A training/learning needs analysis (TNA) is a review of learning and development needs for staff, volunteers, and trustees within in your organisation. It considers the skills, knowledge, and behaviours that your people need, and how to develop them effectively.

Organisational TNA should ideally be undertaken at 3 levels:

  1. Organisational level
  2. Team/departmental level
  3. Individual level

These three levels are inter-linked and using this structure will help ensure a balanced analysis that considers the big picture as well as the specific needs of individuals. Methods that can be used to identify learning needs include:

  • Analysis of existing strategies and plan to identify what skills are needed for delivery
  • Questionnaires – paper based or online
  • One-to-one interviews
  • Focus groups – facilitated small group discussions with a representative sample of people

The outcome of your TNA should be a robust learning and development plan, based on research and linked to organisational, team and individual objectives. Some of the questions that you might like to ask before undertaking an analysis of learning needs are:

  1. Do we have a strategic and organisational plan?
  2. Do we have an appraisal system in place?
  3. Do all staff have an up-to-date job description?
  4. Do all staff have written objectives?
  5. Do we have a competency framework in place?
  6. Do we have a training strategy and /or a stated commitment to the value of learning and development for our staff/volunteers and trustees?
  7. Do we have processes (formal and informal) in place for effective consultation across the organisation?

The more questions that you can answer yes to, the easier it will be to undertake training needs analysis.

Prioritising learning needs

Once you have identified learning needs across the organisation, they need to be analysed and prioritised.

Areas to consider when prioritising:

  • What impact will be developing these skills have on our performance?
  • What would be the cost/benefit of investing in developing these skills
  • Which skills needs are the most important to our long-term success?
  • Which skills needs are the most urgent?

Cost/benefit analysis means assessing the potential costs of learning and development activity against the potential gains in a quantifiable way. Making the case for the value of learning interventions to decision-makers and funders for investment in training is strengthened by a cost/benefits analysis. Potential gains might include:

  • reduced turnover and savings on recruitment costs
  • higher skill levels leading to more efficiency and fewer errors
  • reduced risk of accidents or breaches of legislative requirements
  • higher morale and levels of motivation
  • impact on fundraising capacity through a higher skills base
  • improvements to the quality of your service and reputation
  • sustainability and succession planning

Of course, training or learning interventions will not always be the appropriate solution for organisational issues, and the process of undertaking a TNA and a cost/benefit analysis is likely to highlight areas where other solutions are required.

 Evaluation of learning

It is important to consider evaluation of learning and development activities at the planning stage and build this into your TNA. Strong evaluation will help in planning future training and learning activity that has shown itself to be effective. The widely used Kirkpatrick model identifies four levels of evaluation.

Level 1 Reaction

This asks learners how they felt about the learning experience. It is usually assessed by means of a course evaluation questionnaire or “happy sheet”. There are alternatives to questionnaire – for example you could end a training session by asking people to jot down answers on post-it notes, for example: what I liked? What could be improved? What have I learnt? What else do I need to learn about the subject? These can then be collated on a flipchart.

Level 2 Learning

This will assess what has been learnt. So, if the learning objective was some essential health and safety information, this could be tested with a quiz. If it was the ability to perform a particular task such as producing a spreadsheet or chairing a meeting, this could be tested and observed in the workplace.

Level 3 Behaviour

This looks at the effect the learning intervention has on an individual’s behaviour in their job. This could be assessed by reviewing changes in knowledge, skills, and competence as part of the supervision and appraisal process.

Level 4 Results

This looks at the impact of the learning on organisational performance. If the learning objectives are clearly linked to organisational objectives, then data linking learning to organisational changes will be easier to obtain and analyse. Directly linking learning and development activity to overall performance is not always easy to do. However, if you carry out something like a SWOT analysis on an annual basis, trends can be assessed over time.

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