June 11, 2021

5 Steps to Conduct a Training Needs Analysis

By: ELM Learning

training needs analysis
Artwork by Kevin Bannister
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What did you do the last time you needed to travel to a new address? We take having maps and navigation in our pockets at all times and most of the time, we don’t think much about punching in a destination and seeing our path miraculously appear, turn by turn. Unfortunately, there’s no map app to direct your training efforts. 

 

Even if you know where you want to go, how do you plan out your route? 

 

A training needs analysis is the closest thing to navigation available to you as part of your eLearning toolkit. Rather than just blindly hitting the road, a training needs analysis helps you plot out the best path to success and better spend your organization’s time and money. 

 

Every training initiative should start with a needs analysis and too often, companies rush to deploy training to fill gaps while creating new one. It may take some time up front but, just like savvy navigation, a solid analysis helps you steer around potential bumps and slowdowns to help your learners get where they need to go. 

Why Conduct a Training Needs Analysis?

It’s tempting to go full steam ahead, especially when you’re excited about a new training program, but proceeding without a training needs analysis could expose weakness in your strategy. Taking the time to survey, plan, and test solutions before a company-wide rollout gives you the chance to stop and consider what your learners need the most. Besides understanding your learners’ needs, an upfront analysis helps you:


  • Identify learning gaps before they become problematic. You know what they say about the best-laid plans; training can go awry even when executed meticulously. Without a thorough analysis you could miss out on training gaps, causing frustration and wasted time for your learners. Talking to employees and assessing where they feel unsure, frustrated, or just plain unprepared alerts you to potential issues so you can plan their solutions.
  • Use your production time more effectively. Unless you’re blessed with endless resources, you have a finite amount of time to produce and deploy training. You might be tempted to hit the gas and start development, but a training needs analysis is a vital part of judiciously utilizing your production time. With a firm path and plan in place, you waste less time in the testing phase or dealing with failed approaches. 
  • Market your training better. All good training includes a marketing aspect. You need to “sell” your eLearning to everyone who interacts with it along the way, from executive buy-in to getting learners to engage. A training needs analysis helps you identify where you need to allocate resources, but can also reveal the best way to market your training to the end users. By appealing to learners’ hearts, minds, and how they’ll benefit from the training, you increase interest and engagement even before training ever lands in employees’ inboxes. 

How to Conduct a Training Needs Analysis

Convinced yet? We are confident that a training needs analysis is the best way to kick off a new learning initiative and it’s probably easier than you’d think. Armed with the right data, insight, and tools, your analysis leads to recommendations for more impactful eLearning. Here’s how to get started. 

Step One: Identify Organizational Goals

It’s nearly impossible to plan out your training needs without first assessing and identifying what you want to get out of it. Consider your organizational goals on both micro and macro levels and it’ll be much easier to define how to get the results you need. Talk with your managers and the C-suite to nail down your goals for the next 3, 6, 9, and 12 months. How is your current training supporting those goals? Do you need more training to achieve them? 

Step Two: Identify Need Type

Not all training is created equally and not all training needs require the same approach. Once you’ve defined your organizational goals, take the time to outline what type of training would best fulfill those goals. Usually, you can break training needs into three categories:

  • Skills. Whether it’s better teambuilding, customer service, or public speaking, skills raining should offer guidance and support in areas where learners are focused on a specific type of behavior.
  • Knowledge. Knowledge training is often required for things like compliance training or production information. Knowledge-based training requires learners to experience, understand, and recall information. It may require less hands-on training, but it shouldn’t be any less engaging. 
  • Practical. If you’ve noticed that your learners are completing training but their new skills and knowledge aren’t translating to their jobs, you may need to build in more practical learning. It’s where users test their new skills in a safe space, such as simulations, role playing, or knowledge checks. 

 

The type of training you need the most will dictate how you create and deliver the material. Outline what type of learning makes the most sense, keeping in mind that you may require a blended approach.  

Step Three: Gather Insight

Don’t make your training needs analysis a top secret endeavor: involve as many people as you can. The more insight you have, the better, and your learners are endless resources for data and intel. If you don’t know what your training needs are, just ask! Sending out a survey, conducting casual interviews, or assessing current learner skills will give you the information you need to start building a case for better training. Even something as simple as observation offers valuable intel on how your learners work and how gaps might be affecting their performance. Once you’ve gathered as much intel as you can, compare what you’ve learned against your goals and needs and the path to mastery emerges more easily. 

Step Four: Decide on Measuring Success

One of the most vital parts of a training needs analysis is also one of the most overlooked: ROI. It’s because training ROI is often hard to measure. After all, you can’t assign a number value to increased confidence, better soft skills,  or a wider knowledge base. Still, part of your analysis should revolve around what a successful training outcome looks like. 

 

Perhaps you’ll finish your training with a knowledge check to see if learners understand and recall the material. Maybe success looks like a higher training completion rate than usual or a positive feedback on a post-training survey. However you decide to measure success, use it as your navigation as you proceed and work toward that metric. 

Step Five: Make Your Recommendations

The last part of your analysis should be a writeup of what you’ve learned and how to apply that information to your current and future training. Remember that your training needs analysis doesn’t need to serve as a total outline of your training needs, methods, and success. Sometimes, you may still need to reroute. Your analysis, however, should give you enough information to boost your confidence in making recommendations for your future training plans. 

 

As you identify learning gaps, measure user satisfaction, talk to learners, and start planning your path to training, your analysis serves to guide you away from pitfalls and stay on track. In the end, it should be regarded as a toolkit item that helps you make better use of your time and create the most impactful training possible. 

 

It might not be the most glamorous part of the planning process, but a training needs analysis might be one of the most insightful. Don’t skip this step because you’re eager to get started or think you know what learners want: both could cause you to lose your way and slow down your progress. Avoid getting lost by analyzing what you know and using that information to get you to your destination more efficiently. You may not get turn-by-turn directions, but you will get a clearer pathway to success.