How to Conduct a Training Needs Analysis in 3 Steps

Posted by Eric Sokolowski  /  January 5, 2016  /  Human Resources Management, Training   —   4 Comments ↓

training-needs-analysisSo, you’ve identified a problem in your organization, and you think training is part of the solution. Or maybe you have a strategic goal where training can play a key role. Time for a training needs analysis!

According to The science of training and development in organizations: What matters in practice, the research clearly shows that training works, and that the way training is designed and delivered can greatly influence its effectiveness.

The authors go on to say that “what happens in training is not the only thing that matters – a focus on what happens before and after training can be as important.” And what matters before training? Training needs analysis. Which is why we’re here.

A training needs analysis is an important first step in sound instructional design. It helps you identify who needs training and what kind of training is needed. (By the way, a well-conducted TNA should also consider whether a non-traditional training solution is a better alternative.) The training needs analysis also helps you get a handle on the most cost-effective means of meeting the training requirements.

Training Needs Analysis

Step 1: Organizational analysis

Work with leadership to articulate the training priorities and ensure that there is clear alignment between the training goals and business objectives. Write down the desired business outcomes.

Also, take a look at organizational readiness for training. This involves identifying and removing (or at least minimizing) obstacles that might make the training less effective.

The more leaders indicate that training is important to the organization, the better the outcomes of training. “Training works best when measurable outcomes are clearly defined and articulated in advance,” writes Gap International.

Step 2: Task analysis

A job-task analysis is a systematic breakdown of a job into its component parts. The goal of job-task analysis is to produce a list of tasks required to perform a particular job, and then for each task, to identify the skills and competencies needed to perform the task. This will provide a solid foundation for the design of your training. Information from this part of the analysis should be used to decide what to include in the training and determining the standards for performance.

A task analysis is usually done by collecting information from subject matter experts through interviews, focus groups, or surveys. The final output should include a detailed description of manual activities, mental activities, task durations and frequency, any necessary equipment, and the skills and competencies required to perform a given task.

As part of the job-task analysis, be alert for the difference between things that a person needs-to-know vs. information that they will need to access. This can have a big impact on your training design: Teaching people how and where to find job-relevant information can be even more effective than requiring that they memorize certain information.

You might also want to consider cognitive task analysis, which is a close cousin to the job-task analysis. It provides a similar framework for jobs that are more knowledge-based than task-based. Conduct a cognitive task analysis if you need to uncover the cognitive requirements for a job, such as decision-making, problem-solving, memory, attention and judgement. This can be a complex and nuanced analysis, so do your homework first.

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Lastly, an analysis of teamwork requirements can be a helpful part of a training needs analysis. Team-related tasks and competencies may be missing from other forms of task analysis. A team task analysis helps to highlight coordination patterns between jobs. The information revealed in a team task analysis can be used to determine objectives for training and to determine which employees should attend training together. Effective team training includes general teamwork training as well as training on how to accomplish specific tasks together.

Step 3: Person analysis

This analysis identifies who has mastered - and who needs to learn - the skills and competencies that were determined in the previous task analysis step. This will help you target your training at those areas with the widest gaps between the status quo and the desired outcome.

The person analysis can help you understand the characteristics of those who will be participating in training. For example, you might discover that they are primarily younger workers. In this case, you might intentionally design your training to resonate with Millennials.

Bear in mind that employees typically aren't that good at self-identifying areas where they need training. There is a well-studied phenomenon in which people who do things badly are often supremely confident of their abilities. "One reason that the ignorant also tend to be the blissfully self-assured, is that the skills required for competence often are the same skills necessary to recognize competence." This is one of the reasons why a systematic training needs analysis is so important. 

Training needs analysis is the first and probably the most important step toward making sure your organizational training resources are used most effectively. Experts strongly recommend conducting a systematic and thorough training needs analysis. This will help you fully understand the organizational context, to get a clear picture of the competencies needed to achieve the desired outcomes, and to identify which employees and teams most need training.

As you design your training program, consider using virtual training as part of the solution. It's an easy, affordable way to roll out training to all who need it. Our comparison chart will help you understand the relative strengths and weaknesses of virtual training vs. classroom training. Enjoy!
Download Free Comparison Chart: Classroom vs. Virtual Training

Topics: Human Resources Management, Training