Baseline approach

Kearns explains an effective tool for developing training needs analysis,
evaluation and performance measurement

of the most difficult jobs for any training professional are accurate,
individual training needs analysis (TNA) and convincing outcome evaluation.

many internal customers do not appreciate the time and skill involved, which is
why they often just ask for quick-fix training solutions.

situation can be very frustrating for trainers who want to do a highly professional
job. More importantly, any training delivered as a result of insufficient
analysis is likely to be much less effective. However, this tool offers a
simple, practical and effective solution. It serves three main purposes:

Helping the trainer cover TNA and evaluation questions simultaneously

Ensuring the internal customer becomes fully involved in the training process

Linking training directly to measured employee performance

is called the Baseline Approach because it emphasises pre-training, baseline
performance measures before any training solution is offered. The tool
comprises two separate techniques. 

The eight-step TNA

first technique is a series of questions that should be used at the outset of
any training discussions with your customer. Try to stick as closely to these
steps as possible. If you skip any steps or are fobbed off by an impatient
manager do not be surprised if subsequent training fails to deliver.

Identify the business gap

you actually look at training needs you need to establish that a business “gap”
has been identified. This can fall into two broad categories (see also the
Toolbox in Training, October 1999): –

– There is a basic operational need (for example, people need to be trained to
use the new accounting system, staff need basic product knowledge) in which
case move straight to Step 3.

– There is a need for performance improvement (for example, the business plan
is looking for reduced costs, an improvement in productivity or quality.)

Calculate the £ sign

improvement gap identified at Step 1 should be quickly converted to a financial
value (for example, a 10 per cent reduction in error rates would equate to
approximately £100,000 cost saving per annum, improved efficiency in administration
might be worth £20,000 in overtime or salary savings). This figure helps to
decide how much can be spent on training and immediately highlights the right
evaluation measure.

The target “audience”

employees need to use the new accounting system? Who will be involved in the
error reduction programme? Are you looking at data entry clerks, supervisors or
managers? The training needs of each group will be very different.

Size the “audience”

you have established the type of audience, the numbers involved need to be
estimated with a reasonable amount of accuracy. Large numbers may require a
very different design to a small group. How many employees will be involved in
total? Does the evaluated benefit in Step 2 justify the potential cost?

Establish existing employee performance measures

you already collected performance measures for each employee? In the case of
the accounting system, some may already know how to use it. With error
reduction some people obviously make more errors than others. If this
information is not available the customer must start to collect it before we go
any further. This is the key, baseline data.

Produce the performance curve (see Technique 2 below)

the performance measures are in place for each employee (1 equals many errors,
10 equals very few errors) we can construct the curve. The customer must say
where the goalposts are (for example, 3 and 8) for unacceptable, acceptable and
superior performance levels.

Address each performance gap

curve is very revealing. Do all employees know where they are in relation to
the rest of the team? Are the causes of under-performance all to do with
training? Could the superior performers coach the under-performers? What does
someone with a 4 have to do to achieve a 5? The curve is an excellent basis for
a true, individual TNA.  Also, it is the
manager’s own assessment criteria which are being used; this generates greater

Design the training solution

are now ready to move on to the next stage, which is designing a variety of
training solutions to address all individual needs. However, the added benefits
of the Baseline Approach are that:

The evaluation measures are the customer’s responsibility, not the trainer’s.

Their commitment to training has been well tested

The customer is now totally involved in the training solution

Producing the employee performance curve

training needs discussions should be approached from a performance perspective.
After all, the whole point of training is to improve the performance standard
of the trainees. In the case of the brand new accounting system everyone has to
be trained how to use it but a standard should be set to make sure the system
is used properly.

the case of the quality improvement initiative, asking the question “how are
the target group performing in terms of error rates” can be very revealing. If
the manager does not have existing data on individuals then there is no
baseline to work from. This data needs to be collected before the training is

the manager to produce this data will:

Check whether there really is a performance gap

Force the manager to agree what constitutes unacceptable, acceptable and
superior performance

Allow a time limit to be set for bringing all underperformers up to the
required standard

Make any subsequent evaluation easy by revisiting the same measures to show a
shift in the overall performance curve, as the baseline measures are agreed

same approach can be used quickly and easily with competence assessments and
even soft skills training where an initial assessment of baseline soft skills
performance measures are collected.

final comment: if your customer does not want to take part in this exercise, then
you have to ask yourself how committed they are to the training.

Kearns is a training and performance measurement specialist at Personnel Works
(0117-914 6984). His books, Measuring and Managing Employee Performance and
Measuring the Impact of Training and Development on the Bottom Line are
available from Paul
is currently judging the TD2000 Award to find the UK’s Top Training team

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