The world of training and development is full of esoteric terms. “Training needs analysis” is one of them.
It sounds straightforward (“an analysis of your training needs”) but there’s more to it. There are different methods—and each method has its own outcomes and benefits. That adds to the confusion.
So let’s clear things up. Let’s define training needs analysis, outline the benefits your company will see from conducting one, and talk about how they’re carried out. Then, at the end, we’ll tell you how we do things differently to drive better results.
Let’s start with the basics.
1. What Is a Training Needs Analysis?
A training needs analysis is a process that helps you figure out what you need from your training program.
That might sound simple, but it’s a complicated process. (We’ll talk more about what goes into a training needs analysis below.) Part of the reason why it’s complex is that your needs can encompass a wide variety of training-related factors.
Here are just a few:
- The mission, vision, and strategic objectives of the organization.
- The individual’s career goals.
- Gaps between employee training needs and actual training performed.
For example, an analysis might show that you need to deliver a specific type of training that reduces on-the-job injuries. That’s only the first part of what you might discover.
The needs analysis could also show that you need to offer both in-person and online trainings. And that you should include materials on both assembly line and office injuries. And that you should include a related training on protective equipment.
There’s no set amount of information that a training needs analysis produces. It depends on who’s doing the analysis, what they’re looking for, and your training needs. Here are some of the things that you might get from an analysis:
- Which issues your company needs to fix
- Whether training will solve those issues
- Which types of training will be most helpful
- Which specific materials to cover
- The best delivery methods for your company
- Specific issues related to attendance
- The best way to assess the effectiveness of your training
There could be other factors as well—including ones that are specific to your business.
You may have noticed that the second item in the above list is “whether training will solve those issues.” Sometimes a training needs analysis will come up with a “no” on this one.
You might find that if you’re trying to prevent workplace injuries, a training won’t help as much as buying better protective gear for your employees. A training needs analysis can tell you that, too.
Training is usually a valuable component in behavior change and improving outcomes. But an analysis could tell you otherwise. Or it might tell you the best way to supplement your training to get the best outcome.
2. Why Is Training Needs Analysis Important?
If you were to run a training at your company right now, what would it focus on?
You probably have an idea in mind. But can you back it up? Can you say that this type of training will solve an actual problem in the company, change trainee behavior, and result in a positive return? Will training be worth the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars you invest in it?
A training needs analysis will help you find the answers to these questions. Training employees is expensive and time-consuming for both big and small companies. But if you do it right, you’ll see a positive return on that investment.
Without effective needs analysis, you won’t know if those training dollars will actually benefit your company. By running a detailed analysis, you’ll know which kinds of training will give you the best ROI.
At the end of the analysis, you’ll have a plan for putting a training program in place that will make a difference at your company.
3. Benefits of a Training Needs Analysis
Needs analysis improve the ROI of your training. But they also have other benefits for organizations, teams, and individuals. Need to get buy-in from someone at your organization for spending time and money on training? These are the things to talk about:
Benefits for organizations
Companies need to get the most out of their training budget. And as we saw above, training needs analyses make that happen. But there are other benefits, too.
For example, a needs analysis can identify key performance indicators (KPIs) for training programs to address. These help instructors tailor their courses for measurable results. And they help training coordinators and HR departments show that trainings result in real behavior change.
Smaller teams might not care about KPIs or return on investment. But they still benefit from a training needs analysis.
Most valuable to members and leaders of team is the specificity of the training. A needs analysis lets trainers and HR departments find out what each team needs so they can tailor the training to that group.
For example, you might find that one group of employees needs software training to increase efficiency, while another would benefit more from interpersonal skills training to improve team cohesion.
Focusing training on specific problem areas means teams see faster results with less time spent in irrelevant sessions.
There’s nothing worse than sitting in a training that has nothing to do with your job. It feels like a waste of time—and that creates a negative feeling toward training in general. That’s not good for anyone.
A detailed analysis means individuals will have the most relevant training possible. That might seem like a minor benefit—but it completely changes how people feel about the training. And because individual buy-in is crucial for driving results, this might be the most important benefit of training needs analysis.
4. Traditional Methods of Conducting a Training Needs Analysis
It’s clear that a training needs analysis has significant benefits for your training program. You meet your company’s needs, get more for your money, and create a better training experience for everyone.
But how do you actually do a training needs analysis?
The traditional approach usually has three main facets:
Many companies have statistics and records that can be used as a foundation for the needs analysis.
For example, a manufacturing company will have records of the number of defective products they manufacture. They’ll also have statistics on the injuries that employees sustain, the average cost per product, lead time, and other factors.
By comparing these statistics to benchmarks or goals, you can see how training can improve the performance of the company. If there are more defective products than the industry average, training might focus on that.
You can use all kinds of information to build a training needs analysis. Almost any data point that you’ve collected for your company might help you figure out where training will do the most good.
Some information is difficult to gather via statistics. It’s been shown, for example, that employee engagement contributes to a more effective company. Gallup says it this way: “Teams with low engagement are less productive, less profitable and less likely to be loyal.”
But actually measuring employee engagement can be difficult. There are some statistics that will give you insight into engagement, but observation will help you understand the intricate relationships that give rise to engagement (or disengagement).
Soft skills and relationships are difficult to quantify, so observation is especially useful for understanding training needs when these factors are at issue.
As you might expect, observation is a time-intensive process. You only have so many people you can send out to observe. And any particular observation may not yield insightful information. Because of this, effective observation happens on a large scale.
Surveys, Focus Groups, and Interviews
The final method for training needs analysis goes directly to the source: your employees. Using surveys, focus groups, and interviews, analysts find out where employees are having trouble, where they’d like to supplement their skills, and how they prefer to learn.
Because these methods include direct contact with the people who will undergo the training, they’re very valuable. Often, asking employees what they need help with is the most efficient way to determine their training needs.
But these methods are also time-consuming. Interviewing can take weeks, and analyzing the data from surveys and focus groups is a significant investment of time and effort. And unless you’re doing it all in house, you’ll need to pay a consultant to do that.
Even using a single method of training needs analysis might mean months of waiting for the results. When you combine observations, surveys, focus groups, and interviews, you could be looking at a very long wait until you see any actionable data.
We recognize this problem. So we do things a bit differently.
5. The Create One Approach to Training Needs Analysis
Traditional means of training needs analysis give you good results—but they’re expensive and time-consuming. Our approach solves that problem.
By running the TNA completely online, we save you time and money. Employees face less down time than they would with interviews and surveys. Data collection is non-threatening and seamless, so you get full participation. The turnaround time is much shorter.
And there’s a significant added benefit when you use the Create One diagnostic tool. At the end of the process, you’ll have a database that you can use for
- individual and team coaching,
- job templates,
- ongoing training,
- career development,
- benchmarking, and
- future planning
Don’t think of it as just giving you information on what you should train. Think of it as a more comprehensive knowledge analysis. What does your company know? What should it learn to better serve its customers? And how can you put learning structures in place to make that happen?
The Create One database answers these questions and gives you the tools you need to take action. You get more information with a smaller investment of time and money than a traditional needs analysis.
The Value of Training Needs Analysis
If your organization values learning and growth, a training needs analysis is a must. Training is always a good investment—but to get the most out of it, you need to have more than a general idea of what you want your employees to learn.