A properly carried out training needs or skills gap analysis will determine the gap between the current and desired situation, and whether or not training is the best way to close that gap.
This is how to properly conduct a Training Needs Analysis.
Identify the problem or pain point you’re looking to resolve
The reality for a HR or L&D professional (as depending on the size of the organisation, you may serve in both roles) is that you’re going to have a lot of issues coming your way to ‘fix’. You must then balance these requests with the economic reality of limited resources.
As shown in the Gartner 2021 survey, the priority for organisations is to develop critical skills and competencies. What is critical is going to differ across every organisation.
As a baseline, any training carried out needs to align with the organisation’s strategic interests. The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated a trend in skills development that was already underway in response to automation, artificial intelligence, shifting marketplaces and changing workplace roles: it needs to be agile and priority needs to shift to the tasks and roles where the value is created.
For example, if you are moving from retail sales to online, your IT and operations/logistics teams will have a far greater impact on the new strategy than they did on the old one.
Work out the desired future state: how do you want people to behave?
This is where you start to list of all of the expected behaviours for a particular job role or level. This is also known as a competency framework. One may exist already that you need to add to, or you may need to develop one.
What’s important is that competency frameworks are not developed in a HR vacuum.
Managers and the people doing the job roles are likely going to have experience in what’s involved in their role, and examples of what great looks like. Like any HR or training initiative, you’ve got to have buy-in and engagement from key business stakeholders for when it comes time to implement or you’ll risk a lack of adoption.
Our recommendation with developing the actual content and language for the desired behaviours/competency framework would be: don’t start from scratch.
- Competencies are a science, a very well-established one in fact: Organisational Psychology. There are plenty of existing competency frameworks that will likely fit into what you need to a 95%+ degree of accuracy. How do we know? We've reviewed over 1,000 competency frameworks across pretty much every industry.
- You need to be able to measure the competency - If you’re writing your own from scratch – what are going to measure that against? How are you going to know if your employees are performing well or not? Too often we see custom built competency frameworks come to nothing, because they aren't being measured or managed.
What to do instead? Stop wasting time and money, go to the experts.
Now we don’t mean go and hire a full-time Organisational Psychologist. Just go to the companies that specialise in the field that you’re looking to develop and see what’s on offer.
Work out whether or not it’s a skills gap that’s driving current behaviour
It’s important that we start by defining what a skill or training need actually is, as this is often where things go wrong. There’s no point carrying out training if the underlying issue you’re trying to solve will not be fixed through training.
How do we define a skills gap?
- A skills gap is when an individual does not know HOW they should perform a certain task.
Let’s start with a simple example: driving a car.
What the skills consist of
- Knowledge of rules and regulations
- Physical skills to perform control direction, acceleration and deceleration
- Mental skills to aid decision making and avoid hazards
How the skill is taught
- Through instruction (training) and practice
How the skill is assessed
- Observation by a qualified instructor
When an accident occurs on the road, you are not simply put back through training to relearn the entire skill set of driving again.
Once that skill set is held by an individual (i.e. they are licensed to drive) there are a variety of factors that then impact on the performance of the skill set and cause issues or accidents, such as:
- Poor driving conditions
- Risk taking behaviour such as mobile phone use or speeding
- Road rage
- Impairment (tiredness, intoxication)
- Unfamiliar road rules
So let’s turn those factors into observable behaviours:
- Driver was unable to control car in poor weather
- Driver lost control of vehicle due to speed
- Driver got into a road rage incindent with another driver and caused physical harm or property damage
- Driver had an accident due to driving whilst impaired
- Driver got into an accident after moving from a country with left hand traffic to a country with right hand traffic
It’s when these incidents occur that there will usually be a call for more training to ensure that they don’t happen again.
In this case, ‘training’ might mean that there’s a call for more stringent drivers licence testing.
To ensure that training is actually going to fix the problem, we need to work out why the behaviour has occurred in the first place.
To do that, it’s important that we map out what we would expect to happen in those circumstances to be clear on how people should approach those different scenarios.
In some cases, it will be reasonable to expect that people just don’t drive if it’s too risky (e.g. drive while impaired), in other cases it’s not reasonable to expect that (e.g. driving in poor weather conditions).
|Driver was unable to control car in poor weather conditions||Driver able to control car in poor weather|
|Driver lost control of vehicle due to speed||Driver does not speed|
|Driver got into a road rage incindent with another driver and caused physical harm or property damage||Driver does not carry out road rage|
|Driver had an accident due to driving whilst impaired||Driver does not drive while intoxicated|
|Driver got into an accident after moving from a country with left hand traffic to a country with right hand traffic||Driver is able to drive safely and operate vehicle in line with new rules|
Now we get to the crux of the issue: Are we dealing with a skills gap?
In order to work this out, we need to consider what the underlying difference is between the two behaviours. What does the individual need in order to perform the desired behaviour?
Here are Leadership Success, we class those drivers of behaviour in the following four categories:
- Knowledge – does the individual need to acquire new knowledge?
- Skill – does the individual need to learn or relearn the “doing” part of the skill, or practise the skill more?
- Attitude – does the individual need to change the way that they are approaching the task?
- Climate – are there factors at play that are outside the individual’s control or may influence that individual to perform the skill in a certain way?
So here’s how we would do a basic break down each of those desired driving behaviours into the four categories:
|Driver of this behaviour|
|Driver able to control car in poor weather conditions||X||X|
|Driver does not speed||X|
|Driver does not carry out road rage||X|
|Driver does not drive whilst impaired||X||X|
|Driver is able to safely operate the vehicle in line with new rules||X||X|
- You can see how a knowledge and skill gap is only present as a driver of behaviour in three out of the five desired behaviours.
- Training is only going to be an effective intervention if the core driver of the desired behaviour is knowledge and/or skill.
While we’ve carried out a basic breakdown here, determining whether or not knowledge and skill gaps are the driver of behaviour can get a little more complex when you need to be able to assess this for multiple people and multiple desired behaviours.
Develop recommendations to close the gap
As we previously highlighted, as a HR or L&D/OD professional, you’re always working in the economic reality of limited resources. So in developing your recommendations, you need to ensure that:
- You define the issue and how solving it is critical to your organisation
- You’re recommending training because it will resolve the issue
- You’re recommending training for individuals who need it
If you know that training won’t resolve the issue (as it’s not related to knowledge and skill), here are the other alternatives you need to consider:
Where a core driver of behaviour is attitudinal
You need to look at ways of either excluding people with these attitudes from being able to perform the skill set in the first place, or influencing/discouraging the behaviour. For example:
- Using our driving scenario this might be evidenced by penalties for speeding offences including licence suspension, or in serious cases criminal penalties
- In an organisational environment this might be evidenced by recruitment/selection assessment tools along with performance management or disciplinary processes
Where a core driver of behaviour is climate
You need to look at ways to assist people performing the skill set to be able to perform the skill set in a safe way. This may be through more advanced training, but it also may be through intervening to address the climate issues. For example:
- Using our driving scenario this might be evidenced by building rail guards on roads or introducing new rules that require drivers to put chains on their wheels in the snow
- In an organisational environment this might be evidenced by bullying and harassment policies along with performance management or disciplinary processes
If you are confident the issue is skills related and training will resolve the issue
It’s important that you assess who needs to be trained and to what extent, as a one-size-fits-all approach is not an efficient allocation of resources.
- This is where you need to assess the knowledge and skills of the individuals