A training needs analysis (TNA) is an often misunderstood and underused tool of a training department.
Of course, you don’t always have to conduct a TNA. If something is brand new, mission critical and non-intuitive, the need for training is obvious. Additionally, if training is mandated by law or executive direction, the decision making has been done.
However, too many trainers consider a survey of learners’ desires, or a discussion with management, an actual TNA. While both are valuable, neither are a TNA. Instead, provide a training requisition form that asks a series of questions to provide an initial indication of whether training is needed. The answers become a starting point for conducting a training needs analysis.
If a performance deficiency exists, training is often seen as the solution. However, it may not be. Training is only needed if the performance deficiency exists because of lack of knowledge or skill. So, how is a TNA done? There are four phases:
1. Collect the data on required performance and actual performance. Are the two significantly different? If so, go to the second phase.
2. Conduct a performance analysis to determine the root cause of a performance deficiency. If it is a lack of knowledge or skill, then move to the third phase.
3. Compare the cost of training with the potential benefit by conducting a cost-benefit analysis. If a dollar invested is rewarded with more than a dollar returned, a training intervention appears worthwhile and you should move to the final phase.
4. Recommend a solution, along with reinforcement activities, necessary to successfully implement the solution.
So, what does the training department get out of a training needs analysis?
1. Line management support for the initiative. If line management is involved in the data collection phase of the TNA, there is buy-in based on their participation in the project.
2. Learner motivation. If a learner (or his manager) is part of the TNA project team, he will see the relevance of the resultant training initiative. Relevance equals motivation.
3. Executive support for the project. Management rightly focuses on the bottom line. The cost-benefit analysis is a potential return-on-investment which supports the bottom line.
4. Conservation of resources. If a TNA is conducted, the organization does not spend money on training that offers no performance improvement.
5. Training department credibility. If the training delivered is truly needed, it should result in a performance improvement in the workplace. This provides value to management as well as the learners.
6. Training marketability. If a manager gives up the productivity of her employees while they are receiving training in a classroom, she wants to see performance improvement. If a manager sees your training department increases the productivity of her team, you’ve given her something of value for the loss of time from her employees.
Langevin offers a one-day, instructor-led workshop, as well as an e-learning module on the TNA process. I strongly recommend familiarization with, and appropriate use of, the TNA process as a solid feature in any trainer’s toolbox.