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Feature: Conducting a Training Needs Analysis

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If you are about to undertake, or are in the middle of a training needs analysis then read this guide to help you through the process by Sharon Bartram and Brenda Gibson, authors of Training Needs Analysis. Follow the series of questions to prompt you through the stages of a needs analysis.


To get you started is brief background on where training needs analysis fits in to training activity.

Who, what, when and how to train?
Training Needs Analysis belongs in the tradition of systematic training and the systematic training cycle:
* Identify and analyse training needs
* Plan training
* Design training
* Implement training
* Validate training
* Evaluate training

Coming as it does at the start of the process it is a vital step in answering the questions: Who to train? What to train? When to train? How to train?

Where to start??
The first step in conducting an organisation-wide training needs analysis is to make sure your organisation wants this. This may sound obvious as training needs analyses are core activities for human resource development practitioners but analysing training needs represents a moment of change, of transformation, of doing different things or doing things differently. Is your organisation ready? Is there support to carry out the training identified? How much time and resource is the organisation prepared to put into training? What are the consequences to the organisation of not training? What will be the benefits of training?

Find out what priorities your organisation has for training; the things that senior managers are prepared to pay for to change. The priorities should be to do with:
* Training for job skills to increase competency
* Training for specific performance problems
* Training in response to external demands such as legislation
* Training for career development
* Training to match business objectives

How to Gather Information About Training Needs?
Knowing your organisation’s priorities helps you to plan and carry out your training needs analysis. You will be in a better position to work out a schedule of activity so that the right people get the right training at the right time. So you could be undertaking analyses in different parts of your organisation at different times. This is a helpful reminder that training needs analysis is an ongoing process rather than a one off event.

To ensure you don’t end up under an avalanche of data ask yourself these questions and decide from the outset:
* How much time do you have to undertake the analyses?
* What information do you already have, such as performance appraisals?
* Who do you need to help you collect data, such as departmental managers?
* How will you and/or others gather the information, for example by interviews, questionnaires, workplace observation?

What Data to Gather?
It is worth remembering that training needs analysis is about identify gaps in knowledge, skill and performance and coming up with a plan to fill the gaps. Concentrate on gathering information that tells you about these sorts of gaps. What this means is comparing how things are currently with how things should be in the future. The implication is that you and others in your organisation are able to say what that future should look like, what the desired levels of knowledge, skill and performance are. Can you and others articulate this? Don’t forget to put time and effort into establishing this detail before you embark on the analysis.

Once you can then your task is to compare how things are now with how things should be. So for the different types of training you are finding out about the sorts of comparisons you are doing will be something along the lines of:
* Job skill training: Compare what job skills people have with the job skills required of their job role.
* Job performance training: Compare the level of performance people are achieving with the desired level of performance required
* Training to respond to external demands: Compare current legislation with changes in new or amended legislation
* Training for career development: Compare current job skills with job skills required by different job roles
* Training to match business objectives: Compare current job requirements with future job requirements

How to Put a Training Plan Together and Get the Go-Ahead?
Once you have established the gaps then you can investigate how best to fill them for example in-house and/or external training; off job and/or on job training; secondments; mentoring; coaching. You are beginning to develop a training plan that has the answers to those original questions: who to train, what to train them in, when to train them and how to train them.

Your organisation will have another question: how much will it cost to train them? So reporting back your plan to win commitment to promised resources and support is an important final step in the training needs analysis process.

You are now ready to embark on your delivering your organisational training plan and measure the results, but that’s another story.

Sharon Bartram and Brenda Gibson are the authors of Training Needs Analysis, published by Gower. You can contact Sharon and Brenda direct on 01422 822467 or at [email protected]

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