How to Conduct a Training Needs Analysis

How to Conduct a Training Needs Analysis

Training needs analysis process is a series of activities conducted to identify problems or other issues in the workplace, and to determine whether training is an appropriate response.

The needs analysis is usually the first step taken to cause a change. This is mainly because a needs analysis specifically defines the gap between the current and the desired individual and organizational performances.

Who Conducts Needs Analysis & Why?

An in-house trainer or a consultant performs a needs analysis to collect and document information concerning any of the following three issues :

1. Performance problems
2. Anticipated introduction of new system, task or technology
3. A desire by the organization to benefit from a perceived opportunity

In all three situations, the starting point is a desire to effect a change. Given this, you must know how the people who will experience change perceive it. In the absence of a needs analysis, you may find employees resistant to change and reluctant to training. They may be unable to transfer their newly acquired skills to their jobs because of the organizational constraints.

A needs analysis often reveals the need for well-targeted training areas. However, we must keep in mind that training is not always the best way to try to close a particular gap between an organization’s goals and its actual performance. Those conducting the needs analysis must get a clear idea of the problem, look at all possible remedies and report on their findings to management before deciding on the best solution.

When properly done, a needs analysis is a wise investment for the organization. It saves time, money and effort by working on the right problems. Organizations that fail to support needs analysis make costly mistakes; they use training when another method would have been more effective; they use too much or too little training, or they use training but fail to follow up on it. A well-performed analysis provides the information that can lead to solutions that focus on the areas of greatest need.

Process of conducting a training needs analysis is a systematic one based on specific information-gathering techniques.  Needs analysis proceeds in stages, with the findings of one stage affecting and helping to shape the next one. There is no easy or short-cut formula for carrying out this process. Each particular situation requires its own mix of observing, probing, analyzing and deducting.

In many ways, the needs analysis is like detective work; you follow up on every lead, check every piece of information and examine every alternative before drawing any solid conclusions. Only then you can e sure of having the evidence on which to base a sound strategy for problem solving.

A needs analysis is not a one-time event. Professional organizations administer needs analysis at regular intervals, usually every year or two.

Methods of Identifying Training Needs

Training needs will differ with the backgrounds of the employees to be trained, and their present status in the organization. Basically, a candidate for training may come from any one of three groups :

1. New hires
2. Veteran employees
3. Trainees currently in the training pipeline ( currently in the training program )

Consideration of the varying needs of these groups provides a frame of reference for discussing and suggesting the methods of identifying training needs :

New Hires

Addition of new employees creates high and low peaks in placing new persons into the training program. This problem may be solved by a program where progression is made in different sequences. It will eliminate a jam that will occur if all phases of the program must be taken in a definite sequence.
The new employees will normally be of somewhat different backgrounds. Being new, they are not familiar with their new employers. As a result, the earliest phases of the training must concentrate on company orientation. During these phases, the organi- zation, organization policies and administrative details should be covered. It is also a suitable time to acquaint the trainees with what will be expected of him, and how he will be evaluated throughout the phase of training.

Retaining & Upgrading Veteran Employees

The people in this category offer a real challenge to the training department. There- fore, the number and amount of training required by this category should be carefully considered. Often the retraining and upgrading of former employees can be very rewarding for training instructors. At least two schools of thought exist as to how these employees should be rekindled. There are advantages in keeping this group intact and tailoring the program to their needs. On the other hand, this category of employees can also make significant contribution to training if they are co-mingled with the new hires.

Pipeline Employee Requirements

A good training program will normally have participants in various phases of comp- letion. An awareness of completion dates and how the potential employee will be employed should be the concern of the training staff and also the employee’s supervisor. A trainee should have a challenge in all phases of his training. All these challenges should not be confined to those phases where the pipeline employee is sitting in a classroom. Therefore, it is recommended that thorough interim test-work be given to pipeline employees in periods between formal classes. This may take the form of solidifying what he learned in the prior phase and serve as preparation for the coming phases.

Techniques for Determining Specific Training Needs

There are a number of practical methods you can use to gather data about employees’ performance. Each works well in given circumstances; therefore, you must determine which be the best for you. None of these methods can stand alone. Always use at least two, if for no other reason to validate your findings. One of those you choose should always be observation.

1. Observation

In this approach, an employee’s performance itself is you source of information. You evaluate a worker’s performance through first-hand observation and analysis. This is best accomplished by watching the worker and playing the role of non-participating observer. This means that you watch and listen and evaluate what you see and hear, but do not get involved in his work process in any way.

To make this activity more productive, use a checklist to remind you of what to look for and take notes.

The objective during observations is to identify both the strengths to build on and the deficiencies to overcome. A key advantage of using direct observation in the needs analysis is that you gain first-hand knowledge and understanding of the job being performed and the strengths and weaknesses of the relevant worker.

2.  Interviews

The use of interviews in conducting the needs analysis is strongly urged. The prime value of interview guides is that they ensure the same types of data from all sources. This allows you to determine whether a piece of information is one person’s opinion, or part of a widespread perception. Since the interview guide forces you to ask each worker a number of predetermined questions, you must select those questions that are essential to what you are trying to learn.

Interviews allow you to meet employees face to face to discuss their impressions of performance. Because you are in conversation with workers, you can explore their responses in depth. You can ask or clarification of comments and for examples of what they mean. In this way, you obtain a full understanding of their performance deficiencies.

You also gain these benefits through interviewing :

1. You build credibility with your interviewees by asking intelligent questions and
Listening well to their answers

2. You obtain employees’ personal involvement and commitment to your efforts

3. You establish personal relationships with potential trainees who are important to your success as a needs analyst and trainer

3.  Questionnaires

A questionnaire is a sort of interview on paper. You create your own questionnaire by writing down all the questions you want employees to answer for you. Then you mail it to them and await their responses.

The key advantage of a questionnaire is that you can include every person from whom
You want input. Employees can complete the questionnaire when and where they choose. You need not travel and spend time with all respondents. Every employee is asked the identical questions, and consequently data is very easy to compile and analyze.

Questionnaires can be useful in obtaining a ‘ big picture ’ of what a large number of employees think while allowing everyone to feel that they have had an opportunity to participate in the needs analysis process.

4. Job Descriptions

Before establishing a job description, a job analysis must be made. This job analysis involves a thorough study of all responsibilities of the relevant job. It is company wide in scope and should be detailed to such a degree that those conducting the training can use the job analysis as a yardstick for their course content. After the job analysis phase has been completed, the writing of job description and needs analysis is a relatively simple task. When an employee’s job description has been defined, the trainer can easily tailor his training curriculum to a very close proximity of what will be expected of the employees.

5. The Difficulty Analysis

The Job Analysis will focus attention on enumerating the numerous duties that a worker must perform. On the other hand, the Difficulty Analysis establishes which of the duties cause the employee the greatest amount of troubles and how this trouble can be reduced through better training.

A good Difficulty Analysis offers many advantages. For example ….

• It enables a needs analyst to weigh certain aspects of the training in relationship to the expected difficulty that the worker will face in coping with those duties.

• A well thought out Difficulty Analysis will provide the training program with an abundance of role-playing material and situations.

6. Problem Solving Conference

Another time-tested technique for gathering needs analysis material from employees is to conduct periodic problem solving conferences which may take the form of or be part of a plan for a new product, task or technology, or tied in with a training program It is always helpful to utilize an outside consultant to moderate such sessions. This outside sponsorship has a tendency of letting the workers express their feelings about his organization, and the session can then be geared to training needs. The current problems will evolve that represent potential areas for training.

7.  Appraisal Reviews

During the periodic counseling performance interview, an employee should be ques- tioned regarding the duties and training of a worker. Comments rendered during the appraisal interviews normally are genuine, and can frequently assist in establishing the needs, variations and penetrations that a training program should include. Feed- back at appraisal interview time is valuable since it is timely information. Training needs differ from worker to worker, and appraisal sessions allow the employee and supervisor / manager to uncover the cause of weaknesses in performance. These deficiencies represent areas for training.

8.  Drive Pattern Identity

The extent of an employee’s development depends on his motivations. Identifying the forces that cause an employee to behave in a certain way may be useful in determining his individual training needs and how to stimulate his desire to fulfill that need. An analysis of this kind, for example, may determine that the employee has an urgent need for self-confidence. His individual program should be made to stress the importance of attitude, skills etc., and any other assets that would give him this self- confidence.

9.  Analysis of Organizational Policy

Organization policy will affect the amount of training offered. An explanation of various policies should be covered in the training program. Of particular concern are those policies that involve change, alteration and major revamping of training programs. In organizations undergoing merger activity, product diversification and new penetration, a great deal of sensitivity must be placed on policies today and expected changes in the future.

Whatever the method used to identify training needs, at least the following three points must be kept in view :

1. These methods should be used in combination; that is, there should never be reliance on only one method

2. They may be used to identify training needs of each of the various groups
of employees

3. They should be applied to individual employees since training needs will vary with the individual employee.

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