Training Needs Analysis/Assessment

Gautam Ghosh
Gautam Ghosh
Training is often one of the biggest investments in the HR department. If the needs analysis is not done well, your credibility will be called into question by both the business leaders and the employees after the training is delivered.

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What Is a Training Needs Assessment?

The training needs assessment is the first step in the training cycle. It is also sometimes referred to as the training needs analysis. Some organizations also refer to it as the learning needs analysis/assessment. Simply put, it seeks to answer the question “what training should be delivered to the various stakeholders in the organization (and sometimes to people and teams outside the organization that support your organization).” Training needs assessment can be conducted at four levels:

  1. Organizational Level: This can happen when your company is rolling out an organizational wide initiative.
  2. Operational Level: This analysis looks at jobs and tasks that are being performed by your employees and the expected level of performance.
  3. Team Level: This will happen when a team has a specific need, like team bonding.
  4. Individual Level: This refers to the needs assessment done so that specific training can be delivered for an individual to reach a higher level of performance

Why Is a Training Needs Assessment Important?

“If you don’t know where you are headed, any road will take you there,” said the Cheshire Cat in the book “Alice in Wonderland.” In the same way, a Training Needs Assessment helps you choose what training is important, to whom it should be delivered and how and when it should be delivered.

  • Helps identify performance gaps. The goal of training is to increase performance. A training needs analysis (also called learning needs analysis) helps identify the gaps in performance. For example, when a new employee joins, their performance may be at level x. However, the company might expect them to deliver it at level y. Training needs analysis helps identify how they can move from x to y. The same would apply when an employee moves internally from one role to another
  • Helps align with business goals. Training needs analysis helps to achieve business goals by finding the current gaps in performance and assess what knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) of employees need to be developed to achieve those goals.
  • Helps determine the why, what, when, who, how and where of training. A training needs analysis helps you identify why a training should be delivered. Often managers or leaders approach the HR or training manager with a request to conduct a specific training program. A training needs analysis will reveal whether or not it is needed. Training needs analysis also helps identify the specific program that should be delivered. Training needs analysis helps identify which needs are immediate, mid-term and long term. This helps in prioritizing when to schedule which training program. In the same way, training needs analyses identify which people (by role or team or any other criteria) should go through the training. It also helps determine whether a training should be delivered by e-learning, blended learning or in a classroom setting.
  • Helps with employee engagement and retention. Employees today look for companies that help them develop themselves professionally and grow. Conducting training needs assessments helps employees get appropriate training and grow in the company. Various studies have shown this leads to higher employee engagement and retention than other factors. According to the LinkedIn 2018 Workplace Learning Report, 94% of employees said they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development.

The Four Levels of Training Needs Assessment

To conduct an effective training needs assessment, the assessment should be driven by business goals. There are four levels at which training needs analysis can be conducted within the organization. This excludes the training conducted by the company for its external partners on its products and services or certification training conducted by a company for individuals.

Level 1: Organization Level Analysis

Training needs analysis at the organizational level helps a company achieve its strategic business goals. It helps identify at a macro level where employees’ KSAs are and where they should be to help the company achieve its business objectives.

Level 2: Operational Level Analysis

Training at the operational level identifies what KSAs a company needs to conduct specific tasks to achieve a certain level of performance outcome. For example, an operational level analysis determines what training is needed when a group of employees moves from one level to the next level. Another example of when to conduct this level of analysis could be when a new tool or technology is introduced to a company or team. The analysis ascertains the various proficiency levels needed for various groups to use this new tool and what training should be delivered to them.

Level 3: Team Level Analysis

Training needs analysis at the team level is usually done when a team approaches HR to deliver a certain training program. This helps in confirming whether the training asked for is appropriate for the team/group. An example could be when a manager/supervisor of a team or group requests a “team building” or “communication” training. Conducting a needs analysis might reveal that it is not a KSAs issue but another issue related to structure or process, making the training unnecessary. Therefore an analysis can save the  company time, resources and money.

Level 4: Individual Level Analysis

Training needs analysis at an individual level helps find an employee’s KSAs level and ascertain what training they need to help them perform in their role.

How To Perform a Training Needs Assessment

Performing a training needs assessment is not a one time activity but a continuous one. However, it can be broken down into steps irrespective of the training level.

Step 1: Fix the Outcome of Training

The learning or training outcome should flow from the business goals. Defining the learning outcome helps to keep the training needs assessment on track.

Step 2: Decide and Evaluate Competencies

Decide which competencies (KSAs) are important to achieve the learning outcomes and evaluate those competencies. This can be done by surveys, assessment tests, getting feedback from subject matter experts, among many other methods.

Step 3: Find Performance Gaps

Once competencies are decided and evaluated, it becomes relatively simple to find out which employees meet or do not meet the performance goals.

Step 4: Decide the Mode of Training

Decide how the training will be delivered, whether by classroom, blended learning (partly classroom, partly online) or online. Also consider your budget for training. The emergence of new training technologies can help create employee specific learning journeys, where the system intelligently senses the training needs of individual learners.

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Questions You’ve Asked Us About Training Needs Assessments

Are there any disadvantages to a training needs assessment?
There are no disadvantages to training needs assessment, as it helps deliver training that is focused on the business goals and the learners. A potential drawback would be the lengthy time required for an organization that is totally manual.
Are training needs assessments important for small businesses too?
Yes, because the benefits of cost saving and delivering business relevant training is very important for small businesses.
Gautam Ghosh
Gautam Ghosh

Gautam is a HR professional from India who specialises in the area of Employer Branding and Digital HR. He is the writer of one of the earliest and award winning HR blogs worldwide and has been consistently been ranked by SHRM and Economic Times amongst the most influential HR people in India.

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