Before you begin any training program, you should first do a training needs analysis.
If you’re new to training, maybe you don’t know what a training needs analysis is. But not to fear, because we’re about to spell it out for you here.
And even better, because a big chunk of our customer base is made up of paper manufacturers, we’ll put it in those terms. If you’re not a paper manufacturer, but you’re still interested in learning about the training needs analysis, you can still learn from this article. Or you can read this more general training needs analysis article.
You might also be interested in our guide to online training for paper manufacturers.
At some point, for whatever reason, you may decide that you need to create some training at your paper manufacturing site.
Maybe you’re the training manager and you’ve been tasked with heading up the entire learning & development department. Or maybe you’re the safety or EHS manager and you need to create some safety training. Or maybe you’re in production/operations, and you need to train workers to use a new machine that was just installed on the tissue converting line.
Whatever the reason, you’d be wise to perform the four-step training needs analysis before you charge ahead and create your training materials. So let’s learn more about analysis.
A full training needs analysis includes four different stages. Those stages are:
During this phase, you find the organizational need or problem that seems to require a training intervention. This typically means identifying and then trying to closing a “gap” between current performance and desired future performance.
For example, we mentioned safety training earlier. If workers are consistently removing machine guarding, that’s your gap–the difference between the current state (guards removed).and the ideal state (all guards in place).
Or consider the earlier example of a new machine on your tissue converting line. Right now, your current state is that your workers don’t know how the machine works and how they should operate it. And your ideal state is that they would know how it works and how to operate it within their job role(s). So that difference is the gap you want to close.
So once you’ve completed your organizational analysis, you’re going to have identified some gap between the current state and a desired state. We gave two examples above, but remember that there are many other examples as well–potentially, any place where your company falls short of reaching a business goal could be a gap you identify during this analysis. So in that case, you’d want to know what the business goal is and what metric (or key performance indicator, also called a KPI) is used to measure it. That way you can gather information before and after training and use the metric/KPI to see if you’ve closed your gap or not.
Once you’ve done your organizational analysis, and you’ve identified a gap to close, the next step is to perform a problem analysis. During the problem analysis, you’re going to investigate the problem, find its root cause, and see if training would actually help fix the problem.
In some cases, your analysis will show that training IS NOT the appropriate solution, and you can recommend doing something else to solve the problem. For example, let’s consider the missing machine guards. Maybe workers are fully aware what the machine guards are, what they are intended to do, and know that they’re not supposed to remove them. Training isn’t going to fix this problem, because the workers already have that information. Instead, during the problem analysis you may discover why the workers are removing the guards. For example, maybe the guards are poorly designed and they get in the way of the workers. In that case, the problem is the design of the guards, and referring the issue to engineering for a fix would be more productive than creating and leading a training session. In this case, you’d be done with your training needs analysis, and there would be no need to continue further.
But in other cases, training is the right call. If training CAN solve the problem, great. Then you’d continue on to the third stage of the training needs analysis. Let’s return to our earlier example of the new machine on your tissue converting line. You won’t have to analyze long to realize the “problem” is that workers aren’t familiar with the new machine precisely because it’s new. And, you can logically assume that with some training, they can learn what they need to do. So, you’d move on to stage 3.
If you’ve identified your gap in step 1 and determined that training is a workable solution in step 2, then it’s time to advance to the job role analysis, which is step 3.
During this analysis, you’ll need to determine the knowledge, skills, and abilities that people in one or more job roles need in order to perform their job (and therefore satisfy the organizational need/solve the problem).
So let’s go back to our example of the new machine on the tissue converting line. If there’s only one job role that needs to know how to operate the machine (let’s say the job role is called “converting line workers”), then you’ll come up with a list of the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) that people who fill the “converting line workers” job role will need in order to operate the new machine correctly. These necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities will be the basis of your learning objectives–click here to read more about learning objectives.
Of course, there may be people in more than one job role who need to know about the new machine. For example, maybe in addition to your converting line operators job role, it’s reasonable to assume that your maintenance workers will need to know about the new machine too. And it’s also reasonable to assume they may need a different set of knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) than your converting line operators workers do. So you’d identify a different set of KSAs for people in the maintenance job role, which you’d use to create a different set of learning objectives for a different set of training materials (even if there is some overlap).
During the learner analysis, you’ll want to learn about your training audience so that you’ll know how to best design training that will improve their performance and close the gap. Traits to look for include the current job performance; age, race, and gender; education level, prior experience and knowledge, preferred training styles, literacy (written and reading), computer literacy (if the training will be computer-based); personal interests and motivations, and more.
Knowing as much as possible about your learners gives you a better chance of creating training materials that will help them learn effectively.
A good place to start is by acknowledging that your employees are adults and by knowing that adults have shared characteristics that make some forms of training more effective for them and other forms less effective. These are known as adult learning principles–click to read more about adult learning principles.
And there you have your short introduction to the training needs analysis, couched in language that should be familiar to folks in paper manufacturing and/or similar industries. After reading this, you may say to yourself “I’ve got no time to do that stuff” and go ahead and create training without it, but we encourage you to do this in at least an ababbreviated format. You’ll find that if you do, you training will be more effective, as measured by employee interest, actual employee learning (comprehension and retention), employee performance on the job, and ultimately in terms of your company reaching or getting closer to its business goals.
Here are some other resources to check to learn more about the training needs analysis. And remember, we’ll be writing more detail blog posts about each of the stages shortly, so keep coming back.