Insights from practitioners in Information Management

Issue 54 – Training Needs Analysis

Undertaking personal and professional development is crucial in today’sknowledge driven society. However it can be a rather ad-hoc process, and can beuser driven, based on perceived requirements. In order to ensure that anorganisation does not respond to individual training requirements as they arepresented, a more formal structure is required. This involves undertaking aTraining Needs Analysis. Critically it ensures that money is spent on essentialtraining and development that will help drive the business forward to meet itsobjectives. However, it can also help highlight occasions where training mightnot be appropriate but requires alternative action. The February edition ofInformation Overload takes a look at why a Training Needs Analysis should beconducted.

In this Issue wewill be looking at:

  • Are there gaps in your knowledge base? The importance of training needs analysis.
  • What are the reasons for carrying out a Training Needs Analysis?
  • Associated Training
  • Learning styles

Are there gaps in your knowledge base? The importance of a trainingneeds analysis

“We trained hard, butevery time we formed up teams we would be reorganized. I was to learn that wemeet any new situation by reorganising. And a wonderful method it can be forcreating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency anddemoralization.”
Petronius Arbiter, 210bc

Training needs exist where there is a gap between the knowledge, skills andattributes required by an organisation and those already possessed by employees.Employers can either train to fill the current or future needs of theorganisation, or recruit and buy-in specific skills, knowledge and experience.As with all things there are benefits and disadvantages to both strategies.

  1. What is the culture of the organisation like? Will current staff be willing to undertake yet another round of change and the associated training that is required?
    Are skilled personnel readily available in the marketplace? Do you have enough work for the “new” person(s) to do if you retain your current employees?
    Training takes time, patience and money – the question is do you have time to train to get the organisation up to speed in the marketplace?

What are the reasons for carrying out a Training NeedsAnalysis?

There are many reasons why a training needs analysis should be undertaken,including:

  • Introduction of new technology: Whilst training on the new system will be required it may also highlight associated training needs. For example, moving from a largely paper based office environment (are there any of those anymore?) to an electronic environment, will mean users will need training on the new system as well as the associated systems, for example Word processing and Email.
    Change in Job Descriptions (New Duties): As our duties change, so does our need for new / additional training.
    To improve productivity and safety issues: by teaching people new skills and processes.
    To improve product lines or fill gaps in the market: Businesses that do not build or adapt to the ever changing needs of the market place will rarely stay in business over the long term.

Training and development needs can be identified at different levels:

• Organisational
• Departmental
• Occupational

Organisational level:
TNA at an organisational levelconcentrates on focusing needs against business strategy and goals. In manyways, this level is the most important because it starts with an assessment ofthe organisation’s strategic direction. One important decision is whethertraining will be the appropriate means by which specific organisationalobjectives are going to be achieved, or whether some other form of interventionwould be more appropriate.

Departmental level:
Bespoke solutions for specificdepartments or teams need to be assessed. There may be unique technological orproduct development required. Line manager views should be sought to identifythese needs and a SWOT analysis can be scaled to assess these needs.

Occupational level:
Occupational levels are closelyassociated with individual needs. Line management can identify issues to betackled that are associated with those specific jobs or occupations. Individualneeds can then be linked to the competence of individual employees within theirroles. Methods for analysing the needs of individuals include:

Review of job descriptions against current and future needs of theorganisation.

  • Appraisal and performance review
  • Self-assessment or self-appraisal
  • Subordinate appraisal
  • Peer appraisal
  • Assessment centres
  • Client/customer feedback
  • Competency assessments
  • Reviews against occupational standards including National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs)

However when conducting the Training Needs Analysis, it is important toestablish if the shortfall in Skills, Knowledge and Aptitude are a trainingissue and not an organisational or personal issue? What do I mean byorganisational or personal issue?

  • Organisational issues include a fault in current processes. It is not a training requirement, rather an attitude adjustment that needs to be made.
    Personal – may include issues such as a clash of personalities. The person(s) is capable of doing the work however; they may not want to do it.

Associated Training:
Implementation of new software aswell as changes to duties and job descriptions may highlight associated trainingrequirements. Implementation of Electronic Document and Records ManagementSystems Software may see a need for additional training in applications such asthe Microsoft Office Suite of Products. As well as some form of recordsmanagement training, such as recognising which documents need to be registeredonto the system and how it should be done.

As no two people think exactly the same it is essential to train users in theimportance of using the right keywords so that these documents can be retrievedas, and when, they are required. An organisation is in constant flux, with newpeople coming on board, staff retiring, taking annual leave, moving onwards tonew positions, it is essential that replacements and contractors know theorganisation’s language, so the associated on the job training should complementand enhance the more formal training being conducted.

All of which takes time.

But the final point I would like to make on training needs analysis, is thatyou only train in the identified gaps. Do not train for the sake of training.Think about the Return on Investment (ROI) for the individual as well as theorganisation.

Learning styles:
As you know, people learn in differentways. Matching your training to your employees’ learning preferences can helpyou speed up their learning and reduce your training costs.
Talk to youremployees to identify their preferred learning methods and include this in apersonal development plan. A personal development plan is a tool employees canuse to define their training goals and identify steps to achieve these. It isworthwhile including information on the training resources available to meetthese goals and the benefits the employee expects to get from training. Discusswith each employee short and long-term objectives to include in the plan, or youcan hire a consultant to do this for you.

Once you understand how youremployees learn, you can tailor your training methods to fit their learningstyle. For example, if one of your employees learns through observation andquestioning, job shadowing would be an effective way for that person tolearn.

For the purposes of training at work, people’s preferred learningmethods can be broadly divided into the following:

  • Visual (learn by seeing)
  • Auditory (learn by hearing)
  • Reading/writing (learn by processing text) (This category is not always listed.)
  • Kinesthetic learning or practical (learn by doing).