How to conduct a training needs analysis

What comes first – the analysis or the need? There’s only one way to find out the answer

The training programmes you devise should reflect the strategy of the organisation, adding value and taking it forward in the direction determined by business heads. All of which depends on sound training needs analysis (TNA).

“To do this, training professionals must be familiar with what the business wants,” says Hedda Bird, managing director at training company 3C Associates, which runs training assessments for clients. “They must talk to the business and understand what is driving the strategy.”

If your organisation does not have an HR representative on the board who can communicate the strategy, you must talk to whoever owns the strategy, be it board member, departmental or line manager. This should enable you to establish a set of broad priorities that will drive the shape and content of your training programmes and how they should be evaluated.

It may also be appropriate to support these priorities with the views of other major stakeholders.

Shine a light

Tony Dunk, principal at change management consultancy CDA, took his TNA beyond the borders of the organisation when he devised a training programme for technical managers at food production giant Northern Foods. He interviewed operations and quality managers at some of the company’s main customers, such as Tesco and Marks & Spencer, to get their views on where improvements could be made.

“It’s important to get different perspectives before putting together a training programme,” he says. “In this case, the customer viewpoint was vital.”

Next, compare such information with an analysis of the skills gaps in the organisation. This will shine a light on existing in-house skills and knowledge and will help determine what else is needed to meet business goals.

According to Doreen Nelson, joint managing director at training company Bray Leino Learning, mature organisations should have several information resources for this, such as personal development programmes, staff appraisal interviews and competency framework data.

Find the best fit

It is also important to research the type of training that is best suited to developing the skills and delivery media your organisation and staff need, says Stewart George, a consultant at training company Reed Training.

George runs a one-day course called Training and Learning Needs Analysis in Practice. He says face-to-face training may not always be appropriate.

“I prefer to talk about learning rather than training because skills can be learned in a wide variety of ways, such as job-shadowing, coaching and mentoring. In some organisations, these methods are under-used because trainers don’t believe they are doing any good unless they put people in a training class.”

Employees who cannot be released for training may have to learn on the job, or if they are particularly self-motivated may be best suited to an e-learning option.

To find the best fit, trainers should interview managers and those individuals with training needs, says George. Focus groups and questionnaires work well with the latter.

It is also important to build a timed schedule for your training programme, says Mike Summers, a director at e-learning provider NetG.

He says while some training, such as management development, may be ongoing, other learning may be targeted at hitting industry compliance deadlines, or be a reaction to a new development in the market.

Tangible value

TNAs should also include criteria for measuring the success of any learning that depends on organisational goals. Using such criteria trainers can apply a cost-benefit analysis ahead of any training. It is important that trainers put a tangible value on the impact any training is expected to have.

Bird says training departments can learn from marketing departments, which often predict the impact of initiatives prior to rolling them out.
She says training managers should be able to assess the intangible benefits of training, as this can help to justify training and demonstrate the business value it can deliver. “This will act as a decision support tool and is far more valuable than measuring return on investment (ROI) after the training has finished. Once training is over, no-one wants to know about ROI,” she adds.

by Ross Bentley

Case study

Lloyd’s brokers Glencairn had to ensure its staff were up to speed with new Financial Services Authority (FSA) regulations for the general insurance market that came into force at the beginning of 2005.

“Non-compliance could result in heavy penalties. We had to make sure everyone in the company had a base level of learning,” says Kate Delmi, head of HR.

The training that individuals required was determined by their job role, as different functions, such as support staff, brokers and account executives, were affected by the many different elements of the FSA regulations.

As staff worked various shifts it was difficult to get everyone together for training, so Glencairn decided e-learning would be the best delivery model.

Working with e-learning provider Absolutely Training, which had devised standard modules for the FSA regulations, compliance officer Chris Goodeve-Ballard went through the course material tweaking some of the phraseology to ensure it would be readily understood by Glencairn employees.

“With e-learning we knew the training would be consistent and that employees could access it either at work or remotely from home,” he says.

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