You know that feeling when your training is falling flat and not meeting the needs of your learners? You can feel tension in the room growing when participants are looking at their phones or sighing with restlessness. If you’ve experienced this train wreck, you are not alone! It can happen for several reasons, but one of the main culprits is when the training professional does not understand the participants’ challenges, dynamics between team members and their leader, and the team’s ideal state. Without a thorough needs assessment that uncovers the client’s current situation and ultimate goal, you are unlikely to develop a good solution.
There are some simple ways to gain a full 360-view of your client’s situation to create and deliver an impactful training solution. The secret is to conduct a thorough needs analysis. Here are five tips to consider.
1. Gather information from multiple sources.
At times, a leader or human resource partner may come to the L&D professional with a request for training. His or her insight into the situation may be partial or complete. Your job is to investigate all the underlying information, especially because the leader requesting could unknowingly be the root of the problem. To mitigate an oversight, work with leaders, involve team members, review engagement or turnover data, and gather other available resources. By collecting a variety of information from multiple sources, you can gain a full understanding of the circumstances.
2. Be consistent with questions.
To ensure that you are collecting accurate information, ask the same questions to every person. The smallest tweak in language could lead different people to interpret the question in contrasting ways, giving you inaccurate data. Be mindful and strategic about the delivery of questions, too. Don’t use double-barreled questions, be clear about what you are asking and don’t ask the same question two different ways. Consistency is key!
3. Choose the best method for collecting data.
Consider the factors that play a role in choosing the best method of data collection from your sources: environment, people involved, industry, timeline, cost, geographical location, etc. With these factors in mind, choose from among the many ways to creatively gather data, including focus groups, one-on-one interviews, surveys, live polling and shadowing employees. This decision-making approach helps you paint a full picture. Without using the best methods for data collection, you could be solving for the wrong issue.
4. Be clear on what the ideal state is.
Where is the gap between the current and the ideal state? How can training fill that gap? You don’t need to know all the answers right now; let the experts paint the picture, and you can draw conclusions based on that information. Make sure to spend a lot of time on these questions, so you and the client have a clear understanding of what success looks like. Without that ideal state, you are navigating without a map.
5. Don’t rush into a solution.
Establish from the start that training may not be the correct solution, and explain why. Performance consultants and trainers can get locked into the role of order-taker when leaders and business partners make requests. Don’t rush into a training solution before you’ve engaged in a needs analysis. The root cause could be as simple as unclear expectations or inefficient use of resources. Training is not always the answer for these challenges, but a good needs analysis will determine what direction to take.