A needs analysis is the first step that should be completed before there is ever an attempt to design a training program. Needs analysis is a process used to pinpoint the cause of a perceived training problem. There are a number of analysis that you can undertake.
The gap analysis determines the difference between where you are now and where you want to be. For instance, if a sales team is not reaching its monthly or yearly quota, you would analyze current sales against the goal of the quota. You would then know what the gap was that you were trying to address. Gaps can exist in sales, manufacturing processes, quality, volume, and a myriad of other things. Understanding what the gap is helps you to focus the training and also helps you to determine later on whether you have been successful or not.
There are two aspects to the audience analysis. First is the demographic aspect – simply who is in your audience? Are they young or old? Had they been with the company a long while or a short period of time? What level of education do they have? Is English their first language? Understanding the makeup of your audience helps you to make good choices when you begin to design and develop the training. For instance, an audience for which English is a second language would be better served by diagrams or activities in the training rather than a text based workbook.
The 2nd aspect of audience analysis is determining how much your audience already knows about the topic. Have they had training in this area before? If they did, why didn’t it stick? This is an important question to ask because, if they have had training and yet they are still not doing the process correctly, in all likelihood there is another reason other than lack of training.
The environmental analysis takes into consideration the culture of the organization – perhaps people were trained but are not empowered to make their own decisions. Another consideration is management support – perhaps people go to training but when they come back to their jobs they are not allowed any time to practice or make mistakes, so it’s easier and safer for them to go back to the old way of doing things. The environmental analysis may also look at the compensation plan; one example is of a sales organization where the sales people were so well compensated that no amount of sales training stuck – they really didn’t care to make more sales because they were making enough money from their current level of sales.
Too often we find ourselves trying to apply a training solution to a non-training problem. The importance of a needs analysis cannot be over emphasized. It will save you time and your company money, if you spend a few days or weeks analyzing the bigger picture surrounding the perceived training issue.