That is the question. The answer may surprise you. There seems to be a popular perception that training is the corporate band-aid. No matter what's wrong, training can fix it. However, the reality is that more often than not, it's not a training issue. I'd like to ask three questions to provide some perspective on whether it is necessary to conduct a training needs analysis (TNA).
- Is something new? Whenever any component is new (people, processes, equipment, products, etc.), training is required. Why? Because if it is new, it is unknown. This change will require new knowledge and skills. As a result, if something or someone is new, there is no need for a formal training needs analysis. Instead, we can begin some high level work on a task list so we know where training is needed. The issue becomes part of the instructional design process not the training needs analysis.
- Is the performance issue isolated to one person? Typically, if only one employee is performing below expectations, training the entire group of employees will not solve the problem. This will require some exploration on the part of that employee's manager in order to determine the cause of the performance gap (e.g. lack of motivation, knowledge and skill, knowledge of standards, proper equipment, etc.) and to develop a solution to address the issue. In this situation, a training needs analysis is not necessary because the performance gap is limited to one person.
- Is there a baseline? If there is no baseline measurement, one of two things is probably going on. Either something is new or the current level of performance isn't being measured. If performance measures aren't in place, there is no way to prove that a performance gap exists. If no gap exists, we have no basis for a training needs analysis. Determining what to measure, and how to measure it, will help establish a baseline. Once the measurement tools are in place, collecting three to six months of data will help form the baseline and at that point you can then proceed with a TNA.
By examining each situation before diving in, you will actually increase your credibility. You are simply asking for more information so you can improve performance in the most effective and powerful way possible.
These three questions will help you avoid designing a training program when training may not be the solution. When you are approached with a request, you aren't saying "No,” you are simply saying "Not yet.”