This article describes Training Needs Assessment (TNA) in a practical way. After reading you will understand the definition and basics of this powerful Human Resources and management concept.
What is Training Needs Assessment (TNA)?
Organisations depend on their employees. It’s therefore a good idea to invest in them and ensure that their qualities don’t go unutilised. Skills can be increased by offering training and education. This will also lead to more motivated employees. However, companies tend to go overboard when it comes to offering a wide variety of training to their employees and even forcing it on them. That increases the likelihood that it will backfire and will actually harm employee motivation. By first determining what they want and need in terms of training, it’s possible to offer a relevant selection of training and education. Using a Training Needs Analysis (TNA), the gap between the employees’ education and the related training need can be determined.
Reasons for Training Needs Assessment (TNA)
Training Needs Assessment (TNA) is the first phase in the training process. It makes it clear whether training will help to resolve a problem that has been identified within the organisation. TNA is also referred to as Learning Needs Analysis (LNA). Training Needs Assessment (TNA) is the first step to change. For example, training can help to realise a shift in the organisational culture. A Training Needs Assessment (TNA) should always be conducted when a new policy development is being implemented, or when far-reaching changes are planned regarding procedures, methods, or the purchase of new equipment. Everything that can potentially impact the organisation and the employees should be looked at with a TNA.
In many cases, a Training Needs Assessment (TNA) is carried out in response to employee evaluations or as part of performance management. But technological changes or new IT can also lead to a TNA. It’s basically a GAP analysis that compares the present situation to the desired situation. If the TNA shows that over half the employees has no idea how to work with the SharePoint software programme, it’s a good idea to offer an introductory course to all employees teaching them the benefits of SharePoint.
In addition to the reasons for conducting a Training Needs Assessment (TNA) mentioned above, new laws, reduced productivity, or a negative response from a customer satisfaction survey may play a role in the decision to have one.
Training Needs Assessment (TNA) advantages
Training Needs Assessment (TNA) has a number of advantages. In the case of changes within an organisation, it will speed up the transition from the old situation to the new one. The better employees are prepared for a change through training, the faster they will adjust to the new reality and be motivated to get to work. Only when they understand the strategic need and what is expected of them, will they except training for, for instance, knowledge acquisition, attitude adjustment, or practical skills.
The goal of training is to teach employee better skills that will increase and improve their performance in the workplace. Training Needs Assessment (TNA) looks at the operational task range and the needs of employees, making it possible to correctly identify all the human elements. When that’s done, specific types of training can be considered, so the most suitable one can be selected. Establishing the requirements for training always runs parallel to processes such as system development, cultural shift, and organisational changes.
The goal of Training Needs Assessment (TNA) is to build a formal bridge between what is needed within the organisation and in the workplace, and the offer of all the training options available. The transfer of training elements to the operational work environment will become easier as a result. It is however still a good idea to understand the context, to increase the likelihood of successfully implementing TNA in organisations. Using an audit the current situation can be assessed, making clear which desired changes in position or responsibilities, technological or organisational developments exist. The audit will make clear exactly what is needed to raise employees or a team to a higher level. This should be an integrated approach within organisations. One that is done again and again to keep the organisation on its toes. The result will be interaction between how the training is designed and what the operational needs are.
Identifying Training Needs Assessment (TNA)
As was previously mentioned, audits are the best way to get started with Training Needs Assessment (TNA). For instance, using simple questionnaires to ask employees what they need. Supervisors play an important role here as well; they know exactly what the relationships are and if there might be a need for soft-skill training such as ‘giving feedback‘ and ‘receiving feedback‘, ‘communication skills’, or ‘workplace etiquette’. Training can of course be focused on the skills, knowledge, and competencies of employees, but training intended to achieve changes in behaviour and attitude is often welcome in the event of culture changes.
Employees answering questions contributes to the self-awareness of the organisation as a whole. Furthermore, employees will be prepared for the possibility of additional training. This will eventually demonstrate an actual need for training, which aligns with the performance that is required and might not yet be 100% present in the workplace in the current situation.
In addition to questionnaires, individual employee interviews may also be part of a Training Needs Assessment (TNA). Other instruments for identifying training needs are making workplace observations and evaluations of individual employees. The outcome of a SWOT analysis can also provide a clear picture of an organisation’s current situation. Specifically, the internal strength-and-weakness analysis provides a lot of information about this. Especially the weaknesses can expose shortcomings in terms of personnel, lacking proper equipment, or lacking the skills to work with specific software. These are just a few examples of weaknesses.
It’s also possible use a combination of these various options for a TNA. That means that a TNA can be formal or informal in nature, as well as either simple or very complex in its execution. Particularly the latter is related to the scope and likely value of the activity.
After the TNA has been conducted, it’s wise to know what will happen next of what actions should be taken. The principle of TNA is that a change is coming. The primary output mainly consists of recommendations and convincing reasons for why something has to change and what would be the best way to achieve it. TNA doesn’t offer the solution; the recommendation are intended for the organisation to take into consideration and discuss internally before making a choice.
It’s also possible to come to the conclusion that training might not be necessary or that another way of teaching skills would be more appropriate. Think for instance of better communications to employees and a clear definition of goals, writing down work instructions, buying better equipment, or planning regular meetings. It’s even possible that a Training Needs Assessment (TNA) leads to no action at all, simply because the current and desired situation are already a perfect match.
But the Training Needs Assessment (TNA) can also lead to the recommendation that training is necessary, of course. In that case it will have to be considered whether the costs and investments involved with the training will be worth the intended result. Employee acceptance plays an important role in this; when they are not willing to change and improve their behaviour, skills, or knowledge, training will not have the desired effect and be an expensive waste of time.
It’s Your Turn
What do you think? Do you recognize the above practical explanation about Training Needs Assessment (TNA) or do you have any additions? What are your experiences with identifying the gap between the education of employees and the related training needs?
Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.
- Brown, J. (2002). Training needs assessment: A must for developing an effective training program. Public personnel management, 31(4), 569-578.
- Goldstein, I. L. (1991). Training in work organizations. Consulting Psychologists Press.
- Rossett, A. (1987). Training needs assessment. Educational Technology.
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