Training Needs Assessment #2: Taking a Closer Look at Your Organization

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Ready for column 2? Wow, you’re fast! Here we have the organizational analysis. Have you got your fine toothed comb and a magnifying glass ready? Your job now is to see if you can detect where and when training is needed in your organization.

Preparing for Training by Taking a Closer Look at Your Organization

In this phase of the training needs assessment, you’re gonna document your organization’s goals, available resources, the general vibe and tradition around you for transferring what is learned through training back to the job, and any internal or external barriers to completing training. As you’ll soon see, the organizational analysis has a much broader scope than the other training analyses you’ll be soon doing. Like a lot of other things, to get anything done in the organizational analysis, you’ve first gotta set goals!

Specify Your Organization’s Goals: If your organization’s goals aren’t drawn out on a big tack board or fancy LCD display somewhere, it’s your job to specify them. Ask people in different areas of the organization for their take on what the organization’s goals are. Organizational goals also help examine business constraints by comparing the goals of upper-level and lower-level parts of organizations. Communicating these differences will add a lot of value if done the right way. You’ll be an all-star.

Once you’ve got differences accounted for across different levels of the organization, look for opportunities to connect training to those goals. Outline how your training program gets implemented, what types of evaluation will be conducted to determine if your training was good or fell flat on its face, and what the actual training environment looks like (which is important to ensure the transfer of learned skills).

Get a Pulse of Your Organization’s Training Transfer Climate: Trainers with Ph.D’s might throw jargon like “transfer climate” at you from time to time expecting you know what they are talking about. We don’t assume anything other than that you are looking for basic information for how best to conduct training in your organization. If someone says this buzzphrase, simply know they are referring to the organization’s support for applying what is learned in training back to the job environment.

There are two things that are pretty important to consider about transfer climate:

First, does your organization provide opportunities to apply what was learned in training back to the job? This should sound familiar to content in our previous post, “4 Quick Checks to Make Sure You Aren’t Wasting Money On Employee Training”. Oh yeah, it’s in that post too, because it is critical your employees are able to have the time and space necessary to practice what they learn in training back to the job.

Second, is there any system set up to reward trainees for demonstrating training transfer back to the job? If not, what is their motivation to follow-through? Make sure something is in place. A solution could even be as simple as a walkthrough check and gift certificate reward. Something needs to be there to communicate that applying what was learned in training back to the job is valuable to the organization.

Identify and Plan for Legal Constraints: Next in the organizational analysis, you’re going to want to make sure you are protecting yourself from lawyers. We shouldn’t have to tell you that this is a very litigious society and you sure as hell don’t want to be sued because of discrimination in terms of how you train, who you train, and how you reward your employees for transferring new knowledge and skills back to the job. Plan for this, make sure you keep records and you shouldn’t have any issues.

Sync up With HR to Make the Most of Your Trainees’ Time: Finally, you’re going to want to make sure you are planning ahead from a human resources standpoint. Let’s say you’ve got a group of 10 employees who are all junior translators. However, a few of them soon will be going on special humanitarian assignment for 2 years in the United Arab Emirates while others will be staying in Scranton to work on French visa documents. If your training is all about how to document visas better, you’re probably going to be wasting a lot of your UAE bound employees time if you include them!


Training Needs Assessment #1: How to Get Organizational Support for Training

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Great! So you decided your employees need to be trained. The first thing you need to complete now is your training needs assessment. After you’re done, you’ll have laid the foundation for success. This is a critical step, and you should take heart in knowing only 27% of companies do this (Tannenbaum &Yukl 1992). Talk about competitive advantage from the start!

Here is a picture of your roadmap to a completed training needs assessment. While this may look like a combination of daunting and boring, we’re about to spice everything up and get moving piece by piece! Doing training needs analyses can be a lot of fun. This post will cover your first three steps under “Organizational Support” on the far left. Subsequent posts will cover the rest of the columns. Ready? Here we go.

Needs Assessment Map

How to develop organizational support for training

Research has shown managerial support affects employee motivation to learn and the transfer of training outcomes back to the job (Colquitt et al., 2000). Therefore, getting upper management support for your training plans is crucial! There are three goals in this stage of the needs analysis:

1. Establish a relationship with top management: Come to an agreement that what you are doing (the needs assessment) is important, find out who in the organization stands to benefit from training, and then establish expectations. Yeah that was a three part first goal, but they are all brutally important. By getting top management understanding and support for what you are doing, you’re conquering your greatest obstacle to a successful training launch.

2. Establish a relationship with key organizational members: Once you’ve got solid top management support, you’re going to need to focus on the rest of the people that will be affected by the training, or those people that have an occupational interest in it. For example, if Judy is your main accountant, and you’re having planning to have a seminar on tax accounting, you’d be real dumb not to get her involved from the beginning.

Just as an aside, there is a Japanese term for getting everyone on the same page prior to new organizational initiatives called: “nemawashi”. The champion for the new organizational change or decision literally goes from desk to desk of all the employees in the organization to basically tell them this is what the organization is going to do and solicits their buy-in. Once everyone is on board and agrees, the new initiative is announced to the rest of the team (if they don’t agree, they simply come in with a giant samurai sword and…). Of course, everyone already knows this is going to be taking place and have already agreed. The announcement is more procedural than anything. Food for thought.

3. Form liaison teams: A liason team is a small number of people from the organization serving as the primary point of contact between the assessor (you) and the organization. Forming these teams really helps to establish trust between you and the rest of the organization, uncovers concerns, and increases organizational participation. Do it!


4 Quick Checks to Make Sure You Aren’t Wasting Money on Employee Training

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Here are 4 quick checks so you can be sure you aren’t blowing a whole bunch of your training budget (ideas courtesy of Cannon-Bowers, 2003):

Does your training actually present the relevant concepts or information your employees need to do their jobs better?

While this one may seem a tad obvious, you’d be surprised how much training gets done for the sake of training alone. Management believes training is necessary, however a lot of training vendors offer classes and skills which might not have much to do at all with what your employees do on a day to day basis. A good way to make sure appropriate information is presented is to conduct a training needs assessment. Once you have the results from that information gathering session, you can make sure whoever conducts your training is covering the right bases.

Does your training demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) to be learned?

Having the right type of information in your training is important, but if your trainer doesn’t actually demonstrate how to use the knowledge and skills, you’re wasting your money. Your people need to see firsthand how to do these new things, not simply listen to a speech about the importance of them.

Let’s say you’ve got to conduct some plant-wide safety training. Would you rather have your employees sit in a room, watch a video, and discuss safety for a bit, or would you rather have an expert in your building show them exactly how they should be handling equipment the safest way?

A side note on those KSAs: Kay-Ess-Ayys! I-O psychology has a ton of acronyms which can be pretty alienating to others. This one stands for “knowledge, skills, and abilities”. I always had the damdest time trying to get my professors to explain to me what specifically distinguishes a “skill” from an “ability”. To this day, I still have not gotten a satisfactory response. I suppose they needed a third word to complete the acronym. Otherwise they’d be left with KS, and then you’re just in Kansas. Not too good for I-O psychologists. Abilities! Hooray.

Does your training provide your employees the opportunity to practice their new skills?

This one is straightforward… and awesome. I like this one a lot. Mainly, becuase a lot of high falutin’ trainers out there charge an arm and a leg for one of their representatives to come out on site and don’t even do this! For example:

“Oh, look! There’s Bob from Initech Training and Consulting!!! Whoa, cool tie he’s got on.”

<35 minutes pass as Bob continues to drone on about the proper way to handle overseas customer complaints>

“I like the way Bob sips his coffee. He looks very suave.”

<45 more minutes pass>

“Whoa, Bob really is a talker. I wonder which powerpoint template he’s using there?? Looks like it must be one of those newfangled Office 2007 ones? Cool.”

<20 more minutes go by>

“Annnnnd, that about wraps it up. In sum, don’t do what I just said all those bad things were when handling awkward overseas phone calls, mkay? Great. That’ll be $2500.”

So this fulfilled a training requirement? And maybe Bob had his trainees take a little quiz.. and then they filled out a happy sheet to tell you all about how they enjoyed Bob’s presentation, his tie, and they way he drank coffee. Did they learn anything? Do their managers care? If you want to make more money, you should. Otherwise, please stop reading this and send me some of your training budget cause it would go to better use over here. Really. It would. I don’t wear fancy ties.

The reason why the above example fell flat was because the employees didn’t get a demonstration, but also weren’t given the opportunity to practice what they learned. Ideally, practice happens in a safe work environment people can experiment doing new things without worrying if it affects their productivity. Changing what you do at work is… difficult. Some people are more naturally able to adapt, explore, and try new things. Others, are much more set in their ways. So, to get all your people to change and be curious, you must provide the time and space for them to practice new ways of doing things!

How are you going to provide feedback to trainees during and after practice?

This is so damn important. Without feedback, you might as well be flying a jet without any instruments through fog. People don’t know how they’re doing unless you provide a way for them to know where they’re screwing up, and where they are excelling. This is simple, however it is left out of so many training programs. While you could have the trainer come back to give regular feedback, a smarter approach would be to empower your employees to do it themselves and provide them incentives to learn even more new skills.

When was the last training YOU were at where you actually were not only presented with information you needed to do your job better (#1), but also had someone demonstrate to you how to improve what you do (#2), give you the time and space to practice it (#3), and then follow-through to tell you how well you are doing or where you could still improve?

Chew on that for a bit and consider these points next time you are planning to spend big bucks on training.


Why Train Your Employees?

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes


What do you want out of your employees? Chances are, you want them to perform their jobs at their peak potential. Great. Now, how do you get there? We recommend you train your people. While often overlooked, trainings tailored to employee needs will help them garner the knowledge, skills, and abilities they need to be top performers. “Wait, wait!”, you might be thinking. “What if we’ve got great training in place but I need to motivate my employees to actually do what they know how to do?!” Do not fret we say. Check out our motivation section later.

There are four primary steps to make sure you have a good training system in your organization:

#1 Needs Assessment

Needs assessments are used to determine what knowledge, skills, and abilities are required for the job and what the objectives of the training are.

#2 Select and Train

Second you’ve got to determine what type of training to use and implement the training.

#3 Evaluation

Third, you’ll want to evaluate how well that training actually went over

#4 Validity Testing

Lastly, you’ll want to determine if it would be appropriate to use this training again, or if it would be best to move to a different training type.