Training Needs Assessment
Making Sure Your Team Is Properly Trained
Abigail's boss has asked her to train her department on recent legislative changes affecting her industry. The session is due to last an entire afternoon and, without giving it much thought, she asks everyone in her team to attend.
Once she starts the training, however, she realizes that not everyone needs to be there. Some of her colleagues are giving up half a day's work to learn new skills that they will never use.
Without thinking about who needed to know about the new legislation, Abigail wasted time and resources training team members who didn't need to be there. Her department also lost out, because people were pulled off high-value projects to attend the session.
Abigail could have avoided this situation by doing a Training Needs Assessment (also known as a Training Needs Analysis). In this article, we'll look at how you can use a Training Needs Assessment (TNA) to gain a better understanding of the training your team needs.
About the Tool
When you're thinking about how to develop your team's skills, you need answers to the following questions:
- Who needs training?
- What training do they need?
- Why is it important?
- How will you deliver the training?
Training Needs Assessment is a structured way of answering these questions.
By comparing existing skills and competencies with the skills you want people to have, you can make an informed decision about the type of training each person or team needs. You can then develop or source a training program that addresses these needs.
Why Use a Training Needs Assessment?
Using a TNA helps you identify skill gaps within your team, so that you can fill these gaps in a way that links training with departmental and organizational objectives.
Another advantage of carrying out a Training Needs Assessment is that it can help you build a business case for providing training.
By training people properly, you can improve the productivity, efficiency and effectiveness of your team, as well as increasing engagement and morale.
Scoping Your TNA
Before you begin, you need to determine the scope of your Training Needs Assessment.
In other words, are you going to determine the training needs for individuals, specific groups of people, or for your whole team? Or is your aim to improve performance on a specific process or task?
When deciding on the scope of your TNA, it's useful to consider which of the following perspectives is driving the training needs that you are considering:
1. Organization/team – What training must you do to help the organization/team perform effectively?
- Is your organization/team meeting its performance targets?
- Are there new laws or regulations that team members need to know about?
- Have the organization/team's goals and objectives changed?
- Do people need to work with new technology?
- Do you have to learn to work within different resource constraints?
- Do you need to address human resource issues like job turnover, absenteeism and recruitment problems?
2. Task and job – What training must you carry out to help people reach performance standards for a particular task or job?
- Do people have the skills, knowledge and competence to do the work required of them?
- Do skill levels need to be increased to meet performance goals?
- Could health and safety, legal, competence, or regulatory compliance issues arise if people aren't fully trained?
- Is the organization using best practices to complete each task?
3. Individual – Which team members need training, and in what areas, to perform their jobs more effectively?
- Does anyone have weaknesses in job-specific skills, knowledge and competencies? (Gaps in these areas may be highlighted by poor productivity, quality issues, down time, customer complaints, or high levels of absenteeism or stress.)
- Have team members asked for training in certain skills or competencies?
- Should people take natural next steps in their personal or career development?
Once you've decided on the scope of your TNA, write this down, so that you can refer to it and stay focused.
Most TNAs involve considering elements at organizational/team, task/job and individual levels. By thinking about all three, you make sure that training meets job performance and organizational goals, as well as individual needs.
The Training Needs Assessment Process
Once you've decided on the scope of your TNA, download our Training Needs Assessment worksheet , and follow the steps below.
Step 1: Identify Knowledge, Behavior or Skill Needs
Your first step is to start collecting the data that you need to identify skill needs. The type of information that you need will depend on the scope that you just identified, above. This will help you spot gaps between:
- Existing and desired skills or competencies.
- Current and desired performance.
Below, we've outlined the three main areas for analysis (organizational/team, task/job and individual) and the type of information that you might need to gather to identify skill needs for each.
Although you need to consider information at each level, your main focus as a manager is likely to be at the task/job and individual need levels.
The Three TNA Levels for Analysis
|Organizational/Team Data||Task and Job Data||Individual Data|
If you don't have access to any of the information outlined above, try to get an overview, or ask managers or colleagues for their input.
Once you've gathered the right information, fill out the “Knowledge, Skills or Behavior Needed” column in the Training Needs Assessment worksheet.
Step 2: Analyze Skills and Performance Gaps
The next stage is to identify any performance gaps that you need to address.
To arrive at this point, you'll need to analyze the data you have gathered. The information that you collected during this step should be logged in the “Weaknesses or Skills Gaps” column of the Training Needs Assessment worksheet.
Involve your team members and the people around you as you do this – you'll end up with a richer, more insightful result.
Analyzing Skills on an Organizational Level
When using TNA from an organizational perspective, meet with leaders and key stakeholders and consider these questions:
- Are there any upcoming changes in organizational strategy that are relevant to your team? What training might be required to support your people through this change?
- Is the business altering its approach or processes to address new competitors, or a changing business environment? If so, how might this affect your team and their training needs?
- Are there discrepancies between the organization's expectations and the results delivered by your department or team?
- What common themes arise in your team members' appraisals and development plans?
Analyzing Skills on a Task or Job Level
When looking at a TNA from a task/job perspective, meet with key members of your team and consider these questions:
- What are the team's key tasks?
- What training has already taken place, and has it been successful?
- What are the most pressing performance issues?
- What training will improve the team's performance the most?
You might consider involving the people who need training, and asking for their feedback. Perhaps carry out a survey, interview team members individually, or, in large departments, consult with people by using focus groups.
A survey can be a good way to involve a wide group of people, while interviews and focus groups are better for gathering qualitative information and for validating your assessments.
Take care, however, not to emerge with a vast "wish list" from these sessions – you'll need to prioritize training to fit with available resources.
Analyzing Skills on an Individual or Team Level
When looking at a TNA from an individual or team level, consider answering the following questions:
- What performance gaps exist?
- What training do you think individuals need?
- What training do people think they need?
- What training are they interested in?
- How important are these various skills and competencies to their performance?
- What type of training do they prefer?
- How can their training needs best be addressed?
You can also conduct a SWOT Analysis with people to gain a better understanding of their weaknesses, and to explore how these might be affecting their current roles. Then, consider people's strengths, and look at how they can develop these further to help meet the organization's objectives.
Step 3: Identify Specific Training Needs
It's now time to identify the training that your team needs. During this stage, you decide which skills and performance gaps most need to be addressed in your development plan. Write this information in the appropriate column of the Training Needs Assessment worksheet.
Keep in mind that not all performance gaps need to be filled by training. Some are better addressed by improving communications, by setting out more clearly defined expectations, or by altering job specifications. Other gaps can be filled by outsourcing non-core activities, or by using Job Crafting strategies, so that people with important or rare skills only focus on that type of work.
Next, consider appropriate types of training, and consult with others as necessary. Make sure that you cater for people's individual learning styles, and look into different types of training such as active or instructor-led training, on-the-job or online training, or even cross-training.
Step 4: Prioritize and Set Deadlines
Finally, assign a priority level to each training need you've identified, and set a deadline for completion, if you decide to push ahead with it.
A Training Needs Assessment (also known as a Training Needs Analysis) is a structured approach for understanding the who, what, why, and how of your training efforts.
It helps you identify training that will successfully address any knowledge gaps, and allows you to survey skills that employees already have, as well as those that they need.
To do a TNA, gather the appropriate data at organizational, task/role and individual level. Then, determine any skills and performance gaps that need to be addressed.
Next, use this information to identify specific training needs. Finally, prioritize the training that's required.
If you are a Learning & Development professional, you can get a regular stream of specialist L&D ideas and resources by visiting the Mind Tools Corporate blog.