Overview – How to do a Training Needs Analysis – TNA – LNA
A Training Needs Analysis (TNA) (or Learning Needs Analysis LNA) consists of a series of activities conducted to identify or solve problems and to determine whether training is an appropriate solution.
The TNA is often the first step taken to initiate change. This is mainly because a needs analysis specifically defines the gap between the current and the desired individual and organisational performances.
For any training (or learning) needs analysis to be successful for the organisation we need to understand the context.
One way is to carry out an audit of the current situation, desired changes in job or responsibility, and probable technological and organisational developments. This will provide the information needed to determine what is required of the individual, team or organisation.
Only when the strategic need and context is understood can you determine performance standards in terms of skills, contacts and practical experience. There are many published management competencies and standards that can be helpful here (why re-invent the wheel?). The use of the SWOT that was used for developing the organisations business plan can help set the context too.
Simple questionnaires or tools can help you to identify where individuals stand on a range of competences and culture. The process of asking and answering the questions, and the feedback will contribute to self awareness, especially if the results include contributions from line manager, peers and direct reports. The training need is the difference between the current performance and the required performance that can be met through training rather than through other changes.
Only needs which help to meet the organisations plans should be prioritised highly. ‘Nice to have’ skills should not be ignored but only met when all operationally important needs have been met first.
There are many levels that a TNA or LNA can be undertaken for:
- Individual/ role
TNA needs to be a configurable process
One of the most important factors to know about any Training Needs Assessment (TNA) is: it is a process that must be configured to meet the situation at hand.
In other words, there is no “off-the-shelf” TNA process to be followed step by step. It just won’t work. Sure there are “ready made” TNAs for software applications and other skills, but this is low level and narrow focused and ignores the context.
TNAs can be triggered by many different circumstances, each of which poses its own goals and requirements. A TNA is a data-based, analytical activity and many methods of collecting and analyzing information might be used (e.g., (internal & externally based) surveys, questionnaires, focus groups, interviews, observations, etc), not all of which are appropriate in all situations. When it comes to undertaking a TNA, you have to look at the situation being faced and devise an appropriate approach.
Looking at TNAs as a simple system
As a simple system, a Training Needs Analysis is comprised of inputs and outputs with some form of change process in between. The primary output of a TNA consists of recommendations and accompanying reasons as to what should be done, to who and why. A TNA doesn’t always lead to training as a solution. Its conclusions (outputs) might be that training is not needed or that some other course of action is more appropriate (e.g., job aids, improved measurement and feedback, goal clarification and even job or work redesign). It is also possible that TNA will lead to training plus something else. And, of course, there is always the possibility that a TNA will result in a decision to do nothing at all. The inputs to TNA are informational, including its triggers, and vary with the occasion.
What Triggers the need to do a TNA?
Often organisations will undertake a TNA as part of the performance management or employee appraisal scheme. Often there will be other organisational triggers:
- Outputs from a SWOT analysis
- Technology change
- Legal changes
- Customer service survey feedback
- Drops in productivity etc
The TNA is in essence a ‘gap analysis’ looking at the current to desired state, looking primarily at the human skill needs, often as part of the TNA other ‘gaps’ will be identified.
Tools to help Identify Training Needs (ITN):
There are many, but here are some of the core ones to choose from:
- Focus groups
- Questionnaires (see our resources section)
- Psychometric style tests
- Job descriptions/ Role profiles
- Difficulty analysis
- Performance appraisals
- Repertory grid (a powerful but complex tool)
- Output from SWOT analysis
A training needs analysis can be formal or informal, simple or complex – it is down to the scope and likely value of the activity – if I were investing $100k in training I want to know that activity is clearly focussed – if it were $10 then the cost of the TNA would be more than the ‘solution’. Fitness for purpose is key here. Get the analysis wrong and it can be an expensive mistake.
Evaluation of training
If you understand the cost of providing the training solution and the value that the solution will give, then you are 90% towards the evaluation part of the training cycle. The TAN should form part of the evaluation process – as the only way to know if the training was successful is to re-run the TNA and see how much the gap has closed…
Note – a sample TNA tool can be found in our resourcezone