It is important that the right training program is selected, because I am sure there are a lot of wasted places on training courses. From experience, I remember many occasions when I had delegates on a training course whom I quickly realised were either out of their depth, or conversely the course did not offer the technical depth required of the delegate.
Keeping records of the skills and competence of staff, and ensuring this information is kept up to date will enable decisions as to who should attend training programs to be made. Also records should be kept on which training courses staff members have attended in the past. When new systems are proposed, or changes in operational procedures have to change, it is important to be able to quickly identify any gaps in skills or competence when comparing existing skills with those required after implementation of changes.
A large company may embark on some form of scoping study with the aim of determining future training needs. Often an external company specialising in Training Needs Analysis will use the results of the scoping study to examine the task required to do the job once changes are made in the business and perform some form of Operational Task Analysis. Tasks will be broken down step by step to ensure procedures are completed with the desired results. This task analysis can form the basis of objectives for any training course.
In the military where sometimes hundreds or thousands of tasks may need to be analysed, a method known as DIF (Difficulty, Importance, Frequency) may be used to determine whether any training is needed and the level of that training. By looking at each task in turn and assessing it for difficulty, importance and frequency, it can be determined which tasks need to be part of any training program and how much emphasis must be placed on them.
The next stage is to look at any training gaps by comparing the skills and competency of the existing staff with the skills and competency required to complete the tasks identified during the Operational Task Analysis. This will result in the right groups or individuals being identified for further training, and the depth and complexity of the training required.
Once the skills and the target audience have been identified, the training options need to be evaluated by looking to see what types of training is available for a particular subject. Maybe instructor-led classroom training would be best, or maybe some form of Computer Based Training (CBT), either online or offline. Sometimes a mix or blend of different types of training delivery might be deemed to be suitable. All options should be examined through a form of Training Options Analysis.
At this point a company conducting Training Needs Analysis will look to put together the final report, sometimes referred to as the main TNA document. This document will highlight the results of all the analysis phases and come to conclusions about the most suitable form of training by making recommendations. It is all too easy to recommend the training method or methods that are the cheapest option, or be blinkered into recommending a method that is familiar. The recommendations should be totally unbiased and recommend a training program that best suits the needs of the organisation that sponsored the Training Needs Analysis.
Finally, always remember that the results of any training program must be followed up by evaluation, to determine the effectiveness of the chosen training program. This may take several forms, maybe questionnaires sent out to line managers requesting information regarding the effectiveness of staff to complete tasks, or subtle monitoring of staff. It is very important not to alienate staff or make them suspicious when conducting an evaluation. Include the staff in the evaluation process and gain their confidence, because after all it is not only for the benefit of the organisation but also the individual trained staff themselves.
Often training evaluation is left to the trainers themselves, when in actual fact all levels in the reporting chain should be involved in some way or other including the trainer, line manager, training manager and the trainee, and of course senior management should be involved in the process too.
Too many times I have seen organisations embark upon training programs on the recommendations purely of a training manager. Yes in most cases he or she should have experience, but it is better to have a totally unbiased analysis of training needs, particularly when it is going to affect large numbers of trainees. Making the wrong decision could be costly to an organisation and may result in tasks not being completed to a satisfactory standard, and in some cases having to re-train staff through other methods.
Just remember that a good systematic approach to determining the training needs of individuals, or groups of individuals is always the best approach. Where there are large numbers involved, particularly when big changes are needed then a thorough Training Needs Analysis is recommended.