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TNA: Knowing Where to Start Your Journey


In this practical guide, Mike Morrison goes through the stages of an IT training needs analysis.

In the story Alice in Wonderland, the Cheshire cat tells Alice: “If you don’t know where you are going... any road will take you there.” Well the same is true in development and business. Conducting a training needs analysis (TNA) helps on the journey, but it can only help if you understand the destination required. So before you even begin to think about the TNA process make sure that you are clear where you are going and why.

Getting started
Taking an audit of the skills in your organisation will help you to define your current status and highlight where you need to develop certain skills. At the end of each year you can complete a new skills audit, based on your experiences. Skills audits if done with a ‘light touch’ can be a valuable tool for developers and can be a great way of starting a training needs analysis process.

Training needs analysis can be a difficult thing at the best of times. When you are faced with a technology needs analysis, this becomes doubly difficult if you yourself have significant needs. It is easy to fall into the trap of identifying beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. But what does this mean for the user? What if they are a basic level user that needs to use ONE of the functions covered in the advanced training. You we really need to invest in intermediate & advanced training, to confuse and overwhelm them when all they need is one function?

Training needs analysis at its most basic level is easy – What can you do now? What do you need you to do that is different? Why? Is it training that can bridge the gap (or is it a non-training issue)? If so what type of training delivery (style) is appropriate? How will we know that the training has been successful?

Training needs analysis can occur at a number of levels – the individual, team, function, organisation and occupational needs. For this short article I will focus on identifying generic IT needs across organisations. This methodology can be applied to teams, functions and occupations. Much more detail is needed at the individual level.

Periodically organisations change suites of software or hardware systems. It is at these times it helps HR and training teams to have an understanding of the scope of training required.

To keep things consistent my preferred method is to put together a simple top line tool for managers to use with staff. This means training the managers to undertake an individual needs analysis as part of the process.

Guidance for managers
The process of carrying out an organisational wide TNA or audit requires commitment from all parties, individuals, managers and the HR and/or training team. With this in mind we want to make sure that the process is undertaken only once in a given year. Providing guidance for managers then is essential. As a part of that guidance I often use are ten questions from Grey (1994):
1. What is the perceived problem?
2. What are the aims and objectives?
3. What is expected from the TNA process?
4. What performance is required from the target group/ individuals?
5. Timescale?
6. Budgets, should they be considered, who allocated what?
7. What barriers might exist?
8. How the information is to be presented/ collected
9. Is anything out of bounds?
10. Key issues/ areas of focus

This process enables managers to own the process while we hold the strategic data.

Putting together a survey or audit.
Look at IT for these projects in three distinct areas:
1.Desktop software – the stuff most people have on their PCs or Macs;
2.Business Systems – HR, purchasing etc; and
3.Role specific software, design, CAD, publishing etc.

Desktop software
Here we look at the programs and generic applications available: Items that may be covered include.

  • Windows environment

  • Linux environment

  • Mac environment

  • Windows explorer

  • Word

  • Excel

  • PowerPoint

  • Outlook- diary

  • Outlook - email

Then I would ask each person to rate according to:
Ok for role; urgent specific need; longer term need. I would want them to identify if this application was ‘critical to role’ then there would be a free text box to capture the SMART objectives required for each item.

Business Applications
Intranet, HR system, payroll system, purchasing system etc. I would list all the available company systems, and ask the same analysis questions as above

Role specific
Here I would just have free text boxes. The individual and manager could then put in the SMART objectives for the required packages.

This is very much a scoping or strategic overview approach. In my experience it provides the training/ learning team with the size of the game needing to be played.
With IT training we have three options of delivery:
- E-learning
- Classroom with fixed syllabus
- One-to-one coaching – can occur “at desk” or in a group

With the information collected it is easy to analyse and enables the training professional to identify volumes, nature of applications that require training and the budget required to achieve 80% of objectives. At this level, without spending a considerable amount of time on the TNA, an 80% fit is a cost effective approach to this level of need. The costs increase exponentially in identifying of needs from this point and it is more cost effective to buy a few extra hours of an IT coach to continuer at desk training than it is to go to the nth degree of analysis. Remember to map training to people's learning preferences in terms of delivery vehicle. There is no point putting a person on an e-learning course if they best learn through discussion and sharing with others. The solution may look low cost but in this case it is also a complete waste of money!

Things to consider
The way a TNA process is managed must depend on the culture (how things are done here). There is no point centralising the process if budgets are distributed across the organisation, equally there is no point delegating responsibility for the TNA process if managers have no say in the ability to offer solutions to meet needs.

Before putting any survey or data collection process together carefully consider the end result. How will you process the data? What analysis do you need to do? Put a lot of time into this as the more you invest in considering analysis the quicker the analysis.

Many organisations fail to implement effect TNA and training processes because they fail to align the processes and procedures to the culture of the organisation.

Tools to use
There are many survey tools on the market, from the free ones like Survey Monkey to professional survey packages like Keypoint (UK company) that can handle web and paper. The free sites look good and cheap – but you will pay when it comes to doing the analysis. Tools like Keypoint can do much of the analysis for you and often work out more cost effective. Or of course you can outsource the service.

Finishing the journey
Attending training or having at desk coaching is not the destination. The end destination here is usually job or skill performance. When the individual or group have ‘attended training’ or ‘been coached’ that is the beginning not the end. We need to help our managers support people as they develop their skills. Using computer software is as much about habits of mouse movements and key strokes as it is skills development. Habits take time to change and learn – old habits sit around for a long time.

Enjoy the journey.

Note – while I have focused here on training needs – there will be needs identified that cannot be resolved by training and coaching alone. Sometimes we need to change procedures, methods or even equipment. Access to sample of the tools discussed are available at

About the author: Mike Morrison is Director of RapidBI, a consultancy organisation specialising in organisational development tools and business improvement methods. To find out more about diagnostic and culture tools visit


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