There are immense benefits from conducting a structured training needs analysis to discover where your business or organisation can benefit most from the application of training. Often, an organisation or business sends people on regular training courses because they believe they are of value. Training is a large investment and large investments require justification. One of the best ways of justifying the need to spend training dollars, is to carry out a training needs analysis. It’s very hard to argue against a training needs analysis indicates that 84% of all supervisory staff require training in performance management.
Carrying out a structured training needs analysis requires two vital components. Firstly, the questions have to be carefully crafted. The best way of doing this is for two or three people to design the questions based on the information that is required. Secondly, the person or people conducting the training needs analysis require exceptional listening skills. They need to be able to listen to the answers so that areas not covered can be identified as possible opportunities for training. Unless the person is rambling, it’s best not to interrupt their answers. Having listened to the answer, it is a very good practice to paraphrase their answer to ensure understanding.
The first task of the interviewer is to build a quick relationship with the person so that they are completely at ease. You can do this based on your own personality and interpersonal skills. The objective is to clearly show that you are not a threat to the person and that their opinions are valuable. Remember, people like expressing the opinion and they like to be listened to. When you listen to their answers and paraphrase them, you become less of a threat. During the discussion, as the person relaxes more and more, you will gather more information.
If possible, it is best to start with the most senior person available. This will let you know a little bit about their ideas on the organisation. It is also a good tactic as you work through the organisation compare the different views of the senior people to the middle management and supervisory levels. This will enable you to ask more precise questions particularly at the supervisory level.
In my experience, the pitfalls of conducting a training needs analysis are as follows.
- It is hard to remember sometimes that the sole objective of the process is to gather information.
- Gathering information requires listening.
- You cannot gather information when you are talking.
- Some people are inhibited if you make notes when you are talking to them.