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How to: Carry out an effective Training Needs Analysis


Training Needs Analysis: It does exactly what it says - analyses training needs. But how do you do it, and why? Who needs the training, and what for? In this advice page we look at the TNA process and highlight important tips for making TNA more than just a paper-pushing exercise.

Start with the 'bigger picture'

The first question has to be, why does development need to take place? The answer to this is to start at the top. What is your company strategy? Where do you want to be next year, in five years time?

Look at your company mission and corporate plan, if these things exist. A corporate plan should give you a clear indication of how the company plans to develop in the near future. In an ideal world, you as HR or Training Manager will already be involved in discussions with those making the decisions about the direction the company is taking, but if this isn't happening, try to arrange to speak to senior management at this stage about any planned changes which are likely to require new skills or organisational change. There are almost certain to be some!

'Cascading down'

The next step is to cascade this information down so that it transfers into concrete steps to help the company employees work towards these goals. A simplistic but relevant example - if the company plans to bring in new technology, some staff will need to train on using and maybe maintaining the equipment. If the organisation is going to undergo major changes in the near future, all staff may benefit from workshops and briefings to help them understand and work with the changes ahead. Some of these identified needs will be across the organisation, others will be departmental/team specific and others will be specific to an individual.

'Funneling up'

The second question is to establish who needs to develop the skills and knowledge identified as important. There's no escaping the fact that this part of the process is going to be time-consuming, as any audit process is - you need to establish the skills each individual employee already possesses.

Combining the two

It's natural that individuals may wish to develop skills and experience at work which isn't directly related to the overall plans the company has. In an organisation with the funds and time to allow individuals to develop complementary skills - for instance, learning a new language which is unlikely to be used regularly in the individual's job, this doesn't represent a problem, as both the needs of the organisation and the individual can be satisfied. Succession planning is also a necessary consideration - the individual may not require skills and experience immediately, but may do if they are to fill a vacancy in a few year's time. In today's leaner, financially careful climate, where budget cutting often claims training expenditure as the first victim, it's become more and more crucial that the costs of training can be seen to contribute directly to the success of the business, and this is becoming the case in both private and public organisations. Calculating a return on investment (known as ROI) is a separate issue altogether, and one which is often fraught with difficulties. Read Xebec McGraw-Hills take on it here.

The administrative process - collecting data

We've already established that collecting training needs data can be an extremely time-consuming process. There is some consolation in that once the process has been done once, it's easy to go back and follow up what has taken place and what needs to be added to the plan, but even so, a series of interviews and/or questionnaires need to be distributed/carried out with every employee. To lighten the load, managers or others can be briefed so that they can conduct interviews to establish needs, or assist with form-filling if interviews aren't possible. The process of establishing training needs can be done as part of an appraisal process, or, if performance-related pay is related to this process, you may prefer to keep it separate. A new service coming soon to TrainingZONE will provide an automated version of the process for administering, chasing and collating questionnaires, taking a lot of the hassle out of the process.

When establishing a new process for TNA, like all new procedures, it's vital to brief staff to work to gain their support for it and ensure the new process is as beneficial as possible. One issue that may need to be addressed in particular is to emphasise the fact that training isn't just a 'shopping list', but needs to be relevant to the needs of the company. The knock-on effect is that staff become better briefed about the direction of the company - which could lead to improved motivation as a result.

Analysing what you've found

It's important to make sure you have a system which will help you store and analyse the data being collected from individuals so you can use it in the way you want to. This doesn't have to be expensive: Microsoft Office standard software in the form of Excel spreadsheets or Access databases will cope with this easily. If choosing between the two, Access is better at manipulating text data, so that if you have an open system of responses it's a better choice. Alternatively using tick boxes to denote, for example, customer service=1, finance=2 would lend itself to using Excel.

Implementing the plan

This is easier said than done - everyone who's ever tried knows how difficult it is to free up some employees for formal learning sessions, be it on-the-job, at the desktop or off site. The key is to keep abreast of the learning that is taking place, by putting in place systems to monitor. It's useful to have a nominated representative in each team or department who will report back on what has happened each month. If there is a training budget managed centrally, some of this information will automatically come to the training budget manager anyway, but on-the-job training is often not recognised or recorded properly so will present more of a challenge.


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