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DON'T Skip the Training Needs Analysis! Here's Why

As an eLearning leader or course designer, you will often encounter clients or team members who just want to skip the training needs analysis before starting the eLearning course design. They simply feel they already know what their employees need, so why waste time and resources doing this? 

However, like with many scenarios, a skipped step today ends up costing way more in the long run. Developing eLearning courses without understanding the audience and asking the right questions is prone to give too much content, too little, or just completely wrong content. 

Proactive eLearning Design: 10 Essential Questions You Should Ask Before Starting

While there is a variety of constraints pushing clients, team members, and you to rush the process, there are three terrible things that can happen when you skip the training needs analysis:


#1) Teaching the Right People the Wrong Skills

Teaching ALL the skills to ALL the employees in your company might seem like a decent way to cover your bases, but it’s time-consuming and ineffective. By trying to devise a one, size fits all training you will likely not fit anyone very well.  

Example: If you have a sales team, and half of the team is tasked with drumming up new accounts while the other is supposed to maintain existing accounts, it doesn’t make a ton of sense to teach the entire team about cold calling techniques. This wastes time and money for both employee and employer.

Similarly, teaching things your employees already know will make them feel as if they are being talked down to and as if you don’t know them or their jobs well enough to understand what skills they already have.

It is also important to avoid shallow needs analysis, meaning a simple survey of employees and managers to find out what skills they require is not enough. Also, don't start putting together training plans based on perceived training needs. The result: Training programs are not based on a proper needs assessment, and therefore these are highly ineffective. Take a look at the importance of evaluating corporate training needs in this article

Effective training needs analysis will answer at least these questions:

  • Who needs training?
  • What do they need to learn?
  • What skills are needed and for what reason?
  • What skills are already in place?
  • What is needed but is not accessible?
  • What is missing from existing training?

#2) Teaching the Right Skills To the Wrong People

Why do the wrong people get trained?

  • An overlap of skills/training occurs when new employees come in with existing knowledge.
  • Company policy says each employee requires a certain amount of training no matter if that employee already knows it.
  • Sometimes it’s just a matter of using up the budget so the same budget can be asked for again the following year.

Knowing your students is the best way to avoid redundancy in training; so starting with what you do know is a reasonable strategy while filling in blanks with a needs analysis. Without a training needs analysis, you can expect to have other projects suffer due to employees’ attention being taken up by the unnecessary training. Employees who are forced to relearn information may become bored and stressed, letting their work suffer as well.

Grab this free template: A Template to Carry Out an eLearning Audience Analysis

Read: How to Research Your Target Audience

#3) Teaching the Right Skills the Wrong Way

While training is a great way to address many problems and skill gaps within a company, it is not always the answer. Often, training is thrown at an issue once it has already become urgent. A kind of panic sets in as a problem becomes critical, and training is the go-to answer. 

Determine if training is really the best option by asking yourself these questions:

  • What is the actual problem this training is attempting to solve?
  • What are the causes of the issue and are they actually being caused by internal or external forces?
  • In what ways will training address these causes?
  • Was training already attempted and, if so, what was the outcome?
  • If there was previous training, why did it fail and what could have been done to make it better?
  • Are there things already in place that we can utilize to rectify this issue?

Even if you do decide on training, there are still questions that need to be answered to decide on what type of training would be most effective.

Look at these questions before starting to formulate a training plan:

  • Will people need to refer to the information being presented in an ongoing way? Elearning is a great option for this over the option of live training which relies too heavily on learners’ ability to take notes. 
  • Do we need formal or informal training? If we are talking about a small group, a one-on-one or more informal style training might be best especially if the group is already highly skilled but needs to pick up a skill or two. A large group, like an entire sales force, might need more structured training with built-in social features.
  • Where and how should this training take place? Classroom training can be the answer when you need to demonstrate something for example. Elearning or blended learning gives the most flexibility and can be used effectively for a large group. 

With these things in mind, you can go on to be a better course designer, always keeping what is needed in mind as you create.  We hope this will also give you the tools to convince clients of the need for needs analysis and how this will help them and their company in the long run.

Other Recommended Reads:

visual design crash course



Learning needs analysis and evaluation, 2nd ed., Francis Bee & Roland Bee London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 2003

Training: It’s Not Always the Answer, Bill Stear, 2005

TRAINING NEEDS ASSESSMENT. A Must for Developing an Effective Training Program, By Judith Brown, Director of Research

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