Being able to conduct a training needs analysis is a key tool for any L&D professional. In this article, we will explain what a training needs analysis is, provide a template for conducting this analysis, and give a training needs analysis example. This guide will be useful for L&D professionals, trainers, and consultants alike.
What is a training needs analysis?
A training needs analysis (or TNA) always happens for a reason. Whether you are a learning and development (L&D) professional, trainer, or consultant, a TNA always serves a specific purpose.
The need for such analysis usually arises due to an organizational problem. This can be a lower than expected quarter for the sales team, changing technology threatening to impact the continuity of train operators, or constantly low customer satisfaction scores forcing the product team to work in a more agile and customer-focused way.
In all these instances, the problems can potentially be resolved through training. This is where the training needs analysis comes in. The training needs analysis is a process in which the gap between the actual and the desired knowledge, skills, and attitudes (KSAs) in a job are identified.
This is not to say that every problem can be solved through a training needs analysis – on the contrary! Most problems are caused by other organizational issues. Only when the problem is caused by a lack of knowledge, skills or attitudes, can a training and the required training needs analysis, be a viable solution.
This may mean that instead of a lack of knowledge, skills, or attitudes, our diagnosis may point out that sales are low because of a mismatch between the work and the rewards. Or that customer satisfaction is low because the top-down driven product strategy is not in line with what customers are looking for. These problems cannot be solved through training (alone) but require an organizational intervention.
Another example that I’ve run into, is an assertiveness training that a large county hospital was looking to purchase from a respected vendor. The problem was an increase in harassment incidents and an increase in medical errors, caused by the fact that nurses did not speak up. The organization was looking to train these nurses on assertiveness.
During the intake, the trainer realized that the organizational culture was highly hierarchical and that it was not unusual for people who did speak up to be fired or otherwise punished. The trainer refused to participate, explaining that the hospital first had to work on a culture where it was safe to speak up before training its staff to actually do so. Doing it the other way around could have devastating consequences for the nurses.
Training needs analysis best practices
Before providing you with a training needs analysis template, we will first go over three best practices that have impacted our recommendation for our training needs analysis template.
- Training effectiveness is difficult to assess. This has a number of reasons, the most important one being its disconnect with organizational goals. A best practice is therefore to start with the desired outcome and then work back to which activities lead to these organizational outcomes, before identifying training activities. This outcome can be an organizational or departmental goal or an individual target that needs to be improved.
- Managing expectations. Training and training needs analysis requires advanced stakeholder management. Stakeholders include employees, service users (the ultimate beneficiaries of care, often customers), educational providers who design and deliver the program, and internal sponsors who pay for the educational event. Ensuring that the training satisfies all groups is crucial for its success. In other words, when a manager thinks that a communication training session will solve all their internal problems, you need to manage their expectations.
- Integrated approach. Research shows that training programs that place new skills in a broader job or organizational perspective and thus integrate it with other organizational processes and activities are more successful. This does not mean that you cannot focus your training on something specific, but you will need to place what people learn into an organizational perspective.
Up next, we will provide a training needs analysis template that integrates these.
Training needs analysis template – an example
In this example, we will assume that there is an organizational need that can be fulfilled through a training solution.
When conducting a training needs analysis, it is good practice to follow a standardized template. The template we use is shown below. In this section, we will go through each of its steps using an example, explain the different elements to account for, and define what is needed to move forward to the next step.
We will first go through this template based on an organizational issue before explaining this template for individual training issues as both approaches are vastly different.
Step 1. Defining organizational goals
As described earlier, a training needs analysis is always initiated by an organizational symptom or pain point. Filip Moriau calls this ‘organizational stress’ in the context of future skills in the first five minutes of the video below.
The situation is usually that a (senior) management comes to the L&D team with one of these symptoms and asks them how they can help to fix it. These problems can range from an organization losing its innovative lead, a sales department struggling to increase market share for a fast-growing scale-up, or because the board has come up with an organizational capability that everyone in the organization must develop.
All these challenges are related to organizational goals. If this is not the case, the challenges are usually not worth fixing and the manager is unlikely to approach L&D for a training solution. If the organizational goal is initially unclear to you, take your time to explore it as this will help you diagnose the problem and training needs.
When we talk about organizational goals or outcomes, we focus on measurements such as financial performance, revenue, profit, Return on Equity, Return on Capital Employed, earning growth, and share price, but also softer outcomes like customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, and organizational culture. Organizational goals and outcomes are hard to influence as the entire organization contributes to them and they are to a large extent subject to influences outside of employee behavior. This means that it is hard to improve them through training.
The best approach is to either break the organizational goal down to a department or individual goal (we will do this later in this article) or to focus on core competencies.
Core competencies are competencies that are required for everyone in the organization. Most organizations have defined these and have specified what good performance on these competencies looks like. Everyone in the organization should have a basic proficiency level on these competencies. As there is consensus on these core capabilities already, it is relatively easy to define the relevant job behaviors for them (step 2).
However, before going to the next step, it is the role of the L&D professional to examine if this organizational goal can be reached through relevant job behaviors alone (step 2), or whether this is also impacted through non-behavioral influences. If there are non-behavioral influences that impact these goals, they should be addressed in tandem with the learning solution.
Step 2. Define relevant job behaviors
Let’s say we are an L&D professional working for a large consulting company. At the moment, a small group of partners sells large-scale projects to clients. However, in the future, all consultants will be required to sell their services to (potential) clients. In other words, this will be a new core competency that everyone in the organization needs to develop to some degree.
The next step is to define the relevant job behaviors that will build this competency. These are the behavioral elements in the job that will be helpful in achieving the set organizational goal.
For consultants to sell their services, they need to build relationships, be able to spot and explore opportunities, provide solutions, and finally seal the deal commercially. If we were to define these behaviors, they would look something like the following.
|Build relationships||Able to effectively build and maintain relationships with a wide range of potential clients; staying top of mind.|
|Spot opportunities||Able to spot and effectively scope opportunities when they arise.|
|Turn opportunity into a deal||Specify how they can solve their problem through expertise and seal the deal.|
The next step is about breaking down these high-over behaviors into the required skills and knowledge required to effectively show this behavior.
Step 3. Define the required knowledge & skills
The relationship building and commercial behaviors we have defined earlier need to be specified before we can move on to a training program. The more specific we can make these behaviors, the easier it will be to create training programs that fulfill these behavioral dimensions.
|Build relationships & spot opportunities||Required Skills |
S1. Actively reach out to create networking opportunities
S2. Establish rapport by finding common ground
S3. Adjust approach to accommodate variance in clients’ characteristics, needs, goals, and objectives
S4. Ask client of a preferred method to communicate (e.g., email, phone, WhatsApp, WeChat)
S5. Staying top-of-mind and regularly check for new opportunities.
S6. Validate assumptions about client’s financial status and purchasing readiness
S7. Leverage information related to client’s decision-making process, organization structure, and profile of all individuals involved in the purchasing decision
S8. Establish a follow-up communication schedule
S9. Maintain relationships with key decision-makers and influencers
K1. Client relationship management system/database
K2. Client’s social style (e.g., analytical, driver, expressive, amiable)
K3. Emotional intelligence
K4. Importance of customer experience to build loyalty
K5. Question techniques and how to use them to extract client needs and build opportunities
K6. Sales conversation techniques
|Turn opportunity into a deal||Required skills |
S1. Identify buying signals
S2. Sell using subject matter expertise
S3. Ask the client for its business
S4. Conduct process and identify areas to improve in future opportunities
S5. Clarify objections to understand a root cause
S6. Develop a timeline
S7. Achieve consensus versus settling
S8. Involve experienced seniors to close complex deals
K1. Closing techniques (e.g., assume close, close on minor points, overcome objection as a barrier to sale, offer an incentive to close, use last chance, ask for business directly)
K2. Difference between closing with sale vs. securing the next steps in the sales process
K3. Objection handling or resolution processes
K4. Negotiation techniques
K5. Influencing tactics
As you can see, we have combined three behaviors into two behavioral groups and defined the required skills and knowledge for each of them. In this case, we used a competency framework by the Canadian Professional Sales Association for the basic skills and knowledge elements and adapted them to consultative sales.
To finalize this framework, it is advised to get input from people in the organization who already have these skills and to go back to the assignment-giver. The former can help to check if these behaviors, skills, and knowledge will help to achieve the goal the organization is striving for and the latter can indicate to what degree the knowledge and skills accurately reflect the core competencies the organization is looking for.
The last step is to assess the current skills in the organization. Not everyone will need the same training. For example, the partners in the consulting firm will have extensive sales experience already – they will not benefit from the training. A senior staff member will require different training than an associate or a junior. All these nuances need to be determined before you can move on to the next stage.
To map the available skills, different techniques can be used. There are the more traditional organizational surveys and interviews, or the more advanced analytical techniques such as data mining on human resource information system data, text mining CVs or personal development plans to identify groups of employees with similar KSAs, and text mining of job descriptions or vacancy texts to identify required competency levels per function.
Step 4. Training
The next step in the process is the training design. Here you communicate the required learning outcomes you defined in step 3 to the training provider(s), determine a budget, scope the time investment of the training, and decide if you will work with internal or external trainers.
Do not forget to consider non-training alternatives that can also help to develop the required knowledge and skills. This can be the inclusion of these core competencies in the performance management review, adding them as selection criteria in the hiring process, and praising and rewarding the defined behavior. All these interventions will help to build and reinforce this knowledge and skills.
This is where the ADDIE model comes in. The ADDIE model is arguably the best-known model about training design. ADDIE is an acronym for Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate. Good training design goes through all five stages.
The first stage, analyze, is where the training needs analysis comes in. In this stage, instructional goals are defined and aligned with organizational goals; the target audience is determined; behavioral outcomes are identified; and learning constraints are identified. All these elements are addressed in the training needs analysis model you learned about in this article.
In the following stages, learning programs are designed, developed, implemented, and effectiveness is evaluated. All these stages are much easier to do well once the training needs analysis is completed in a thorough manner.
Training needs analysis for individuals
The training needs analysis process is highly similar for individual cases. Instead of an organizational goal, an individual or departmental goal is listed in step 1. This goal should be directly related to a higher level, an organizational goal to ensure the maximum impact.
In step 2, the relevant job behaviors are listed. When it comes to an individual job, job behaviors can be analyzed through a job analysis. The most-used approach here is the task inventory. For example, a receptionist has many duties, one of which is a hospitality duty. The tasks for this duty can be defined as follows.
Hospitality duty for a receptionist
|Answering the intercom when the doorbell rings||300/day||Medium||Low|
|Welcoming guests and guiding them to the waiting room||120/day||Medium||Low|
|Providing guests with a drink||80/day||Low||Low|
|Answering questions from visitors||30/day||High||Medium|
|Managing expectations about waiting times||30/day||Medium||High|
|Receiving and handling complaints||6/day||High||Very high|
The receptionist may have other duties as well, leading to a long overview of different duties with their related tasks. Based on these tasks, the job analyst or L&D professional can score the frequency, importance, and difficulty of the task. The information is gained by looking at the job description and talking to the manager and employees doing the job. This job analysis provides the input for step 2 and 3 of the process.
In step 3, the required knowledge & skills are defined. This can be based on the task inventory and can be supplemented by other information sources, including the ones we mentioned earlier.
Training needs analysis questions
We will conclude with a list of training needs analysis questions. These are relevant questions for the four different stages in our training needs analysis template.
Step 1. Define organizational goals diagnosis
- What problems are occurring in the organization?
- What is the organization trying to achieve?
- Which organizational goals require the biggest change in employee behaviors?
- Which departmental goals are lagging?
- Which individual performance goals should be improved?
- Can these problems be solved through different behaviors?
Step 2. Define relevant job behaviors
- Which job behaviors contribute to the goals defined in step 1?
- If the listed job behaviors are ‘fixed’, does that bring us closer to the goals defined in step 1?
- Do the listed job behaviors align with our organizational core values?
- Which cultural cues reinforce undesirable behavior?
- What other influences play a role in reinforcing undesirable behavior?
Step 3. Define the required knowledge & skills
- Which skills are required to display the behaviors we defined in step 2?
- Which knowledge components are required to display the behaviors we defined in step 2?
- Once the listed skills and knowledge components are taught, will the relevant job behaviors always be displayed?
- What is hindering the display of relevant job behaviors once the listed skills and knowledge components are taught?
Step 4. Training
- Is all the information required to start the training design and development process present?
- Are there non-training alternatives that we can deploy that will have a similar effect?
This wraps up our guide on the training needs analysis, in which we presented a training needs analysis model and template which can easily be used by any L&D professional, learning consultant, trainer, or even manager. To learn more about learning and development, please check out our full Learning & Development Certificate Program at the Academy to Innovate HR!
The training needs analysis is a process in which the gap between the actual and the desired knowledge, skills, and attitudes (KSAs) in a job are identified.
A training needs analysis and subsequent training can help in solving organizational problems that are caused by a lack of knowledge, skills, or attitudes.
A training needs analysis can be conducted in four steps 1) define organizational goals 2) define relevant job behaviors 3) define required knowledge and skills 4) training.