Imagine this common scenario: a manager at your organization senses there’s a performance problem, so she asks you, the training designer, to create an e-learning course. Do you take this request at face value? Do you dig deeper to investigate the requirement?

As a training professional, it’s your job to determine if this e-learning is really necessary. The key to designing successful and meaningful training lies in identifying whether there is a performance gap, and if so, whether that gap can be fixed with training (after all, training provides knowledge and skills). If the performance gap is caused by something other than a lack of knowledge and skills, of course, training won’t fix it. This is why you shouldn’t take training requests at face value, but always complete a thorough Training Needs Analysis (TNA) to uncover what’s really going on.

Here are a few simple steps you can follow to complete a training needs analysis in your workplace. I’ll illustrate these steps with an example.

Let’s say you are the training designer at a company called Widget Incorporated. You’ve been asked to design training for the call center employees, to help them process calls faster.

Step 1: Identify expected performance

Your first step is to identify exactly what the expected performance is for call center employees, in terms of processing calls. What’s the standard or procedure in place that they’re expected to follow? To find out this information, you might need to investigate a bit deeper. You might need to interview HR or managers, and look into company records such as Standard Operating Procedures and corporate guidelines.

At Widget Inc., company guidelines specify that call center employees are supposed to process customer calls in five minutes or less, and the steps to follow are listed.

Step 2: Identify current performance

The next phase in TNA is to identify how employees are actually performing the task. How can you find out this information? You can interview employees, supervisors, and managers. You can dig into performance records or other metrics and documentation. Another key way to find out current performance: observation.

At Widget Inc., you observe the call center employees on the job and discover that they are processing calls in an average of seven minutes, instead of the five-minute standard outlined in the company documentation.

Step 3: Identify if there is a performance gap

Once you have the expected performance and the current performance, you want to compare and contrast the two. Take a look at how they are supposed to be doing the job as opposed to exactly how they are actually doing it. The goal here is to identify if there is a gap or a difference between the current and expected performance.

At Widget Inc., the expected performance is for calls to be processed in five minutes. The actual performance is calls being performed in seven minutes. That indicates there is a performance gap of two minutes for this task.

Step 4: Determine the cause of the performance gap

This is where you do the work of brainstorming what’s driving the performance gap. There are many factors that affect performance, including:

  • Knowledge and skills
  • Motivation
  • Incentives
  • Physical and mental capabilities
  • Proper tools and equipment
  • Directions or guidance
  • Feedback

Training can only solve a performance problem if it’s caused by a lack of knowledge and skills. If a problem is caused by a lack of proper tools, for example, training will not solve the issue. To find out the true cause of a performance problem you need to do some investigating. You need to observe, interview, look at company records, and see what you can unearth through research to illuminate which performance factor is causing a problem.

At Widget Inc., you find that the computer system is very slow and the call center employees have to wait two minutes for the computer system to load data. Would training help these employees complete the calls more quickly? No. The cause of the two-minute performance gap is a slow computer system, not employee performance. In this case, designing and delivering training on how to process calls would not have solved the problem. A faster computer system, on the other hand, would resolve the two-minute gap.

Step 5: Propose the training solution

This is the part of the process where you recommend a training solution to management. Keep in mind, you’re only going to propose a training solution in the situations where you’ve identified that the performance gap is caused by a lack of knowledge and skills. Training can come in a variety of shapes and formats: e-learning, instructor-led training, job aids, an e-manual, a standard operating procedure (SOP), and on-the-job coaching are all different forms of training. Just because you need training doesn’t mean you need an e-learning course. In some cases, a short on-the-job tutorial or a one-page job aid is enough.

Hopefully this straightforward and methodical five-step process will help you suss out what your true requirements are the next time you get a training request. For more tips and topics related to training needs analysis, have a peek at the following articles:

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marty simon

Hi Nicole, Nice summary and some great points. One thing to consider (after working in call centers for 20 years) is who/how Widget company came up with the 5 minute average talk time metric. That in itself would be an area of research and analysis. I have encountered several large organizations that had unrealistic expectations of the representative and the duties they perform on that '5 minute' call - especially as new products, functions, edicts and programs kept being added to their duties. Perhaps that talk time needs to be re-evaluated. Just something to consider in the analysis phase if your very solid steps don't uncover the issue. (Although, as you mentioned, observing and especially interviewing may lead you in this direction. The representatives will not hesitate to tell y... Expand

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