Training is a powerful tool that can be used to enrich and strengthen an organization, but to gain the best results instructional programs should be properly timed and implemented. In order to make sensible decisions about how and when to offer training, the capacity of an organization’s human resource should be reviewed on a regular basis. In the following pages, we will present an overview of the process of analyzing an organization’s training needs, and we will provide a guide to a simple technique that can be used to accurately pinpoint training requirements.
In the discussion to follow, training needs are defined as those job performance imperfections that can be corrected by skill development and learning. Enterprises typically initiate training when limitations in staff members’ abilities or knowledge are thought to be present. However, organizational shortcomings can often be incorrectly traced to staff members; it is not uncommon for performance problems to be unrelated to skills or knowledge levels. Performance shortcomings arising from causes other than knowledge or skills have to be addressed by means other than training, for example by changes in physical conditions or organizational policies. Training specifically calls on organizational members to alter their work practices so as to improve the output of a work unit. The gains produced by training can be either in the form of greater output or better output, depending on the exact deficiencies.
The importance of clearly identifying exact training needs cannot be overstated, because they will act as the framework for the design and execution of training programmes. If the needs are hazy, the outcome of training is likely to be disappointing. And, as just noted, it must be stressed that not all personnel problems can be remedied by training—many staff issues arise not because members do not know how to improve their work, but because there are other kinds of barriers that limit their performance. In those situations, training will not only fail to bring about improvements but will waste time, effort, and money. Training that is not painstakingly designed to remedy genuine needs will likely not produce expected benefits and this will eventually reflect poorly on everyone involved: trainers, those who get training, training departments, and organizational management.
Experienced trainers try to learn as much as possible about training needs before they begin laying out their instructional plans. This is needed to ensure that learning objectives fit the organization’s actual requirements, and that they produce truly worthwhile results.
We recognize that training involves expenses; however, the outlay of funds should be seen as an investment. Training needs appraisal provides information that can be applied to a cost-benefit analysis, to determine whether the gains achievable in a training activity outweigh the costs involved. Such a review should be part of any plans for staff development. When an organization undertakes training, there will be an unavoidable cost attached to releasing staff members from their regular responsibilities, and there is a cost involved in the training resources required for each program. The benefits of effective training include gains in an organization’s performance quality and productivity, and an enhanced overall organizational capacity. Finally, and most importantly, providing staff members with training makes them more competent and self-sufficient, and as a result they gain in self-esteem and satisfaction from their work.
Fundamentally, any training project should begin by reflecting on the question: “What exactly was it that prompted the proposal for training in the first place?” Answering this question will yield information crucial to the success of a training activity. This idea—that effective training is built upon clearly defined needs, and that carefully developed training objectives must be carefully developed around those needs—shapes assessment procedures discussed in this section. The development of training plans generally is begun with what is known as the training needs assessment (TNA), an exacting approach to studying an organization’s requirements and resources to determine whether training is a suitable course of action and, if so, to determine the precise type of training that is needed.
Let’s consider the most common factors that motivate a decision to mount training activities. Naturally, there are many different specific causes that prompt the choice of training options, but we can mention three factors that often move managers to action: 1) something new is about to be started by the organization; 2) some individuals or departments of the enterprise are not performing up to par; or 3) staff members may simply need to be “updated” in order to refresh skills or knowledge.
Nothing characterizes media, and especially media technology, more than constant ongoing change. The evolution of technology touches every part of an organization, affecting not just technical staff but production, programming, and even clerical workers. And one gets the sense that as the years pass, the speed of technological change is accelerating. New techniques arise frequently too; ways of packaging media content, ways of delivering programs, and methods of program production all are continually being revised and refined. Consequently, staff members need regular updating just to stay current with these changes in the demands of their jobs. Perhaps more than any other single factor, these changes inspire the planning of training programs.
A good example of the kind of technological change that the broadcast field has experienced, one that produced wide-scale demand for training, was the introduction of digital technologies. This has resulted in a near total re-tooling of skills among technical staff members, most of whom were primarily trained in analog technologies. The differences between the two fields of electronics are so vast that no simple and quick transition is possible; a full-scale retraining of affected staff members has been required in nearly all cases.
Change can come about through external factors such as changes in laws or government policies. Changes of these sorts usually require urgent attention because of the importance attached to meeting such requirements. When there is a need to change work patterns quickly, training is likely to be a better way of achieving satisfactory results than letting managers work with their staff as the changes ripple throughout the organization.
Organizations themselves tend to be in more-or-less constant change, and restructuring to meet various objectives is common. A major cause of organizational restructuring is the long-term trend toward reduced staff sizes. For quite a few years, broadcasting enterprises around the world have sought to shrink the number of workers in order to “flatten” their management structures (meaning that levels of hierarchy within the organization are reduced). This is done to trim personnel costs and to promote efficiency. To accomplish such a restructuring requires a significant reassignment of responsibilities which, in the end, imposes a demand on employees to take on multiple tasks. Such multi-skilling requirements (assignment of multiple, not closely related tasks to individual members of the organization) mean that training will be needed to ensure that everyone has the required capabilities. However, any large change like this in an enterprise will certainly mean a reallocation of responsibilities, and this, in most cases, this will produce a substantial need for training or retraining.
The second regularly encountered training need, one of underperformance, arises when some indicator suggests a problem exists. Often these indications are obvious, and in the field of broadcasting can take the form of weak ratings or insufficient advertising revenues. Or possibly, it can arise from criticisms from outside the organization. If the credibility and stature of the critic is high, an organization should be motivated to investigate further. For example, complaints from government officials can prompt an organization to reevaluate its performance, perhaps leading to a decision to conduct some sort of investigation of training needs.
More of a problem will be found in those cases where portions of an organization are considered to be performing below expectations. If individuals or departments are not meeting targeted goals, either in quantity or quality, then training might be a remedy. But on the other hand, there are many other considerations that need to be weighed before concluding that the source of the problem is a lack of knowledge or skill. Determining exactly what is causing the problem can be quite difficult, and training organizers need to work closely with managers to make good decisions.
Ideally, the indicators an organization should use to provide information on performance are those tied to its mission statement. If the organization develops procedures to monitor benchmarks that indicate how well it is meeting its objectives, the resulting information can be used to judge whether training is advisable. As a starting point it is a good idea to examine records concerning the work itself— information on work output, observations on production, work samples, performance appraisals, and so on. Not all these are always accessible by training planners, but those that are available should be consulted. Even when no problems are identified, such reviews can be useful. Indeed, routine observation has its own merit; over time it allows a training department to observe gradual trends that might not be evident otherwise. Some organizations adopt formal data gathering processes to keep track of their ongoing performance. Tools such as SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analyses, environmental scans, force field studies, and Delphi research, among many others have been used for this purpose. The benefit of simply “keeping an eye on performance” is that an “overall” picture of the organization and its performance history will emerge and these can be compared with its benchmark indicators.
The third common rationale for training occurs when there is a need to update or refresh individuals’ skills and knowledge. Such needs may arise when staff members have been in the same positions for long periods of time, and their approach to work has become a bit stale. Training can break the job stagnancy and open up fresh ways to approach their daily tasks, making individuals more productive again, and giving them renewed interest in their jobs. The chief difficulty in applying this solution is in knowing when training can be a good remedy for staff complacency. Training needs analysis can help managers make the decision to offer individuals a chance to gain new approaches to their work, but as will be discussed shortly these procedures require a great investment of time and effort.
Conversely, in some organizations, it is common to move members from department to department as their career progresses. There are real advantages to such a policy—individuals develop a full understanding of the work of different parts of the organization, and this becomes valuable as they rise to higher levels of responsibility. Too often however, no provision is made for the preparation of such persons, as they shift from assignment to assignment. In these situations, staff members are frequently given training on-site, that is to say on-the-job training. Often this kind of training is not even thought of as training, and it may be treated so casually it lacks any kind of planning or structure.
In this situation, the individual is placed at a real disadvantage and their ability to adapt to their new assignment will depend on their cleverness or good fortune. Updating training can be a way to bridge the gap between on-site practical experience and comprehensive skill and knowledge preparation.
Requirements of training needs analysis
Training needs analysis is a rigorous and systematic procedure for identifying required human resource improvements in skills and knowledge. It is used to evaluate the difference between what is desirable in an organization’s performance and what it is actually accomplishing. When conducted properly, the procedure examines a broad range of human workplace factors that reduce organizational productivity. Training can narrow the gap between what an organization desires to be achieved and what is actually being done.
The differences found between expected and actual results in an organization are called performance discrepancies. Meeting performance standards is essential to achieving organizational goals, hence eliminating—or at least minimizing—performance discrepancies will determine whether an organization can meet its overall objectives. Performance discrepancies occur when “what is being done now” is not “what should be done.” Enabling staff to perform in expected ways at expected levels can be accomplished in varied ways, some easy to develop and others not, but it is vital to note that training is only one of the options available. Before deciding on the training option, there needs to be an evaluation of whether training is the appropriate remedy.
To meet planned objectives, organizations should lay out for each of its staff members expected work outcomes—not only what needs to be done, but how much and at what quality level. Most organizations spell out such expectations through detailed “job descriptions” or “position descriptions.” Ideally, these formal statements describe precisely the specific responsibilities that are assigned to individual jobs, and they provide criteria through which performance may be judged. In any work situation there are bound to be expectations about performance, even if these expectations exist only in the minds of staff members and are not spelled out on paper. It is much better to make such expectations explicit because if formal documents do not exist, misunderstandings about job requirements are likely to occur. Without the clear guidance provided by a job description, it is probable that the person doing a job will develop an understanding that differs from those of their supervisors or their colleagues. All training needs analysis should begin with these job descriptions because they supply the standards against which performance ought to be measured. If job descriptions do not exist in an organization, training planners should encourage the management to develop policies to draft and publish them, in the interest of transparency and clarity. Not only is this fair for staff members, but it will serve as a tool to move the enterprise toward its organizational goals.
As a consequence, performance standards tend to define the characteristics of individuals who should be recruited to fill jobs. Position descriptions call for a set of identified capabilities, and these ought to be taken into account at the time people are hired or are assigned to their posts. If they are carefully observed as people are placed in their positions, the need for training can be reduced and transitions in staffing in the workplace will occur more smoothly. Again, transparency is vital; everyone affected must be clear about expectations laid out in position descriptions.
Crafting position descriptions requires care; on the one hand they need to be comprehensive, yet they need to be stated in the simplest and clearest terms. A key consideration is that goals must be realistic—people assigned to jobs should be able to carry out their tasks without putting forth extraordinary efforts. There is a tendency for goals to be over-written, meaning that organizations tend to develop inflated expectations for jobs (at least, if they are not personally required to meet them). In one sense, this is not entirely a bad thing. The establishment of high standards is definitely laudable, but if the expected level of performance is unlikely to be met by most persons assigned to the job, then the position description will become surely a recipe for failure.
Training needs analysis
A training need analysis is comprised of three components: 1) a job analysis, 2) an audit of workplace performance, and 3) findings of performance discrepancies. These three stages require a good deal of effort on the part of trainers who carry out the study. For example, each analysis requires that trainers spend time studying the job as it is being carried out at the worksite, and the process cannot be rushed because the value of the procedure lies in the discoveries that trainers make along the way.
Before training can begin, a trainer must know detailed aspects of jobs the learning is meant to address. This is so because the performance criteria for training courses have to be built around the actual performance criteria in the workplace. This step is often neglected, perhaps on the assumption that people working within an organization understand perfectly well what each job requires. Time and again this assumption has been shown to be faulty, and much wasted effort in training occurs because no one has thought about what genuine needs might exist in carrying out daily job tasks.
The usual practice is to define each job under the headings of job, duties, tasks, sub tasks, and task elements. The job is the piece of work to be done; the employment; or the post. The duties are major components of the job, that is, what is required to “get the job done.” Tasks are the detailed elements for each of the duties; in other words, the specific actions necessary to complete each duty. Sub tasks are even more narrowly defined actions that together make up an individual task. Finally, task elements are the smallest units of analysis, the individual discrete steps within each sub task.
The most important performance indicators are usually found at the level of tasks. In order to reach conclusions about an individual’s capabilities, the collection of tasks that make up duties should be studied as a group as well as individually. A task is a set of interrelated physical activities. Tasks usually have a definite beginning and ending, and may involve the use of equipment or interaction with other workers. A task should result in some sort of meaningful outcome, though the results need not always be tangible (for instance, a “correct” decision is a meaningful result even though you cannot “see” it). A task may be of any size or complexity as long as it is a distinct action directed toward completion of the duty of which it is a part.
Conventionally, training needs analysis is done with a visit to the workplace. Even if the training planner is familiar with the setting, it is preferable to be present when making judgments about performance. While on the scene, interviews with those who do the jobs, and with their supervisors and managers will aid in identifying issues that training will need to address. Before trainers start this process, they should reflect on the possible matters that might be unknown or unclear about the job: What specific parts of the work are not fully understood? What problems in the work might be hidden below the surface? What unsuspected difficulties might be present?
Findings of performance discrepancies
Performance discrepancies are the errors that occur when standards specified in job descriptions are not met in the workplace. Performance standards serve as the benchmarks against which actual performance observed in workplace audits can be compared. The trainer conducting the needs analysis must be able to judge whether the work output is satisfactory in terms of its quality and its quantity. As noted earlier, these standards must be incorporated into job descriptions, so that they are made clear to managers, trainers, and most importantly, to the staff members themselves.
The tabulation of performance discrepancies will provide a guide to trainers preparing a training program—the training activities can be tailored so as to remedy errors in job performance. This assumes, of course, that the errors arise from a lack of knowledge or skill; as noted previously, performance discrepancies can easily occur because of matters unrelated to the abilities of the people doing their jobs, as will be described shortly.
Rapid training needs appraisal
As can be seen, the traditional way of conducting training needs analysis is a demanding and rigorous process. It is also time-consuming and expensive. Training needs analysis usually means a complex process of comparing job descriptions and performance goals with measurements of actual job performance. If this is done on a person-by-person basis, as it should be, the amount of effort and time required can be enormous. Because of the demanding nature of such analyses, large organizations tend to avoid conducting them. In addition, the process tends merely to confirm training needs that were already known to staff members. Consequently, training needs analyses are seldom undertaken on a regular basis and this presents a serious problem for organizations that wish to offer training. Not knowing what performance problems exist in the workplace handicaps trainers’ ability to create effective training programs.
To address this need for a quicker and simpler way of evaluating training needs, a procedure has been created to yield results comparable to that of a training needs analysis. In the following pages we will present a technique that can be used to swiftly and efficiently identify workplace performance problems. This method of analyzing training needs can be carried out within an entire organization in a few days, not in weeks as would be required by traditional techniques. To distinguish this approach from conventional training needs analysis, we refer to it as rapid training needs assessment.
A training needs assessment is carried out without a workplace audit, substituting instead staff reports on perceived jobsite shortcomings. Because of this, an assessment lacks some of the benefits of a regular training needs analysis. For example, an audit of a job can reveal a great deal of information useful in designing a training program. Not only do the detailed demands of the job become obvious, the interrelated aspects of the skills are revealed—that is, how one task relates to others in a reasonably orderly and well-defined way. Beyond this, the training planner is given a sense of the work environment, personalities of people on the job, and many other intangibles that can subtly affect the success of training. However, it is not easy to grasp such details accurately unless the trainer is intimately familiar with that workplace, which is not normally the case. A training needs assessment, on the other hand, takes advantage of the familiarity that staff members have with the organization and with difficulties that they have directly and personally observed in the workplace. In principle, the people who actually attend to their duties on a daily basis are the ones who are most likely to understand what problems are truly present.
Procedures for training needs appraisals
This rapid appraisal procedure is based on the concept that when a general perception exists that staff need upgraded skills, knowledge, or professionalism, training options ought to be considered carefully and appropriate actions taken. This method examines widely-held opinions about staff deficiencies and refines them into a set of recommended training options.
Prior to launching the TNA procedure, a consultation should be held with top level leadership within the broadcasting organization. In this meeting a general introduction to the organization can be gained and the managers can share their own impressions of human resource development needs. These are the people responsible for the overall performance of their organization, hence their sense of its mission should be taken into account.
Generally, a training needs assessment will be conducted in six or more sessions over several days, each session requiring about two hours to complete. To facilitate work in the exercise, participants can be grouped into staff categories. For example, the grouping might fall along these lines: 1) Technical and engineering, 2) Radio and TV Programming, 3) Producers and directors, 4) Marketing and advertising, 5) Administration and accounting, and 6) Journalists. Other groupings can be adopted, depending on the organization’s configuration and operational norms. The size of groups should be limited; about twelve persons will be ideal, but in any case never more than twenty staff members should be included in a single group. This limit is intended to ensure that no group would be too large to afford every member an opportunity to contribute to discussions, while at the same time providing enough breadth of opinion to ensure that all ideas commonly circulating in the organization will rise to the surface. Groups should be made up of experienced personnel at any level having a good knowledge of the organization.
1) In the first step, each individual in a group is given a questionnaire and asked to create a list of up to eight of the most important training needs within the organization, based upon personal observations formed while performing one’s daily work. It is important at this stage that this list is made privately and without consulting other members of the group. To aid participants, it may be helpful to describe what training needs are and to speak about types of needs that frequently occur. If this is done, care should be taken not to create the impression that the trainer actually expects certain specific training needs to be identified. Although each group should be advised to give particular attention to their own area within the organization, they should also be invited to identify training needs that they believe exist elsewhere. An example of a questionnaire used in creating individual lists is included at the end of this publication.
2) Once participants have individually listed all of the training needs they can think of, the trainer will invite each person to share their list with the entire group, explaining and justifying items on their list. As this is done, the trainer will create a master list of all identified training needs on a whiteboard or on a flip chart. Inevitably, there will be duplication in the lists of individuals so the master list should record each item only once. The trainer should encourage group discussion at this stage to clarify what is meant by each item and to engage members in the thinking process required to create a complete listing of training needs. It is not unusual for a group to collectively identify twenty or more different training needs; every one must be included in the master list, even if they appear to be off the mark.
In this phase of the process, the person leading the discussion should act as a moderator by asking questions, probing, and generally striving to uncover underlying issues that might not be evident to participants as they present their individual list of needs. To do this requires a bit of skill—the discussion leader should not seem to be in control of the conversation, but at the same time should keep the conversation moving forward. The success of the needs appraisal hinges on the thoroughness of the identification and evaluation of training requirements at this stage.
Since this stage of the process is so critical, a few suggestions for the discussion leader will be offered before describing the remaining steps. Whether the needs identified pertain to updating, correction of performance discrepancies, or changes in technology or the organization, the basis of the need should be uncovered and clearly spelled out.
When a performance problem is cited by group members, the discussion leader should probe to determine if training would be a good remedy and, if so, whether training is the best means of solving the discrepancy. After all, poor performance can have many different causes.
In addition, the discussion needs to focus on needs that affect the organization’s actual work. Just because co-workers and supervisors are unhappy with something within the enterprise does not necessarily mean that it is a problem that should be dealt with in training. Annoyances may be upsetting to individuals, but they might have no effect on the organization’s ability to meet its goals. Unhappiness can often arise from inherent conflicts in roles—a classical case is the unavoidable friction between production and technical staff. This stems from their different functions in the organization, ones that frequently result in professional and interpersonal clashes.
It is essential to determine whether the problem is a lack of skill or whether issues arise from other faults. If the staff members in question are able to do the job, but aren’t doing it, the solution lies not in training, but elsewhere. One should also ask whether the persons could once do the job satisfactorily. There is a very great difference between a skill that once existed and one that never existed. If the skill once existed something has happened to cause its loss. Was it a lack of practice? Or was it some change in the individuals’ behavior or work conditions that led to the setback? Some probing along these lines will aid in properly defining the training need.
Finally, the discussion leader should attempt to learn whether the individuals responsible for the performance discrepancy have the ability to meet requirements of the job. The reasons people find themselves unable to do a job are many. It is not always based on physical or intellectual limitations; it can also arise from a person’s mental or emotional or attitudinal state. For example, if a staff member is over-qualified, their motivation may be lacking; they might possibly find the job unchallenging and uninteresting. Also, if the job in question is disliked, it may difficult to persuade staff members to do the work properly. Or, if there is a general lack of morale, individuals’ commitment to their jobs is likely to be low.
3) In the next phase the group will prioritize the training needs it has identified. This is accomplished in this way: each individual will now be asked to allocate 100 points among the most important training needs, the number of points representing the importance of the need. The maximum number of points that can be allocated to any single training need is 25, however. Thus, a person might assign 25 points to the topmost need, 15 points to two other needs, 10 points to three additional needs, and 5 points to three final needs. It is vital that this work be carried out individually and without discussion, in order to preserve the independence of judgments made by each person. Only needs on the group’s master list can be given points; no new training need can be added at this point or later.
It should be obvious that the discussion in the second step will have a significant influence on the ratings that participants give each of the needs. No doubt needs will be identified by some members of the group that no one else has considered, and their explanations will convince others in the group that those needs deserve to be given priority attention. This is normal and is helpful in reaching a kind of consensus about the key human resource needs in the organization.
4) Next, the points allocated by individual members will be shared with all others, noting their figures alongside each selected need on the master list. When completed, the point totals for each training need will be summed. The resulting list of the items receiving the most points by members of the group represents a set of the most important training needs identified in the organization. The needs will be ranked by the total points each received from members of the group.
In most cases, a clear pattern of agreed upon needs will emerge at this stage. However, it is advisable to invite comments and further discussion with the group before proceeding. Although uncommon, the group might collectively wish to modify the ranking that arose, and this should be allowed if the group’s sentiment for an adjustment is strong. At this point the discussion leader should strive to reduce the list to a manageable number by focusing only on those needs that received a significant number of points. Typically, there will be a few items to which only one or two persons allocated a small number of points; these need not given detailed consideration.
5) This preceding process is repeated for each group within the organization. Generally, patterns that emerge in one group tend to be repeated in others. This indicates that, in the opinions of those who work in the organization, these are the most prominent training needs.
The person managing the analysis process must next collate the results of all groups and determine which among the identified training needs were broadly agreed upon. Usually, this is not difficult because important training needs tend to be broadly agreed to. The results then should be summarized in a report that contains a ranked order set of training needs arranged by each of the groups, together with an analysis of the patterns that emerged in discussion. The narrative should explain the rationales for each of the foremost training needs, as expressed by members of the groups, taking care not to rely too heavily on the ideas of any single participant.
Naturally, a trainer will not necessarily be an expert on actual work in the organizations being reported as deficient; hence in the end, managers will need to confirm the results themselves. It is they who will need to act upon the recommendations delivered by this rapid training needs appraisal process. However, managers will then have the information required to respond to widely felt human resource needs in their organizations.
Some additional thoughts
A logical outcome of a training needs appraisal is a set of areas identified within the organization where improvements in skills and/or knowledge would improve its ability to meet its goals. In moving on to the planning of training activities to address these needs, we suggest that managers keep in mind not only the short term issues but the long view as well. Specifically, the results of an appraisal tell us what the work unit requires to address immediate perceived shortcomings, but it does not tell us what the organization will require in the long term. The long term view requires a strategic vision and a plan for the future of the organization. Perhaps the immediate problem is not important to the success of the enterprise in five or ten years; to judge this requires a different kind of analysis altogether.
Nor, by the way, will training needs appraisal tell us what individuals within work units might require for their own personal and professional development. Their development is important not just to the individual involved, but to the organization as well, and giving thought to the career development of staff members will, over time, pay dividends to the organization. As staff members gain in their own capacities, they naturally become more valuable to the organization. Again, we come back to the point that training ought to be seen as an investment rather than a cost. If management makes training decisions exclusively based on immediate needs, the resulting training may not groom individuals for future promotion or the chance to extend their skill repertoire. When this occurs, both staff and the organization may squander valuable opportunities. Staff who are eager to achieve good results but are hampered in their ability to grow over time may be encouraged to look for jobs elsewhere having greater scope. Needless to say, staff turnover is unwelcome because it increases costs and, in the short run at least, very likely shrinks the organization’s overall capacity.
An organization is built around the humans who fill its jobs, but sometimes their humanness can be part of the problem. Personalities to a large extent determine the limits of individuals’ capabilities in the workplace. One’s interpersonal style, thought processes, habits, and characteristic reactions to criticism, frustrations, or encouragement play a major role in determining a person’s job effectiveness. We all know people who are brilliant or gifted with talent but yet seem unable to marshal their abilities properly. Hard as it may be, training must strive to confront issues like this. Of all the demands placed upon training, correcting behaviors and attitudes are the most challenging. Personality traits and habits that have been formed throughout life cannot reasonably be altered much by the relatively short duration training programs that are offered in organizations. For this reason, the training planner must coordinate with management decisions about whether training is likely to correct performance problems that originate from personal qualities and deep-seated behaviors, or whether other non-training measures would be more suitable.
Finally, there are training abuses that must be recognized in the needs appraisal process. Sometimes, participants may seek to manipulate the analysis exercise so as to either impose or to gain training opportunities for themselves or others. Certain kinds of training tend to be seen as a reward—overseas attachments in prestigious organizations, for instance. Caution should definitely be exercised in responding to such suggestions since training offered merely as a kind of reward is hardly ever a good use of available resources. At the same time, certain types of training can be perceived as punishment. Some participants might use the needs appraisal exercise to inflict undesired training on individuals they wish to deal with severely. Although this is a rare occurrence, the trainer should be on guard against this kind of tactic. In any case, if training is seen as a punishment, individuals will not be eager participants and the ability to achieve positive results will be great. As always, the basic test in these cases is whether a real performance discrepancy exists, and if so whether training will provide an effective answer. In the final analysis, the purpose of a training needs appraisal is to help determine how to deliver training to the right persons, in the right form, at the right time.
Begin this simple TNA exercise by listing eight most important training needs in your area of your organization. Do this without consulting any other members of your group. After this, arrange them in order of importance, with the most important numbered 1:
Next, on flip chart paper list all of your group member’s training needs. If there are duplicate needs, list each one only once. As individual needs are listed, the person offering each one should explain their rationale for including that need. As this process proceeds, the group should discuss and carefully evaluate the merits of each suggested need.
The next step will be to prioritize the training needs. This is done by allowing each individual member of your group to assign a total of 100 points to selected needs. For example, you might assign 15 points to need A, 25 points to need B, and so on until you had assigned all 100 points. Only the most important needs should be assigned points, but no need should be assigned more than 25 points.
Finally, add together all the points assigned to each need by members of your group. Arrange the eight highest rated needs in descending order of points. This is now your prioritized training needs summary.