Training Needs Analysis: How to and Why You Need One
A training needs analysis (TNA) is concerned with addressing skills gaps at the organisational, group and individual levels, and falls under the purview of learning and development (L&D). A training needs analysis should be conducted at all three levels to ensure the maximum return from training and skills throughout the organisation. It is a process that businesses go through in order to determine all the training that needs to be completed to allow employees to complete their jobs as efficiently as possible.
The information gained during a training needs analysis gives an overview of a business and helps determine which areas of L&D need focus to improve performance. The process allows identification of the knowledge, skills, and abilities employees are currently lacking in relation to company goals. This information can then be used to design an effective development plan for employees.
An effective training needs analysis addresses questions such as: Which employees need training? What kind of training do they need? How can an effective training programme be designed? What will the impact of training be on employee performance? What resources will be needed to implement an effective programme?
Sometimes, a training needs analysis can determine what training is not required, and thus L&D can avoid creating training programmes simply for the sake of creating training programmes. Training is expensive and knowing what to avoid can be as valuable as knowing what needs to be trained.
Successful training can boost the morale of employees, encourages learning and sharing, improves innovation and performance, builds empathy and trust among teams, and reduces conflict. Training programmes can lead to higher employee retention.
There are several steps to conducting an effective TNA.
1. Determine desired business outcomes: Before a training needs analysis can get under way, the employer needs to define the expected outcomes of the training. The training goal should correspond to a business objective. This can be specific to an individual employee, work unit, department, or the entire organisation. Ask the question: what is intended to be gained from the process? The focus can be on financial performance, revenue, or profit, or on softer outcomes such as customer satisfaction and company culture. The goal of the training should be clearly defined and kept front and centre to ensure the needs analysis process keeps the desired outcomes in sight. It is best for an employer to answer the question: “How will we know that the training worked?”
2. Identify specific issues: Next comes matching organisational goals with specific issues in the business. This involves observation and assessment. Department managers are ideally positioned to hold interviews and surveys with employees to help determine areas of concern in terms of L&D. A training needs assessment questionnaire can help find out areas where employees feel they need more training, support, and resources. Evaluate as much data as possible to establish if there are common issues training can address. Look at human resources records such as exit interviews and performance evaluations to discover trends.
3. Define the required knowledge and skills: Define the specific skills needed to meet company goals. The more specific the more effective the training programmes will be. With the right training, the desired behaviour will be nurtured, and goals will be met. Make sure to identify specific needs for each individual in the company, or at least at a departmental level.
4. Set timelines and priorities for training: Finally, the training programme must be developed. Training timelines and priorities must be established in line with budget.
A successful training needs analysis has a number of benefits for a business.
Identify knowledge gaps before they become an issue: Conducting a training needs analysis can help identify knowledge gaps employees have before they become a problem. This allows tackling of problems head-on rather than waiting for it to become troublesome. A training needs analysis is a proactive approach that counteracts potential issues down the line.
Highlights training not usually considered: A training needs analysis could highlight a bunch of areas that a team needs training on that have never been considered before. Without the use of training needs analysis, it may never have come to light that a particular area of training was required, which could have severely hindered the business.
Ensures training is focusing on the right areas: It’s important to have concrete reasons for adding training to a schedule, as it can’t just be assumed what is and isn’t important for a team to learn. Completing a training needs analysis will determine exactly what needs to be focused on, but it will also highlight the areas a team don’t need any further training on. If there are no knowledge gaps in a particular area then it’s a waste of time and money to continue to run further training.
Helps prioritise training needs: It can be difficult to decide which training sessions need to take priority, but a training needs analysis can help pinpoint the training which needs to be completed immediately and which training can be left until a later time.
In conclusion, a training needs analysis is a valuable tool in the L&D arsenal and can be used to transform and streamline the way an organisation functions.
Written by Rob Ewart