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When training needs analysis isn’t enough


Poor TNA in organisations is failing employees but how can training managers make it more effective? Judith Germain explains.

Most companies now recognise the need to ensure that there are regular appraisals or performance reviews with its employees. The purpose of the performance review is twofold: organisational and employee-focused.

In terms of the organisation, performance reviews ensure that it is able to meet its objectives and that there is sufficient talent within the organisation to sustain its long-term growth and vision. Performance reviews also help align what the individual is doing within the organisation as well as provide opportunities for understanding and buy-in from the employee.

How not to do TNA

When we consider the effect of performance reviews for the individual we realise that they enable them to understand the effect of their performance over the monitored period, helps provide areas of improvement and recognition and looks at their training or learning needs over the next assessment period.

Ideally performance reviews should take place at least twice a year, although a vast majority of companies still only perform reviews once a year. This is often a lost opportunity and can create concern especially when the only time employees spend quality time with their managers is at the annual performance review.

"It is very easy to sleepwalk into believing that because you have a robust appraisal or performance review process that the company’s goals and the employee’s personal objectives are being met."
At least once a year companies tend to perform training needs analysis, often alongside the performance review. When completed honestly, openly and transparently they can be very useful both for the organisation and the individual. Anecdotal evidence suggests however that a vast majority of managers and employees either do not take the training needs analysis seriously or that they feel that training is a low priority (sometimes due to financial constraints) and that whatever is written on the individual training needs analysis forms will be ignored.
This can lead to serious disengagement causing low morale and increasing organisational costs. When HR then analyses the individual training needs analysis they can be hampered by incorrect or incomplete data. This can circumvent their ability to put together cohesive and effective talent management or succession plans.
This is a very real problem especially as it is common in times of real change and adversity for senior management to look towards the skill base of its employees and lament that their employees do not have the right skills to address the issues that the organisation is facing.
Anecdotal evidence will point towards the things that employees are unable to do; perhaps there is a shortage of technical competence in the right places, a lack of flexibility by the employees, an inability to change or be agile enough in these competitive times.

And then there is the management...

Senior management may recognise that their management teams have a problem with providing real leadership and direction, apathy amongst employees is rife and customer service and employee productivity are falling. There may be consternation of how the organisation reached this stage, especially as previous the year's company performance had been steady and employees seemed happy.

Training needs analysis – just a process?

When it comes to performance or talent management it is very easy to sleepwalk into believing that because you have a robust appraisal or performance review process that the company's goals and the employee's personal objectives are being met.

Organisations that complete a training needs analysis but don' t use the information gathered properly risk impeding the company's ability to perform and be agile. This can certainly occur when training needs analysis seems like a transactional process and not a value driven one. Confusion can often occur when responsibility and accountability for ensuring the effectiveness of an individual's training needs lies somewhere between the HR department and the line manager without the appropriate level of clarity and structure.

"It is common in times of real change and adversity for management to look towards the skill base of its employees and lament that theirs don't have the right skills to address the issues the organisation is facing."
For real value to be gained line managers and indeed HR professionals need to see that TNA is not just a process. There is a need for the information to live on and be used in a way that improves employees' performance, company capability and gains real engagement with employees.
For example, analysing employees' TNAs may show that the level of commitment and performance of a department is surprisingly below what is expected. When the results are correlated to disciplinary records in that department, exit interviews, absence records and engagement surveys it becomes clear that the management of that team is deficient. Further analysis may show that there is clear management problem across an entire function or perhaps level of management that needs addressing. The HR or training team may therefore decide that running a well-scoped leadership programme may address this level of incompetency. Alternatively analysis may indicate that the organisational structure is what is impeding employees' ability to perform better.

Treat it holistically

A holistic approach to the information that is covered and how it impacts the entire employee journey throughout the organisation can prove beneficial and enlightening.

Often training needs analysis is seen as the end action of an appraisal or performance review, with the information gathered but not acted on. Sometimes the information is analysed in isolation which can mean that the real impact of any training interventions that are needed (informal or formal) are missed because an effective business case for the training cannot be constructed. It is far more compelling to be able to link training interventions to the full impact of their take up.
For example, the reduction of absence, improvement of employee productivity and organisational capability can be directly linked to an effective training intervention. Training needs analysis is often not enough on its own, for real sustainable change to occur.

Judith Germain is founder and principal consultant of Dynamic Transitions Ltd a leadership company specialising in helping organisations and individuals to improve their leadership performance. Judith provides strategic mentoring, assisting in enabling HR to be more credible to the business and delivers innovative leadership programmes. For more information visit or email

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