How to do a training needs analysis
Ross Woods, 2017
Do staff have all the skills they need to do their current jobs? What are the current capabilities of an organization's workforce? How well do personnel perform? And how do you know? (For example, you might have a system of KPIs and reviews.)
A training needs analysis is a process to determine what skills a worker already has and what he/she still needs to perform his /her role to the standard required by the organization.
A skills audit is a check of the curent skills of staff, and it is highly advisable. Its results will probably surprize you, because:
- Smaller organizations often muddle through with up to 80% of their staff being inadequately skilled.
- Many organizations to not bother to check their skills needs.
- Senior managers often don't know what skills their staff actually need for optimum performance.
- Many senior managers believe that they've got it right and go into deep denial.
What does the organization want from you?
The purpose of this first stage is find out what they actually want and need from a training needs analysis, and get their agreement on what you are being asked to do. They could be asking for a training needs analysis for the whole organization, a specific business unit, or for specific roles. The following questions might be helpful:
- Why do they want it? In other words, what is their felt need that they want you to address?
- Presumably they want an analysis of current training needs. Do they also want an analysis of emerging and future training needs?
- Is there a deadline?
- How do they want it reported?
- Does it have any specific communication protocols? How will you get access to people in the organization?
- To what extent should it consider systems?
- Can you have access to internal information. (See below for examples.)
- It is quite possible that you will uncover illegal or unethical behavior.
- You should report it to the CEO if it is unintentional, or if it is unethical but not illegal. The organization is at risk of civil action, prosecution, or insurance noncover.
- If it is intentional and illegal, and you confirm that your interpretation of the facts is correct, you should probably have freedom to report it to authorities with copies simultaneously sent to the organization’s Board and CEO. This is quite distasteful and it would be more pleasant if it were not a risk factor in your role.
Introduce youself to staff from the organization, tell them what you have been asked to do, and start building a good working relationship. Meet with them to discuss with their objectives and expectations.
Look at published information on the website and general information documents to learn more of what they need and how well it matches their statements of what they need.
Based on what you have heard and read, make a list of any issues that might impact on the organization’s objectives and requirements. Describe each one in enough detail to be useful later on. Include both existing and potential issues.
Then write a plan to analyse training needs, and negotiate an agreement with the organization’s decision-makers.
The training needs analysis
When the task is clear, make a plan to gather information to determine skills and competencies.
Find out what legal and ethical requirements apply to gathering information and data. Privacy and commercial-in-confidence are obvious. If the work is dangerous, you might have limited access to some kinds of worksites.
Observation. In some kinds of jobs, it may be helpful to observe what happens. You might do a general obseravation to complile a list, or use a checklist.
Interviews. Interview key people: supervisors, trainers, employees. Start with a questionnaire to make sure you cover all important points, but give yourself the freedon to create follow-up questions as the need arises. Beware that interviews during staff time will usually require appointments and time limits.
Documents. Look for written sources of information:
- Business or operational plans
- Assessment tools
- Job descriptions, especially any KPIs
- Staff turnover statistics
- Customer feedback, including complaints
- Product defect statistics
- Performance reviews
- Staff manuals and operating procedures
- Professional Development topics
- Industry trend statements
- Legislation. In most cases, legislation will only imply skills that staff must have, defining tasks for which staff are responsible. Industry associations might also have performance standards.
Workflow. If you are doing a skills analysis of a business unit, consider following these steps.
- Start by finding out its core activities and its purpose.
- Next, consider the parameter under which it works. These might be productivity targets, legislation, location, budget, and orgaizational capacity.
- Then make a diagram or map of the workflow so that you can see each person’s role in the whole, and how it contributes to achieveing the goals of the business unit.
- Now that you can see each person’s role, you can see how what is required of each work role. Don’t forget to include jobs that easily fall between the cracks, such as solving problems when things go wrong or not to plan.
- Make a list of requirements for each job.
- Compare the lists of job requirements with job descriptions and other documents.
- Use your list as a checklist when you observe what people actually do.
Plan to double-check your information. As a general rule, do not depend wholly on one source for an item of information. For example:
- The people in some organizations don’t follow their business plans or operations manuals. If an external consultant wrote those documents, the people in the organization might never have read them again after signing off on them.
- Job descriptions might not be an accurate guide to what people actually do. Some supervisers expect staff to do tasks outside their job descriptions, emphasize some tasks more than others, or don’t require staff to do some tasks listed on job descriptions.
- Industry statements of current and emerging trends are usually fairly accurate, but might not be relevant to the needs of the particular organization where you are analyzing training needs.
- Industry statements of future trends are seldom accurate, and are often no more than projections of current trends. Only a few can claim to be accurate, and often have a convincing rationale based on larger trends.
Do your research
You now have to follow your plan to gather information. It is quite likley that you will have to revise your plan as you to account for the unexpected.
Give advice to the organization
When you have all the information you need, complile a preliminary report and get feedback and comments from the leadership in the organization. Check whether they think your advice and recommendations are suitable to their current situation and will meet their needs. You might need to add any other input and revise your advice.
Finally, complete and present final report to the organization giving clear advice and recommendations on their training and assessment needs. You don’t have to plan a full training program for them, but you should include realistic options for meeting those needs.
Get feedback and comments from the leadership in the organization.