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Training needs assessment – for your company


Training needs assessment is the bedrock of a training program. For something as critical as employee training, planning to develop a training program begins with the needs assessment.  Whether there is a new technology that needs adoption by skilled engineers or an updated process, assessing the need for a training program sets a clear directive and simplifies the rest of the planning.

Organizations carry out extensive needs analysis to help with implementing the right training – offline or online – for their employees. Training which are held online are implemented through online training software.

For McGehee and Thayer (1961), “training needs come from under-developed skills, insufficient knowledge or inappropriate worker attitudes”. Mager and Pipe (1979) define training needs as “identified differences between the employees’ current performance and the performance that the organization expects of them”. Research also suggests that training needs assessments are being done in an unsystematic manner in organizations (Abbad, Pagotto and Meneses 2009).

Therefore, how does an organization know what is good for its employees?

Unsystematic training vs Need assessment-backed training

Training which is intuition based (“I feel this will benefit us” by the management, or employee), trend or fad-based (I think we should do this training because this ABC organization is conducting xyz trainings and we should too; OR This is what is popular in the market and we should conduct this training). Common excuses for not conducting training needs assessment are a) “We(T&D) don’t have the time” b) We (Bosses) have already given all information to the T&D team c) “Training is not required” d) “We already know the business and we know where the needs are”.

Why do T&D departments of successful corporations back their trainings with statistics and insights for training that they are yet to conduct? Data points to companies investing millions in training efforts and to justify the spend it is imperative

Systematic training takes a bigger picture into account. Such as, assessing skills of the entire organization through competency analysis, and having training around developing successful leaders keeping succession planning in mind. Also systematic trainings take into account needs vs wants trainings.

Why spend time in assessing the need?

The importance of doing homework (needs assessment) cannot be over-emphasized enough. In simple terms, needs assessment has many advantages:

  1. Benefits for HR: Human Resources Team can fine tune job descriptions based on skills assessments- add or subtract a skill, duties, responsibilities- keeping the profile updated and relevant to the organization. This will be beneficial when T&D teams do job analysis for needs assessment too.
  2. Benefits for Business: Organization is able to find the knowledge, skill and ability and areas of weaknesses of its employees in black and white. Managers will know for sure SWOT for each employee instead of generalizing for the entire sets of employees. This is done through organizational analysis. Companies that invest in employee trainings boost organizational profits by 24% as compared to the organizations that do not train employees.
  3. Benefits for Employees: Skill gaps are identified for ALL employees and the employee knows for sure on the skill he/she should work to make more impact on the job. Also, during performance appraisal, these needs assessments act as a marker for establishing if the employee has improved and if yes then how much, post the training.
  4. Coherence: T&D team can make specific/personalized training after getting clarity on the needs of the organization. There is no conjecture of what will work for the employees.
  5. Impactful Training: With the knowledge of needs of the employees, trainings can be made very impactful and memorable. This is an opportunity to help employee to learn something to create more impact at work.

The process of assessing need?

The process for coming to a logical conclusion is by a) gathering information b) analyzing information c) creating a training program.

Organizations such as Google use cost-benefit analysis, job analysis, organizational analysis (the process of identifying human resources for any new product that is launched). These analyses are done as and when there is a restructuring in the organization, a new job is added, or to assess the practicality of training program through cost-benefit analysis.

Samsung, another well-known organization, implements ‘strategic training needs analysis’ which focus on skills that new employees need for their jobs ‘such as English skills, communication skills, among others. For employees already employed with the organization for some time, there is ‘current training needs analysis’ which focuses on improving current performance. These are assessed through skill-gap analysis and performance analysis.

All this ties-in with Samsung’s overall organizational strategy of talent management, where they intend to ‘recruit, hire, train and retain’ employees. Here, Samsung uses a competency model which identifies levels of soft skills and hard skills (skills related to conducting the business) of the employees.

Every organization needs a training plan and execution strategy to ensure that their employees perform to the best of their ability.

Choosing the right methodology for gathering and analyzing information

The appropriate method for needs analysis or gathering relevant information can be shortlisted depending upon several factors directing organizational priorities. Training methodology can be determined based on its importance. The factors that determine the importance of training methods include:

Depending on the situation, several approaches can be applied to undertake needs assessment. Some of these are:

  1. Skill Gaps Analysis: Employees current skills level to perform jobs are compared to what it should be. If there is a gap, then a relevant training may be designed for them.
  2. One-on-one interviews: Employees can be interviewed on a one-on-one basis to understand the challenges faced by them and the areas of improvement. Such interviews may be conducted periodically. Moreover, interviewing your clients/customers and vendors can also provide a SWAT analysis which would then enable you to perform a comprehensive training needs assessment. Consider a situation where employees share their experience handling a specific situation, giving the interviewer the opportunity to assess the need and, subsequently devise a plan to provide appropriate training to achieve desired results.
  3. Focus groups: Under focus groups approach, multiple employees are brought together and given a topic to discuss. These discussions on what their need is for training, or even identifying if an employee is able to participate, communitcate etc and relating it to their job needs is a way to assess training needs. Benefits of using this approach extend to devise training that would help entire teams of employees achieve a certain amount of core-competency.
  4. Feedback through surveys: Depending on the situation, needs assessment can be conducted through employee and client-based surveys via email or a telephone call. This approach can particularly assist in situations where training is to be conducted to achieve elevated client experience.
  5. Performance Analysis: Stakeholders and subject matter experts can undertake needs assessment by observing employees, processes, and tools themselves, in a particular setting such as a factory, or the office. Performance appraisals also give insightful details on what skills the employee needs to develop to perform better at their job. Training and development teams can then strategize a training plan to tackle the observed issues.

Additionally the following assessments are important to support the needs assessments:

  1. Feasibility Analysis: Questions such as how much would a specific training cost, to its benefits, and why it should be done in the first place – are taken care of here.
  2. Goal Analysis: What is the organization/department wanting to achieve through this training and what is the specific behavior change the department/organization wants? Here a clear goal is set for the training.
  3. Target Population Analysis: Who will be receiving the training? Questions on personalizing, designing the training for this specific set of employees are taken note of here.
  4. Contextual Analysis: In this time related questions are taken care of – how long will the training be, when will it be delivered and period in days/months etc. will be finalized here. Any other relevant information that needs to be taken into account before designing the training program is noted in this analysis.

Once assessed, the organization will be in a better position to apply a training methodology that aligns with the organizational directives.

Conclusion: Training needs assessment, not only help to create training programs which add value to an employee’s daily work, but also push the organization in the trajectory of profit-making.

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Joseph Smith

Content Manager

Read more from Joseph Smith

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