Training Needs Assessment - What, Why, How ?

It is a well known fact that employees need training. But many times people do not know where to start from. Training needs assessment helps companies optimize training thereby reducing costs.

The training needs assessment is a tool which is used to determine what training courses need to be made available to employees so that they can perform efficiently and enhance productivity. It is imperative that we separate desires for a particular training program from actual training needs. Training needs to be conducted on what the employee needs and not on what he desires.

As mentioned earlier, training needs assessment will help us to determine whether a particular training program will make a positive impact on productivity. It helps us to zero in on the individual needs of each employee.

Methodology of training needs assessment
There are many ways of doing the training needs assessment. It is better to use more than one method of conducting the assessment to get a complete view of the big picture of the organizational needs. 

- Consultation with the management
Since the management is aware of what the present competencies of the workforce are and the anticipated requirement in the future, they will be able to express their requirements. 

- Discussion with the employees
Discussing the training needs with the employees helps us understand their needs and the issues they face on a daily basis. 

- Conducting surveys
Surveys are beneficial from the perspective of time. Data can be gathered in a short duration. Besides, the guarantee of anonymity in the survey process encourages the employees to be more open and forthright in their opinions. The questions in the questionnaire can be open ended or close ended i.e. with a limited number of options to select from. 

- Formation of focus groups
Focus groups can be formed on issues of training and the participants can be encouraged to arrive at training programs and needs. The duration of the program should at least be an hour and a half for the participants to feel comfortable and to voice their opinions freely. 

- Observation of the company’s goals and its mission statements
By closely studying the mission statement of a company we can understand the expectations of the company. It also helps us to determine the where the company is heading for in the future.

It is also a good idea to talk to people who are already successful in their jobs and find out the needs of the others.

Survey should be kept brief. Very often the sheer number of questions dissuades employees from participating. Tabulating large surveys is also difficult. The proceedings and ideas that originate from a focus group should be carefully recorded as these can be extremely valuable.

There are six steps that experts recommend in conducting a Training Needs analysis.

Step 1
Discussions with the management on what they think are the needs of the employee.

Step 2
Create a friendly survey for employees to participate allow ample open ended questions where employees can themselves come up with new ideas.

Step 3
Arrange for a focus group where employees can discuss on what training programs they require.

Step 4
Review the data you have collected with management.

Step 5
Formulate a plan to conduct the training program agreed upon.

Step 6
Implement the training schedule.