A Training Needs Analysis or Assessment (TNA) is a process by which you can identify what training is required and who needs it. The more effort you put into a TNA, the more effective your training programme is likely to be.
Let's say your business is upgrading its computers and you need to organise some Microsoft Office training. You could set up a series of standard training courses for all employees to attend, and then decide who attends which session by their availability, or even alphabetically. But wait.......
Consider how much better it would be if you identified what the desired end result is, and could determine how far each employee was from that ideal. You could then work out if you needed different training sessions for different groups.
For example, if your analysis showed that 23 employees were quite competent with Excel and just wanted a quick overview of the changes between say, Excel 2003 and Excel 2010 but there was another group of 48 employees who had never used Excel and would prefer an introductory session, you would know that you should be looking for at least two different training courses, and who should attend which session.
Not only that, but if you ask the right questions, you could identify which features different employees need training on, and then get your training provider to tailor the course content to meet those exact requirements. Now you're really getting somewhere. Sending employees on training sessions where they each learn what's relevant to them will keep your staff happy and enable them to learn far more.
Put yourself in the shoes of the complete beginner who gets grouped with a bunch of others who are already very familiar with Excel. It would be virtually impossible to keep up and they're likely to be too embarrassed to ask all the questions they need to. Alternatively, what about the advanced Excel user who gets grouped with a bunch of beginners. They're likely to become bored and frustrated at the pace of the course. All of this will reflect in the employee's satisfaction with the training, and worse still in their performance going forward.
The benefits are clear. It's better for your business and your employees if everyone gets the training that's right for them and how else are you going to achieve that without a training needs analysis?
So next time you're faced with arranging training for your business, use a training needs analysis to get it right. Here's a few suggestions for how to do a simple TNA.
Find a training provider who is willing to tailor courses to your requirements.
Note all of the topics covered in all the training courses they provide which are relevant to your project. An Excel spreadsheet is ideal for this. If you know that some topics are not required by your business, remove them from the list at this stage.
Get your employees to rate their own skills against each of the topics. Keep it simple perhaps scoring each topic from 0-3, where 0 is no knowledge, 1 is beginner, 2 is familiar and 3 is expert.
Decide what level of competence you ideally want your staff to achieve using the same rating scale as above. This may vary by their job function.
Use the employee ratings to identify where the gaps are. It should become clear that some topics are in great demand, whilst others may not be needed at all. Prioritise the topics in demand on a short list, and remove any topics where everyone already meets or exceeds your ideal level.
Send the short list to your training provider and ask them to tailor the training sessions to meet those requirements. This may lead to a number of different training courses. For example, you may find you need Introduction and Advanced Excel training, whilst for Microsoft Word you only really need a session on mail merging.
Use the employee ratings to group people by competency level putting all beginners together on an introductory course, and more experienced users on intermediate or advanced courses as appropriate.
TNA's can be a lot more involved and complex than the example given above especially in the context of planning employees' personal development, but in most cases that's not necessary. Using a simple TNA is all you need to improve the effectiveness and success of your training project.
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