A training needs analysis is one of the most important things that you can do as a learning professional. But why is that?
Training can transform your business. It can give your people the skills and know-how they need to thrive. It can even be the edge your organisation needs to stay ahead of the competition. In fact, a great training programme will entice top-talent to join your company, and it will keep them there once they’ve joined.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of training in today’s workplace. It can change the culture of your organisation, it can even change the world! This means that a training needs analysis (TNA) is supremely important. It’s your chance to plot the route to training success.
If you get it right, you’ll deliver the right training, in the right way, to the right people. On the other hand, skipping a training needs analysis altogether is the L&D equivalent of trying to pin the tail on the donkey whilst blindfolded.
What is a Training Needs Analysis?
When you strip it right back, a training needs analysis is a process which helps you review the state of your organisation’s training. With it, you can identify the knowledge-gaps your organisation needs to fill. Once you know what’s missing, you can outline your priorities and shape your L&D strategy.
A training needs analysis gives you all the information you need to hone your L&D strategy into a well-oiled machine.
The Importance of a Training Needs Analysis
A training needs analysis is the most important stage in any training campaign. But what are the objectives?
It’s all about getting your priorities in order:
1: Work out the areas of greatest need
It will help you understand the skills and behaviours your organisation needs to advance. You can then identify which of these skills and behaviours are lacking.
2: Avoid wasting time on irrelevant training
It gives you a clear understanding of the big picture. With this understanding, you’ll be able to pinpoint training that’s not needed, saving you time and money.
3: Increase your ROI
Once you’ve identified the areas of greatest need and pinpointed surplus training, you can refine your L&D strategy. This helps ensure you’re funnelling investment into the areas that will deliver the best return. It also means you will stop wasting your budget on ineffective training.
How to Conduct a Training Needs Analysis
Step 1: Imagine
The best place to start with any training needs analysis is with your organisation’s mission and values. These will help you get to the core of why your organisation exists. Once you understand the mission, take a deep breath and close your eyes. Imagine what your organisation would be like if it was fulfilling every aspect of this remit. Ask yourself:
- What would your company culture be like if your values were being lived all day, every day?
- Which groups of people are key to delivering your organisation’s mission?
- What behaviours do your people need to deliver this mission?
This organisation, the one you’re imagining, is the one you need to bring to life. Your training needs analysis is your strategy to do so.
Step 2: Assess
Step 1 will bring your ultimate goal into focus. With this clear vision, you now know what behaviours you need in your organisation. This means it’s time for you to work out how to get your people to adopt them.
BJ Fogg’s Behaviour Model outlines a path to behaviour change. His model explains that to affect behaviour change, you need three things: motivation, ability and a trigger. With these three things, you can inspire learners to achieve anything!
Check out our very own Juliette Denny talking about the importance of BJ Fogg’s Behaviour Change Model here:
Of particular importance for a training needs analysis is the ability of your learners to change their behaviour. This means you need to understand what knowledge and support your learners require.
Finding out what knowledge and support your people need calls for research. L&D professionals use lots of different techniques to do this, everything from focus groups to hiring consultants. The most common technique would be the use of surveys. This requires a form with a long list of capabilities. Learners would then self-report on these capabilities.
These days, such practices seem old fashioned. Many LMSs provide survey functionality, which makes rolling out surveys simple.
However, the very best LMSs provide learners space to add their skills, talents and interests to their profiles. Other learners can even endorse them for these skills. On the Academy LMS, this functionality is called the Talent Tracker. You can report on the talents, skills and interests in your organisation, making it the perfect way to map your talent landscape.
Now that you have a full survey of your organisation’s talents, you can plot them according to the departments they sit in.
With this information, you’ll be able to identify skills which are lacking and where in the organisation they’re most needed. You can then sort through all the skills gaps you’ve identified and rank them according to importance.
Step 3: Plan
With all the detailed information you’ve gathered from your research, you have all the data you need to craft a training strategy.
This strategy should prioritise the skills which are lacking and critical to success. After addressing these core skills gaps, you can work your way down the priority ladder until you’ve run out of budget, or run out of skills gaps.
You can then decide how you want to deliver your training and how you will reinforce it so that your training leads to long-lasting behaviour change.
You’ll now be in a strong position to start working out your expected ROI. You can begin by working out how much money you’ve saved by cutting unnecessary training. Then, you can set metrics to measure the success of future training.
Three Different Types of Training Needs Analysis
You now know what a training needs analysis is and how to do one. But one training needs analysis can be very different from another. In fact – you’ll never do one training needs analysis that’s exactly like another. This is because the training needs of organisations change rapidly in response to a changing workforce and a changing world. But, broadly speaking, training needs analyses fall into three categories:
Type 1: Initial training needs analysis
Before you even start designing your learning programme, you need to find out what you want your learners to take away from it.
A training needs analysis at this stage uncovers what skills and expertise your learners currently have. At the same time, it flags up areas where skills and knowledge might be lacking.
This is invaluable information for you because it pinpoints any priority areas which are screaming out for some training! You can focus your training programme on filling these skill gaps, and work on creating content for them before moving onto things which are already better understood.
Essentially, you’ll be crafting a training programme which has been personalised to suit your specific learners. It’s just like a jigsaw piece making a perfect fit!
As you flesh out your learning programme, you’ll end up building an impressive library of training content, covering absolutely anything your learners will ever need to know!
But with so much content to choose from, how can you make sure that your learners receive easy access to the things they need? After all, nothing turns off learners quicker than being forced to study something they already know inside out.
Once again, the training needs analysis comes to the rescue! You can set up a simple questionnaire for new learners to take right at the start of their journey. The results reveal their individual needs and allow you to build a personalised learning pathway to suit them.
With an LMS, this process can even be automated. As learners answer questions, their skill gaps are revealed. The system then pushes relevant training content directly to the learner, giving them instant access to exactly what they need!
Type 3: Training needs analysis for long-term learners
Holding regular training needs analyses can also be a brilliant way to help measure the effectiveness of your training programme.
For example, you might repeat the process every six months to find out whether you’ve effectively plugged the skills gaps you were aiming for.
In this way, you’re able to keep an eye on the skillset of your workforce and adapt your training programme if you spot new areas which need attention.
It also helps you to uncover the hidden champions amongst your learners, who have really gained the most from your training. These emerging experts can be utilised as ambassadors to help out other learners who might be struggling, and are shining examples of the value a little learning can deliver!
Eleven Top Tips To Improve Your Training Needs Analysis
Now that you’re clear on the importance of a training needs analysis, you understand how to do one and you’re clear on the different contexts in which it could be useful… Do you have any skills gaps left for us to fill? Well, here is a list of our eleven top tips to help you on your way!
Step 1: Prioritise Effectively
As you gather your data and get closer to defining where your training needs lie, you’ll start to notice particular groups and departments that are in greater need of training than others. There’s no single reason why these training gaps open up and your circumstances will likely be unique to your company. Some examples of reasons might include:
- Rapid business growth
- An ever-changing product list
- Previous reluctance to provide training
- Lack of employee engagement
Only you can tell why this need for training has grown, but the important thing is that you’ve defined who the struggling employees are. Now all you need to do is focus your efforts in these areas and ensure that those with the greatest need get the help they deserve.
So, where are you going to find the information that your learners need to succeed in their jobs? You could Google it, I guess, but there is a more efficient way to harvest expertise and it’s right there on your doorstep.
You need to discover who the subject matter experts are within your organisation. They don’t just know their topic inside-out, but they know what it means within the context of the company. Generally speaking, the SME’s input to the training will be an additional duty on top of their already-busy working day.
You’ll need to consider how much time each potential SME can commit to the project. You may find that the person with the most expertise has the least amount of time. The savviest SME in the world is useless to you if they can’t get around to answering their emails!
3. Pick the Perfect Delivery Tool for Your Organisation
What form is your training going to take? There are a lot of options available to you ranging from classroom sessions to manager-led, face-to-face training, to online training solutions. What you choose will largely be dictated by budget and time constraints but the big question you need to ask yourself is which method will deliver the best return on your investment.
For example, classroom training may be easy to arrange and relatively uncomplicated, but with the additional costs that surround it (venue booking, travel & lunch expenses, etc.), the total investment can become substantial. The effectiveness of this type of training can also be difficult to measure, which can make calculating the return on investment quite tricky.
An online training solution requires more forethought and planning which can delay your training programme. Once this solution has been implemented, however, you’ll have a much clearer picture of how effective each piece of learning collateral is. This also opens the door for a blended training solution that lets you plan and manage classroom training within your online learning platform.
As an online training company, our opinion might be a little biased, but that’s only because we’ve seen at first-hand the effect online learning can have on your ROI. You can check out our white paper here.
4. Review roles and competencies
Your business is like a big machine – a machine with a lot of moving parts. Take some time to look at the various roles in your organisation and how these roles interact with one another. Many of your day-to-day processes rely on a chain of different roles working towards the same goal. If one link in that chain is a little weaker, it has an effect on all of the others.
If, for example, your TNA process has illustrated a widespread lack of knowledge at an associate level, you might discover that this is the result of poor communication at a management level. This essential competency must be addressed as a matter of priority since its impact is so large.
Then again, you might find that these failings are systemic and stem from outdated processes and inefficient communication systems. In this case, there isn’t much that you, as a training manager, can do to fix the problem, but that doesn’t mean that it’s out of your hands. Perhaps you can consider training that focuses on making the most out of the systems that are in place, no matter how clunky they might be!
5. What form will your content take?
Finally, you need to get down to the content of your training programme. By now, you know where the gaps are and where your efforts should be focused. If your learners are lacking in product knowledge, for example, you need to find the most effective way of giving them that knowledge so that it is absorbed and retained.
Here, we’re hitting on the biggest challenge that training professionals face today – engaging their learners. It’s quick and easy to put a document or a slideshow together, but learners today demand something more interactive.
There isn’t a training manager alive who wouldn’t want to pour time and thought into training content that’s both informative and engaging for the learner, but deadlines and budget constraints usually get in the way. An online authoring tool could be the ideal solution. With the right tool, you can quickly build eLearning without the need for an eLearning developer.
6. Figure out the big picture
The first thing you need to do is to identify what your company is trying to achieve. Let’s say your organisation is a marketing agency that provides several services. It’s possible that their video production service costs the business too much money and time, and they’d prefer to focus on web design. If you don’t know this from the outset, you could waste a lot of time plotting a training programme that’s wholly irrelevant to the company’s chosen direction.
7. History is a great teacher
Before you go off making a bunch of mistakes, review your company’s previous approach to training. Here’s a whole repository of lessons that can shape your own training program. You can also discover what has produced great results in the past; then you can steal these ideas and claim them as your own!
8. What problems can you solve?
Nobody’s perfect, and any company will have a giant wish-list of needs that cover all aspects of the business. You need to know which of these needs can, and should, be addressed by the training. If ancient IT equipment and clunky processes are making things difficult, it’s not your job to fix them. Always ensure that you’re creating a training program that’s appropriate for the company you have – not the one you wish you had.
9. Keep your finger on the pulse
We’ve all been there, right? You spend weeks creating some training for an IT system only to discover that, whoops – that system is due to be replaced any day now. That’s not only frustrating – it’s a complete waste of your time, time you could be spending creating an awesome training programme that actually works. If your training content is going to get the best return on investment, you need to make sure that you know about any recent or upcoming changes in processes or procedures.
10. Know your toolkit inside-out
It’d be great to have access to a neural reprogramming ray that can instantly zap any information into your learners’ grey matter. Unfortunately, such a device doesn’t exist…yet (we’re working on it). To get the most out of your training, you need to make the best use of the tools you have at your disposal. Maybe that defunct video department can be turned into an in-house training machine. You might not have a learning management system, but perhaps your intranet could be a way of delivering your content. The effectiveness of your training might just hinge on how well you utilise your existing resources.
11. Personalise Every Step of The Journey
The very best thing about a training needs analysis is that it helps you to deliver relevant content to your learners. Nobody wants to complete content that’s out of date or not helpful for their role. This can be disengaging for your learners, it seems like you don’t care about them.
On the other hand, deliver content useful to them and it shows you care. But there are more ways than this that you can personalise the learning journey! It’s a very powerful way to engage your learners.
Once you’ve been through and completed a full training needs analysis, what’s left? Well, it’s time to put your plan into action. Every journey starts with a single step. When it comes to L&D, that first step is a training needs analysis.
And what a great first step it is too! As you’ve seen, when you undertake a thorough training needs analysis, it gives you all the data you could need. This helps ensure your training programme goes off without a hitch. If you use this data to its full potential, your chances of an interstellar ROI will shoot up!
Want to be sure that the training you deliver is a huge success? Then personalising the learner journey is one of the single biggest changes you can make. Want to find out more about how you can personalise your training to engage your learners? Then download ‘This Time It’s Personal’ our very own guide to personalisation! Just click here to grab your copy.