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Training Needs Analysis


Report from the TrainingZONE online workshop on the subject of Training Needs Analysis (TNA) run on 9 May 2000:-

Tony Thresher: I am interested in knowing what the key indicators are that a TNA is required - what barriers could there be to the effective carrying out of a TNA?

malcolm: Many of the indicators arise from business issues related to performance in my experience.

Stephanie Phillips: Tony - my initial thoughts are that a TNA can be very effective when evaluating business objectives. TNAs can be time consuming in the amount of administration required, does anyone have any thoughts on this?

Tony Thresher: Thanks, Malcolm. So are we looking at KPIs here as a way of identifying training needs?

Tony Thresher: Stephanie, I agree with you. I've seen some TNAs that run over 100 pages of A4 - that can't be effective, can it? I don't have the solution, though. That's why I'm here!

Tim Pickles: Sorry to be late

Stephanie Phillips: Tim - KPIs would seem to be a good starting point for TNAs?

Tony Thresher: Tim, Typical! Blame it on the computer!!!

Tim Pickles: We're introducing more stucture into our workshops and it would be helpful if each person could briefly introduce themselves and their current involvement in TNA

malcolm: Surely the issue is not the length of the document but the quality of understanding that it imparts. I agree far too much is written to meet rather formal standard report formats. I think there is a case to dig deeper than generic measures like KPIs and start to undertstand the main issues affecting the delivery of service and process. Where process is well documented you need to understand the reason for performance failure and this may require training or review of the process. But until you investigate you are making best guesses.

Tony Thresher: I'm Tony Thresher - I'ma a freelance training and development consultant - 36-years in Financial Services. Currently undertaking the Certificate in Training Practice through the IPD - this month's assignment subject: TNAs!

Cliff: Hi every one. This is my first time at training zone and i've got a lot to learn. I'm Cliff Lake and until recently was head of projects for a telecoms company - Training need are very much of interest to me both persona;lly and as a tool for team building

Tim Pickles: Thanks Tony; can one or two other people just give me a quick thumbnail of where you're coming from

malcolm: Sorry Tim, I'm Malcolm Culkin a Learning Technology Training Consultant with NatWest Bank. I have studied academically up to MSc in HRD and have a lot of practical experience in TNAs. Oh! and I can write long notes!

Stephanie Phillips: Hi all - I'm the News Editor for TrainingZONE

Frida Ernerfeldt: I work for an IT training company and I'm quite new to TNAs

Ruth Churchill: Hello, we're currently developing on-line diagnostics which take TNA's to the next step and will eventually enable learners to select their own method, content, and outcome of learning against their original TNA.

John Harrison: sorry. I'm getting server errors here. All chat seems to be coming as one big bundle...

Tim Pickles: OK, there's new people joining in, welcome. Can we open up one issue at a time? For starters, what decides when you need to conduct a TNA? Is it part of a routine procedure - or a crisis - or an individual/team request - or something else. What's the trigger for this thing which people call TNA in your organisation()?

Tim Pickles: John -there's something funny going on with the adverts across the top -just ignore them if this text is coming up OK

Cliff: From my expeiance it's crisis that promts the need to assess tarining requirement

John Harrison: thanks.

malcolm: Hi, its mainly driven by business need identified initially by local or group management.

marie Chambers: I am actually covering this topic at college and would really appreciate some help on this matter etc

Tony Thresher: My experience says that the average training department in a large organisation produces some wonderful new training event (course, workshop call it what you will) and the TNA runs along the lines of "everyone needs to go through this". Once they then evaluate the results, which tend normally to prove just how ineffective that approach is, they (ie the training department) do a TNA, which tends to have more to do with what they have produced rather than what the recipient actually needed.

Cliff: Training is goverened by budgets and is one of the heaviest cuts at each budget year

Stephanie Phillips: Tony - that seems a bit back-to-front, doesn't it?

Ruth Churchill: We prepar staff training plan as each new member of staff joins the team and is then refkected in the overall business plan as we can forecast the types of skills and knowledge people will develop over the coming months, although this can really only work if you recruit staff with an understanding and willingness to change and develop, and therefore expand their remit

Tim Pickles: OK - variety of triggers for TNA here. My consultancy work with organisations suggests that too few have really bedded the notion of regular training needs reviews into their management processes - so it becomes episodic, or driven by some fad - its not part of a regular strategic review

Tim Pickles: If it's not regular - i.e. it's a one off - then there is a delay between the review andsubsequent delivery which causes the plan to go astray - people needs have moved on and the mismatch persists.

Tim Pickles: What would you say to the notion that TNA is a 'process' not an 'event' - but that too often it gets introduced or treated like an 'event'

Frida Ernerfeldt: I agree with what Tim's saying, and I also think that the top level of the company are the ones that normally initiates traibing which often means it's difficult to get buy-in from the employyes.

Stephanie Phillips: Tim - I used to work in an organisation that did yearly TNAs - it seemed to work quite well, but do they need to follow business strategy more closely i.e. if the company needs to change direction in the meantime, a TNA would help?

Tony Thresher: Steph, Exactly the point! Training departments driving the business, rather than the other way round. But that's because so many companies think that TNAs are the responsibility of a single department (normally training) rather than an organisational need. We need to create a situation where TNAs are far more pro-active - ie driving the strategic vision of the company - instead of re-active - ie a knee-jerk reaction to something going haywire.

Cliff: Tim, I agree, I've been planning TNA's for years and but the board always pay lip service to this need but when it comes to the crunch It's always one of the first things to go.. It's a process that turns into an event

George Parker: For effective TNA, my starting position is to look initially at a business needs analysis which should then develop into a TNA. The continual difficulty is influencing the Business and Line Managers to carry out effective analysis with respect to their long term needs. As Tony mentiioned earlier - the problem is when initiatives are developed on a whim or an idea alone with no substance, objectives and means to evaluate - this then leads to validation exercises which only go to justify previous actions than learn anything substantial.

Tim Pickles: OK, so in this process of TNA, we're identifying two issues: (a) who takes responsibility for leading it? and (b) how do we achieve effective buy-in by everyone?

George Parker: I'll go with that Tim

malcolm: I think some of the best examples of TNAs I have exprienced have been when business managers have included learning partners in the development of process, product etc from the start as well as building need analysis into the role of the line manager which is collated into the business plan.

Tim Pickles: Malcolm, that's helpful - could you give a short illustration of how 'learning partners' were involved by the managers?

Tony Thresher: Malcolm's hit the nail on the head, I think. A TNA isn't just some "nice to do" - it has to be an integral part of a business plan. That's what makes it truly pro-active.

George Parker: How can we then influence Business/Operational managers to make TNA as part of their business planning process?

Cliff: A Companies strategic action plan should should identify the need for TNA's. HR are in the best position to drive this. Buy-in is easy a recent survey say's that people would trade salary for training. The biggest issue is lost productivity during traing. I know this is short sighted but it's reality

malcolm: Take product development - a review of current skills and knowledge at the start of a planning process can lead to decisions whether training is required in support or not. Often a need for training is assumed and training departments then scratch ariound for soemthing 'suitable'.

Cliff: Right! Operational managers are the biggest threat to TNA's

Stephanie Phillips: I agree that HR should drive it, Cliff, but presumably HR need to see the wider picture of the direction in which the business is headed - I don't think this always happens!

George Parker: Of the comments made so far, we seem to agree TNA needs to be part of the business strategy and planning - but how do we get Operational managers turned onto TNA?

Tony Thresher: Perhaps when people start equating "training" to "salary" we shall be getting somewhere. In other words more people need to recognise that personal development is a means of commanding bigger bucks in the market place. Then they might also start to push for more effective TNAs within their current organisation

Cliff: Steph, that's correct middle managent team meeting targeted on gaining buy in could help

Alison Clayton: You also encounter problems when the employees view of what training they need does not equate with business need. Getting buy-in on the basis that employees favour training over salary may not be so effective where their needs and business don't equate.

John Harrison: Amen to that

Cliff: Has anyone carried out an ROI study, or have any figures rekating to TNA's?

Tim Pickles: One leading question to ask of operational managers and others is engaged in the business planning cycle is to pause their process and ask: "Do you think your present staff have the competencies to do .. this? Should we now look at some of the implications for equipping them to take us in this direction?"

Stephanie Phillips: Alison - I definitely agree. Often training has been pared down to meet business objectives only, because of the cost.

malcolm: George, that's the great debate of the moment about the need for the influencing role of HR. Let's face it in most business these days the clear competitive advantage comes from people who can manage and serve customers excellently. HR is the obvious candidate for elading this?

malcolm: Sorry penultimate word is leading not a new form of electronic approach!

Tony Thresher: Tim - that leads on to job and task analysis. Does that happen well enough, often enough in companies?

George Parker: So do HR Managers/Representatives need to be involved in Ops management meetings more and more to convert the HR/Training terminology into more business focussed language?

Tim Pickles: Hmm, interesting point about job/task analysis: it raises the subject of 'competencies' and whether the recent trend towards competency led VQs, etc. have genuinely added to a more relevantly skilled workplace team. Thoughts?

Stephanie Phillips: I wonder whether the length of some of the vocational qualifications means that it's difficult to link them in with business objectives?

Tony Thresher: I just get the feeling that more time should spent analysing WHY someone is good at / right for a particular job role, rather than simply accepting that they are (or are not)

Stephanie Phillips: Sorry, I meant time taken - NVQs can be quite flexible, can' t they?

malcolm: BUt is there an issue about how lng peopel work for a company and the kleaching of skills that competencies don't always replace?

Tim Pickles: Good point about length - we're certainly seeing a move towards 'just-in-time' training delivery in 'bite-sized' pieces as a way of meeting training needs fast and within the workplace.

Alison Clayton: One of our difficulties with having competencies is that we have such a range of roles requiring different skills that developing competency frameworks for all the jobs becomes a mammoth task. However, in two large cohesive populations of the firm we have done this and it does help in pinpointing relevant training. We haven't pursued NVQs because of the admin.

Tony Thresher: Back to re-act rather than pro-act again!

Ben Mitchell: Particularly in the technology sectors a lot of companies appear to have a 'buy a book' attitude towards training

Stephanie Phillips: Yes, and things do seem to be speeding up! There's also an issue with staff retention, isn't there ?

Tim Pickles: Alison, I suspect your point about the diversity of roles would be echoed my many people struggling with competencies.

Tony Thresher: Alison - agree totally re. admin. I did an NVQ to gain an assessor qualification, and the paperwork was mind-blowing!

George Parker: Whilst i'm sure we all get frustrated by the reactive requests and demands made upon training - a successful business is about both reacting and being pro-active - so should effective training not match both these needs?

Tim Pickles: OK - we've got around 5 minutes. Can I change tack and introduce a quick blast on most/least favourite techniques for TNA and identifying learning needs within an organisation?

Cliff: Qualifications are only part of the mix. People are the key. They need to tbe trained but experiance is a powerful tool

Tony Thresher: Agree, George, but I still think we've got the balance wrong at present

Tim Pickles: Are there any techniques you'd recommend others to try out - or any good sources of materials for TNA?

Alison Clayton: Least favourite - annual appraisal (which is what we do!)

Stephanie Phillips: I would say anything that doesn't require mountains of paperwork, if that exists!

Cliff: Good management approach, departmental need Vs personal development plans for departmental staff

Alison Clayton: I agree with Stephanie - and I also think you should be gaining information from different sources such as clients both internal and external

George Parker: I use a basic process which asks a range of questions of the business unit we provide a training provision for - i can mail this form to anyone who would be interested (warning - it's not rocket science!)

Tony Thresher: Perhaps we should all advocate JohnAdair's Action Centred Leadership model _ Task, Team, Individual. There are still too many companies that can't get a focus on any one of them, let alone all three!

Tim Pickles: N.B. if you want to contact George for his form later, click on his name in the right window now to reveal his email address!

Cliff: Tim It's not working for me!

Tim Pickles: Cliff - his email address then appears beneath the typing line at bottom of page

George Parker: my e-mail address is - [email protected] - happy to forward the form to anyone interested

Tony Thresher: Cliff incredible how the old systems work! I used a pen and piece of paper!

Tim Pickles: OK - any final thoughts or words of wisdom on this vexing subject?

Tony Thresher: This has been my first time, as they say, on an inter-active workshop like this. Thanks for everything.

George Parker: Same here folks - first time visitor - may see you at future workshops - thanks it's been very interesting.

Tim Pickles: Well, thanks to everyone for your contributions. We'll be posting the proceedings to the Workshop page later this afternoon if you want to review what's been said.

Stephanie Phillips: Thanks all.

Robert Benson: B ye

Tim Pickles: Thanks and good-bye! To leave the workshop, just close your browser window and go to any other webpage. See you again next time.


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