In today’s volatile and competitive work environment, continually skilling employees is necessary for a future-ready workforce. Learning and development initiatives have always endeavored to enhance an employee’s performance. Yet, training initiatives continue to crumble under a sea of expectations more often than not.
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 their current 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 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 holds them back.
In this blog, 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 needs identification methods, etc.
Could training need analysis be your sought-after solution? Could that improve your training programs, engage your employees better, validate your training initiatives’ ROI, and help you stay on course and aligned with future-of-work? Well, you are about to find out!
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 his 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? However, 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.
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 your organization’s workforce’s training and development needs 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 expect an 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 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, making training need identification further indispensable to your organizational success. Many studies have indicated the risk of some jobs becoming obsolete. Therefore, the onus is on the organization to continually reskill their employees to ensure their relevance in the future of work. Training needs 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 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.
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.
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 service company 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.
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, suppose an organization wants to increase its sales in the current year. In that case, 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.
Training needs analysis at an employee level identifies the difference between an employee’s actual 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).
Training needs analysis is vital for your organization to identify skills gaps in your workforce and address them systematically. In addition, training needs analysis is critical in aligning training goals and objectives with the organization’s larger vision, making it more effective for the employee and the organization. However, training needs 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.
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, a business’s cost 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 and questionnaires to include them right from the beginning.
Lastly, training need identification is an exercise that needs proper expertise and execution. Organizations can incur significant financial losses and lose precious time if not done correctly. It can also hurt employee sentiment rather than make 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 an obvious idea of the exact type of training you need to run for your staff for the year, but you will also know what training you don’t need to offer.”
Training needs analysis is a carefully regimented process that gives your organization answers to all questions pertaining to a successful training intervention – What to train? Who to train? How to train? It contributes to devising a training plan for a future-ready workforce based on your organization’s expectations and required outcomes. The training needs analysis process is a science as much as art.
The purpose of training need analysis or conducting a needs assessment is to maximize the chances of implementing a successful training program and get enhanced business outcomes. The purpose of the training need identification process is to set the context before rolling out the actual program.
The first step in a training need assessment process is understanding your organizational vision to align training goals. For instance, if your organization wants to scale up its marketing efforts or create a brand recall value for customers, the training will focus on advanced digital marketing and branding modules. On the other hand, training goals will be vastly different if your organization creates a succession pipeline. Similarly, if your organization wants to shift to a better technological environment or assimilate artificial intelligence into its products, training analysis will keep that in mind for the next steps.
Defining organizational goals roots training in a broader context, so that it is more relevant to your organization in the present and even in the future.
As a first step, the subject matter experts at Mercer | Mettl take multiple sensing exercises and visionary workshops to understand your organization’s vision, mission, and goals. And to come up with a needs analysis process in keeping with those. This helps them weigh training options and opportunities that will contribute most to the organization’s overall success and employees. Essentially, some of the questions that need an answer are – the reason behind conducting a needs assessment, the result expected, the bridge between the cause and expectations, etc.
You will be surprised to learn that sometimes training does not turn out to be the answer. Sometimes a thorough job analysis, restructuring or simple employee engagement activities can do where you thought the training was needed.
All this, however, is only possible when one understands your organization closely.
The desired business outcome must identify with competencies, i.e., knowledge, skills, personality characteristics, and aptitude apt for the role and the employees in question. For actualizing this, organizations may have to take help from subject matter experts to identify critical competencies that would have to be identified for training.
Mercer | Mettl undertakes a competency gap analysis to ensure your organization is spending on the right skills for the present and future. For example, if your goal is to market your brand digitally, you won’t prioritize your marketing team’s training in outdated strategies that are irrelevant in the digital world. Instead, you would want the best of training to help your writers write engaging content, your social media team to come up with viral campaigns, or your SEO specialists to upgrade their knowledge of Google. Similarly, no organization would want to train their tech teams in Java 8 when newer versions of Java, like Java 14, are taking over.
Mercer | Mettl gives you training choices that are forward-looking. They work in the present and prepare your teams for the upcoming changes in their fields in the future.
Through a skill gap analysis placed in the background of your organizational goals, our subject matter experts strive to understand where your organization currently is and where it wants to be. Based on these findings, it suggests a list of competencies relevant to specific roles or teams under purview that you might consider training your employees in, which will help them perform better in the present and not make their skills obsolete in the near future.
In addition to a competency gap analysis, you can use some of the following training needs analysis methods to analyze better where the gap lies:
Questionnaires can be a great place to start and get the pulse of your organization. You can ask questions like what your employees would like training in, how confident they feel that a specific training will aid their performance, what mode of training they prefer, etc.
One of the most objective ways in the training need analysis process is to conduct a needs assessment to determine current proficiency levels of desired competencies.
Formal discussions or interviews with reporting managers can be conducted for employees to help them voice their career goals and training requirements.
HRs often keep records of annual reviews, appraisals, manager feedback, etc. These, coupled with observations from leaders, can serve as a starting point for the training need analysis process to get a fair idea of what skills your workforce might be requiring.
360-degree feedback surveys can significantly contribute to the training need analysis process by providing a holistic view of the skills needed by an individual.
While a competency gap analysis will identify the performance gap, the above-mentioned training needs analysis methods will give you an individual analysis overview of which competencies need to be worked on.
Mercer | Mettl’s subject matter experts can help you zero down on the best training needs analysis method and customize it while keeping your organization’s context in the background.
However, in our experience, assessments are the fool-proof choice to see where your employees currently stand and where they need to go. Mercer | Mettl’s scientifically validated battery of assessments is based on a carefully curated list of core competencies and sub-competencies that potentially cover all kinds of roles.
There are several training needs analysis methods that organizations use.
Mercer | Mettl’s highly acclaimed tools – learning agility assessment and proximity index – are specially designed to help your organization easily identify who to train and how best to train them.
Mercer | Mettl’s learning agility assessment measures an individual’s learning ability and orientation. Learning ability consists of abstract reasoning, fluid intelligence, etc. Learning orientation comprises drive, perseverance, focus, open-mindedness, and inquisitiveness.
Mercer | Mettl’s Learning Agility tool can be deployed to find employees who can learn quickly and effectively.
Once your organization has identified the skills its workforce needs to be successful and assessed the learning agility of your workforce, Mercer | Mettl’s Proximity Index can help identify employees closest to the desired skill set. For instance, if an organization wants to upskill the tech team members in artificial intelligence, the proximity index will locate the employees who already know architecture and algorithms and, say, python skills.
Now that you’ve tick-marked the prerequisites, it is time to compile our insights into a training plan for a streamlined training experience that consists of the following:
Mercer | Mettl’s subject matter experts help you develop a reliable training plan that will take your skilling initiative to the next level.
Training needs analysis is an ongoing process and is not complete unless the cost-benefits of the training program are analyzed. Once the training programs are implemented, Mercer | Mettl closes the loop by measuring the training effectiveness of the initiative. It tries to understand the training lifecycle through pre-and post-training assessments to measure the ROI of your training programs.
Measures how trainees reacted to training w.r.t the instructor, content & presentation. Quality of feedback, captured by the instructor right after training, is linked to training effectiveness.
Measures how much knowledge trainees were able to retain after the training. Mettl's pre and post assessments measure trainee's knowledge right before and three months after the training.
Measures how trainee's behavior improved basis application of knowledge. Mettl's 360-degree feedback tool evaluates the actual change in behavior experienced by the manager, peers and subordinates.
This step involves measuring the impact of improvement in competencies among employees in affecting business goals, generally carried out by the HR team in charge of training.
Training needs analysis is often skipped when organizations prepare to impart training to employees. Unfortunately, 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 your organization and employees’ present and future needs. It takes your organization from ‘what is’ to ‘what should be,’ ensuring your employees hit the road running on the future of work.
Originally published January 28 2021, Updated November 22 2023
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.
Skill gap analysis is a strategy that organizations use to future-proof their workforce. Skill gap analysis involves assessing the current skill levels of your workforce to be able to analyze the gaps and the proper diagnosis for bridging those skill gaps.