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Training needs analysis.

[check] This checklist lays out the steps to follow to implement the process of Training Needs Analysis (TNA).

Effective training or development depends on knowing what results are required--for the individual, the department and the organisation as a whole. With limited budgets and the need for cost-effective solutions, all organisations need to feel secure that the resources invested in training are targeted at areas where training and development is needed and a positive return on the investment is guaranteed. Effective TNA is particularly vital in today's changing workplace as new technologies and flexible working practices are introduced, leading to corresponding changes in the skills and abilities needed.

Analysing what the training needs are is a vital prerequisite for any effective training programme or event. Simply throwing training at individuals may miss the priority needs, and even cover areas that are not essential. Analysing training needs is not a task for specialists alone. Managers today are responsible for all forms of people management, including the training and development of their team, and should therefore have an understanding of training needs analysis and be able to implement it successfully.

Definition

A training need is a shortage of skills or abilities, which could be reduced or eliminated by means of training and development. Training needs hinder employees in the fulfilment of their job responsibilities or prevent an organisation from achieving its objectives. They may be caused by a lack of skills, knowledge or understanding, or arise from a change in the workplace.

Training needs analysis identifies training needs at employee, departmental or organisational level in order for the organisation to perform effectively. The aim of training needs analysis is to ensure that training addresses existing problems, is tailored to organisational objectives, and is delivered in an effective and costefficient manner.

Training needs analysis involves:</p> monitoring current performance using techniques such as observation, interviews and questionnaires anticipating future shortfalls or problems identifying the type and level of training required and analyzing how this can best be provided. <p>Advantages of training needs analysis

* Resources are targeted at identified priorities.

* TNA will increase organisational ability to plan for and adapt to changes in the workplace.

* Individuals and teams are helped to perform better, enhancing levels of job satisfaction, morale and motivation.

* Having a TNA process in place enhances the organisation's progress towards Investors in People, as TNA is one of the key standards.

* It is a natural function of an appraisal system, where discussions take place on what skills need to be improved, and how.

* It provides a constructive base for improving performance.

Disadvantages of training needs analysis

There are no disadvantages to the process, but it does require:

* time and energy to plan the analysis systematically, and to analyse the results

* coordination of the results between different managers, to ensure that an organisational plan reflects the priorities across the whole company, allowing for economies of scale and avoiding duplication in different departments

* the full involvement of, and discussion with, potential trainees, rather than the subjective evaluation of their managers.

Ideally, it also means training managers in the process of TNA itself, to clarify what they are trying to achieve and what their approach should be.

Action checklist

Training needs can be sorted broadly into three types:

* those you can anticipate

* those that arise from monitoring

* reactions to unexpected problems.

1. Plan to integrate the identification of training needs

Training needs that exist in one department are likely to exist in others. It is pointless for individual managers to throw their own limited resources at each problem as it arises, duplicating efforts and dissipating energy.

Most organisations have a personnel function which organises training delivery. You may not be the person who coordinates the system, but you have an important role to play in collecting the best information you can on the training needs of the people who work for you and passing it up the line.

At the very least, liaise with other management colleagues to aggregate training need information, so that a range of appropriate training and development activities can be planned.

2. Anticipate problems or gaps in your own span of control

Anticipated needs often appear at the organisational or activity level. So a new machine coming into a workshop or office is almost certainly going to have training implications for everyone using it.

Alternatively, an organisation that decides to enhance its level of customer service as part of a corporate strategy knows that a programme of training and development is an essential contributor to its success.

3. Develop monitoring techniques

Some problems that fall into the category of training needs can go unnoticed while they creep up on the organisation. Active monitoring systems are essential to spot these.

Variance analysis is one approach to monitoring. This sounds technical but is a simple tool used by managers to monitor budgets. It translates neatly to the identification of training needs. When a budget is agreed, expected monthly expenditure is detailed. Any major variance from the forecast--upwards or downwards--triggers an investigation into why it happened and what the results will be.

In TNA, the budget numbers are replaced by performance standards and indicators which are as specific as possible. It could be, for instance, that even in a 'soft' issue like customer satisfaction, a standard can be set that says 95% of customers feel they received excellent service (the 5% allows for the small number who will always find something wrong, and those who always rate an experience as less than 100%, on principle). Carrying out customer satisfaction surveys allows you to measure any deviation.

Asking questions in appraisal interviews is a form of survey, as the same basic issues are being addressed throughout the organisation. A purpose of appraisal is to identify individuals' training needs.

In addition to training needs that emerge as a result of an appraisal interview, a worthwhile approach to investigating one-off problems is to interview staff and customers. Regularly ask a random sample of people for their views on the same set of questions relating to general performance--for instance customer satisfaction levels.

4. Keep an open mind on unexpected problems

Monitoring will indicate where gaps and problems exist. However, it is possible to make the wrong assumption when faced with a particular set of circumstances. For instance, unusually rapid staff turnover in a small section may lead to a conclusion that unsocial hours worked there are the issue. However, staff exit interviews may indicate that turnover is a result of cramped working conditions and poor ventilation--issues that training cannot resolve, even though the monitoring process has helped identify the problem.

On the other hand, it could be that:

* the behaviour and approach of the section head are the root cause

* errors at recruitment stage mean that the wrong people are being taken on.

In either of these cases there is a training need--in the first case with the section head and in the second with those doing the recruiting. This could include you.

5. Identify the level

It could be that a training need is limited to an individual or an activity but it is more likely to impact on at least two, and perhaps all three levels.

If the organisation traditionally treats customers as a nuisance, it needs to change its overall approach. Giving one or two people training addresses the training need at the wrong level; organisation development is needed rather than individual training sessions.

6. Take appropriate action

If the training needs are within your own span of control, probably at individual or maybe at activity level, you can plan action to meet the needs.

If the needs appear to be at a wider level than the one you control, you need to make recommendations and proposals on a wider front.

Dos and don'ts for training needs analysis

Do

Take TNA as seriously as you do the delivery of training.

Make every effort to aggregate your findings with those of others.

If necessary, work to persuade others of the benefits of collecting data on training needs.

Remember to consider potential needs at the three levels of organisation, activity and individual.

Investigate problems carefully, so as to avoid making false assumptions.

Include yourself as someone with potential training needs.

Don't

Arrange any training without first establishing that there is a clear need for it.

Simply send everyone on the same training event that you found useful and enjoyable--individuals have different backgrounds and experiences, so they have unique training priorities.

Concentrate on obvious training needs at the expense of those you need to look for (for example with monitoring systems).

Useful reading

Books:

Making training and development work: a best practice guide, Thomas N Garavan, Carole Hogan, Amanda Cahir O'Donnell Cork: Oak Tree Press, 2003

Learning needs analysis and evaluation, 2nd ed., Francis Bee & Roland Bee Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development London: CIPD, 2003

Training needs analysis in a week, Tom Holden Chartered Management Institute London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2002

Key skills analysis: a resource for analysing job content and training needs for selecting training and development programmes, Lesley Howard and Rose Taw Aldershot: Gower, 2001

Journal Articles:

Learning needs analysis, Sarah Cook, Training Journal, Jan- Apr 2005.

Part 1 Learning needs analysis January 2005

Part 2 Linking learning needs analysis to business needs, Feb 2005

Part 3 Timing your learning needs analysis, Mar 2005

Part 4 Planning the learning needs analysis project, Apr 2005

Essential of training design, David Cotton, Training Journal, Jan-Mar 2004

Part 1 Training design in context, Jan 2004

Part 2 Needs analysis as the basis for design, Feb 2004

Part 3 The needs analysis and evaluation reports, Mar 2004

Thought starters

* How much of the training budget do you think was wasted last year--and why?

* What training do your people need that has not been arranged and is not likely? Why?

* Have you ever been sent on a course that you felt was irrelevant to your needs?

* Consider the motivational impact on your team of attending an engaging and worthwhile event.
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Title Annotation:Checklist 090
Publication:Chartered Management Institute: Checklists: Human Resources, Training and Development
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 1, 2005
Words:1669
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