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Perspectives on Training Needs Analysis

Fiona Silberbach, managing director of training and development company Changing Perspective, believes that to make training needs analysis easy, an organisation needs to establish exactly the level of performance it is looking for and then find an appropriate way of measuring the gap.

"If an organisation has clearly defined learning objectives, it then becomes easy to match an appropriate development measure," said Silberbach.

Changing Perspective offers the following advice to help organisations produce an effective training needs analysis:

1: Find the right benchmark

According to Changing Perspective, an organisation should start by determining the 'gap in performance', which can be identified by establishing the standard or benchmark that it is looking to achieve. The organisation should then look at the difference between the benchmark and the actual performance, but also look for implications of employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction ratings.

"Other ways of identifying the gap in performance may be through observation, self-assessment, mystery shoppers, focus groups or appraisal sessions," said Silberbach. "The idea is to pick on what will give you the most useful information, but fits closely with what is already happening in the organisation."

2: Determine what training or development activity is needed to help close the skills gap.

"It's important not to jump to conclusions about what the best way of meeting the need for training might be," said Silberbach. "An organisation must be able to establish clear learning objectives to determine what areas of training need to take place in order to improve skills."

However, according to Changing Perspective, the organisation must firstly be able to identify if it wants to improve attitudes, knowledge or skills and be able to:

  • State specific role requirements against the stated job specification
  • Manage performance issues in an effective manner and to organisational guidelines
  • Present a favourable case for improving the motivation of their team
  • Reduce the levels of sickness and absenteeism through managing work stress

3: Select the most appropriate way of meeting learning needs

"Once an organisation has clear learning objectives, it is then possible to decide what the best method of filling the gap is - whether it be training or another form of development, more tailored to an organisation, such as coaching or mentoring," said Silberbach.

Changing Perspective says it has identified three main types of objective: knowledge based, skills based and beliefs and values based.

Knowledge based objectives are easily achieved through interactive games and exercises, which are applied to situations and can be delivered during team briefings, e-based learning or distance learning. They need to be supported with formal or informal testing such as quizzes or question and answer sessions.

Skills based objectives need more interaction between a learner and a developer, which may be one to one coaching or group interaction through a workshop or training session. "It is more likely to require a combination of these to ensure the skills are transferred into the workplace effectively," said Silberbach. "Often it's a good idea to rehearse learned skills, so that mistakes can be made in a safe environment, where customers or employees will not suffer the consequences of the initial use of new skills."

Beliefs and value based objectives use a combination of approaches so that the individual will have time to discuss and reflect issues to hand and can make an informed decision to change the way they look at a situation.

Silberbach continued: "If the result requires tailoring to a workplace it is essential that part of the development takes part in the workplace, either through action learning, projects, coaching or mentoring. This is critical if results are going to be seen on site."

"If an organisation follows the above procedures, it is much easier to measure success as it has identified the gaps in performance and can go back at a later date to measure what has improved since."

4: Measuring success with evaluation

Changing Perspective believes that there is a right and a wrong way to evaluate the training and development process and that there is a correct time to evaluate.

"We worked with an organisation who attempted to measure health and safety standards within their business three months after completing a training programme," said Silberbach. "Needless to say, standards had got worse as those who had taken part in the training programme knew to report incidents that they didn't before! It was 12 months later that the company saw the real benefit and a huge reduction in the number of accidents."

Changing Perspective also advises that when evaluating the success of training, use the same methods of measurement throughout and be aware of what non-training events may impact results - i.e., anything which has not been identified before the training programme commenced.

Silberbach concluded: "An organisation must pick the right time to evaluate a training and development approach to get the correct results."

About Changing Perspective

Changing Perspective is based in Denby Dale, Huddersfield. Their programmes include: performance management; coaching; change management; team development; strategy and operational management; contact centre management; transformational leadership; and executive coaching for successful leadership

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© 2005 Changing Perspective. Reproduced with permission. Any opinions or views contained in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Training Reference.

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