It’s time to reevaluate the training needs analysis (TNA)! Instead of targeting learning outcomes alone, you can leverage the training needs analysis to help determine the actual business impact of your training programs.

The Training Needs Analysis in 2021

The role of the learning and development (L&D) team is to support both learner needs and corporate strategy and tactics. A vital priority, therefore, is measuring the business impact of training. Until now, many L&D teams have designed training based on learning outcomes. However, with the shifting workforce dynamics and changed areas of focus for businesses, L&D teams must go further and measure the actual business impact of their programs.

Where to Begin

This process starts with an update of the typical training needs analysis, including what it analyses and how it directs training development. There is a difference between perceived performance gaps and actual performance gaps. In the needs analysis phase of development, determining the actual gap is vital. In order to identify that gap, L&D teams should work with stakeholders to identify desired business outcomes and then determine how they can measure the impact of training on those outcomes.

The results of this type of training needs analysis may involve more modalities than ever before. With the speed of business we’re experiencing in 2021, traditional training solutions like face-to-face training are less likely to be the most appropriate solution. Microlearning, performance support and informal learning — the backbone of a healthy learning ecosystem — are vital for effective training solutions.

The Limitations of the Classic Training Needs Analysis Approach

The classic training needs analysis has limited evaluation to metrics like learner reaction, the number of course registrations and completion rates. However, these measurements are not necessarily indicators of the success of training.

This approach to the training needs analysis identified desired business outcomes but didn’t consider how to measure the impact training had on those outcomes. This is a crucial step in identifying the true efficacy of training efforts.

Vital Elements for Training Needs Analysis in 2021

The vital elements of an effective training needs analysis are the business case, performance metrics and program logistics.

The Business Case

The business case includes information like an analysis of the problem; the purpose and descriptions of the training; and, most importantly, the expected business impact of the training. Be sure to capture:

    • A summary that explains the purpose of a proposed training solution: This summary acts as a microscope that focuses both the training needs analysis and development efforts. It should include a detailed description and analysis of the problem that the training will attempt to solve. It shouldn’t consist of general statements like, “Improve negotiation skills.” Rather, it should be a deep dive into the business problem for which training is the solution.
    • An explanation of how you identified that problem, how you evaluated the problem in the past and how you will evaluate it in the future.
    • An analysis of why, in order to solve a business problem, employees need to learn a new or modified set of knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs).
    • Details explaining whether this solution will require employees to do something different than what they’re doing now.
    • A deep dive on the expected business impact.

Performance Metrics

Performance metrics are important to ensure that the TNA considers how you will measure business impact and determine success. Include the following:

    • Answers to the following questions: How does the business know that the problem exists? How will you determine whether you have solved it?
    • A description of the expected outcomes of the training.
    • Information on the metrics you will use to measure those outcomes.
    • A plan that outlines how to access that data before, during and after the training program.
    • Information on the performance gap.
    • A plan to compare current performance with desired performance.
    • A description from stakeholders of how they’ll define success for the training development project.
    • A description from stakeholders of how they’ll define success for the actual training.

Program Logistics

Key to the success of any training development venture, logistical information will ensure that you and your stakeholders understand timelines, audiences and the vital personnel involved in the project. Capture:

    • An agreement on the intended launch date.
    • A profile of the primary, secondary and tertiary audience groups, as well as an analysis on how many people are included in each group and their locations.
    • An audit of existing source materials that you can use when developing training content.
    • A list of key stakeholders, including a description of who has the authority to mediate potential conflicting opinions.
    • A list of subject matter experts (SMEs) and how much access your L&D team has to them.
    • A summary of important assumptions, constraints and risks for the project, including a mitigation plan for each risk.

How to Enhance Your Training Needs Analysis by Adding Business Impact Measures

While these lists include many components of a classic training needs analysis, the vital differences for TNAs in 2021 are:

    • A detailed description of the problem.
    • An analysis of how you have identified the problem.
    • The key metrics involved in identifying the problem and its resolution.
    • A plan for how to measure the impact the training had on those metrics.

As business leaders identify problems for which training is a possible solution, it’s important to align the L&D metrics with the business metrics. Doing so requires going beyond metrics like learner reaction and number of registrations and focusing instead on the changes you see after training.

For example, if a business leader indicates that his or her customer service department needs “better negotiation skills,” the L&D team must ask questions to identify what the business impact would be if those skills were in place. It is certainly not courses completed. More likely, it’s metrics like customer retention and reduced leakage. Therefore, the L&D team needs to include in its TNA a plan to collect customer retention and business leakage metrics before and after training solutions are in place. That way, it can measure the training program’s true impact on business outcomes.

Want to learn how to measure and maximize the business impact of your corporate training programs? Download the e-book “Cracking the Code – How to Measure and Maximize the Business Impact of Your Corporate Training Programs” for insights and a set of practical cues that you can use to measure and maximize the impact of your employee training programs.