How to Conduct Training Needs Analysis

There is no secret recipe for conducting a Training Needs Analysis (TNA). There are, however, important steps to consider and apply in sequence to generate a list of training needs that satisfies the organization on one hand (achieving its strategic objectives) and the individual employee on the other (gaining knowledge and skills).

The assumptions here are that:

  • Training is required to bridge the gap between an employee’s behavior and the desired performance.
  • All other solutions had been entertained and that no alternative solution to training will close the performance gap.
  • The gap is not the result of unfair compensation, lack of motivation, unclear processes, archaic procedures or faulty machines and equipment.
  • The problem has been identified and the fingers all point towards a training solution.

With that in mind, and while there are a number of recipes for conducting a TNA (none are secretive), the following four simple and practical steps are among the easiest to follow to identify your organization’s training needs. These steps are the result of formal education and years of experience I gained in the learning and development profession.

  • Step 1: Get your hands on your organization’s strategy (mission, vision, and strategic objectives), identify key terms and map them to generic training programs.
  • Step 2: Review existing job descriptions (preferably updated ones), identify tasks and map them to generic training programs.

Completing the above two steps generates a list of training programs necessary to successfully accomplish the tasks present in the employees’ job descriptions and allows the organization to achieve its strategy. However, the above steps are not enough because they not address an employee’s personal gaps which is why the training department has to dig deeper and be more specific by conducting the two steps listed below.

  • Step 3: Develop customized training surveys to measure the level of employees’ knowledge and skills on specific areas within the generic training programs identified. Results of such surveys assist in determining the level of content (beginner, intermediate, or advanced) delivered to participants. This is never an easy step as it requires time and effort to develop and administer such focused surveys. However, results are well worth the effort.
  • Step 4: Review performance appraisals and identify potential training programs recommended by appraisers. At this point in the process, specific needs would’ve been identified – specific in the sense of having a list of programs to deliver and a level for each program identified.

In addition to the above 4 steps, organizations with established competency frameworks can conduct a competency gap analysis to identify training needs. Once the competency framework has been extracted and validated, a comparison between the competency and level required by an employee and the actual level of competence for said employee (on these competencies) would determine specific training needs. The challenges of applying such gap analyses are two-fold:

  • The development challenge which comprises the development of a robust competency dictionary complete with competency definitions and behavioral indicators across various competency levels, and
  • The implementation challenge which focuses on training the users of the competency model and monitors the overall steps in the implementation process.

The above represents a few yet simple and effective steps that can make your TNA process useful in determining the training needs of your organization.