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Time for a TNA: Getting it right from the start


RightShelley Gallagher has some advice on conducting a training needs analysis and putting a structured training programme in place.

Now, more than ever, companies need to ensure the training they provide is relevant and effective. And of course the key to that is ensuring that employee needs are analysed thoroughly before any training programme is put into place. At a time like this, the training needs analysis (TNA) really comes into its own, helping to identify skills gaps and enabling appropriate and structured training to be implemented.

Ask the audience

An effective TNA will analyse knowledge, skills and attitude against the situation of the business – its goals, culture and constraints. It creates a 360 degree picture of why the training is necessary and which areas require support.

Photo of Shelley Gallagher"By varying the techniques used to collect information, you'll build a full understanding of where the business ought to be going and what should be done to get there."

A TNA should include methods such as one-to-one interviews, focus groups and direct observation to gather information from across the business and from all job roles – from directors down to administrative assistants. By varying the techniques used to collect information, you'll build a full understanding of where the business ought to be going and what should be done to get there.

Focus groups, for example, allow staff to bounce thoughts and suggestions off each other in a relaxed environment, while one-to-one interviews enable the more hesitant members of the team to give feedback in a less intimidating situation.

By looking at the employees' abilities in the context of their desired route of personal development, alongside the growth plans for the business, a relevant and efficient training programme can be developed.

Who to include?

Don't make the mistake of thinking that only trainees require training – there are plenty of opportunities for development no matter what level the employee has reached. I've seen sales directors transform their presenting and negotiating skills after a good training programme, simply because the training was targeted at their specific learning needs.

The key to a good training analysis is to conduct it in a way that ensures everyone feels comfortable about revealing the good and bad aspects of their role, their hopes for the future, and any issues they face. It is only by getting this in-depth understanding that your business can really benefit from effective learning.

Training with impact

Once feedback from across the business has been gathered, the analysis will reveal common trends and skills gaps – and may reveal a few home truths! It is vital to understand what is missing from the business, but after that the key is to plan the training to really make a difference.

The focus should be on creating a well-structured, coordinated programme that runs across the business. Different people and different departments will each have their own requirements, so the implementation needs to manage and fulfil these.

A strong TNA allows the training to be tailored to suit real life scenarios, making learning more interesting and allowing staff to get more out of the course. One of the biggest issues with training is that the recipients can't relate what they are learning to their own roles, but if the TNA is done properly training can be specifically designed to meet these requirements.

In it for the long run

We all know that good training will cost money, so it's important to ensure any programmes are flexible enough to be adapted in line with the business climate and employees' changing needs.

"An effective TNA will analyse knowledge, skills and attitude against the situation of the business."

To help with this, the team's progression should be monitored at regular stages – immediately after the training and then at agreed intervals – to help assess the impact of the programme. This can be done through one-to-one meetings, direct observation and feedback forms, giving individuals the chance to pass on their comments, and the business the chance to see the training's impact.

The benefits of this are two-fold, allowing the business to identify any further areas that need development and providing the potential to adapt the training as necessary. This shouldn't mean completely re-writing the training course. Instead, refinements to the content and skills covered can be made to ensure the programme keeps up to date with the team and its requirements.

Follow it up

In order for staff to continue to develop, follow-up courses should be scheduled with ad hoc training available to all employees when needed.

Whether this takes the form of repeat training or more advanced courses, it's vital that it is ongoing and that staff are monitored closely for any skills gaps or opportunities for development. This will demonstrate to the team that the business is willing to make the investment in them - and as their careers grow, so will the business.

By using a TNA to really understand your employees' needs before training begins, time and money can be saved further down the line. Get the training right from the start and the business will be in a much stronger position for the future.

Shelley Gallagher is head of training at Pareto Law and has 12 years' experience of planning and delivering sales training. For more information on Pareto Law's training needs analysis programme, visit:


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