to be bridged. If those are confidential for some reason, ask the direct manager to reflect the main key points, and/or to reflect a team-level overview without specific names.

In a corporate training for Strategic Wellbeing we’ve held this year for a 4,500 employee insurance company, one of the senior executives kept questioning the themes of the training. “Do we really need to focus on stress and engagement?” she asked more than once, both her colleagues (the rest of the management team) and us, the facilitators. To help her understand, we simply did two things: we took the recent annual employee survey they did, coupled it with the short “pulse” survey we did for them (8 questions, 2 min on average per employee), and we presented the combined results. The need for employee retention and stress management stood out loud and clear, and the executive gave us green light to launch the training.

One question from a Needs Assesment tool we've used in a previous corporate training:
Learning paths

In the era of personalization, the expression “one size doesn’t fit all” has never been more accurate. The “Big resignation” phenomenon has shown companies why employees need a more customized and personal approach to their paths of growth, and learning is a major one of those.

When observing what might be the next learning experience it could be extremely helpful to examine personal or even team-level learning paths, and align the next content and methodology with those.

First, let’s define a learning path as a chosen route taken by the learners through a range of relevant learning activities that support a growth goal. Creating learning paths for your employees might sound like a lot of work, but it’s also highly beneficial for their flow of learning, evolvement, professionalism, fulfillment, and as a result of it all – retention.

When those learning paths are defined, transparent, clarified, and tracked, it is of course important to support them in the best possible way. This is where your decision about the next training and learning experience comes into play and should be informed by those paths.

A few questions to ponder:

* Do the topics I’m considering focusing on, serve the employees’ different learning paths and intent to advance them?

* Does the methodology suit? (more and that is found below, under “methodology”).

* Is there a way to encompass different needs and paths under one roof (one training) or do I need to consider gathering a few groups according to different focuses and levels of depth/expertise? (more on the richness of POVs VS. commonality in learning together – in an upcoming article).

There are many good templates and software out there to track those learning paths, but the key here is to use those to better understand what is needed to be delivered and to whom.

Offering a flexible yet structured choice

Should employees be given a choice about what to learn and when, or is this decision limited to their manager or to the senior L&D and/or HR authority in the organization?

Many will argue that employees simply can’t make all the decisions about their learnings, for different reasons. They’re busy doing their job, they will choose not to do anything “extra” if it’s up to them, they can’t see the overall picture… you name it. On the other end of this discussion, some will say that it’s only the employee’s responsibility and choice to design their own learning experience, if they even choose to (“a “nice to have” rather than “must-have”).

The truth is somewhere in the middle of both ends.

Employees could and should definitely take an active part in designing their next learning activity, to maximize their engagement and sense of responsibility, yet they could be offered a semi-structured solution and a few options to choose from, to enable the big picture perspective.

Just as you would run your business as a combination of designing a product AND incorporating customer feedback, so does the learning experience design and the topic decision could be a combination of business needs and employee aspirations and attraction.

If you’re using the data correctly and observing the learning paths (the two previous sections), a smart next step would be to design a few options for topics and learning experiences and give the employees the choice between those. Needless to say, if the topics are mandatory (sexual harassment prevention, safety, etc.) the choice is not applicable. The same goes for cross-company topics, e.g. management training to design a wellbeing strategy. But for many other topics, giving semi-structured options could help not only determine what are the relevant next training topics – but also significantly increase the participants’ engagement once the training takes place.

Choosing the Methodology

Should we go for full-length training? A deep course? What is even the difference between the two? Maybe this time we should bring in a stand-alone talk for the entire company in the big hall? Or wait, there’s a new highly recommended E-course… What about a hybrid learning model?

The good news and the bad news is that these days the options are almost endless, and while there are many solutions and formats, it’s also time-consuming to choose from them all.

Deciding about the next methodology and format delivery is oftentimes not a question of “what else can we do?” but “what is the most suitable option and format for our current needs and specific audience”.

While the fresh methodology is important to spark interest, it cannot be a replacement for choosing one that is in alignment with your L&D needs, which you have identified (previous sections).

Many years ago, as a fresh facilitator, I once stepped in to host a 3-hour workshop on burnout prevention for a group of volunteer instructors in an NGO. I was excited about a new format session and exercise I learned shortly before, and was eager to test it. Problem was, that it was the wrong audience to test this on. The people in the room spoke three different languages and the translators couldn’t keep up (it was a complicated exercise). The participants were young and they needed something more straightforward and simple. Both myself and the group manager did a few mistakes together, by not focusing enough on the participants’ unique characteristics and rushing into the solution.

Choosing the methodology and format delivery is key to successful training. Make sure that you don’t compromise at this stage, even if you landed on a perfect topic! Otherwise, you lose the group’s attention and understanding.

Using a creative methodology that suits the specific group of employees is essential for the traning's success. An example from a staff workshop we've delivered - using the floor...
Mix & Match

Have you ever been to a restaurant where you can choose your favorite type of pasta, then your preferred kind of sauce, and delightfully mary the two together into your chosen dish?

This is one of my favorite ways to dine, and I strongly believe that this approach is applicable to choosing your next learning topic and overall experience.

When selecting a training topic and designing the learning experience, picking a generic solution is a recipe for mediocrity. Instead, employ what we coined at Uppey as the “Mix & Match approach to learning” where you separately look at the topics and the formats, adding the lens of the data and learning paths, and start to plug and play until it’s a good match for your specific audience and their needs.

The edge of the Mix & Match approach to learning is the ability to highly customize the training to your organizational needs – and let the training serve you instead of you serving it. The Mix & Match approach to learning is the ultimate expression of creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. One of the most dangerous expressions that could sink a business down is “That’s the way we’ve always been doing it”, and the same goes for the learning domain.

If the data, learning paths, employee choice, overall company goal, and all other bits and pieces show that it’s time to match things differently and combine, for example, E-learning with 1:1 mentoring plus stand-alone workshop spanning 2-3 leading topics – go for it. Recipes are meant to be questioned and reinvented.

Alignment with organizational goals

Last but not least, is aligning the topic choice with the overall goals of the organization. While personalization is important, ignoring the company vision and specific goals will only lead to confusion and colliding results.

Goals that are important to consider could range from the organization’s overarching vision and values to specific mission statements and organizational or departmental KPIs or OKRs. While having those systemic perspectives in mind when choosing a topic and designing training, you ensure a cohesive path of growth, that serves all parties involved.

A wonderful way to do it is to sketch a fishbone diagram or a tree diagram and start developing learning objectives that derive from the overarching goals – until you land on a specific training goal that is both in alignment with the upper ones and with current employee needs and learning paths. The broader and deeper the sketch (birds’ view perspective), and the more continuously you use it over time, with flexibility and agility in mind – the more effective tool it becomes to determine the next learning experience rather than second-guess it.

We hope this article was helpful!

If you have any questions, thoughts, or suggestions we haven’t included in this article – feel free to email us at Our E-door is always open for a conversation!

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