Most companies recognize the importance of employee training and want to dive right in. While this enthusiasm is great, it skips a crucial step. Conducting a training needs analysis (TNA) is your first step to developing a successful training program. In this post, we'll cover everything you need to know about how to conduct a training needs analysis for your learning program, from start to finish. You’ll also find in-depth examples and an overview of different methods and components of a successful TNA.
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🔍 What you’ll find in this post
What is a training needs analysis?
A training needs analysis takes a bird’s eye view of your company and its overall goals before drilling down into various types of concrete training that you need. For example, your company may need more robust training or on-demand mobile training because of your employee or risk profile, based on this evaluation.
Conducting a training needs analysis before you start putting together your training program is a crucial step to developing more effective training materials and capturing the best use of your production time.
Training needs analysis vs. training needs assessment
A training needs analysis and a training needs assessment are two terms often used interchangeably when identifying training requirements within an organization. While they share similarities, there are subtle differences between the two concepts.
- Training needs analysis (TNA): This is a comprehensive and holistic process that involves evaluating the current state of your organization, examining the skills, knowledge, and abilities of employees, and identifying areas where training interventions are necessary. It aims to uncover gaps between the desired and actual performance levels, enabling organizations to develop targeted and effective training programs.
- Training needs assessment: An assessment focuses on individual training needs within an organization. It involves the systematic evaluation of employees' skills, knowledge, and performance to determine the specific areas where training is required. The assessment results provide a foundation for designing and delivering training programs that address the identified gaps and improve performance.
While a training needs analysis takes a broader organizational perspective and assesses the overall training requirements, a training needs assessment zooms in on individual needs within the organization.
Both processes are essential for effective training planning and implementation. An analysis sets the strategic direction by identifying overarching organizational goals, while a training needs assessment provides the specific insights necessary to tailor training programs to meet individual needs. By combining these approaches, organizations can ensure a comprehensive and targeted training strategy that optimizes employee development and supports organizational success.
When should I conduct a training needs analysis?
The short answer? Before you start training.
It’s a simple concept. Imagine you want to go to the Sahara desert for the first time, but you have no idea where it is. Further, you aren’t certain where to find the computer that you might use to find out where it is, and you can’t find a map to locate the nearest library to walk to get an atlas. And you have no phone to call for help. You have none of the tools or resources that you need to even begin planning your trip.
A training needs analysis figures out exactly where you are starting and what your company needs to achieve its goals. Let’s get started.
Types of training needs analyses
There are three basic types of training needs analyses:
By understanding the three fundamental types of training needs analyses, you can develop targeted training programs that bridge gaps, enhance performance, and propel your workforce towards success. Let’s look at each in more detail.
Especially if your company hires newly graduated employees, a training needs analysis of their knowledge base is crucial.
Enthusiasm and energy can take you a long way, but when the rubber meets the road you need to know your employees are capable of working within your industry.
For example, in industries with specific regulations, compliance-related issues, or intricate procedures, assessing employees' knowledge base becomes essential. For instance, a healthcare organization may assess the knowledge of new nurses regarding patient privacy laws and protocols.
This analysis ensures that employees are equipped with the necessary information and understand best practices within your industry. By identifying knowledge gaps, organizations can develop targeted training programs to enhance employees' expertise and compliance adherence.
With young employees just entering the workforce and with senior employees who have a broad knowledge base, a training needs analysis of skills is crucial.
This type of analysis covers not only practical skills to do the job but also soft skills like customer relations and working with other people. Sometimes it covers new or unfamiliar technologies.
For example, a software company might conduct a skills-based analysis to evaluate employees' proficiency in programming languages, project management, and effective collaboration with cross-functional teams.
👉Discover more: Unlock the differences between hard skills and soft skills, with examples of both.
Do your employees have the ability to problem-solve and manage risk? Are they able to manage themselves and set objectives that help them produce results?
The more independent and empowered your employees, the more productive and invested they are in their job (and your company!). Assessing employees' abilities to problem-solve, manage risk, and set objectives that drive results is critical for organizational growth. An abilities-based analysis emphasizes empowering employees to become more independent, action-oriented, and productive.
For instance, a sales-driven organization may evaluate the ability of its sales team to identify customer needs, negotiate deals, and effectively close sales. This analysis helps identify areas for improvement and tailor training programs to enhance these employees' problem-solving and decision-making capabilities.
Evaluating an employee’s ability to make decisions and become more action-oriented will only help your business grow.
Training needs analysis methods
Once you've familiarized yourself with the different types of analysis, let's look at the methods for actually conducting that analysis. There are a variety of training needs analysis methods.
Not every method is appropriate for every company. Choose the method or methods that best suit your goals from the following:
- Examining work
- Focus groups
- Job task analysis
- Performance appraisals and reviews
- Customer feedback
- Pre-training assessments
- Performance metrics
- Competitive analysis
By incorporating these methods into your training needs analysis toolkit, you can gather a comprehensive understanding of your organization's training requirements and design targeted training programs that align with your needs.
Although self-reporting is notoriously unreliable, this can be a great place to start. How competent do your employees feel? What would they like more training on?
When possible, regular observation can be a great training needs analysis method.
The key to this method is to conduct multiple observations over time, making them informal and unannounced. Employees should know that these observations aren’t punitive but for training purposes only.
Everyone from managers to parking attendants has something to say about the company.
While that kind of comprehensive interviewing is probably not necessary, speaking directly with managers and supervisors on what they see can be a great place to start.
Examining the work
This is where everything comes together. Is the work being produced reflecting the appropriate knowledge, skills, and abilities you expect for a certain role or position? Is it high-quality or are there areas for improvement?
We all thought high-stakes tests were over when we graduated from college, but one way to quickly evaluate employee knowledge is with a short multiple-choice assessment, delivered online.
Gather a small group of employees or stakeholders to engage in guided discussions about training needs. This method encourages open dialogue, idea sharing, and deeper insights into specific areas of improvement.
Job task analysis
A job task analysis involves breaking down job roles into individual tasks and evaluating the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for each task.
This method helps identify specific training needs for different job functions and ensures training aligns with job requirements.
Performance appraisals and reviews
Utilizing performance appraisals and reviews from direct managers allows organizations to:
- Assess employee performance
- Identify skill gaps
- Determine areas where additional training or development is necessary
Obtaining feedback from customers can provide valuable insights into employees' strengths and areas that may require training. Customer feedback can shed light on specific skills, knowledge, or customer service-related training needs.
Administering pre-training assessments before building your training program allows you to gauge participants' existing knowledge and skill levels. This method helps customize training content to address individual needs, optimize training effectiveness, and avoid redundancy.
Analyzing performance metrics, such as productivity, quality, and customer satisfaction data, can reveal areas where additional training or skill development is required. By tracking key performance indicators, organizations can identify patterns, trends, and gaps that require attention.
Look at your competition
Finally, it’s important to know where you stand in your industry. Benchmarking involves comparing your organization's training practices with those of industry leaders or top-performing companies. This method helps identify areas where your training initiatives may fall short and provides insights into best practices and innovative training approaches.
To start, how are your closest competitors doing? Are their sales numbers higher? Customer satisfaction rankings better? If so, what are they doing to make that happen?
This does not mean that you should change your entire business model, but maybe your employees could use a quick refresher in one area that will make them more competitive.
How to conduct a training needs analysis
One of the services EdgePoint Learning can provide is a complete training needs analysis of your training program. To give you an idea of what that looks like, here’s a training needs analysis example.
Step 1: Develop a company profile
Working closely with company managers and human resources, we help them develop a company profile that includes current levels of staffing.
We also look at the types of positions within the company and state the required knowledge, skills, and abilities for each position. This can include things like levels of education and experience in the industry overall. This is a high-level overview that you'll use as a map moving forward.
Step 2: Ask yourself the big questions
It’s always a good idea to evaluate your training strategy at least once a year or when starting a new learning program. You will obviously have many more questions to ask throughout this process, but these are good, high-level ones to start considering.
What are your corporate goals? It’s important that your training program stays in step with your corporate goals as they evolve. Talk to leadership for a clear direction of where the company is headed. Also make sure your training team has a voice at the table or at least gets updates when goals change.
What are your training goals? Just as your company goals evolve over time, so will your training goals. Think about what you really need and want from your training program.
What is your current (or desired) ROI? This is always a tricky question, but it’s one that needs to be asked. Work with your training team to determine good success metrics and make sure they stay aligned to your corporate and training goals.
Do you have the right team? Once you have goals and a needs analysis, you'll need a team in place that can handle them. Maybe you need to hire another instructional designer or someone with mobile learning experience. You may also consider outsourcing portions of your learning development tasks. Start considering this earlier in your analysis to ensure you have the right team ready when you start development.
👉Learn more: Why do it all yourself when you can outsource development to an eLearning company? Find our full guide to deciding when to outsource your learning development here.
Step 3: Ensure compliance
While conducting your training needs analysis, you must prioritize compliance with the necessary licenses, regulations, and standards relevant to your industry. To ensure compliance, review each of the following in detail:
Mandatory training schedules: Certain industries have regulatory mandates that require employees to complete specific types of training within specified timeframes. For instance, healthcare organizations must ensure that employees receive training on topics such as patient privacy, infection control, and medical ethics.
Industry-specific regulations: In addition to training schedules, different industries have ongoing regulations that must be followed to maintain legal compliance. For example, financial institutions need to adhere to anti-money laundering (AML) regulations, while manufacturing companies must comply with safety and environmental regulations.
Your code of conduct: Companies often establish codes of conduct to guide employee behavior and ensure ethical practices within the organization. Complying with your organization’s code of conduct is crucial for maintaining a positive work environment, fostering trust, and safeguarding your company's reputation.
Department-specific training needs: Each department may have unique requirements based on their functions and responsibilities. For instance, your human resources department may require training on diversity and inclusion, while the IT department may need cybersecurity awareness training.
By prioritizing compliance through a comprehensive training needs analysis, organizations can mitigate risks, uphold legal and ethical standards, and safeguard their reputation. Ensuring compliance not only protects the organization but also contributes to the overall success and sustainability of the business in a highly regulated environment.
Step 4: Begin charting the road ahead
In this crucial step, it’s time to envision your overarching company goals and determine your specific training objectives. By conducting interviews and administering questionnaires, as noted above, valuable insights can be gleaned to paint a clear picture of the road ahead.
Let's consider that a manufacturing company is trying to enhance its operational efficiency. Through interviews and questionnaires, they gather input from employees across different departments. These interactions reveal that the production team lacks comprehensive knowledge of lean manufacturing principles and techniques.
Simultaneously, feedback from the quality control team highlights a need for statistical process control training. By distilling these insights from interviews and questionnaires, the company identifies specific training needs in lean manufacturing and statistical process control to streamline operations, reduce waste, and improve overall product quality.
By going beyond surface-level data collection and delving into a more in-depth analysis, you can develop a targeted training plan that addresses the specific needs of your workforce.
👉Dig deeper: While interviews and questionnaires are effective starting points, it is essential to dive deeper into distilling insights from these methods to precisely identify the training needs of your employees. Our comprehensive guide on how to identify training needs provides detailed instructions on how to analyze the collected data.
Step 5: Analyze current training materials and methods
It’s time to evaluate your existing training materials and methods. Many companies understand the importance of employee training and have implemented various training initiatives. However, it is crucial to assess the effectiveness of these initiatives to identify what is working well, what can be improved, and what is ineffective during your training needs analysis.
EdgePoint Learning takes a look at what your company already has in order to see what is working, what can be tweaked, and what is ineffective. If you're doing this for your own training, ensure you look hard at all areas of your current (and planned) training initiatives.
Let's explore the key aspects involved in analyzing current training materials and methods:
- Effectiveness: Analyze the effectiveness of existing materials and methods to identify areas where adjustments or enhancements are needed.
- Relevance and alignment: Training materials and methods need to be relevant and aligned with organizational goals, industry trends, and learner needs. Make sure your training materials are up-to-date, accurate, and aligned with the skills and knowledge required for jobs today.
- User experience: Analyze user feedback, interface design, interactive elements, and multimedia components to enhance the overall experience of your learning programs. Make sure to also review the program’s accessibility.
- Technology: Evaluate the capabilities, features, and compatibility of your existing training tools to determine whether they meet your current needs.
Let's consider the example of a software development company. During the analysis of their current training materials and methods, they discover that their technical training materials are outdated, lacking the latest programming languages and frameworks. The evaluation also reveals that their training methods primarily consist of traditional classroom-style sessions, which may not really engage their tech-savvy employees.
Based on these findings, the organization decides to revamp their training materials by incorporating interactive eLearning modules and online coding platforms. This shift allows their employees to engage in hands-on coding exercises, access up-to-date resources, and collaborate in virtual coding environments.
Step 6: Develop recommendations
Finally, after evaluating your existing company, its goals, and its current training methods, we make recommendations for training. For your own program, look to make recommendations in these key areas:
- Training delivery methods
- Onboarding or offboarding practices
- Learning gaps and deficiencies
- New industry or technology trends
- Updated regulatory requirements
- Changes to improve employee engagement
- Updates to reduce training costs and resources
- Tracking and assessing results over time
- Addressing any accessibility concerns
These recommendations should be individualized to your company’s needs; they should not be a one-size-fits all “solution.” Maybe the information your training programs provide is great but needs an updated delivery method, or maybe you need a total overhaul. Develop a list of recommendations, identify the highest-priority ones, and work from there.
Conducting a full training needs analysis can be overwhelming. We can help.
At EdgePoint Learning, we make recommendations based on your company’s goals and work with you to help implement them. Want to talk? A training needs analysis can help you fine-tune and get more out of your training. More importantly, it can help your business grow.
Want to learn more about what we do? Set up a consultation today to find out how a training needs analysis works.