Reasons to Conduct a Training Needs Analysis
A training needs assessment is done prior to the development of a training program, once a program has been running for a while, or after a change at an organizational or operational level is undertaken. There are three levels of training needs assessment, and it is important to understand why one should do an assessment and what should be done within that assessment to gain value from taking a step back and looking at the overall goals of the training engagement.
Do you know how much your training is costing you both to deliver and in lost opportunity cost?
One of the best reasons to do a training needs analysis is to determine if training is indeed the solution to the problem or if there is another requirement (such as process realignment, organizational structuring, or management communication). At an organizational level, introducing a change, acquiring or selling a product line or business, or other such organizational changes often requires training, but also change management and improved communication. An organizational training needs analysis will help you to determine the base need for training and invest in that instead of training just for training’s sake.
Another way that training can be needlessly expensive is if the training is trying to solve a problem that isn’t really there. It sometimes happens that areas within the organization perform unsatisfactorily or roles within the organization (or even just individuals that are characterized as the roles) are seen as lacking in skill, lacking in professionalism, or something else that makes the customer experience or the transition to a new market difficult or unpleasant. A needs analysis of the role and an empathy map of what a high-performing employee looks like will go a long way to determine what performance is required to be successful and what gaps prevent that from happening. This way you are training the right people with the right skills and not wasting time and productivity on training that just won’t hit the mark for most of the group.
Finally, training that does not have a measurable impact on a key performance indicator (KPI) or meet a values target (for leadership, value proposition, or customer experience for example) just isn’t good enough to be useful training. An examination of the content, the learning outcomes, the tested elements, and the mode of delivery will give you an indication of whether or not the training will bring about a change in knowledge, skills, and behaviors with your intended employee audience.
Can you leverage your training to meet more than one area’s need?
Of course, highly specialized training for professional development often does not have a transferable element to it but lots of other training typically does extend beyond just one role or location. Building training that is based on solid measurable KPIs and with strong learning objectives means that you can build extensibility into your training and apply it in different ways to different areas within your organization. Tailoring your training to meet your key operational objectives may also allow you to extend your customer training as well, depending on the topics you wish to cover. A training needs assessment looking at the content, delivery methods (referred to as ’modality’ in training), and the testable learning objectives will help you to catalog and recognize different ways to construct and deliver training.
An example of this can be seen in product training. Of course, the product manager will have a clear understanding of the position of that product within the market, its features and benefits, and its warranties and liabilities. This information needs to be translated to suit the needs of the sales team, the marketing group, customer service, finance management, and of course the customer. A good needs analysis of existing content coupled with solid personas and empathy maps of the intended audience can assist in building a core training product that can be shaped and applied in multiple ways.
The net result of building a strong core content and learning objectives allows you to lower your overall costs in time and effort from your subject matter experts, allows all areas within the organization to “speak the same language” and allows other central areas (HR, for example, who are typically charged with onboarding new employees) to have a base introduction to what the rest of the organization is doing.
In addition to having extensible training, tying your content and learning objectives to your organizational performance measures also allows you to measure the performance of individual team members as they would all have the same knowledge and practice with your content. This leads to efficiencies in communication between groups, extends common perspectives within management, and allows a consistent brand message to be transmitted from all areas of the business.
Your training could do more to help you retain your best employees and leaders
The final reason to do an analysis of your training needs is to align your training to your performance indicators to your people management. This can also help you to develop a solid roadmap for performance management and professional development within the organization, which in turn can assist with turnover and diversity in your organization.
Good organizational measures can be trained. They can also be coached. A good training needs assessment will often result in identifying gaps not just in the intended content or role area but also with other adjacent areas and with management in the form of coaching or professional development feedback. By helping managers and other leaders see how training and coaching can help to grow trust and skills in the organization, a training needs analysis can help map out future plans for employee development and potentially management succession planning and the risks associated with attrition.
Training needs analysis is an important step in developing solutions to assist your employees and your organization to build behavior change and increase knowledge and retention. It should be done to ensure you aren’t wasting money and effort training away problems that aren’t there, or to people who don’t need it. A needs analysis can help you to identify content and performance indicators that are universal or widely distributed across your organization, which will allow you to leverage the cost and effort of developing good training and increase your overall return on training investment. Finally, a good training analysis will often identify gaps and opportunities to further develop leadership, communication, and change activities which will lead to an increase in organizational trust and better management with lower attrition rates.
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