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Training Need Analysis: A Complete Guide for 2021

Learning and Development | 10 Min Read

Training Need Analysis: A Complete Guide for 2021


In today’s volatile and competitive work environment, continually skilling employees is a prerequisite for a future-ready workforce. Learning and development initiatives have always endeavored to enhance an employee’s performance. Yet, more often than not, training initiatives continue to crumble under a sea of expectations.

Training, then, is not just getting people in a classroom – virtual or physical. It constitutes every minor decision that cumulatively forms a cohesive training initiative. Organizations usually train their employees when there is a substantial difference between employees’ current performance and expected performance, considering time and cost-effectiveness.

Identifying the training needs of your employees in your organizational context, clearly defining learning objectives, and undertaking a competency gap analysis sets apart effective training. Training need identification or, what we like to call, training need analysis (you’ll see why we call this an analysis) is the first step toward a successful training strategy. And one that can truly make a difference in performance levels, so much so that it has to be measured.

As with any strategy, laying a strong foundation and diligent groundwork can put your organization on the path to success. Training need analysis helps you visualize the endpoint realistically, ensuring that expectations, objectives and the business impact are not far from reality.

Being in the assessment, skilling, and the L&D space for almost a decade now has made us acknowledge that while reskilling is on the agenda of many organizations, it’s the ‘who’ and ‘how’ of it that actually holds them back.

In this ebook, I’ll take you through a carefully designed process for a successful training need analysis that proffers enhanced returns. If you are still not convinced, I’ll also outline the importance of training need analysis in HRM and answer some of the frequently asked questions on the types of training need analysis, various training need identification methods, etc.

Could training need analysis be your sought-after solution that improves your training programs, engages your employees better, validates your training initiatives’ ROI, and helps you stay on course and aligned with future-of-work? Well, you are about to find out! 


The Building Blocks of Training Need Analysis

You’ll agree that training is expensive. I don’t just mean in terms of cost, but also the time and human resources that go into the entire process. In a session I attended, Vikrant Bhatnagar, Head of Talent Management & Development at Vistara SIA Airlines, shared insights on a training program that culminated with a revelation – that the program was not required! If the KPIs of the employees had been modified to accommodate a minimal change, the training could have been done away with. Surprising, isn’t it? If the organization had asked the right questions and analyzed the need before plunging into the training, it would have saved the organization some financial resources and significant time. This is why you need to undertake a training need analysis as the first step for every training and development program.


What is training needs analysis?

Training needs analysis, also known as training needs assessment or training need identification, is the structured process of understanding your organization and employees’ training requirements. Training need analysis involves methodically identifying the training and development needs in your organization’s workforce to design a training program that meets business needs and provides great returns, ultimately enabling your employees to fill the skills gap, perform better and become future-ready.  

The process of training needs identification ascertains your employees’ existing knowledge and skills to determine training needs, based on which organizations can develop training objectives and expected impact, which can then become essential metrics for measuring the effectiveness and success of the training program.

Identifying training needs helps the organization understand its present skill levels and its desired future levels to remain relevant. Training needs analysis empowers your organization’s workforce to perform their jobs more effectively and efficiently, putting them on a path of growth.

Today’s skills might be redundant tomorrow, which makes training need identification further indispensable to your organizational success. Many studies have indicated the risk of some jobs becoming obsolete. The onus is on the organization to continually reskill their employees to ensure their relevance in the future of work. Training need analysis can help your organization fulfill future expectations by analyzing the skilling needs of your organization vis-à-vis its present skill levels.

For many companies, training means diving right into its implementation. While we applaud this enthusiasm, we’d request you to take a step back and view training needs analysis as a crucial step toward the success of your training initiatives and your organizational future. Training need identification is not just a prerequisite for effective training; it equally saves time and financial resources for the organization.

Identifying training needs can be the first step toward designing a successful training program. It provides a bird’s eye view of the organizational goals and visions vis-a-vis its employees’ skills.

Training needs analysis serves as a diagnostic tool for organizations. The purpose of training needs analysis is to find answers to some familiar questions:

  • Why train? To close the gap between an employee’s performance and the skills needed to perform the job successfully in the present and future.
  • What to train in? To identify the exact competencies and skills required to future-proof your workforce.
  • Whom to train? To identify the employee(s) whose performance is being hampered by an existing skill gap.
  • How to train? To design an engaging training program for the recipients.

What are the three levels of training needs analysis?

The most commonly used approach for training needs analysis is McGhee and Thayer’s (1961) Three-Tiered Analysis. McGhee and Thayer’s model describes three types of training needs analysis. It starts at the broadest level, the organizational level, and descends to a more focused level, the personal level.


McGhee and Thayer’s Three-Tiered Approach for Needs Analysis


Organizational Level

It is a macro-level analysis to determine where training is needed the most or which department(s) or group(s) require training.

For example, a company that provides a service frequently receives poor customer feedback. An organizational-level analysis can reveal where the problem lies and how it can be rectified for better customer satisfaction. Employees can be given need-based training through this analysis.

An organizational needs assessment can help achieve the strategic goals of your organization. 

Operational Level

Analysis at an operational level determines the knowledge, skills and abilities required to attain a prescribed level of workplace proficiency, compared to the current workplace proficiency levels.

For example, if an organization wants to increase its sales in the current year, training need analysis at an operational level will help it deep-dive into how a sale is made, the defined performance standard, the operational problems, the industry standards, etc.

Individual Level

Training need analysis at an employee level identifies the difference between an employee’s actual performance and expected performance. An individual-level learning needs analysis collates insights from appraisals, work samples and training need assessments.

For example, one employee might need training in interpersonal communication to become a better salesperson, while another might need training in digital readiness.

Now that you know about the basics of TNA (training need analysis) let’s understand its importance, potential benefits and drawbacks (if any).


The Two Sides of Training Need Assessment

Why Training Need Analysis Is Important

Training need analysis is important for your organization to identify skills gaps in your workforce and address them systematically. The importance of training needs analysis lies in aligning training goals and objectives with the organization’s larger vision, making it more effective for the employee and the organization. Training need analysis assumes greater importance because of its ability to inform your organization about the future and anticipated skills and training needs that might soon be coming your way.

Traditional methods of preparing a workforce for work are ineffective. Most training programs do not sufficiently provide people with the opportunity to practice and apply new learning in a way that will lead to meaningful and lasting behavioral change. So there is a skill gap for most employees in the workforce. The problem with doing training without needs analysis is that closing that gap will be largely inaccurate. Without seeing where your team is in terms of skills and knowledge, how will you know where they need support? By just providing training on concepts you think are important to the "team," you'll overtrain certain people and under train others. Needs analysis allows you to differentiate and personalize training to each person's specific needs, which saves time and money.

TJ Hoffman
Chief Operating Officer, Sibme

Advantages of conducting training needs analysis:

  • Identify knowledge and skill gaps at the organizational, operational and individual level
  • Streamline the training process by answering complex questions of who to train, how to train and on what to train.
  • Place the training into an organizational context by aligning training objectives with organizational goals.
  • Uncover the exact training needs to design engaging training modules that meet the exact needs of the employees and organization.
  • Prepare the organization for future workplace skills and expectations.
  • Result in better impact and ROI by relying on data insights from the analysis.
  • Promote a transparent culture of learning by creating the same standards to gauge competency levels across similar roles.
  • Benefit the employees in their career advancement journey, increasing your employee retention rate.
  • Help you prioritize and plan training efforts.

A business is the sum of the value it creates. This is driven by the things the employees do, the proficiency of which is determined by their skill level. Training needs analysis allows you to: Increase employee skills, Increase the quality of business deliverables, Increase business value.

Gareth Chapman
Co-Founder, Static Caravan Expert


While you can’t disregard the benefits of training needs analysis, identifying training needs is an extensive process and needs time.

It is crucial for training need analysis to be forward-looking. Business needs can change swiftly in a volatile environment. Thus, training need analysis can be costly. However, the cost that a business bears due to the lack of skills and training is much greater.

Organizations need to design an employee-friendly process. The participation of employees is invaluable in this exercise. It should be aimed as much at employee development as at organizational development. Many organizations create short training need identification format for employees as well as training need identification questionnaires to include their employees right from the beginning.

Lastly, training need identification is an exercise that needs proper expertise and execution. If not done correctly, organizations can incur significant financial losses as well as the loss of precious time. It can also hurt employee sentiment rather than making them feel empowered.

Kim Morrison, in her article, ‘7 Obstacles To Consider During Training Needs Analysis, writes: “We’re not going to lie – it will take some time to get your training needs analysis set up correctly, but the time investment will be well worth it! Not only will you have a really clear idea of the exact type of training you need to run for your staff for the year, you will also know exactly what training you don’t need to offer.”


A Piecemeal Approach to Conducting Training Need Identification

How Do You Conduct a Training Needs Analysis?

Here is a step-by-step process to conduct a training needs analysis:


step-by-step process to conduct a training needs analysis


Clearly define business objectives & outcomes

The first step of an effective training needs analysis is to define what your organization wants to achieve through the training initiative. Does your organization want to improve the overall performance metrics, does it want to train people for leadership development, does it want to adopt new technology for employee efficiency, or something else?

Having clearly defined objectives can place them within an organizational strategy and tie the loose ends. Exactly define the expectations and outcome to be achieved through this initiative. This enables easy calculation of the ROI.

Business objectives can give direction to the training. Then every aspect of the training can be defined, considering the end outcome.

A successful training analysis begins with a clear aim. As an employer, a training needs analysis will be much more powerful in the proper context. It’s important first to hone a shared understanding of organizational goals, team objectives, and each employee’s responsibilities in pursuing those aims. Without a mutual understanding of organizational goals and a shared language with which to communicate around them, even the best training programs can be misguided.

Pablo Listingart
Founder & Executive Director, ComIT

Identify skills needed to achieve the objectives

Once the business objectives are defined, you should understand what skills are required to achieve this goal and future-proof your organization. For example, as a business, you’ve decided that you want your IT team to be at the forefront of tech innovations. To achieve this, you identify AI, ML and Blockchain skills that your developers need to familiarize with, to make a breakthrough.

Mercer | Mettl undertakes a detailed competency analysis, in collaboration with your organization’s senior leaders, to build targeted reskilling plans that align with your organization’s vision for each employee and ensure better returns on your training efforts by considering present and future skills.


Identify skills needed to achieve the objectives


Identify skills needed to achieve the objectives


Identify the existing level of skills

Now that you’ve deciphered where your business needs to be, the next step is to find your employees’ existing skill levels. You can do this through training need assessments, observations, 360-degree survey feedback, etc.

Mercer | Mettl’s pre-training assessments and offerings range from psychometric assessments to technical assessments, from coding simulators to assessment centers, and from 360-degree feedback to behavioral tests. Whether you wish to develop leadership in your organization and need to gauge the leadership abilities of employees, or you want to upskill your IT team with the latest tech advancements, Mercer | Mettl understands the competencies specific to your organization and creates bespoke competency-wise assessments that suit your organizational context. Often, organizations combine assessments with 360-degree feedback for a holistic approach to training. Some organizations prefer to test their employees’ hands-on skills in a simulated environment. Mercer | Mettl’s customizable solutions offer a one-stop-shop to assess the existing level of skills of employees from all departments.

Identify and prioritize who and how to train

Based on the results of the last step, shortlist the employees who need training. It is important to understand that you can’t train everyone concurrently. So, you must prioritize training needs. For this, you can choose the department that will be the easiest to train or the one that will most easily benefit from the training program.

Mercer | Mettl offers a more scientific approach to ‘who to train’ by finding out the most agile among the lot or the ones whose skills are closest to the required skill set.


Mercer | Mettl’s learning agility assessment and proximity index


Mercer | Mettl’s learning agility assessment and proximity index approach boost the ROI of training programs by identifying the most trainable and the learning preferences of employees. This helps organizations zero-in on how they want to train their employees. It can be done through mentoring, on-the-job tasks, classroom training, online training, university programs or courses and self-learning, etc.


Mercer | Mettl’s learning agility assessment and proximity index


Get, Set, Train

The training needs analysis is almost done. Now that you’ve answered all the fundamental questions, you must use the insights to design your training modules and set a time-frame. Conduct a cost-benefit analysis to validate your analysis and implement it.

Measure the training effectiveness

The most seasoned experts are often out of words when asked about the ROI of their training programs. If you’ve followed these steps, the chances are that you will not be caught off-guard. Some organizations rely simply on ‘before and after’ numbers; some others evaluate through pre and post-training assessments. And some others define it by the increase in employee satisfaction.

Mercer | Mettl firmly believes that quantifying the success of the training programs shouldn’t be arduous. Hence, it aids your organization through your entire training lifecycle and helps you measure the training effectiveness. Mercer | Mettl’s training effectiveness model is based on the Kirk-Patrick 4 level training evaluation module to make it the best choice for conducting training need analysis.

Whatever your metrics and objectives, it is not a one-time process. Training needs analysis is an ongoing process and imperative for a future-ready workforce. The business environment, business goals, and employees change every year. If upskilling is a continuous cycle, so is training needs analysis.

You may now agree with why I choose to call it ‘analysis.’ It requires some science to understand the ‘why’ and ‘what’ behind training needs analysis. At the same time, executing it is almost an art (as far as art can be practiced in human resource management).



Training need analysis is often skipped when organizations prepare to impart training to employees. Many organizations fail to recognize the value of identifying training needs first before taking the plunge. Training needs analysis can help your organization put resources to the right use while maximizing the impact. The final product of training needs analysis is a training program customized to suit the present and future needs of your organization and employees. It takes your organization from ‘what is’ to ‘what should be,’ ensuring your employees hit the road running on the future of work.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the TNA process?


The training need analysis or the TNA process is the systematic process by which organizations identify the training needs of their employees. The TNA process is the first step toward a successful training program and lays the building blocks by answering some of the important questions, such as who to train, what to train them in, how to train, etc.


What is a training need assessment?


A training needs assessment indicates an employee’s current skills and competency levels. This evaluation is then used to determine where every employee stands in terms of the required competency level needed for their job role. A training need assessment is used before implementing training programs to understand every employee’s training needs and designing the training program accordingly.


How do you prepare a training needs assessment? / How do you do a TNA analysis?


To prepare a training needs assessment:

  • Identify your business requirements;
  • List down the competencies and skills required to fulfil these business requirements;
  • Get subject matter experts to create customized training need assessments that measure each and every competency.


Why is it important to identify training needs?


It is important to identify training needs to ascertain whether there is a need for training at all. If there is, where and what are the skill gaps that need to be plugged through training. It is important to identify training needs to align the training with the larger business goals. Identifying training needs also helps to streamline the training process by answering basic questions such as who to train, what to train, how to train, etc.


Is a training needs analysis always necessary?


In short, yes. Training needs analysis is always necessary if you want your training initiatives to be impactful and beneficial. A training needs analysis is especially necessary from an organization perspective as it helps streamline the flow of resources – time and money – toward the training program, all the while ensuring that training is designed to make employees future-ready and further organizational goals.

Originally published January 28 2021, Updated August 23 2021

Bhuvi Kathpalia

Written by

Bhuvi is a content marketer at Mercer | Mettl. She's helped various brands find their voice through insightful thought pieces and engaging content. When not scandalizing people with her stories, you’ll find her challenging gender norms, dancing to her own tune, and crusading through life, laughing.

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