One of the biggest issues that employers face today is finding proper employee skills necessary to meet the organisations work objectives. Some organisations through well defined selection and recruitment procedures try to buy in the employee experience, knowledge and competencies needed to slot into an organisational gap. Although this may capture a void at a particular period of time, it is highly unlikely that such an investment will cover the entire life cycle of the organisation without some form of additional employee training and development. Others organisations depend on strategic Human Resource Development (HRD) procedures to bridge the gap by up skilling and retraining the existing organisational workforce or human capital stock. It is in this context that HRD can provide the necessary capabilities to ascertain the need assessment where a skill or knowledge base shortage exists.
Before we delve into the whole concept of HRD techniques, we must give some consideration to the grounding mechanism that gets us into the workplace in the first place. Employees must possess a level of literacy and competency skills. For HRD to achieve in providing workplace training and development techniques, it must be able to lock into the workforce's competency and ability capabilities. Without this, an organisation will face a serious deficiency in its basic learning economies.
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Taking this back to first principles, basic 21st century literacy skills go beyond mere reading and writing. They now include the competency of, being able to verbalise properly, articulate and being computer proficient. The National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) extends a broad definition of what literacy is perceived as follows:
"Literacy involves listening and speaking, reading, writing, numeracy and using everyday technology to communicate and handle information"  .
This expansion of the literacy boundary is as a result of a shift from skilled based to knowledge based economies. For example, in Ireland we have witnessed over the past thirty-five years a move from industrial and agriculture skill to knowledge based workplace environments.
In Ireland, A cloud currently hangs over the question of how literate and knowledgeable are the working population within the workplace. A meeting convened in June 2009 at the Farmleigh summit heard one major Irish employer, former Intel boss Craig Barrett outlines the dilemmas that multinationals employers are facing in Ireland. Barrett conveyed, this idea of Ireland being a world-class education system is nothing more than a myth. He alleged that Ireland is average on education and average is no longer good enough. 
Unfortunately, these deficiencies have found their way into the workplace and have been masked in some instances by a culture of 'grade inflation.'  In fact, Barrett effectuated by saying that an abyss had now existed between student qualifications and the skill and flexibility requirement of the workplace organisation. Incredibly, the last time an adult literacy survey was carried out in Ireland was in 1995 by the IALS.
"One in four working age adults were found to be at or below level 1. This meant they could only perform tasks that involved locating a simple piece of information in a fairly short written passage." 
This survey was commissioned by the Department of Education and Science. From Barrett's perspective, it certainly appears that not much has changed since. The techniques associated with HRD under needs assessment can adequately filter out his deficiency.
If we turn now our attention to the organisation and the core requirement of needs assessment techniques provided by HRD, the key objective is to identify the skill shortage in the firms' human capital in meeting its strategic objectives. If this deficiency is not identified and is allowed to go unnoticed, it can stymie the organisational growth.
Companies globally have experience serious economic downturn of late. Some are in crisis with a reasonable prospect of survival whilst others just merely collapse. Where there is a reasonable prospect of survival, these organisations could well utilise HRD as a shield and opportunity for survival. Unfortunately, the psychology that goes with organisational cutbacks has seen many attach cost cutting measures to the organisation's training and development budget. Such a measure tend to complicate and confuse the objective if HRD in the first place.
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For example, in Holland, the professional HRD journal Leren in Organisaties noted that HRD as an internal function of the organisation becomes a casualty of cost cutting measures, because it cannot sustain itself as a brand that has inherent value  . It is curious why organisations in these situations throw HRD to the wolves, rather than use it as a strategic weapon in assisting with a recovery strategy. If orchestrated properly, a needs assessment could also be initiated, based on an organisational fire-brigade and recovery strategy. This could provide a roadmap to enable employees assist and support a recovery. The needs assessment objectives of HRD, or the 'Brand' as the Leren in Organisaties journal suggests have several capabilities.
First, it can assist organisations stimulate growth by offering employees the necessary training and development expertise in promoting a competitive advantage. An organisation's competitive advantage can be cost or differentiated oriented. One cost driver associate with cost advantage is 'economies of learning.' Grant (2008) notes that the more complex a product or process, the greater the potential for learning.'  When learning is initiated, its ability to be captured either through tacit or codification forms part of the organisation's The more this knowledge is used, the better the quality of the idea the organisation has to compete with.
Second, in global economies, the organisation must keep abreast of new technologies and innovations that effect its industry. The last five years have witnessed rapid growth in technologies and new innovations. It is virtually impossible for organisations to keep ahead of these changes unless strategic HRD training principles are put in place to assist the learning. In these situations, HRD needs to be able to evaluate the training and development requirements as these new capabilities unfold
Third, employee enrichment in retraining and up skilling can improve total quality management (TQM). Organisations are totally dependent on the availability of employee skill, experience and knowledge. Although some of this knowledge can be codified, more often than not, it is the tacit capability that is learned, stored and not shared that can give the quality of the organisation's idea its best competitive advantage. This is best exemplified where this competitive advantage is of a differentiated nature. For example, the Harley Davidson motor bike brand prides itself on offering its quality of idea based on a Harley experience. Not only does Harley Davidson market an elitist motor bike, it has trained its staff to engage with customers under the Harley Owner's Group programmes. Here, Harley management and employees join their customers in the experience by attending and organising private group conferences and participating in ride outs  .
Methods in Identifying HRD Needs:
HRD uses a specific model to implement strategic training and development programmes. A well developed programme model will include needs assessment, design, tuition/coaching programme and evaluation. The needs assessment component looks at a tripartite analysis in determining the best fit for training and development programmes.
First, within the 'organisational analysis', it is important that the organisation's strategic objectives are identified and achievable. This information can be achieved from strategic planning, mission statements, annual reports or a specific plan for job restructuring and reorganization. Some PESTAL conditions may affect the ongoing work practices of the organisation that may need how employees continue their work practices. HRD must have the capabilities of being adaptable and flexible in identifying what is needed and the conditions under which it will be achieved. An organisational analysis indicates the appropriateness of the required training and development. Depending on the nature of the skill or training deficiency, the organisation analysis will highlight the level and scope of the training required. This information generally from management and department heads. For example, if a department manager believes that some employees needs specific training on the operational aspects of a process machine to improve productivity, it would be more prudent that the organisational analysis identifies 'on the spot' training as opposed to a workshop or classroom environment.
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Second, under a 'personal analysis' evaluation, the employee information is compiled from personal data. This information includes the ability, skill, qualifications and experience of each employee. In particular, an appraisal of their work achievement within the workplace. Personal analysis evaluation also extends beyond the boundary of skill, knowledge and experience and can include an evaluation of the psychological behaviour of the employee. For example, some employees may have difficulties engaging in teams and group work practices. Others may have orchestrated communication barriers between themselves and other members of staff. This can ultimately develop into a culture of uncooperativeness. All these intangible employee characteristics can hinder the organisation's development. However, once they are identified, proper recourse can be initiated.
A Critical Analysis:
The success of the organisation will depend on how its workforce optimise their performance in employment tasks. Organisations can identify performance gaps first in its organisational culture and secondly through several strand of its reporting structures. Set out are several of the criteria that organisations use in evaluating employees.
Well defined HRH will have implemented a performance evaluation system. The purpose of performance evaluation is to have managers or department heads write up an evaluation on each employee performance and specific weaknesses yearly, bi-yearly or every quarter. The information is generally recorded under predefined headings. Indicators of required training tend to from information where employees are highlighting gaps within their performance, or there is underperformance.
Several organisations maintain an employee organisational problem register. The register can be compiled from cross referencing with other departmental files. This register can be cross referenced with performance evaluation for any problems that management may have with employees and in particular where there is a history of a recurring matter. In addition, this register can also be cross referenced with the wages office for histories of absenteeism, sickness and punctuality issues. Further cross referencing can be made with HR regarding issues of grievances, bullying, accidences and customer complaints.
One of the best forms of personal analysis is where experienced managers are able to observe and identify employee behaviour in different work environment situations. This can be as simple as noting an employees greeting demeanor, to how an employee conducts themselves in group problem solving conferences and customer meetings. The result of such observation can be effective or ineffective that may require change.
Some organisations owing to the scope of their work practices extract samples of employee's work. This can be done either on an individual or group basis to ascertain the quality of performance. Sampling can be conducted on physical products, process or services. Larger organisations use the 'Six Sigma Methodology' to measure processes that are carried out by champions and experts within their field  . By using the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control) process can help HRD tap into the improvement capability of the process.
HRD representatives can conduct interviews with heads of staff to establish what potential gaps may exist either in their own capabilities or within the performances of employees that they manage. Interviewing techniques directly with employees' can also reinforce what the learning requirement may require. In addition, such interview can also establish if there is any adverse reaction to retraining and learning. With the introduction of video conferencing, such interviews can now be conducted globally.
This can take the form of written questions or an online assessment. The questions posed are segregated between the organisation, personal application and the tasks required. They are usually structured to evaluate in a specific way.
Finally, the third strand of 'task analysis' identifies the requirements for the organisational human capital. These tasks include any specific skills, knowledge and experience that are required. Not only is the task analysis requirement crucial in mobilising organisational resources, it is critical to ascertain task requirements in the long term. In addition, the task analysis should have the capability of identifying any specialised behaviour that is akin to the organisational tasks. It is amazing how some organisation's selection and recruitment procedures can miss this. It then becomes a requirement of HRD to pick it up within the workplace. For example, it is bad judgment call to have staff employed within a hospital that lack the caring and empathy manner that is necessary to fulfill such job tasks.