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How to carry out a training needs assessment

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Kerrie-Anne Chinn, Content & Editorial Manager
2017-11-14

Before you can develop a successful training program for your team, you need to be really clear on exactly who needs to be trained, and in what. This is where a training needs assessment comes in handy.

By taking the time to carry out a proper training needs assessment, you’ll be making sure you’re delivering targeted, effective learning to your employees.

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Need some help and guidance when it comes to this step in your L&D planning? We’ve got all the information you need, to start conducting successful training needs assessments for your staff.

Why Training Needs Assessments Are So Important

Often, it’s what happens before and after a training session that’s really important.

Your training needs assessment (also called an analysis) is a critical first step, helping you to identify who needs training and what kind of training is needed. In fact, many learning professionals consider it to be the most important step towards a successful L&D program.

Carrying out a training needs assessment will help you gain a clear understanding of the competencies needed to achieve organisational goals, while identifying which individual employees and teams most need training.

This step will also assist you in getting a clearer idea of the most cost-effective way you can meet your team’s training requirements, helping you to make sure your training resources are being used most effectively.

The Risks of Not Completing a Training Needs Assessment

So what’s at risk by not carrying out a proper training needs assessment?

Dr. Carl Greenberg, founder of Pragmatic HR Consulting, explains how poorly conducted needs analyses can lead to training solutions that address:

  • The wrong competencies
  • The wrong people
  • The wrong learning methods

You can imagine how frustrating that must be, to realise you’ve been wasting company money on ineffective training - training that isn't going to help your company achieve organisational goals. It’s also frustrating for staff, if they’re being expected to complete training that isn’t necessary to their skills, or relevant to their professional development.

What Should I Be Asking in a Training Needs Analysis?

Greenberg also provides some guidance on the questions you need to be asking yourself about training, which will be helpful for you in developing your assessment.

According to Greenberg, the results of a training needs analysis should provide employers with answers to the following questions:

  • What is needed and why?
  • Where is it needed?
  • Who needs it?
  • How will it be provided?
  • How much will it cost?
  • What will be the business effect?

Think about each of these questions as you go through the following steps.

Steps to Conducting a Training Needs Assessment

Now that you understand the reasoning behind training needs assessments, you can get started on developing your own. Here are three steps when conducting an analysis, covering the organisation, tasks and individual employees.

Step 1: Organisational Analysis

Eric Sokolowski, writing for Knowledge Wave, recommends starting with a good look at the organisation. Talk to senior leaders and managers, getting them to articulate their training priorities. When doing this, ensure that there is always a clear alignment between the training goals and business objectives.

Sokolowski also encourages looking at organisational readiness for training – are there any obstacles that might make training less effective? What can you do to remove those obstacles before rolling out training?

Step 2: Task Analysis

The next step involves talking to subject matter experts and employees to gather information for your job-task analysis.

In this, you’ll break down each role into its component parts. This will give you a clear list of tasks that are required to perform a particular job. From this, you can identify the skills and competencies needed to perform those tasks.

The information you get from this step helps you to decide exactly what to include in training. As Sokolowski says, “the final output should include a detailed description of manual activities, mental activities, task durations and frequency, any necessary equipment, and the skills and competencies required to perform a given task.”

He also recommends being aware of the difference between things that a person need to know versus information that they will need to access. “This can have a big impact on your training design: teaching people how and where to find job-relevant information can be even more effective than requiring that they memorize certain information,” Sokolowski explains.

Step 3: Person Analysis

In this final step, you want to focus on the individual employees you are designing training programs for.

Analysing your target audience helps you to understand the kind of employees who will be participating in training. Sokolowski gives the example of millennials: “you might discover that they are primarily younger workers – so in this case, you might intentionally design your training to resonate with Millennials,” he says.

By targeting your training directly at your audience, you’ll be able to create more relevant, engaging and effective learning materials. You’ll also have clear information on which team members require further development in certain areas, so through this step you’ll also be helping individual employees master the skills they need to boost their career.

Ready to get to work on your own training needs assessment? Follow those steps, and take time thinking about the questions and tips suggested here. All of these things will help you to create a more in-depth analysis of your employees’ needs, which will in turn help you develop far more effective training.

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