Understanding the Training Needs Analysis Process

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I knew this was coming. Oh how I didn’t look forward to it, because this is a really hard thing to actually explain or describe. It’s not really a difficult concept, though. This sort of thing happens sometimes. For better or worse, we do have to look at the training needs analysis process. This process varies very widely and wildly from one training professional to the next, and from one business and/or department to the next as well. It’s unfortunate that this is the case, because that’s one of the reasons nobody likes to write about the subject. It’s impossible to be all inclusive because nobody follows standards with this. No Standards: Oh there do exist standard practices like SWOT analysis, weakness comparisons and other such evaluation tools, but they’re not being used nearly as prolifically as they once were. I have to confess, I don’t remember the last time I actually used these myself, so I guess I have no room to complain too much. What this leaves us with is the general de facto things that have to be looked at, in order to come to a conclusion about who needs to be trained on what. While models, approaches and handling of the analysis vary, the metrics going in certainly don’t, at least not by much of anything. Weaknesses and Strengths: Usually, you’re looking at a department at a time for analysis, not one employee here and there from any given position. So, you need to know ahead of time, first, what the optimal competencies are going to be for the employees to do the job at the standard being set. Once you know this, you need to look at the strengths and weaknesses of your employees at hand. You can do this by watching them work, looking at metrics from their recent work records, as well as the information about their recorded skills and qualifications on record. Before assuming an weakness is the sign of a need for training, however, first analyze how many of the strengths of others counterbalance those weaknesses. Any weaknesses not counterbalanced, within the set of competencies you’ve formulated must be addressed in training. Weighing Needs: Before you conclude you know your needs, you need to look over the nature of what you’ve got. These needs are the sum un-balanced weaknesses found previously, usually. That counts skills nobody knows but will need to know to adopt whatever is being proposed. Weigh how mandatory this skill is, both for the group as completed, or for a set of individuals most likely to use that aspect. Weigh the costs (not just in money but time and labor) for this competency being acquired. Ones that aren’t mandatory and have high cost in time and effort to train on, can be ignored until later most of the time, unless the progression of knowledge won’t allow it. Anything Else: Well, there are soft skills to consider, but we’ve already talked about how to assess the need for those, and how to handle the various training approaches on them, so I’m not going to do it here. You see that, when you boil it down, the training needs analysis process is pretty simple. But, people, as they are wont to do, overcomplicate it.

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Jason is the former Lead Author & Editor of TrainingStation Blog