Manufacturing Training & the Training Needs Analysis

Manufacturing Training & the Training Needs Analysis

Almost all manufacturing and industrial companies recognize the importance of effective, impactful training to help their workers acquire knowledge, develop skills, and help the organization reach and even exceed its key business goals. 

But just as throwing a bunch of stuff at a wall doesn’t guarantee everything will stick, delivering a bunch of poorly designed training doesn’t guarantee that desired knowledge acquisition, skill development, and learning. 

Learning how about how to know when training is the proper solution and when it’s not; how to properly design, develop, and deliver training; how to evaluate training to see if it’s been effective; and how to revise and improve it over time is a key competitive advantage for manufacturers who want to stay one step ahead of the competition. 

But it’s not just the company that will benefit if you learn more about creating effective manufacturing training. An L&D professional working for a manufacturing company can better secure his/her job, be seen as a true business partner, and earn a “seat at the table” with this knowledge. You don’t have to be just an order taker, or a compliance function, or even potentially be seen as a cost center that doesn’t contribute to the organization’s success.

Likewise, the employees at a manufacturing organization also will benefit from effective training. First, because they won’t be forced to sit through or attend bad training that they see as being irrelevant, meaningless, or a waste of time. But also because effective training will help those manufacturing employees advance their knowledge and skills and therefore their careers in a way that is meaningful to them (just think about how those adult learning principles apply here). They’ll have better new employee onboarding, be better prepared for their current job, see a path to future and better jobs with the organization and know there’s training to help them move forward on that path, and even find compliance training instructive, helpful, and relevant instead of simply a CYA exercise. 

And of course, taking things full circle, when employees get better training, the manufacturing organization they work for will benefit too. Those employees are less likely to quit soon after getting hired, which is a major benefit for the organization. They’ll work their way up from new hire to an acceptable level of on-the-job competence more quickly and efficiently, and from there they’ll move their way up to expertise more quickly as well. They’ll develop the knowledge and skills to help drive the company’s success, and they’ll be more engaged, productive, and innovative workers. 

So in this article, one of a series of articles we’re dubbing Manufacturing Training Insights, we’re going to tell you one small thing about how to improve the training at your worksite: how to conduct a training needs analysis. We hope you enjoy this article and invite you to look for more in the series as time goes on. 

For Starters, a Quick Review of the ADDIE Training Development Model 

Before we dive into a discussion of the training needs analysis, let’s step back and discuss the ADDIE training development model first. 

ADDIE is (1) an acronym and (2) the most commonly used systematic method for developing training materials and experiences. ADDIE has five steps, with each letter in the ADDIE acronym standing for one of those steps as described below:

  • A: Analysis (the topic of this article)
  • D: Design
  • D: Development
  • I: Implementation
  • E: Evaluation 

So as you see, analysis is the first step or phase of ADDIE. It’s sometimes known as simply analysis, but also goes by training needs analysis, training needs assessment, front-end analysis, and similar names. Generally, all of these terms are used to refer to pretty much the same thing.

You can read more about ADDIE here, and you might also want to download our ADDIE infographic, below.

So What’s the Analysis in ADDIE?

What do you do when you’re told there’s a need for training for a particular issue at work? Do you just sit down and begin to create training? If so, you’re missing one of the most important parts of the entire training design and development experience--analysis.

There are entire books written on the issue of analysis (here’s one I like--Training Needs Assessment by Dr. Allison Rossett), they probably all say slightly different things, and there’s no way we can go into as much detail as all that in this article. 

But the basic idea in analysis is to make sure you know what you’re doing, how to do it, and why you’re doing before you rush into the design and development phases of ADDIE (and of course, if your analysis DOES suggest training is a good solution, you’ll get information during analysis that you can use during the later phases of ADDIE). 

Six General Considerations During Analysis for Training 

During the analysis, you should consider the following issues:

  1. What is the problem that your organization is trying to solve (or, what is the opportunity you’re trying to take advantage of)?
  2. What is the cause of the problem (or, putting our systems-thinking hat on here, what are the contributing causes)?
  3. What organizational goal or objective would benefit if this problem were solved (and how is progress toward that goal measured)?
  4. Would training be an appropriate/effective solution or intervention to help remove this problem?
  5. What’s the better use of resources--fixing the problem or leaving it as is?
  6. If training IS an appropriate solution, what can you learn about the employees/learners to help make the learning experience more effective for them?

We’ll take a quick look at each of these six components of the training needs analysis below. 

What’s the Problem/Opportunity?

You can’t solve a problem if you don’t really know what the problem is. Do an analysis to learn more. This phase of analysis is often called the problem analysis for obvious reasons. 

What’s Causing the Problem? 

Once you know what the problem is, don’t stop there. Find out the cause, or more likely the causes/contributing factors, of the problem. 

A lack of training may be the cause of the problem. So therefore, training may help solve the problem. But on the other hand, the problem may have nothing to do with a lack of training. So if you throw some training at it, you’re still going to have the problem when you’re done. Remember that training isn’t the solution for every problem at work. If you use training when it can’t help, your L&D efforts will be considered less valuable by the organization and by employees. If you use training when it can help, and you design and deliver it well, the value of your L&D efforts will be evident to everyone. 

This phase of analysis is often known as the cause analysis, for obvious reasons.

Read our articles on Gilbert’s BEM Model, the Rummler-Brache Nine Variables Model, and the Mager/Pipe Problem-analysis flowchart for more on this. 

What’s the Organizational Goal That Would be Affected If the Problem Were Solved?

You shouldn’t develop training unless it’s going to contribute to a meaningful, desired business outcome. This is what is known as having L&D align to the business goals of your organization, and it’s critical in manufacturing. 

Before you begin to create any training, know what business goal it will support. And know what metric/KPI is used to measure it, then take a “baseline” reading of that metric and keep monitoring it over time so you can show how your training had a positive impact later. 

This article about Robert Mager’s book on Goal Analysis can give you more information on this. 

What’s the Better Use of Resources?

You may know the problem and the cause; and you may know that training might be part of the solution. 

But you STILL shouldn’t rush ahead to design and deliver training. 

Because it’s possible that if you give it some thought and analysis and a little ROI investigation, it might be cheaper just to let the problem continue than it would be to create training. Remember, training creation comes with a cost, and you can’t just throw training money at every problem, even if training could have a positive impact. 

So you may get to a point where you just decide to let the problem stand as is.

Or, perhaps you’ll land in the mid-way spot and create a job aid instead of creating training. Job aids are typically less expensive to create and may have a greater positive impact anyway. In fact, it’s a good idea to always ask yourself if you can just create a job aid instead of creating training. Check out our recorded discussion with HPI specialist Guy Wallace for more on this issue. 

The Learner Analysis 

Lastly, before you move into the training design phase, you’ve got a lot to learn about the employees you plan to create this training for and deliver it to. 

One obvious thing to find out is what do they know now and what can they do in (in relation to the training topic that you intend to create training on). Because you want to have training build on what they already know. Avoid providing training on things they already know and avoid providing training that’s so far ahead of their current knowledge and skill levels that it will be too difficult for them to make the “leap.”

There’s more to investigate in the learner analysis, too. What languages do they speak and read well? Do they have disabilities that will affect their ability to complete the training and benefit from it? Are they comfortable using technology? What are their work schedules and when can they complete the training? Who are their managers/supervisors and how can those people help reinforce the training message once the workers are back on the job? Do they have preferences in terms of training delivery method (instructor-led, live online learning, elearning, etc.)? 

Conclusion: Performing Your Training Needs Analysis Sets Up Your Manufacturing Training for Success, Learning, and Impact

We hope you found this article about how to use and conduct a training needs analysis before you design, develop, and deliver training activities and materials to manufacturing and industrial employees helpful. If you don't conduct a training needs analysis before you develop your manufacturing training, you're highly likely to create training that doesn't create significant business improvements for your organization. If you DO perform your training needs analysis, you've got a great start to being a manufacturing training super-star!

Stay tuned for more articles in this series. The next few will probably discuss learning objectives and training design. Until then, you might want to download our manufacturing training guide, below.


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