This Training Needs Analysis Guide will help you:
- Understand the importance of a needs analysis
- Learn how to do a needs analysis
- Identify methods and tools that will help your specific situation
- Determine if you can create the training content yourself or if you need help
Chapter 1: What is a Needs Analysis?
A needs analysis is a process that helps determine the learning needs of individual employees and the greater organization before creating training materials. Before you jump right into making a course it’s critical to conduct a needs analysis. Through a needs analysis, you can evaluate whether your employees have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to meet the goals of the larger organization. A successful needs analysis uncovers measurable performance gaps. Once you know the gaps, you can start to build the bridges – through training!
Chapter 2: How to Do a Needs Analysis
1. Use a Template
The best way to start a needs analysis process is to pick a template and customize it to your specific situation. The template will guide you in gathering everything you need to create a successful learning experience, such as the purpose of the training, the desired outcome, and the specific performance gaps that need to be closed.
Solid needs analysis templates feature a questionnaire. Answering pointed questions will help you re-visit your existing program and evaluate its effectiveness. Here are ten questions I’ve found most organizations utilize during a needs analysis:
- Why do we want to create training?
- Who are my learners?
- What do we want the learners to accomplish?
- Why isn’t the current training effective?
- What are my learners’ knowledge gaps?
- What challenges will we face?
- How will the training help my business?
- When do we need it?
- How much time and money can we invest?
- What kind of training will help?
The ten questions above are from my perspective as a custom content creator. Before I make any course as a learning strategist or as an instructional designer, I ask these questions. I recommend including the questions in your needs analysis questionnaire.
If you want to broaden your analysis, I suggest reviewing the following templates to customize your questionnaire.
2. Gather Data
You’ll be able to answer the questions in your template by gathering data. There are many different ways to gather this data so you can find out what your employees already know and what they need to learn. Mix and match the methods below to find what works best for your organization and your goals:
- Curriculum Review
- Comparable Samples
By seeing your employees in action, you can assess their strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvement. Direct observation may also yield threats to your overall training efforts, but those will typically surface through interviews.
Talking with your employees, managers, and executives, will give you anecdotal information and real-world examples of problems that need training. Interviews will help you reveal the root causes of performance gaps. The interview is a great way to identify perception. As we know, perception is reality for most people. If you know more about how people think and perceive situations, it’s easier to create training that will actually “speak” to them and their needs. Without input via interview and/or focus groups, you’ll miss the human element of training.
Compiling, organizing, and reviewing all of the past and current training methods is vital to a needs analysis. You may be able to reuse or remix helpful sources from the past for your future training. You will also uncover what training methods worked before and what may no longer be effective.
Training reports come in many forms such as:
- performance evaluations
- weekly or monthly written reports by trainers, and
- data reports from a Learning Management System
While reviewing these reports, look for trends and any conclusions you may be able to draw from them that relate to the objectives of your proposed training. You’ll also want to be on the lookout for any data that shows potential impacts on your organization. For example, a company I was working with found a high number of complaints about several training modules related to their new financial software. It was later determined that there was a bug in the software that was causing the issue. The analysis saved the company tens of thousands of dollars in training re-development and tasked a developer to fix the bug.
Toward the end of your needs analysis process, you’ll want to find out how your competitors are training their people. If they are using eLearning courses to teach the same subject matter, it is extremely helpful for you to see what they’ve made and how it may compare to the training you want to create.
The final stage of the needs analysis is review. Share your findings with your internal training team. I suggest assigning a small group (if possible) to compile the data into a single report with an executive summary and a list of recommendations. Once you have met with your training team, share the results with your executives and/or decision-makers. Stand tall and offer your suggestions that will lead to an improvement in your organization. The goal of any training is to advance the knowledge, skills, and abilities of your employees.
Chapter 3: Delivery Method
Before choosing your methods and tools to close your performance gaps, keep your purpose in focus. A needs analysis is a process that helps determine the learning needs of individual employees and the greater organization before you create training materials. Once you’ve completed the tasks in chapter two, now you are ready to match performance gaps with training methods. As you review the methods in Chapter 4: Types of eLearning and Chapter 5: In-person Training Methods, strive for a blended learning approach.
Blended learning combines online and in-person instruction to offer the learner the best of both worlds. It’s a holistic approach that has something to offer for all types of learners. Using eLearning can keep costs down and increase productivity. Employees also like it because of the convenience and engagement it provides. Technology is great, but face-to-face interaction will always be valuable in learning. Many argue that the best way to teach skills and abilities is through one-on-one in-person training. Think about the master and apprentice relationship that can be traced back to ancient civilizations. If you can combine eLearning with in-person or on-the-job training, your learners will thrive. If in-person training is not an option, then please focus your efforts on highly engaging eLearning that delivers results.
Chapter 4: Types of eLearning eLearning
If you’ve gotten this far, you’ve decided that eLearning is a part of your organization’s training plan. Here are the three types of eLearning courses you can create based on three levels of learning. The eLearning industry categorizes courses into three levels based on the learning experience, cost, and development time. Below each learning level, you’ll find the corresponding Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy Model. The Revised Taxonomy is based on decades of research by cognitive psychologists. It is the standard glossary of verbs or action words used to generate learning objectives.
Level 1: Basic
At the basic level, interactivity is limited to learners clicking “next” to progress through the training and selecting answers to multiple-choice questions. Text and images are static. There may be narration and a limited number of videos. A common example of level one eLearning is a basic PowerPoint slide deck that’s been converted to be minimally interactive. This type of basic course is ideal for simply displaying information to your learners and testing to see if they can recall & understand it.
Level 2: Intermediate
The intermediate level course has opportunities for the learner to engage with more interactive elements ranging from drag-and-drop exercises to single path simulations. Professional narration is standard, as is the use of video and animation. Video features human actors on-screen. Talking head videos in limited scenes are common. The on-camera talent is usually a mix of internal employees and professional actors. Animation utilizes off-the-shelf graphics and pre-made motion to keep the learner’s attention. In other words, animation is not cartoon animation like you see on television. Instead, level two animation features pictures and words moving around the screen. Text is often dynamic, meaning movement is added for emphasis, along with visual depictions that feature pre-made iconography.
Level 3: Complex
At the complex level, the learners work through simulations and make choices that could lead them down different paths. This is called “branching.” Branched simulations can provide the most realistic workplace environment that computer-based training has to offer. The best and most effective eLearning allows the learner to make decisions, fail, and try again. These complex courses also feature professional video, top-notch animation, and original graphics.
Chapter 5: In-Person Training Methods
If you identified the need for an increase in your employees’ skills and abilities, then eLearning alone may not be enough. Here is a list of in-person training types you can blend with eLearning to ensure a robust and successful training program:
As you can probably guess, this entails a group of people in a room together learning the same thing, led by a trainer. Visual and audio aids may be used such as videos or PowerPoint presentations. The learners are also usually given some sort of educational document relevant to the topic of training such as a manual or job aid. Classroom instruction may be similar to a traditional lecture and could also include in-class quizzes as well as small group activities such as peer critiques.
Mentoring and coaching are training techniques focused on the growth of individuals. Employees develop a one-on-one relationship with an accomplished colleague, manager, or outside industry professionals to explore their thought processes and motivations as well as their personal and professional goals. A mentor or coach can also help an individual identify these goals, which could mean anything from developing a new skill to getting promoted.
In a live tutorial, a trainer walks the learner(s) through concepts and processes in real-time. Offering a step-by-step demonstration, the trainer offers authentic real-life commentary on how to do something. For software training, the trainer might show the class what actions they are taking on their computer screen as learners follow or click along. On a shop floor, the CNC operator may show a small group the idiosyncrasies of running a program by demonstrating where to stand, when to approach the machine, and how to handle the product.
Roleplaying involves learners pretending to be in common on-the-job situations, acting them out as if they are real. Under the supervision of the trainer, it is a chance to demonstrate newly learned processes, protocols, and knowledge. For example, one employee might pretend to be a customer asking about a new product and the other employee would pretend to be on the sales floor answering their questions. The trainer might point out ways in which the interaction could have been improved, or correct any incorrect information or actions taken.
This name says it all. In hands-on training, people get real and direct experience with whatever they are learning, as they’re learning it. A trainer or supervisor is present to provide guidance and assistance. Not only is this technique efficient because real work is getting done during the training, but it is also empowering for the employee.
Chapter 6: Take Action
Now that you have a completed needs analysis and have made some decisions about your training, you are ready to work with your internal training team. Together you can build a blended learning approach that will close performance gaps, develop your people, and improve the business.
Is your training department to small to handle the project? It’s okay to ask for help. Figure out how much help you need, get them on board, and put your plan into action.
If you find that you need to bring in outside assistance, I suggest you look at a few resources to help you vet potential eLearning partners and find out what to expect in working with them.
Are you ready to bring in an expert to get things going? Fill out the Consulting Service Request Form and start making learning today.