How a Needs Analysis Improves Training
A needs analysis is the secret sauce to most training success. It’s not uncommon for a potential client to come to a learning development company like AllenComm and say, “Here’s the problem, here’s how to fix it, and here’s what we need from you to move forward!” It’s also not uncommon for that potential client to be wrong.
The issue is that the client is usually too close to the problem to see the real cause. To truly understand the cause of the problem and what (if any) training would address it, it’s useful to have a fresh set of outside eyes evaluate the workplace, the employees, the processes, and the culture. That’s where the needs analysis comes in.
At AllenComm, our commitment to performing a needs analysis sets us apart from other learning professionals. We’ve even developed our own process, called the ANSWER Analysis. The ANSWER analysis is “a structured method for conducting a rapid performance analysis by engaging stakeholders in a collaborative and creative way. During the analysis, anyone responsible for leading a performance improvement initiative are [sic] led through a discussion of the needs to be met, potential approaches to a solution, and actions necessary to produce results.”
You may think, “That’s all well and good, but I don’t quite see how that would apply to my organization’s needs.” Never fear! We’ve provided a few examples with a fictional learning development company, Training Needs, Inc. (TNI), to show how a needs analysis can apply to each corporate training intersection.
Sonora is a legal advisor for an entertainment company. She’s looking for compliance training that the company execs can take as a preemptive measure. Sonora asks TNI to create training that emphasizes the legal ramifications of shady business practices and sexual harassment lawsuits. TNI suggests performing a needs analsysis first.
The analysis finds that the company’s execs have a blasé attitude towards lawsuits; they cite them as an occupational hazard of the industry. However, the execs do fear damaging their reputations and being blacklisted from future projects. TNI suggests that the training should frame compliance in terms of how it could affect the execs’ personal reputations rather than how it could cause legal problems for the company. Sonora agrees, and that human touch helps the execs take the compliance training to heart.
Ricky is frustrated that his sales team just doesn’t get it. They keep missing out on sales, so they must not know the sales process! Ricky decides to get training that will teach them the process…again.
When Ricky tells TNI he’s trying to train a longtime team on the basic functions of their jobs, TNI tells him they’d like to take a closer look. Sure enough, the needs analysis reveals that the team is following the sales process to a T. The problem is that the process itself is flawed—it doesn’t account for a major client objection that often comes up. Ricky and TNI work together to fix the sales process and then develop training to teach the improved process.
A few months ago, Colette got hired as an HR manager for a financial consultancy. She onboards new consultants and guides them through their first week of employment. However, most of the new consultants quit within a few days! Colette knows that her predecessor was fired for not resolving this problem, and she doesn’t want to be next. She reaches out to TNI and asks them what they recommend in terms of onboarding.
TNI reviews Colette’s onboarding process and finds it to be excellent. They come to Colette’s workplace to observe her onboard a new consultant, and they contact current and past consultants to gain insight into their onboarding experiences. It soon becomes clear that Colette isn’t at fault—the culprit is the consultant manager, who frequently treats new employees to emotionally abusive tirades! This consultancy needs leadership skills training, not onboarding training.
Lester’s community garden nonprofit is going through a rebrand. Lester knows that the old brand was applied inconsistently across job functions, and he doesn’t want that to happen again. Lester gathers a thousand pages of content describing the new brand guidelines and brings it to TNI so that they can develop an online course.
TNI convinces Lester that they need to do a needs analysis before diving into the content. It turns out that the majority of the intended training audience are volunteers who need to learn only about a fifth of what Lester gathered. Since the volunteers work in groups at the community garden sites, it also wouldn’t make sense for them to take training online. Lester approves TNI’s proposal to instead make 100-, 200-, and 300-level training to address the brand needs of job functions of varying sophistication. The 100-level training will be workbooks that the volunteers can use onsite with their supervisors.
Need some training? Interested in a needs analysis of your own? Schedule a consultation with us—we’d love to help!