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Training Need Analysis: A Complete Guide for 2021

Learning and Development | 10 Min Read

Training needs analysis: A complete guide for 2024


Skilling employees is critical for a future-ready workforce in today’s volatile and competitive work environment. Learning and development initiatives enhance an employee’s performance. Organizations 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 employees in the organizational context requires defining learning objectives, and undertaking a competency gap analysis. Both exercises are fundamental characteristics of effective training plans. Training needs identification or training needs analysis (TNA) is measurable is the first towards creating a successful training strategy. and can make vital differences in performance level of employees.As with any strategy, laying a solid foundation and diligent groundwork can lead an organization to success. Training needs analysis helps visualize the endpoint realistically, ensuring that expectations, objectives and the business impact are close to reality.




What is a training needs analysis?

Training needs analysis, or assessment or identification, is the structured process of understanding the organization and employees’ training requirements. Training needs analysis involves methodically identifying the workforce’s needs to design a training program, enabling employees to fill the skills gap, perform better, and become future-ready.

The process of training needs identification tests the employees’ existing knowledge and skills to determine training needs. This helps organizations develop training objectives and impact, which are 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 the organization’s workforce to perform their jobs more effectively and efficiently, putting them on a growth path. Identifying training needs is indispensable for organizational success. 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 questions such as:  

  • 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 on? To identify the accurate competencies and skills required to future-proof the workforce.
  • Whom to train? To determine the employee(s) whose performance is hampered by an existing skill gap.
  • How to train? To design an engaging training program for the recipients.

The most common approach for TNA training 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 organizational level and descends to a more focused level, the personal level.


Organizational level

It is a macro-level analysis to determine where training is most needed 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. An organizational needs assessment helps 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, suppose an organization wants to increase its sales in the current year. In that case, training needs analysis at an operational level will help better understand how a sale is made, the defined performance standard, the operational problems, the industry standards, etc.


Individual level

Training needs analysis at an employee level identifies the difference between an employee’s actual and expected performance. An individual-level training 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.


Why is training needs analysis important?

Training needs analysis is vital for an organization to recognize skills gaps in the workforce and address them systematically. In addition, it is critical to align training goals and objectives with the organization’s larger vision, making it more effective for the employee and the organization. Training needs analysis can inform the organization about the skills and training needs required in the future.

Training needs analysis is beneficial to both employees and the organization at large. Some of the advantages are-

  • Identifying knowledge and skill gaps at the organizational, operational and individual levels
  • Streamlining the training process by answering complex questions about who to train, how to train, and what to train
  • Placing the training into an organizational context by aligning training objectives with organizational goals
  • Uncovering the accurate training needs to design engaging training modules that meet the exact needs of the employees and organization.
  • Preparing the organization for future workplace skills and expectations
  • Relying on data insights from the analysis for better impact and ROI
  • Promoting a transparent learning culture by creating the same standards to gauge competency levels across similar roles
  • Increasing employee retention rate by benefitting the employees in their career advancement journey
  • Helping prioritize and plan training efforts




What is the purpose of conducting a training needs analysis?

Training needs assessment maximizes the chances of implementing a successful training program and achieving better business outcomes. Training needs analysis serves several purposes in an organization.

Firstly, it ensures that training efforts are aligned with the business goals. By identifying the organization’s short- and long-term objectives and skills required to achieve them, TNA enables learning and development professionals to focus on the specific areas that need training. This alignment ensures that training investments directly contribute to the organization’s success.

Secondly, it helps uncover skills and performance gaps early on. These gaps often arise during periods of change or the introduction of new technologies. To adapt to these changes, employees need to upskill continuously. TNA allows organizations to identify and address these gaps before they become significant issues.

Additionally, TNA is crucial in prioritizing training efforts and enabling organizations to plan targeted training programs. Training plans can be tailored to address these areas effectively by identifying specific skills and knowledge gaps. This ensures that resources are appropriately invested in training initiatives that address the identified needs. Organizations can save resources, time, and energy on unnecessary or ineffective training programs by conducting a thorough analysis. This approach leads to faster learning, improved job performance, and reduced employee frustration when taking on new roles and tasks, ultimately enhancing employee engagement.

Lastly, TNA helps determine who should receive training. Organizations can maximize the benefits of their training efforts by customizing training programs based on employees’ needs. This personalized approach ensures that specific individuals receive the training necessary to meet their unique requirements.


How to conduct a training needs analysis

Training needs analysis is a carefully controlled process that answers the organization’s questions about 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 the organization’s expectations and required outcomes.

The five steps of the training needs analysis process are:

  • Setting the context
  • Defining competencies
  • Understanding where the gaps lie
  • Recommending training plans
  • Measuring training effectiveness

1. Setting the context – Defining the organizational goals

The first step in a training need assessment process is understanding the organizational vision to align training goals. For instance, if the 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 the organization creates a succession pipeline.

Defining organizational goals is crucial for training. As a first step, the subject matter experts at Mercer | Mettl take multiple sensing exercises and visionary workshops to understand the organization’s vision, mission, and goals for training needs analysis. It helps them weigh training options and opportunities that contribute most to the organization’s overall success and employees.


2. Defining competencies – Undertaking a competency gap analysis

The desired business outcome must be identified with competencies, i.e., knowledge, skills, personality characteristics, and aptitude for the role and the employees. Organizations can take help from subject matter experts to identify critical competencies that must be recognized for training. Mercer | Mettl undertakes a competency gap analysis to ensure that the organization is spending on the appropriate skills for the present and future. For example, the goal is to market the brand digitally. In that case, it is crucial to consider training to help writers write engaging content, the social media team to develop viral campaigns, or SEO specialists to upgrade their knowledge of Google.

Through a skill gap analysis placed beside organizational goals, Mercer | Mettl’s subject matter experts strive to understand where the organization currently is and where it wants to be. These findings suggest a list of competencies relevant to specific roles or teams under purview that one might consider training the employees in, which will help them perform better in the present and not make their skills obsolete in the future.


3. Understanding where the gaps lie

  • Identifying what to train

In addition to a competency gap analysis, the company can use some of the following training needs analysis methods to analyze better where the gap lies:

    • TNA questionnaire for employees

Questionnaires can be a great place to start and get the organization’s pulse. They can ask questions like what the employees would like training in, how confident they feel that a specific training course will aid their performance, what training mode they prefer, etc.

    • Conducting a needs assessment

One of the most objective ways in the training needs analysis process is to conduct a needs assessment to determine current proficiency levels of desired competencies.

    • Interviews

Formal discussions or interviews with reporting managers can be conducted for employees to help them voice their career goals and training requirements.

    • Observation & HR records

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 the workforce might require.

    • 360-degree training needs survey

360-degree feedback surveys can significantly contribute to the training need analysis process by providing a holistic view of the skills required by an individual.

  • Identifying who & how to train

Organizations use several methods for training needs analysis. Mercer | Mettl’s highly acclaimed tools – learning agility assessment and proximity index – are specially designed to help organizations identify who to train and how best to train them. The 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 curiosity. The Learning Agility Assessment indicates the following:

    • Level of learning agility in an individual;
    • Type of learning an individual is capable of, i.e., speed, variety and depth of learning
    • Learning preferences, i.e., classroom, self, or with a mentor.

Once the organization has identified the skills its workforce needs to be successful and assessed the learning agility of the workforce, Mercer | Mettl’s Proximity Index can help identify employees closest to the desired skill set. For instance, if an organization wants to upskill its tech team members in artificial intelligence, the proximity index will locate employees who already know architecture and algorithms or have Python skills.


4. Recommending training plans

A training plan for a streamlined training experience consists of the following:

  • An effective training module that is in line with the organization’s vision,
  • Covers the competencies that the workforce requires to excel in the present and future,
  • Recognizes employees and teams that are easy to train, necessary to train for business goals, or closest to the desired skill set,
  • Mentions the kind of training employees prefer
  • Suggest suitable off-the-shelf training modules


5. Measuring training effectiveness

Training needs analysis is an ongoing process and is complete if the cost-benefits of the program are assessed. Once the programs are implemented, Mercer | Mettl measures the training effectiveness; it tries to understand the training lifecycle through pre- and post-training assessments to calculate the return on investment of the training programs.

Kirk Patrick’s 4-level training evaluation model evaluates training effectiveness through:

  • Reaction: Measures how candidates reacted to training in terms of the content & presentation, the instructor. The quality of feedback the instructor captures after training is associated with training effectiveness.
  • Learning: Measures how much knowledge trainees were able to retain after the training. Mercer | Mettl’s pre- and post-assessments measure the trainee’s knowledge right before and three months after the training.
  • Behavior: Measures how the trainee’s behavior improved based on the application of knowledge. Mercer | Mettl’s 360-degree feedback tool evaluates the actual change in behavior experienced by the manager, peers and subordinates.
  • Results: This step involves measuring the improvement’s impact on competencies among employees and how it affects business goals.




Training needs analysis best practices

Training needs analysis is a comprehensive process. Below are some of the best practices to keep in mind when for carrying out training needs analysis:

  • Before determining the specific training activities, it is essential to identify the activities that directly contribute to achieving the desired organizational outcomes.
  • Training programs are more successful when they place new skills within a broader job or organizational context and integrate them with other organizational processes and activities.
  • Effective training needs analysis requires managing stakeholders, including employees, service users, educational providers, and internal sponsors. Ensuring that the training meets the needs and expectations of all these groups is crucial to its success.
  • The process of training needs analysis involves identifying performance gaps between current performance levels and the desired performance levels. It is vital to ensure compliance with laws and regulations regarding training materials.
  • Gathering feedback and suggestions from employees, such as their learning objectives and the skills they believe would enhance their performance, is an integral part of training needs analysis.
  • When prioritizing training goals, it is crucial to focus on most goals and prioritize new skills that benefit the team. Training needs analysis also focuses on improving existing skills to enhance performance.


Training needs analysis examples

Some examples to better understand training needs analysis are-


Training needs analysis for email marketing executive

The training needs analysis example for email marketing executive entails-

First, defining a goal to understand what an employee in this position should achieve. Second, taking into consideration job behaviors that an employee must possess to accomplish that specific goal. Each behavior comprises knowledge, skills, and ability requirements. Once these job behaviors are broken down into knowledge, skills, and abilities, one can look at each employee’s current level of knowledge, skills and abilities within the organization and determine the need for training. Finally, one can identify the suitable training type to develop the required knowledge, skill, or ability.


Training needs analysis at an organizational level

If a company has been experiencing declining sales performance over the last quarter, their goalwould be to increase quarterly sales performance to reverse the decline and increase revenue.

Now, in this instance, sales data and employee feedback analysis indicate that the sales team needs to gain negotiation abilities and knowledge of the latest product features, which are essential for closing deals.

The essential job behaviors include effective negotiation with clients to secure sales and accurate and persuasive presentation of product features and benefits.

The skills and knowledge identified include advanced negotiation techniques, communication skills, updated information on product features and how they compare to competitors, customer needs, and understanding how the company’s products meet those needs. According to the training needs analysis, the sales team needs training in advanced negotiation techniques, product knowledge, and competitive analysis. The training recommendations include organizing workshops on advanced negotiation skills led by an external expert and conducting product training sessions.




Training needs analysis template

The training needs analysis template can be broken down into four stages-


Defining organizational goals

Before conducting the employee needs analysis, the first step is defining organizational goals. It must include measurable outcomes like financial performance, revenue, profit, and share price, as well as softer outcomes like customer satisfaction and organizational culture. It consists of questions such as:

  • Which of the organizational goals requires the most significant change in employee behavior?
  • Do any departments need to catch up on others regarding goal progress?


Identifying specific issues

The next step is matching the organizational goals with specific issues in the company. It involves observation and assessment. It is advisable to include departmental managers in this stage and hold interviews and employee surveys to identify areas of concern regarding L&D. A training needs assessment questionnaire can be used here to determine where employees need more training, support, and resources. It includes studying the company culture and checking if cultural cues might reinforce undesirable behaviors that create hurdles in reaching organizational goals is necessary.


Defining the required knowledge & skills

The third step is defining the skills to reach where one wants to be. The more specific one can be here, the more influential the training programs. Everyone needs different training. The skills, knowledge, and abilities vary from team to team. Identifying the specific needs of each individual and team in the company is pivotal.


Setting training timelines and priorities

The final stage is developing the training program. Aside from training content, one must set training timelines and establish priorities per budget. Many techniques can be used to keep track of employees’ progress, like traditional organizational surveys, interviews, or advanced analytical methods like data mining.


Training needs analysis questions

Effective training needs analysis addresses questions such as:

  • What kind of training do they require?
  • Are there any changes in technology or processes that require additional skill or upskilling?
  • What are the essential job responsibilities and tasks that employees need assistance with or feel less confident in?
  • Are there any compliance or regulatory requirements that necessitate specific training?
  • What are the organization’s goals, and what skills will be needed to achieve them?
  • Are there any emerging trends or industry developments that require new skills or knowledge?
  • Have any recent performance issues or challenges that could be addressed through training?


How Mercer | Mettl can help

Mercer | Mettl provides a robust suite of training needs analysis methods that can be tailored to the organization’s needs. Mercer | Mettl’s Training Needs Assessment gives comprehensive insights into the organization’s skills needs critical for business success. Mercer | Mettl’s Learning Agility Assessment can be deployed to find employees who can learn quickly and effectively. Mercer | Mettl 360-View can provide a comprehensive employee evaluation with its effective feedback method.

Mercer | Mettl Training Needs Assessment is an effective suite providing holistic evaluations, customizable for specific job roles and industries, with a robust platform for organizational growth with a ready-to-use library of assessments for a fast, scalable and practical training needs analysis process.





Training needs analysis is indispensable for organizations striving for growth and excellence. Businesses can strategically align their training programs with organizational goals by assessing current skill gaps and identifying future requirements. A well-executed analysis empowers organizations to allocate resources efficiently, minimize training costs, and maximize return on investment. As the business landscape evolves, embracing the process becomes paramount for staying competitive and adaptable to ever-changing market dynamics. Therefore, integrating training needs analysis into the organizational framework is pivotal to achieving sustainable success and ensuring the workforce remains agile and proficient in emerging challenges.



1. What is a training needs analysis?

2. Why is training needs analysis important?

3. How to conduct a training needs analysis?

4. What are TNA tools?

5. What are the three levels of TNA?

6. What is a training need assessment?

7. Is training needs analysis always necessary?

Originally published January 28 2021, Updated April 25 2024

Written by

Archita Bharadwaj has worked as a Content writer at Mercer | Mettl since April 2023. With her research background, she writes varied forms of content, including blogs, ebooks, and case studies, among other forms.

Training Need Analysis/Identification

Mercer | Mettl's Training Needs Assessment

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.

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