What is Training Needs Assessment?
A training needs assessment is a method of determining whether there is a need for training within the organization and if there is, what type of training will fill the needs of the requirements. Training needs assessment helps identify learning obstacles via employee surveys, interviews, observations, etc., which in turn are translated into a training need. Conducting a training needs analysis before you begin putting together your training program is a crucial step for developing effective training materials and making the best use of your production time.
There are many reasons why organizations plan employee training programs, such as supporting the rollout of a new software or technology, to address changes in laws or industry compliance regulations, for employee upskilling and development, to aid the realignment of job functions due to restructuring, to bridge employee skill gaps, and so forth.
Plenty of time and resources are invested in structuring effective training programs, making it crucial for organizations to build credibility for their learning programs among stakeholders to justify the need for a training budget.
Conducting a training needs assessment before the launch of a training program helps lay the necessary groundwork to understand an organization’s real need for certain training programs, and to make decisions based on measurable outcomes to achieve better ROI.
Why Conduct a Training Needs Assessment?
Here are a few reasons why organizations must prioritize conducting a training needs assessment:
1. To train the right employees with the right approaches:
One of the outputs of a training needs assessment is a list of employees who are in need of a particular training so that L&D teams can tailor their training courses (and their delivery) according to different learners’ requirements.
Tailoring and personalizing training content helps ensure high levels of training effectiveness, as the more relevant the content is to the employee, the more likely they are to engage with the training program.
2. Identify any gaps in attitude (behaviour/ conduct), skills, or knowledge (A-S-K):
Competency gap analysis allows organizations to identify trends and themes in their overall workforce. These overall gaps are further matched to employee skill gaps to help managers create overviews of each employee’s strengths and weaknesses and structure training plans accordingly.
3. Reveal new training methods or approaches
Training needs assessment helps reveal new training approaches that haven’t been considered before. For instance, a survey conducted during a training needs assessment might reveal that classroom-based workshops take too much time out of employees’ schedules, making them fall behind on their responsibilities. Insights such as these help L&D teams to choose different employee training methods that cater to employees’ learning styles and promote higher engagement with the training programs.
4. Greater ROI from training programs
Demonstrating a solid return on investment is one of the most important tasks for a corporate learning team. But this often receives little to no attention, as it is not easy to determine the ROI from a training program from the start.
This shouldn’t deter teams from creating methodologies to derive ROI, which empowers teams to present data-backed reports to a company’s executives on the impact of an L&D strategy, as well as benchmark the current levels of success a program is having which allows L&D teams to improve on their current levels of success.
TNA provides answers to questions such as:
What is the objective behind a training program?
What metrics will be used to measure the outcome?
What A-S-K gaps are bridged with training?
How will the employee performance goals be measured?
Understanding the need for training programs and creating a lesson based on measurable skill gaps makes it easier for learning teams to demonstrate and quantify the importance of training. Such training programs are more likely to result in learning and performance improvement, while also giving the expected return on training investment that company leaders use to justify program costs.
Three levels of training needs assessment.
While most organizations invest in employee training year after year, not every training program is aligned with the business goals. Training needs assessments at the organizational level help identify training programs that align with the strategic business objectives of an organization.
It is a macro-level analysis to identify areas where the workforce lacks necessary knowledge or skills and helps create training programs according to these requirements. Organizational training needs assessments answer the following questions:
Where is the training most needed – is there a specific department or a group of employees that require more attention to detail?
Why is the training program recommended as a solution to a particular business problem?
What are the measurable outcomes for a training program?
At the operational level, a training needs assessment determines the type of training that will be conducted in order to achieve a specific level of proficiency. Operational level training needs assessments to assess the knowledge and skills required for specific tasks and correlate these requirements to the workforce’s actual skills. It answers the following questions:
What are the performance expectations from a job?
What are the skills required to complete the job successfully?
What is the current skill level of the workforce?
At an individual level, a training needs assessment analyzes how every employee performs in their job role. It gives you a complete picture of employee performance and whether their performance meets the expected standards. Individual-level training needs assessments answer the following questions:
What is the expected performance from an employee?
Does the employee have the necessary skills and knowledge to reach set expectations?
What is the gap between the expected and actual performance?
What training must be provided to the employee to meet expected performance?
To illustrate the 360 Degree Feedback using LXP, I am using the Mercer mettle video; Mercer remains one of the easiest to deploy tool for a variety of TNA needs of organisations.
Comprehensive Development Plan - the Infinity Endeavours Way
At Infinity Endeavours we have identified 3 composites in which the personality traits are classified:
Communication composite: How professionally he presents himself, how he interacts with peers/ subordinates/ superiors, how engaged is he with company vision, how enrolled is he in plans & policies, how influential is he with his experience and knowledge and his personal branding & imagery (including confidence, motivation, team spirit and what people perceive of him)
Administrative skill composite: Does he have required proficiency in the skills & knowledge he needs in his role & responsibility, to accomplish the tasks he need to deliver in his responsibility areas (this includes hard skills. soft skills, understanding KRA & KPI, measuring metrics, goals/ targets etc.)
Cognitive Composite: How he thinks and conducts himself, his integrity & diligence, does he melt under internal or external pressures, is he able to maneuver through unfavourable situations, how he applies his resources to achieve, how does he handle adversities and deal with failures, how fulfilled (or accomplished) is he as a person,
It’s time to assess the current skill levels of your employees. You’ll need to combine the data from a range of assessments to create a reliable data set:
Collect employee feedback. Use surveys and questionnaires to collect insights into employees’ self-perception of their skills and knowledge.
Run assessment tests. Develop tests or quizzes that evaluate employees’ understanding and proficiency in specific areas.
Offer practical assessments. Design tasks or simulations that allow employees to showcase their abilities in a real or simulated work environment.
Conduct 360-degree reviews. Gather feedback from people an employee interacts with.
Analyze individual assessments to understand each employee’s strengths and areas for improvement. Consolidate the data on all the skills and knowledge your employees have, making notes on the current proficiency levels and the number of employees that have specific capabilities.
The data from various tools and techniques (processes followed by companies, or provided by Infinity Endeavours, is captured through questionnaire, focus group, psychometric tests, feedback, skill audits, and analysed to determine the l&d needs, and appropriate actions are suggested by experts. This includes some books they can read (including self-help numbers), some simulated or theme videos they can watch, some case studies, white papers etc. that they can refer. We also suggest the kind of course or training that can help them develop themselves to be able to perform much better in their role.
We believe that when a person is diagnosed in this way and now he knows which areas he needs to work on and develop, he should be interested enough to seek by himself, but we also offer these as part of our intervention in C-A-R method, where he can learn faster. But we keep it optional. We hand over the CDP which he can monitor himself. if he choses to undergo training with us, his data flows seamlessly into our LMS/ LXP dashboard, and a comparative graph of Initial Levels, Current Levels (as training progresses) and mapped against benchmarked Required Levels for the Role; as can be seen in the following image.
This data (graph) is available to the trainer/ facilitator, the observers (HOD/ HR Dept and others as desired by companies). The progress can be tracked and seen what training administered is working for him, and what further needs to be done. Thus we set in a continual learning environment.
Our LMS/ LXP has respective dashboards for
Participants Dashboard: who knows what training requires/ which program he is nominated for (the schedule etc.), which he has attended, what has been the result and so on, he can ask for more trainings, or refreshers, and engage with facilitators, management, peers et al , that is extent of his input opportunity to the LMS/ LXP (besides access to content and engagement opportunity built-therein, for which he is enrolled)
Facilitator/ Trainer Dashboard: Our LMS/ LXP provides data of every individual and batch-wise, program-wise, date-wise, department-wise etc. where the facilitator can see his throughput and effectiveness. He gets to see participants feedback, observers' comments, Intervention anchor's comments etc. on his dashboard. The facilitator can input his comments on individual participants, on training highlights of the day, besides attendance, etc. that are mandatory requirement of intervention.
Observers' Dashboard: the observers may be one or all among HR Team, HODs, MD/ Stakeholder of the intervention (sometimes it could be Ministers or Govt Departments who would like to monitor 'Planned Action' vis-a-vis 'Actual Delivery, sometimes there are external auditors and others, we consider them as observers and create appropriate dashboards based on their data requirements). The project anchor from Infinity Endeavours has access to all the dashboards and has his dynamic dashboard from which he is able to generate periodic reports to be submitted with invoices or for review meetings.
Step-by-step training needs assessment before designing and launching a training program and planning on LXP/ LMS:
1. Determine Your Desired Business Outcomes
The first step in your TNA is to identify the organization and department goals, as well as their priorities, to determine the behaviors that need to be changed to achieve those goals.
Identifying business needs enables learning teams to discover competency and skills gaps, identify the teams that are in need of training, assess different training options, and uncover opportunities that can contribute to the success of employees, business units, as well as the organization.
As part of TNA, we at Infinity Endeavours map the outcomes with Annual Business Plan (ABP) or if there is an expectation spelt out, especially in behavioural training where some parts of results cannot be quantified or the results come long after intervention has ended. The effectiveness can be identified vis-a-vis these smaller objectives (call them milestones)
If a change management is necessitated by M&A (as in RBS taking over ABN AMRO Bank); or adoption of some best practices/ culture (as ISPAT Steel adopted the TPM culture); or policy changes at Govt. or Regulator levels (Ministry of Petroleum trying to see what could be the impact on PSU Gas companies if subsidies were withdrawn; or need for customer orientation to save large PSU bank/ Insurance company from going bust) and many such scenarios (where training & change management scenario has been anchored by the author); the TNA remains very vague and often learning objective is NOT spelt out.
Here are a few examples of ultimate goals for an organization:
Improve company's customer satisfaction ratings (The author has anchored interventions with this objective at TTSL, NEXT Retail, HP Gas, Toyota Kirloskar , Aegis BPO, IBM Daksh, & others)
Improve employee/ customer retention by 5% (Airtel, Reliance Capital, MBT/ Tech Mahindra, FINO)
Improve employee morale through better supervision by middle management (Mahindra Tractors)
Reduce customer support call time to under four minutes (IBM Daksh, TTSL, Intelenet Global, Aegis, Shell TransSource, iSmart)
In short, when we talk about business goals or outcomes, we focus on measurements such as financial performance, revenue, profit, ROI, and also softer outcomes such as customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.
2. Define relevant job behaviors
Once you have determined your desired business outcomes, the next step is to define the core competencies that everyone in the organization needs to develop, to some degree, in order to contribute to the organizational goals.
Core competency is an organization’s unique ability, product, or service that gives them a competitive advantage in the industry. Every member of the organization needs to have a basic proficiency level on the defined competency.
For instance, let’s say the mission statement of a company is to provide the best customer service in the industry to address a gap that none of the competitors have filled.
The core competency here is to have the most satisfactory customer service in the industry, which becomes the ultimate organizational goal. The next step is to define relevant job behaviors that will contribute towards achieving the set goal.
Persuasive Speaking Skills
Ability to speak confidently, stay positive, and offer the kind of compelling arguments that lead to conversions.
Ability to understand another person’s emotions and their point of view.
Ability to handle inquiries coming in via any channel – phone, email, social media, and maybe even in person.
3. Identify skill gaps
The third step is to define the knowledge and skills required to fulfill the defined behavioral dimensions. Here is what such a framework looks like:
Persuasive Speaking Skills
People Skills Interpersonal Skills Clear Communicator Crisis Management Skills Assertiveness and Directness
Problem-solving skills Active listening skills Customer Advocacy and Success Skills
Utilize an internal suite of support tools, helpdesk, and CRM software
Now that you have the required set of skills in place, the last step is to assess the current skills in your organization, that is, conduct a skill gap analysis.
This is important because different employees have different skillsets and thus need a different level of training. For example, employees working in a company’s customer support department for 2-3 years will have extensive experience with the organization’s CRM tool. Such employees might not be the ideal candidates for CRM training, while newer employees will require in-depth technical training on the tool.
A skills gap analysis helps determine whether or not your workforce’s current skills meet your company’s needs. It gives you a list of skills employees already have, need to improve, and need to develop. From there, you can fill in the gaps using training programs to build a team of skilled workers ready to contribute to the organizational goals.
4. Training agenda
Once you have determined the knowledge, skills, or behaviors that your employees must develop to achieve established goals, it’s now time to develop the complete training agenda.
To create a training agenda, you need to:
Determine the targeted end date for the training program
Identify priorities for individual sessions and groups to put them on a schedule
Determine a training budget
Decide if you want to conduct the training internally or externally
5. Choose training format
If the training needs to be conducted internally, it is important to determine the best employee training method that fits according to your plan. Here are some of the most common training methods.
Microlearning: Microlearning lets your employees learn on-the-job skills in quick, 15-minute format chunks that don’t affect their daily schedules. These bite-sized lessons are focused on solving problems encountered in daily tasks, making the content relatable and helpful.
On-demand employee training: On-demand employee training, like educational video onboarding or click-through, PowerPoints with voice-overs are great for complex concepts that are less urgent, so employees can work at their own pace. On-demand employee training is best conducted via LXP/ LMS, that enable learning while doing, make courses more accessible, and track employees’ progress.
Small team training: In-person small group training can be held when the topic is urgent but only relevant to a small, specific group of employees.
All-staff training: Longer-format, all-staff meetings can be logistically challenging, but are often the most efficient choice when the concept is a skills gap for most of the organization. A contemporary example may be training your whole team on how to empathize with the customer to improve the overall customer satisfaction rate for the organization.
Spaced learning: Spaced learning breaks down long employee training programs into several sessions or modules of shorter durations, with spaced intervals in between. Parts of these sessions are reintroduced multiple times over the course of the next few days or weeks for learners to recall information, driving long-term knowledge retention.
Once you have the agenda in place, the following stages of an employee training program cover – designing the material, developing and implementing training, and lastly, measuring the effectiveness of the training. All these stages are much easier to do well once the training needs analysis is completed in a thorough manner.