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Training Needs Analysis: The foundation of a flourishing organisation

11th Apr 2012
Freelance Training Consultant
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James Flanagan gives a high level explanation of a TNA's 'what and how' and how it positively transforms an organisation.
 
 

Introduction

A robust Training Needs Analysis (TNA) is the foundation of a flourishing organisation. It is the catalyst for developing awareness in both the individuals and the organisation. Developing awareness creates an environment where people are more creative and think laterally. Awareness also increases the confidence necessary to implement changes to the way we think and work; we are prepared to try something new. If we are more aware of ourselves we become more understanding of the people we engage or work with. This understanding creates a more co-operative environment thus allowing it to flourish.
It begins the process of change and moving the organisation to one where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire. New and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured and collective aspiration is set free.
 
"If we are more aware of ourselves we become more understanding of the people we engage or work with. This understanding creates a more co-operative environment thus allowing it to flourish."

Definition

A TNA is a review of learning and development skill level and needs of the members of the organisation. It analyses the competencies, attitudes, skills, knowledge, thoughts and behaviours of the people. If conducted effectively it will sow the seed of change and begin 'the unfreezing' of the status quo.
The results from the TNA is an input into the training strategy and plan.

Purpose

It is conducted to ensure the training programme that will be developed and delivered is effective and meets the specific requirements and needs of the organisation. Its purpose will depend on why it is being undertaken: maybe because the organisation has set new goals, it feels it is underperforming and is not achieving its potential or the organisation is designing a new IT management system and people will need to know and understand how to use the system effectively.

Attitude

Those undertaking the TNA need to be aware both of their own attitude and that of the people undertaking the analysis. Training does not always have a positive image within organisations. Those leading the analysis need to be aware they are dealing with people; people who have potential. The TNA is being undertaking to harness that potential and allow people to become more than they are.
An effective TNA will also highlight several important issues; the morale within the organisation; people's attitude to training; the culture and the programme that is generating the analysis e.g. an IT programme. This information needs to be harnessed and communicated to the relevant departments - there may be a morale or communication need and those departments may need to take corrective action.  

Development approach

To be effective the TNA must be integrated. To ensure this happens those conducting the survey must use as inputs the business case or company strategy or plan, the correct communication tool, information of the IT architecture and skill level within the organisation and an up-to-date organisation chart to help to identify the people affected by the changes.
The business case or company strategy or plan is the catalyst for conducting the TNA; this helps to anchor it as an important strategic tool; it gives it value and makes it worthy of attention from the people. It is not something people do when they have spare time.
An awareness of the TNA needs to be created and people need to know there is benefit to them and the organisation if they complete it. Rumours do develop and escalate and it is important people do not feel it is a witch hunt. The role of the communications department is therefore important in making people aware of the survey, why it is being undertaken and why it will benefit them. People like to feel part of something bigger than they are or what they are doing.
The method of conducting the analysis is also important. Most people will have access to a computer and will be able to complete it online. But an email in their inbox may be missed or if it is just read, it may not generate the enthusiasm or interest required to generate the meaty results that are needed.
 
"An awareness of the TNA needs to be created and people need to know there is benefit to them and the organisation if they complete it. Rumours do develop and escalate and it is important people do not feel it is a witch hunt."
People may not have access to computers and consideration will need to be given how to capture information from those who do not have ready access to a computer.
In the age of computerisation it is easy to abdicate responsibility to IT. An electronic survey, however, does not capture feelings, emotions or desires. Nothing can replace the value of one-to-one contact and human interaction. Spending time with people and asking them their opinion adds creditability to the survey. People speak more freely than they will write. Interviews, although time consuming allow for verification of the findings; people will accept the findings because they feel they have been listened too; being listened to is affirming. Once involved personally people will want to know more and be more involved.

Learning methods

We all have different and preferred learning styles and this must be captured and reflected in the solution designed. Some people learn through listening, others through observing someone doing the activity correctly, others through seeing it visually, others through experimentation. It will also be necessary to determine the willingness and ability of people to leave their work places and to travel to attend the training.
The method you choose to deliver the training solution will also depend upon the numbers involved and the financial resources available.
 

Conclusion

An effective Training Needs Analysis is the bedrock of a flourishing organisation. When conducted properly it will help to gauge attitudes and morale within the company. Involving people by interviewing them for verification will help it gain momentum. The initial outcome of the TNA is greater awareness. The training solution must nurture this and develop it so the culture of the organisation becomes one of continuing learning, adaptability and therefore long term success. 
James Flanagan is a training director specialising in positive leadership and has worked as a trainer and a management development consultant in a broad range of companies including IBM, Lilly, Harley Davidson, Bupa and UNICEF 
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