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Saturday, June 3, 2017


Effective training or development depends on knowing what is required - for the individual, the department and the organisation as a whole. With limited budgets and the need for cost-effective solutions, all organisations need to ensure that the resources invested in training are targeted at areas where training and development is needed and a positive return on the investment is guaranteed. Effective TNA is particularly vital in today's changing workplace as new technologies and flexible working practices are becoming widespread, leading to corresponding changes in the skills and abilities needed.

 Analysing what the training needs are is a vital prerequisite for any effective training programme or event. Simply throwing training at individuals may miss priority needs, or even cover areas that are not essential. TNA enables organisations to channel resources into the areas where they will contribute the most to employee development, enhancing morale and organisational performance. TNA is a natural function of appraisal systems and is key requirement for the award of Investors in People.

The analysis of training needs is not a task for specialists alone. Managers today are often responsible for many forms of people management, including the training and development of their team, and should therefore have an understanding of training needs analysis and be able to implement it successfully. Effective TNA involves systematic planning, analysis and coordination across the organisation, to ensure that organisational priorities are taken into account, that duplication of effort is avoided and economies of scale are achieved. All potential trainees should be included in the process, rather than rely on the subjective evaluation of managers. Ideally, managers should also receive training in the process of TNA itself, to clarify what they are trying to achieve and what their approach should be.

A training need is a shortage of skills or abilities, which could be reduced or eliminated by means of training and development. Training needs hinder employees in the fulfilment of their job responsibilities or prevent an organisation from achieving its objectives. They may be caused by a lack of skills, knowledge or understanding, or arise from a change in the workplace. Training needs analysis identifies training needs at employee, departmental or organisational level in order to help the organisation to perform effectively. The aim of training needs analysis is to ensure that training addresses existing problems, is tailored to organisational objectives, and is delivered in an effective and cost-efficient manner.

Training needs analysis involves: monitoring current performance using techniques such as observation, interviews and questionnaires 
 anticipating future shortfalls or problems 
 identifying the type and level of training required and analysing how this 
can best be provided. 
 Training needs discovered in one department are likely to exist in others. It is pointless for individual managers to throw their own limited resources at each problem as it arises, duplicating efforts and dissipating energy.

Most organisations have a personnel function which organises training delivery. You may not be the person responsible for coordinating the system, but you have an important role to play in collecting the best information you can on the training needs of the people who work for you and passing it up the line.

At the very least, liaise with other managers to aggregate training needs information, so that a range of appropriate training and development activities can be planned.

Anticipate future needs

Training needs often appear at the organisational or activity level. For example, the arrival of a new office or workshop equipment, may well have training implications for everyone using it. Alternatively, an organisation that decides to enhance its level of customer service as part of a corporate strategy knows that a programme of training and development is essential for its success.

Some training needs can go unnoticed because they creep up on the organisation gradually. Active monitoring systems are essential to spot these and can make a valuable contribution to the process of collecting information on performance gaps and training needs.

Variance analysis is one approach to monitoring. This sounds technical but is a simple tool used by managers to monitor budgets. It translates neatly to the identification of training needs. When a budget is agreed, expected monthly expenditure is detailed. Any major variance from the forecast - upwards or downwards - triggers an investigation into why it happened and what the implications will be.

In TNA, the budget numbers are replaced by performance standards and indicators which are as specific as possible. It could be, for instance, that even in a 'soft' issue like customer satisfaction, a standard can be set that says 95% of customers feel they received excellent service (the 5% allows for the small number who will always find fault, and those who always rate an experience as less than 100%, on principle). Carrying out customer satisfaction surveys allows you to measure any deviation. Asking questions at appraisal interviews can act as a form of survey, as the same issues are being addressed throughout the organisation. Identifying training needs is one purpose of appraisal.

In addition to training needs that emerge as a result of an appraisal interview, a worthwhile approach to investigating one-off problems is to interview staff and customers. Regularly ask a random sample of people for their views on the same set of questions relating to general performance - for instance customer satisfaction levels.

Investigate unexpected problems with care

Monitoring will indicate where gaps and problems exist. However, it is possible to make the wrong assumption when faced with a particular set of circumstances. For instance, unusually rapid staff turnover in a small section may lead to a conclusion that unsocial hours worked there are the issue. However, staff exit interviews may indicate that turnover is a result of cramped working conditions and poor ventilation – issues that training cannot resolve, even though the monitoring process has helped identify the problem.