Use Training Needs Analysis to Improve Training ROI


Identify Training Needs to Improve Job Performance and Training Results

By: Dale Mask

The manager complains that his sales people are not meeting sales quotas and need sales training. But, what kind of training is needed? Do they need training on sales negotiation, product knowledge, customer service skills or other areas?

Once that question is answered, other questions begin to surface. What is the training budget? What instructional method will be used? What is the level of instruction needed? What training design criteria will best meet the employees learning style? (We are just getting started with the questions.) And, of course the BIG question: Will the training do any good? Perhaps poor sales are a result of the economy and training is not the solution.

The Training Needs Analysis (TNA) is designed to answer all those questions and more. Whether the training is related to soft skills such as communication and leadership or technical job specific skills, the importance of TNA cannot be overemphasized. 

Not only does TNA identify if training will actually solve a performance problem, it also identifies specific performance areas requiring training, who needs training and how the training should be designed.

Training without TNA would be like a doctor prescribing a treatment
without assessing the extent of the person's illness.

Without TNA, learners often find the training session misses the mark. As a result:

  • Learners have to make generalizations to relate the training content to job expectations.
  • They have difficulty applying new knowledge and skills on the job.
  • They simply fail to improve performance.

While TNA requires some effort, even the smallest business can benefit from the process without major expense. The following are some basic guidelines to help you implement an effective Training Needs Analysis.

At the most basic level, the TNA identifies the gap between desired performance and actual employee performance. But the TNA must also consider the overall organizational strategy, specific tasks, user and learner needs, specific content to be trained and the return on the training investment.

A Training Needs Analysis should include six types of analyses.

1.  Organization Analysis

Training must have organizational support. Manager support is essential to provide the time and resources needed. They must recognize the training as being in alignment with the business strategy. In other words, what is the business case for the training? Look at organizational issues such as:

  • Efficiency indices such as costs of labor, costs of materials, quality
  • Organizational goals and objectives, mission statements, strategic plans
  • Plans for reorganization or job restructuring
  • Changes in equipment and technology
  • Employee attitudes and satisfaction
  • Succession planning
  • Short and long term staffing needs
  • Skills inventory: currently available and short and long term needs

Additional key questions:

  • Who is requesting the training?
  • Why do we think training is needed?
  • How does the training align with the organizational strategy?
  • What is the business need for the training?

2.   User Analysis

The important questions being answered by this analysis are: who will receive the training and what is their current level of knowledge, what is their learning style, what training format will be used (instructor-led, e-learning, blended, etc.) and who is qualified to conduct the training?

Training factors such as education, age, experience, time and even factors such as negative experiences with past training can create resistance to some approaches to training and the willingness of adult learners to participate in and benefit from a learning experience.

Additional key questions:

  • Is there a lack of knowledge?
  • Do performance expectations require a higher level of skill?
  • Are there other reasons for poor performance?
  • What training has been done in the past? Was it successful?
  • Could the previous training be utilized? Does it need to be changed?
  • When will the training occur?

3.  Task Analysis

The task analysis determines the Knowledge, Skills, Behaviors, and Abilities (KSBAs) required. It focuses on specific responsibilities of the job, performance standards and how results are measured. Relating the KSBAs to operating problems such as downtime, waste, poor quality, and service problems allow you to identify the gaps between desired and actual performance. Plus, it helps define whether training is a solution to the performance issue.

Additional key questions:

  • What is the job and what are the main duties?
  • What are the KSBA’s of the job?
  • What attitudes are needed on the job?
  • What are the standards of performance?
  • How is performance measured?
  • Are current standards being met? How often is performance feedback provided?
  • Are there consequences for poor performance? (If there are no consequences to performance, the performance may not be seen as important. Adult learners must view the task as important to be motivated to learn required knowledge and skills.)
  • Are there work environment issues that could cause poor performance? (Noise, temperature, etc.)

Data should be gathered from people having direct knowledge of the tasks, responsibilities and the expected level of performance. Subject matter experts, supervisors and high-performing employees can give you the best information.

4.   Learner Analysis

The learner analysis identifies who can benefit from training and who is ready for the learning experience. For example: An advance Excel training session may not benefit the person who has no prior experience using Excel.

 Additional key questions:

  • Who requires training?
  • What is their experience level?
  • Is the learner aware of the need for training? (This could be due to performance feedback, being aware of coming changes in procedures, technology, etc.)
  • With their current skills and knowledge, are they ready to move to the next level that the training is intended to provide?
  • What are the real and perceived barriers to performance? (This could include issues such as task overload, red-tape and problems with management or coworkers.)
  • What is their learning style?
  • To what degree is the employee involved in their own personal development and career planning?
  • What time do they have available for training?

Keeping records such as training progress charts, up-to-date listing of current skills, performance data, work samples and performance evaluation can help here. Interviewing employees about their job challenges and training needs is often one of the best approaches to learner analysis.

5.   Content Analysis

The content analysis guides the design of instructionally sound, meaningful, and interactive training programs required by adult learners. Take care to understand  laws, procedures related to the job and what knowledge or information is used on the job. This information is often available in manuals, documents, or regulations. An experienced worker can assist (as a subject matter expert) to define appropriate content.

Additional key questions:

  • Is the training part of a sequential learning experience?
  • What prerequisites in knowledge and experience exist?
  • What is critical to learn? – If it is not critical to success, do not teach it.
  • Is the content available in manuals, procedures or other documentation?
  • In what order or sequence should the learning elements be provided?
  • How will the content go beyond theory and be related directly to job application?
  • What practice can be applied in the learning session?
  • How will learning be measured? Test? Application? Other?
  • How will the learning be reinforced on the job? Performance feedback? Management support and coaching? Other?
  • What training delivery format will be used? (Instructor-led, online, blended, etc.)

6.   ROI Analysis 

Training should be treated as an investment - not a cost. Analyze what the pay off will be. Define tangible and intangible benefits that are expected from the training.

Additional key questions:

  • What specific benefits are expected from the training? Increased productivity, time, fewer errors, etc.
  • What are the intangible benefits? Improved morale, lower legal liability, improved team effort, etc.
  • How will you determine the success of the training?
  • How will the ROI be measured or calculated?

Putting bottom line numbers to the benefits defines the return on investment (ROI) for the training and helps build your business case for future training in your department.

How to Collect Training Needs Analysis Data:

The process of gaining the data for the TNA can be as simple as asking the employee questions or sophisticated questionnaires and surveys.

Here is a good basic list of questions to get started with your TNA. Focusing interviews, questionnaires, and other forms of collecting TNA data around these issues can help you collect appropriate information. This list is not to be considered the only questions you will want to ask - it is just a good starting point.

  • What tasks do you do regularly?
  • What difficulties do you face when doing these tasks or your job?
  • What could help you to do your job better?
  • What kinds of knowledge do you need to do your job?
  • What skills do you need to do your job?
  • What kinds of attitudes do you need to do your job effectively?
  • What knowledge, skill and attitudes do you lack now?
  • How long have you worked in this job?
  • What do you like most about your job?
  • What do you like least?
  • What would you like to change about your job?
  • Do you think you are doing a good job?
  • How do you know if you are doing a good job?
  • What are your job and career goals?
  • What training do you feel could help you achieve your goals?
  • What on-the-job coaching do you receive?
  • What kind of training in the past has been most helpful? Least helpful?

The answers to these questions can help steer your training and training development process in the right direction. Getting this kind of information is essential to the TNA process. Interviews are one way to collect TNA data, but there are more options.

Here are six approaches most commonly used to collect data for a TNA.

One-On-One Interviews: Interviewing staff, supervisors and relevant others, such as customers, can provide excellent data on job, task and attitudes. Results can be difficult to analyze if not done by a person with good interviewing skills. Anonymity and time are also issues here.

Observation: Observe the employee completing the task. A checklist of behaviors and sequences can be helpful. Rating results is also an important part of this approach. Be careful that the observer does not distract or effect the employee's ability to do the task. Observation can be time consuming.

Surveys/Questionnaires:  Questions related to the organization, tasks or the individual themselves can provide excellent data regarding knowledge, perceptions and attitudes. Make certain the questions are carefully designed to achieve accurate information. Anonymity and perceived negative consequences can create problems with this approach. These surveys and questionnaires are often done online. 

Group Interviews: Group interviews can save time and are especially good when multiple perspectives are important. However, the interviewer must be a skilled facilitator to bring out all issues. Do not allow the discussion to be dominated by a few or an individual with status or position.

Documentation: Performance records, evaluations, training records and other documentation can be of tremendous value in determining training needs. Be careful that the data collected is accurate and objective. Subjective performance reviews may be of limited value.

Performance Tests: While tests can be difficult to design and often expensive, certain skills can be tested using standardized tests and metrics can be measured to provide quantitative data (multiple choice, fill in the blank etc.) of performance levels.

There is no best method of gathering Training Needs Analysis data. A combination of methods is most often the best approach.

The Training Needs Analysis is a critical activity for the training and development function. A thorough TNA identifies what specific performance areas require training, who will benefit from training and how the training should be designed. Effective TNA maximizes the return on your training investment.

By: Dale Mask

© 2015 Alliance Training and Consulting, Inc.


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