Paul Rivett, Operations Director at CNet Training Explains Why a Training Needs Analysis is So Importance to Help Protect the Future of a Business.
Analysing what training needs are is a vital prerequisite for all organisations and is an essential part of succession planning as part of a business continuity strategy. Planning and managing training is essential to avoid missing priority needs, or even covering areas that are not essential. A Training Needs Analysis (TNA) should be a component of performance appraisal systems, but is rarely implemented; it enables organisations to channel resources into the areas where they will contribute the most to employee development, enhancing morale and performance. But; when times are hard, it’s typically the training budget that gets cut first. It may appear to make sense at the time as it is perceived as low-priority. However, is jeopardising the organisation’s future really such a good thing to do when circumstances are tough?
With limited budgets and the need for cost-effective solutions, we all need to ensure that the resources invested in training are targeted at areas where it is actually needed and a good return on 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 changes in the skills and abilities required. Analysing what the training needs are is a necessary prerequisite for any effective training programme. Simply throwing training at individuals may miss priority needs, or even cover areas that are not important or not actually needed.
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 TNA, and more importantly, be able to implement it successfully.
What is a TNA?
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. TNA identifies training needs at employee, departmental or organisational level in order to help the organisation to perform effectively.
What Does a TNA involve?
• 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 can be sorted broadly into three types:
• Those you can anticipate
• Those that arise from monitoring
• Those which result from unexpected problems
How to Implement and Manage a TNA
Ensure that the identification of training needs is integrated across the organisation. 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.
Anticipate future needs. For example, a technology change in the data centre may well have training implications for everyone using it especially if it is vendor-specific and may even be a requirement of any warranty that is in place. Being qualified in a particular subject may not be enough from the perspective of the vendor who may well require product-specific training and certification to satisfy them that the product will be installed and maintained properly.
Develop monitoring techniques. 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 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 budget initiates a variance analysis. In TNA, the budget numbers are replaced by performance standards and indicators which are as specific as possible.
Asking questions at appraisal interviews is a form of survey. Identifying training needs is one purpose of appraisal. Investigate unexpected problems with care, it is possible to make the wrong assumption when faced with a particular set of circumstances; it could be that:
• The behaviour of the manager is the root cause
• Errors at the recruitment stage mean that unsuitable people are being employed
In both of these cases there is a training need. In the first example, the Manager and in the second, those responsible for recruitment. It could even include you.
Consider what type of training will be most appropriate. Can the training needs be met by using internally or is external assistance required? Will informal training be suitable or is a formal approach required?
How many need the training?
If the training needs are within your control, you can plan to meet them. If the needs are broader, you will need to make recommendations for planning and implementing training, it is important to understand what not to do:
• Make snap assumptions about performance problems
• Organise training without first establishing a need
• Taking a one size fits all approach
• A training course which one person found helpful will not necessarily meet the needs of others
• Focus on obvious training needs at the expense of those which may only be discovered through systematic monitoring
Succession planning typically covers the most senior jobs in the organisation, together with short-term and longer-term successors for these posts. The latter group are in effect on a fast-track, and may be developed through job moves within various parts of the business. This focus on the senior posts means that even in large organisations only a few hundred people would be subject to the succession planning process. The relatively low numbers involved can help make the process more manageable. That said, many large organisations attempt to operate devolved models in divisions, sites or countries where the same or similar processes are applied to a wider population.
Those responsible for succession planning need to be highly knowledgeable about how the business is likely to evolve and how such change might affect the numbers involved in succession planning and the ‘must-have’ skills. This necessitates a close relationship between top managers responsible for shaping the future of the business (including the chief executive) and the HR function, which acts as a facilitator. It is imperative for employers to ensure they develop a good understanding of future business needs for leaders and managers.
Realising the Importance of a TNA within an Organisation
The clear and systematic identification of learning and talent development needs is a key aspect of ensuring effective learning provision across an organisation. However, the process can be a rigid, box-ticking exercise unless it is aligned with real time organisational requirements. The need for organisational agility means HR professionals must act quickly to deliver TNA when required.
The process demands an appropriate mapping of organisational needs linking the learning to the desired business outcomes. For example, focusing on relevance, alignment and measurement can help to ensure that the learning needs analysis does not become too inward focused but rather maintains a clear focus on succession planning to secure business improvement and continuity.