Training needs analysis (TNA) is an essential, though often daunting, part of trainers’ and training managers’ jobs.
As a full training plan for an organisation or a department happens, at best, once a year, a training needs analysis is an activity that is only infrequently required.
This infrequency, combined with the amount of paperwork involved, makes a TNA more intimidating and overwhelming than it needs to be. Here is how to simplify a TNA into a five-step process:
Set the TNA in context
The key to getting a TNA right is to set it within its proper context, whether its focus is company-wide, for a department or a new project team. The context of a training needs analysis is the organisation’s business plan and this should be readily available, especially at the higher levels of the organisation.
The business plan will spell out the organisation’s goals and objectives. Ideally, each department, each section and each team will have specific objectives related to the overall organisational business plan.
Whether this is the case or not, the training manager will need to assist the relevant line manager in clarifying the objectives of the business unit that is the subject of the TNA, be it a team, section or a whole department. If there are sub-units or teams within the business unit, the objectives of each should be clarified.
Identify the knowledge, skills, behaviours and attitudes required
In order to meet the objectives of the business unit, what knowledge, skills, behaviours and attitudes are required? The focus here is not on individual roles but on the business unit as a whole. If there are sub-units or teams within the business unit, this process needs to be completed for each.
This is an important task, but it is primarily the responsibility of the relevant line manager and the training manager should only play a supporting role.
Cascade down from the business unit level to individual roles
Having identified the knowledge, skills, behaviours and attitudes required to meet the business unit’s objectives (and those of any sub-units), this should now be completed for each individual role.
Again the starting point is the objectives of each role and this keeps the focus of the TNA on business objectives. Job descriptions for the various roles will be useful here.
Assess the current levels of knowledge, skills, behaviours
The current level of knowledge, skills, behaviours and attitudes should be assessed for each individual. Where performance appraisal systems are in use and capture such information, this will greatly assist with this task. Where gaps are identified, a training need exists in that area for the individual concerned.
Collate the material
The information gathered on gaps between required and existing levels of knowledge, skills, behaviours and attitudes for each individual should be collated at each sub-unit or team level.
This will identify the training needs of the sub-units or teams. Collating the information of all sub-units or teams will then identify the training needs of the overall business unit in question and the TNA is complete.
The information gathered at each step of the process should be retained as it will be useful for subsequent training needs analyses. In particular, while the information on the knowledge, skills, behaviours and attitudes required for the business unit and each of its sub-units and individual roles is time-consuming to uncover, it is invaluable not only for future TNAs, but for many other organisational purposes too, such as recruitment and performance appraisal.
Once the TNA has been completed, solutions to the identified training needs should be developed in consultation with the relevant line managers and individuals. As the TNA was focused on business objectives throughout the process, the training solutions too will be focused on better meeting business objectives.
This makes obtaining the necessary resources easier to obtain as the Return on Investment can be more straightforwardly stated.
Additionally, evaluating training provided will be also be straightforward, as the training will have clearly stated objectives.
Article by Nigel Nolan, a senior consultant with Sandbox Advisors, a firm that helps people with careers, job search and training in Singapore. Nigel has vast experience in training and development, facilitation, lecturing, general management and operations. For more information, visit www.sandboxadvisors.com