Training Needs Analysis: To Skip or Not to Skip is the Question

Training Needs Analysis: To Skip or Not to Skip is the Question

Usually, training needs are identified during an annual performance appraisal done by HRD. These needs are handed over to corporate training to initiate involvement to address them. The needs are classified and collated; training calendars drawn; training budgets projected and so on.

That’s fine but when the demand arise from the line managers for training other than those that fall in the above category, how do we react? Do we go by the book and start from the beginning? Sounds logical, especially knowing the fact that a majority of performance gaps do not fall under the purview of training.

Most line managers want the training to be delivered yesterday! There is always a dearth of time, resources and money, which makes us think twice before we jump into a full-fledged analysis.

So, the question is when can we skip and when can we not?

We tend to skip a formal analysis process when we use rapid prototyping where Instructional Designers (IDs) and Subject matter Experts (SMEs) work in a continual loop to produce a prototype. The prototype becomes the first step in the cycle and front-end analysis gets integrated into an ongoing, iterative process between subject matter, objectives and courseware.

According to Mager & Pipe, we should explore fast fixes before spending time and resources on further analysis. All that is required is a quick-and-easy remedy such as:

  • Uncovering invisible expectations
  • Providing proper resources
  • Supplying feedback

They suggest we look for obvious impediments before jumping into full-blown analysis and indicate we can find them by asking simple questions.

On the other hand, when fast fixes do not apply, analysis should be conducted. Although there are times when clients are resistant to analysis for:

  • Leaders prefer a quick fix
  • Analysis is less interesting to leaders than training is
  • Little history in organization of analysis that’s made noticeable dents on what matters
  • Customers think they know what they need
  • People don’t know what analysis is
  • Analysis isn’t easy to do
  • Analysis takes time and time is in short supply

To combat scant resources and lack of organizational support, experts like Allison Rossett advise us to conduct performance analysis but to do it well and do it fast!

Thank you for reading my blog and look forward to your comments and opinions.

RK Prasad


  • I agree…it absolutely has to be done!! It doesn’t make sense for anyone invest in training based on a “guess” then just sit back and hope you were successful. True training is about job performance. And job performance is integral to delivering business results. You have to effectively identify performance gaps if you want to deliver quality training….which can’t be done without conducting a needs analysis. And sometimes (as we all know) there’s other performance factors that are at play (incentive, standards, conditions, etc.) –and if left unidentified the results will still be less than desirable.

  • Great post. Yes, it can be a fine balancing act to keep your client on side whilst designing and delivering an effective training program. Sometimes it’s a matter of steering your client around to considering other possible solutions. One method is to say to your client that you want to make sure that the program has the desired organizational impact in improving performance. Ask them for a few minutes to sit down to talk about their desired outcomes (more sales, less defects, more collaboration, etc) and the necessary workplace behaviors to achieve this. Gently probing questions during this meeting may help your client uncover other issues.

    Next, say that you will meet with a representative sample of participants, managers and subject matter experts to work out the learning outcomes and that you think it helpful if your client could attend. Once you get all the major stakeholders in one room, if training is not the solution or the main solution, the stakeholders will quickly let your client know. I’m not saying this is the only approach. However, it is one approach that has worked for me in the past.

    Les Allan
    Author: From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance

  • Agreed & it is so true that most of the line managers need a quick fix. We recently came across a similar situation where the sales team were not meeting their resp targets & one of the reasons attributed to the same was lack of training ,,, however when we did a brainstorming session with the team we found no. of other reasons to be percieved as the LOOSE link & training was just a miniscule element . Still we delivered the desired training & not much improvement was visible . So i think that unless this practice is imbibed in the DNA of the firm , getting quick fixes will not work for a long time & ineffective training tools / resources will be oartly blamed for business performance.
    Jiten Puri

  • Thanks, Jiten. These are precisely the situations we need to learn to handle.

  • skip, but not properly.

  • Purabi Patnaik

    Conducting a training without a needs analysis is like carrying out a research without defining the research problem.

    Therefore, the answer to your question of whether we can skip TNA or not is a big NO.

    However, the fact remains that most of our project scenarios have crunched timelines and there is always a hurry to get to the tangible job of training development at the earliest. So how do we accomodate an analysis phase into our project cycle.

    Well, as an ID-consultant, here’s what I typically do:
    1. Donot merely propose but recommend.
    2. Remind them about the possible consequences of creating or delivering a training that meets no requirement at all.
    3. If there isnt too much that you can do, at the least state your assumptions behind the training design.

  • As a practicing I/O Psycholgist I find that the key element to consider is the training recipients. In some cases the target group may be able to meet requirements via the use of pre-packaged minimally customizable content already available in the marketplace. In other cases where good training content does not exist, or if the target group requires very specific content and delivery methods matched to educational level for example, then a full needs analysis is best.

  • I find the key element to consider in any training proposal is matching the organization’s need. Many programs are a knee-jerk reaction to someone’s perceived need. So, the delivered program needs to match the training request, but more importantly, the training request needs to match the actual need of the organization.

    Leslie Allan
    Author: From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance

  • I also agreed it is true that most of the managers need a quick fix or a easy salutation. I look at it like the key element to consider in any training proposal is figuring out the problem and what you don’t need. Because otherwise it doesn’t make sense for anyone invest in training based on a “guess” then just sit back and hope you were successful. Real training is about job performance.