When I was a Training Consultant I would turn up at my client’s organisation on a Monday morning, often a different one each week, and deliver learning solutions. These solutions were designed to fill training gaps that would help staff do their jobs more effectively, and, equally importantly, improve engagement and provide the confidence to reach further in the workplace and their careers. A confident and well trained employee works more efficiently and effectively, and will often use their skills and experience to locate and take on new tasks that improve the performance of their department and thus the organisation as a whole.
My job never started on that Monday morning. It started well before that with a needs analysis. Before I went into that training room, I needed to know where those skill gaps lay and how I could best help my clients achieve their business goals. To find out what I would be spending my week on, I would conduct a needs analysis by answering the following questions.
- What is the business trying to achieve?
a. What does the business need?
Is the organisation growing unevenly? Have they had high staff turnover and are looking to get back on track? Is the business planning to branch out in a new direction by offering a new service or product? Has the organisation amalgamated roles within the business such that staff are undertaking new duties that they have not been properly trained to do?
Before you can find the gaps that need filling, you need to understand the overall needs of the business. There is no point filling a gap that won’t exist three months down the track because the business is shifting gears and leaving that function behind in the dust. This is where it is important to have a good relationship with key stakeholders in the business. They can provide you with an honest up to the minute understanding of where the organisation is moving, how quickly it’s planning to get there, and what skills are required to ensure success.
At this stage it’s important to also understand any statutory requirements of the business. A lot of businesses require certification and training in areas by law, such as training in health and safety. Make sure you understand whether this is a function you need to be looking into, because there is no point in designing a beautifully crafted training plan only to forget the most vital element of it.
b. At what level will I be working?
Am I looking at the organisation as a whole? Is it only one department that needs my services, or even just one employee? I have worked with clients that were experiencing high levels of organisational change that had led to dysfunctional levels of conflict between teams, and I have worked with organisations that have lost one key staff member and have urgently needed to get a new employee up to speed.
At whichever level you will be working, it’s vital that you understand the function of the teams and roles that you are working with, and what they need to be able to achieve once you’re gone. Again, you’re going to need to be in touch with key stakeholders and HR to understand how organisational development and employee KPIs and rewards align to ensure that you are providing the right solutions that will help staff to not only get on board with greater changes in the workplace, but to champion the changes that they need to make to grow and become more effective workers.
- What are the skill gaps?
To find the skill gaps, you will need to ask the following questions:
a. What do they have?
b. What will they need?
c. Which elements are in column B that aren’t in column A?
This might seem simplistic, but it is important to realise that you aren’t just looking at job functions. Deficiencies might be related to knowledge, perhaps of a new or existing system or process, or knowledge of a whole job function that they are now expected to absorb, such as project management or budgeting, it might be related to specific skills, like management and leadership or managing relationships with key stakeholders, or it might be more nebulous than that, such as the need for staff with greater attention to detail, greater flexibility or adaptability in the workplace.
This is where competency frameworks are worth their weight in gold. It’s also a good idea to talk to staff managers regarding performance appraisals and where staff have been pulled up in the past. I’ve also used online survey tools like SurveyMonkey to create online staff self-assessment surveys where I ask staff directly about levels of confidence and competence, and in which areas they want to be trained. Needless to say, it’s vital to have buy-in from management before approaching staff directly, and ensure that you keep the responses confidential so that the responses are as accurate as possible.
- What are the priorities and what is the plan?
Once you know where the gaps are located, you need to ensure that you understand what the priorities for training are so that you can create a suitable and realistic plan for your development sessions. Ensure the client is on board with your agenda, and that you, as the trainer, are flexible. You might turn up on the day and find that, despite your careful planning, there is an element that needs to be added, or added to, to ensure success.
- How are you going to prove your solutions have worked?
Is it through assessment or the creation of tools like business plans or documented changes to role requirements? Through performance reviews with line managers after a specific amount of time? Attendee feedback? How are you going to ensure that the service you’ve provided has met the expectations that you set? Will it be through existing reporting that is set up to monitor staff? Any training that does not have an assessment component has no ability to measure ROI. Always keep in mind that you will need to be able to show your client, and your trainees, that the training you are providing or facilitating, is both valuable and has achieved its stated goals.
A solid Needs Analysis is fundamental to providing effective training that does more than just give staff time away from their duties. Learning and Development are the key to staff development, retention, and career progression, and no one is more aware of how effective your training has been than the person attending it. Training has become a source to not only increase the capability of staff but it is also a means to generate employee satisfaction. Attendees should leave your sessions with the confidence that they have learned what they need to know to grow in their roles and meet the daily challenges of their positions, and this confidence should be reflected and measured in their performance.
Is there anything you would add to this; any tips for conducting Needs Analyses which you feel are essential?