7 mistakes in Training Needs Analysis

If you think that Training Needs Analysis is just a formality just imagine the following scenario

Line manager comes to the learning manager and says: “I need a training for my team because I think they are little bit demotivated. I want them to have a training, but not a boring one that tells them the same staff in another format, but something that will really change their performance.”

More or less, for training managers is business as usual scenario. This kind of approach set many times a cultural background where the corporate training managers face a subtle pressure to satisfy his corporate customer, the line manager, by taking the order from she, without making a deeper analysis in a consultative manner. Of course, like in sales, the corporate customer’s satisfaction or, even more, her engagement with the learning solution offered and with the company learning function can drop to a low level when the real needs are unmet.

Whilst the training needs analysis is an entire process that is not to be described here, I am pointing out here some common mistakes to be avoided when training needs are captured either yearly, for designing the training plan, or just occasionally when a demand is rising due to an unforeseen project, product launch or such:

  1. Non strategical approach of the analysis. So you talk to your internal client, you have a consultative approach, by active listening, preparing your homework on the department/line manager’s challenges etc. However, you should also ensure the strategical alignment of the future learning solution, starting from the phase of the collecting the needs, valuing thus the opportunity to have a first hand info from the requester, to understand her business objectives.
    2. Assuming that the last year needs will continue to exist so we just have to enlarge our actions (e.g. more sales, sales, sales skills…). The incremental budgeting approach, which is widely used in organizations, leaves no much space for creativity and innovation within the learning department. The pressure for more and better from the business is so high that sometimes the wiser way may be ignored.
    3. Not following a process with beginning and end and with a distinct schedule that is transparent for all stakeholders drives sometime confusion to the organization, with potential negative impact even in the implementation. For example, if the training manager has forgotten to collect the training need from a regulatory department that has to run mandatory training, she can face an organizational mess when participants are supposed to be in two different and distant locations for two days in a row.
    4. Not using the flows of information, data and knowledge in the organization that can be obtained through the stakeholders’ involvement in the training needs analysis process. One can have access to huge information that can help a training manager to understand the real needs and to shape the best solution for the identified need. By neglecting this information, which in fact sometimes could be a very critical strategic direction, lead to missing the so critical alignment with the organizational goals. Say that your company is starting a new business line or trying to enter into a new market and you are kept in the dark, as a training manager. Your so much coveted strategic role starts with the value you can offer to the business. This value begins with the knowledgeable understanding of what the organization really needs to fulfill its strategic goals.
    5. Not segmenting your target audience, like a marketer. You choose the criteria: demographic, geographical, professional (expertise), functional etc. and for the most prevalent categories in terms of investment you can even create a “Business persona” that you can test it for the relevance of the solution. That could seem quite like an effort; however, for the corresponding sizable investments the savings from not applying the wrong solution could be significant.
    6. Training = Learning. This understanding would be a huge mistake and it is the role of the training manager or consultant to clarify this distinction to her internal clients from this needs identification phase. Otherwise, the expectations of the internal client to have her needs covered through a single shot solution called X training days, can lead to disappointments.
    7. Trying to be the universal solution bias is probably the most important aspect that training managers / learning consultant should pay attention in the needs identification and analysis phase. Firstly, understand the environment context of the requester department and how her performance is measured. Secondly, search together with the requester for alternative causes of the problem that manifests like lack of performance, bad attitude etc. Waiting for the learning solution to be implemented and evaluated to find out that it could have been solved through other organizational measures leaves again a taste of dissatisfaction on the learning solution. And nobody wants that.

I will continue to explore other processes of the corporate L&D realm, so if you found this article interesting follow me for the next ones.