Training needs analysis: what’s the best approach?

By Anne Sexton - Last update

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Jan Hills suggests taking a more positive approach to your training needs analysis, by focusing on the outcome rather than the problem.

What is training needs analysis?

A training needs analysis is a way of surveying the training required in a business. It also prioritises different areas of training by analysing the skills required to meet an organisation’s goals and objectives.

Most training analysis focuses on what people aren’t doing and what they aren’t skilled at. This might seem the obvious way to approach the issue – identify what people cannot do, and work from there.

This mindset approaches training from a problem perspective. You focus on failed areas and fill in the skill gaps. This can be useful. However, if you focus only on existing problems, the training needs analysis doesn’t to identify desired future outcomes. These may not be related to current skills gaps.

Focusing on the negative will result in only remedial training. By asking what people can’t do, the individual and the team can only progress so far. Looking at training in this negative way means that you are looking backward rather than forward.

Get different results

If your training needs analysis takes a positive approach, you immediately get different results. This looks at what people are doing well and how to develop that.

This does not mean that those at the top move up, leaving the people doing less well behind. This kind of training analysis can help to develop the whole team far further. I use the success profile as a tool to profile the most successful people within a business. Then I identify the working practices that they use to achieve success.

Every company has strengths and areas of success. In most cases, that success isn’t consistent across all areas of the business and for all people. I look at individuals and identify the five or six critical beliefs and working practices that make the highest achievers successful.

High achievers benefit from training too

One thing that we find is that a number of high achievers feel they would benefit from deeper training. This has a double benefit. Firstly, it identifies how those high achievers can improve further. In addition, average performers learn to adopt the successful practices of high performers.

Training should be available for those that are already doing well, as well as those who have areas of difficulty. Many HR development programmes are seen as a way of fixing problems. What they should be doing is advancing and aiding everyone to do much better. By adjusting the training in this way, you can develop programmes that focus on successful practices, ensure everyone adopts these practices and help those who are already top performers achieve mastery.

Structure the training

High achievers do not always know or understand what it is they do that makes them successful. By structuring the training to identify what employees are doing well, it can be developed to expand on successful working practices and beliefs. In addition, it provides people with alternative good practices so they have more flexibility in their working.

Furthermore, if you train people who are at the top of their game, these good practices will feed down to other members of the team.

So, what practical methods can you employ to make sure you invest in all of the team, including the high achievers? To shift the focus of the training, begin with the training analysis. Change your focus when conducting interviews or surveys with senior managers to determine training needs.

Don’t ask: “What does this group of sales associates need to be better at?”

Try this: “What exactly is it that your most successful people do that your average people don’t?”

By refocusing the training needs analysis to look forward to desired outcomes, rather than only looking backwards and filling skills gaps, you can develop a training programme that can benefit the whole team.

First published by HR Zone

Anne Sexton

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