If you work in a training department, then you’re familiar with urgent requests from management stating their department has a deficiency "only training can solve." This type of request usually ends with "NOW!" So, how can you slow down the process long enough to ask them, “Why Training?” and “Why now?”
Training gives employees the knowledge and skills to perform the tasks in their current job. It’s short term and immediate. Employers pay employees for what they do (skills), not necessarily for what they know (knowledge). When either component is absent, it’s natural to assume training is deficient. In some cases, that may be true. However, to truly identify the answer, trainers must know which questions to ask.
Here are five steps for conducting a preliminary training needs analysis to determine if training is the correct solution to a performance gap:
1. Give Management a Training Requisition Form (TRF)
The front-line supervisor/manager, or someone with specific knowledge of the performance gap, is the best resource to fill out this form. They have big picture knowledge of what’s impacting processes, the department, and/or the organization.
The training department shouldn’t make decisions on outcomes if they have no first-hand knowledge of what the contributing factors may be. The TRF is management’s opportunity to identify problems and determine if they are caused by a lack of knowledge and skills or if they are caused by non-training issues.
The purpose of a training requisition form is two-fold:
1. It forces the person filling out the form to really assess the current work environment/conditions by giving detailed information about the problem from a fact-based, objective perspective.
2. It asks for “specific productivity improvements from the proposed course.” This puts the onus of responsibility on management by letting them detail the expected outcomes.
2. Gather data on expected performance
Once you know where to start, there is nothing better than bringing a new set of eyes to the situation. Partner with a subject-matter expert (SME) who can give you information on matters outside your area of expertise—he/she may help you pick up intel management may have missed!
Focus on these three areas:
1. Review job descriptions: This is the formal outline of expected job performance and can provide you with detailed information regarding what employees should be doing in their specific roles.
2. Analyze the job inventory or task listing: What are the duties of the job? Duties are broad areas or divisions of responsibility, usually found in the job description.
3. Conduct a job study or task analysis: These are step-by-step instructions for job tasks and are used to define the standard by which job performance will be measured.
3. Gather data on actual performance
The TRF is the beginning of your data collection process; however, it may not provide enough information to justify making a training decision. Use at least one other data collection method to verify your findings.
Below are some options to choose from:
Surveys–Help you gather a lot of data quickly through paper or email-based questionnaires.
Interviews – Give the interviewer the opportunity to probe more deeply and can be conducted face-to-face, via teleconference, or in discussion groups.
Observation (also known as job shadowing) – Can be conducted through call-monitoring, ride-alongs, or sit-besides. Observations allows the interviewer to see the process in real-time.
Tests/Work Samples – Allow you to compare the completed results to the required standard.
Records – Provide the most fact-based data because they objectively measure outputs, costs, time, and quality. They consist of production reports, costs sheets, quality reports, etc.
4. Draw conclusions and discuss your findings with management
This is the time to share what you discovered! Once you’ve collected all your data, you can decide if training is the solution to the problem or whether another answer would provide better results.
If training is the solution to the current problem, discuss how and when it will be implemented and get buy-in from management for follow-up.
If training is not the right solution, you may have an opportunity to discuss what your training programs can offer in the future.
5. Know your authority
At the end of the day, despite your best efforts, your suggestions may go unheeded. So, before you present your findings, learn more about your company’s policies and procedures regarding training authorization and implementation procedures.
The ability to call upon your “chain of command” and get management buy-in to support your findings, will go a long way in keeping your training department aligned with the organization’s mission, vision, and goals.
Conducting an effective training needs analysis can be a complex process but the above steps gives you a great place to start! For more insight into this process, check out our Training Needs Analysis workshop offered in both the traditional or virtual classroom.
Let us know your needs analysis challenges, and how you’ve handled them, in the comments section below!