November 5, 2018
Making Training Count with a Training Needs Analysis (TNA)
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November 5, 2018
Making Training Count with a Training Needs Analysis (TNA)
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How to Conduct an Effective Training Needs Analysis (TNA)

Making training count is the way to influence the future success of your organisation.

The health of any organisation depends on the development of its people. In order to do this, you must be able to match all training directly to the needs of the organisation and the people in it. Analysing training needs provides a focus and direction for the investment an organisation makes in its people as well as establishing a method of reviewing and assessing the success of all training /development initiatives. Because training and development is an investment, it is important to treat it as seriously as any other investment in the business. Training programmes are often prescribed to sort out a problem in the organisation. Until the problem is understood in greater detail, proposing a solution or an intervention can be an expensive and fruitless exercise. An effective Training Needs Analysis helps to identify real training issues in a systematic way, whilst linking these in a strategic way to the overall company strategy going forward.

Why should companies carry out a TNA?

  • The nature of work has changed and is constantly changing
  • To determine what training is relevant to your employees’ jobs
  • To determine if training will make a difference
  • All effective training starts with a good diagnosis
  • Benefits of the training can be measured and assessed
  • All training investment will be linked to the overall company strategy
  • Training priorities will become evident at all levels within the organisation
  • Training within the organisation becomes systematic and planned
  • The contribution which training makes to the organisation in terms of improved performance and growth will be recognised

Training will not fill all performance gaps, but a TNA will identify any gaps that can be filled by training and development. As was highlighted earlier, if an organisation does not identify its’ training needs in line with its strategic objectives, it is wasting resources by attempting to solve a problem it has not defined. Providing the best possible training for your staff can have an immediate impact on the services to your customers, the attitude and outlook of your staff, and prepare you fully for whatever the future may hold.

The fundamentals of a Training Needs Analysis are:

First set your context. Before starting on the analysis, a strategic view of the current situation, desired changes in jobs or responsibilities, technological and organisational developments are important. This will provide the information to help determine what is required of the individual, team or organisation. Evaluate what you are doing now and compare this to what you aim to be able to do in the future. This is followed by an analysis of the reasons for the performance gap and the types of training interventions that might help to bridge this.

Strategic View – Where are we now and where do we want to be?

In order to get an understanding of the context before conducting the Needs Assessment, the following questions need to be addressed:

External Analysis

  • What are your customer’s expectations of you now and in the future?
  • Is there any new legislation that will affect the way you do business?
  • What are the difficulties facing your organisation in the marketplace?
  • Does your training policy affect your ability to attract and retain staff?
  • What changes are likely in products, services and processes going forward?
  • What is the political situation like?
  • What are the stated values of the organisation?

Internal Analysis

  • How well does each department function?
  • What is your vision/ mission statement?
  • How is it measured?
  • Does your culture promote the achievement of targets?
  • What have managers observed in terms of the behaviour of staff?
  • What did your staff say at performance reviews?
  • What are our turnover rates, complaints and standards of performance like?
  • Are your competitors ahead of you?
  • How do we benchmark the performance of your people?

Individual Analysis

  • How clear are staff about the key job elements?
  • Do staff have the knowledge, skills and attitude to do their jobs effectively?
  • What do staff feel about the company and their competencies and skills?
  • What feedback has staff given about the organisation at performance review time?
  • Is it a training issue?

Once this information has been gathered, those conducting the Needs Assessment should be in a better position to begin the process by gathering the following information and following the four steps outlined below:

Techniques for investigating organisational and personal needs

A needs assessment is an opportunity to consult with a range of people in the organisation. The information collected and ideas generated by those participating often adds enthusiasm to the process. The data regarding current and desired performance can be collected from a range of sources such as:

  • Company targets/ goals
  • Performance appraisals
  • Staff turnover
  • Complaints from both customers and staff
  • Morale – measured through surveying staff
  • Standards of performance
  • Direct observation
  • Meetings with employees
  • Organisational problems
  • Focus groups

Four Steps to Conducting a Needs Analysis

Step 1- Conduct a Gap Analysis

The first step is to check current performance levels of both individuals and the organisation against existing standards or to agree on new standards bearing in mind the overall company goals. One suggestion here is to have representatives from the various areas in the organisation meet with those who are responsible for the TNA to give their input into the process as well as understanding the goals and objectives of the process. This group may also be involved in some of the diagnosis stages where interviews, focus groups or observation exercises are conducted. This stage includes two parts which are:

Current situation – Examine the current skills, knowledge and attitude of staff as well as the company goals, environment and future constraints.

Desired Situation – The conditions needed for organisational and individual success need to be identified. The necessary job standards and individual competencies and attitudes should be highlighted and agreed at all levels in the organisation. The greater the involvement of all staff in the analysis process, the higher the likelihood of buy into the training process.

It is this gap between the current and required situation which will identify the particular needs, purpose and objectives.

Step 2 – Identify Training Priorities

The first stage should have produced a range of needs for training and development, career development and organisation development which now require further examination and ranking in terms of priorities. These priorities need to be agreed in terms of the overall company goals and strategy going forward. It is by aligning training activity in terms of the overall company goals, that its impact is real and measurable.

Step 3 – Identify Causes of Problems and Opportunities

Having highlighted and prioritised the areas of importance, the next step includes looking at key problem areas and opportunities in the organisation. Two critical questions need to be asked for every need identified :

  • Are your people doing their jobs effectively?
  • Do they know how to do their jobs?

In order to answer these questions, a detailed analysis of current performance needs to be conducted using some of the techniques described earlier.

Step 4 – Identify Solutions

The solution needs to be agreed based on the diagnosis. Training may not be the answer. Organisation development activities such as performance management, team building, strategic planning or restructuring may also be possible solutions to the gaps identified. It is by matching the need identified with the best solution and measuring the success of the initiative that training and development initiatives can make a real difference to overall company performance. Whatever the solution identified, as with all the other stages, staff should be involved in deciding the way forward as much as possible so that they feel part of the process, which ultimately has a major impact on how they work.

Once the analysis is completed, the training plan needs to be agreed between management and staff, as individual and organisational goals are assessed relative to the larger goals and strategies of the organisation. The more thorough planners we become, the more likely we will be to handle change as it arises whilst taking a lead in directing your organisations into the future. The elements of a training plan are outlined below:

  • What are the business needs for the programme?
  • What are the departmental/team needs for the programme?
  • What are the individual needs of the programme?
  • Identify what will be delivered in terms of objectives. State the learning objectives behaviourally.
  • Identify the main content areas to be covered and prioritise.
  • Identify how the programme/intervention will be delivered in terms of learning/training methods to ensure the greatest transfer back on the job.
  • Outline the resources needed including estimates of overall costs – on/off the job costs.
  • Who will deliver the programme? Who will be responsible for running it and evaluating its success?
  • Who is the intervention aimed at?

In conclusion, then, Needs Analysis is about looking for the gap between the current situation and the desired one and then focusing resources where they are most needed. The analysis identifies the areas which are priorities in addition to generating possible solutions which include training and organisational development initiatives.

Implementing an effective TNA requires a high level of commitment from management and employees, so it is a process which needs to be carefully structured and directed. The needs analysis enables a data-driven look at the work, the worker and the workplace which form the basis of targeted training and organisational development initiatives aimed at improving the success and growth of the organisation going forward.

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