You’re at the beginning of a new program, or a new financial year on a long program. A few members of the team have changed and you’re about to start a new section of work. How do you give yourself confidence that everyone on the team has the skills they need to perform at their best for the client? A training needs analysis could be the tool you are looking for.
What is a Training Needs Analysis?
A training needs analysis is a process that lets you assess the future training requirements for the organization. Often it is done on an organization or department/team level, but it can also be done at a project or program level, or even on an individual level.
It identifies the gap between what staff members need to know in order to do their jobs effectively and what they currently know. The gap uncovered then forms the basis of a training plan for that individual or area.
You might also hear it called a training needs assessment – it means the same thing. They are both often abbreviated to TNA.
The purpose of a training needs analysis is to work out what skills, abilities and/or knowledge someone needs in order to perform their role effectively, for example, your PMO team might need Primavera P6 skills and a Control Account Manager needs a solid grasp of the fundamentals of earned value management. If they don’t currently have those skills, you have a gap, and that gap is filled by scheduling training to meet their needs.
When do you use a TNA?
A TNA can be used at any time, but it’s frequently used at the beginning of a financial year to establish how best to spend the training budget. The gaps in training identified by the assessment can then be prioritized based on any common themes or business requirements, and then a training plan can be drawn up.
Project and program teams use a TNA at the beginning of the work (or a major phase of the work) to establish the needs of the project delivery team so that there is a pool of skilled resources available when required. If you have just won a new contract with a government agency, that would be the perfect time to carry out a TNA to give yourself (and your new client) confidence that the team has the technical and software skills to meet the contract requirements.
Pro tip: You can’t expect a training needs assessment to fix every problem! It’s not always training that is causing the results you see. For example, poor quality earned value management reports and data analysis could be caused by inexperienced staff trying to run the reports – and training would help in that scenario. However, it could also be caused by gaps in software configuration or poorly set up interfaces between tools. Training is only effective at filling the gap when lack of training is genuinely the case of a performance issue.
How to conduct a Training Needs Analysis
The TNA process is very simple but it relies on some pre-requisites being in place. Before you get started, you need to know what the organizational or program goals are and what behavior, skills, knowledge and attitudes are expected to be able to achieve those goals. For example, in a construction project, you may expect team members to have detailed knowledge of health and safety protocols. However, the health and safety rep for the site would be expected to have an advanced knowledge of all the protocols, and probably some extra skills besides, such as being able to carry out or audit site risk assessments.
Once those expectations are set and documented, then assess each individual against them. You can define levels of skill against which to assess an individual. For example, someone could be ranked as having no skill, beginner level knowledge, adequate skills, advanced skills or having achieved expert level. You can define the categories or levels in conjunction with HR or external experts.
Remember that different roles will need different levels of skill. A scheduler in your team would need advanced Primavera P6 skills, but another member of the project team may only need to be able to interpret data from the schedule, not input it or run reports from it.
Once your analysis is complete, you can design a training program to meet your needs. This is especially important on projects that are required to use an Earned Value Management System (EVMS) because the obligations from the contract could be weighty. You may need to create your schedule in Primavera P6, or provide reports in a certain format – often the easiest way to ensure a structured approach and consistency across the whole team is to provide training in the way you expect the work to be done.
Assessing training needs
You might be wondering how best to assess someone’s needs, especially when it comes to ‘driving’ your project management software. After all, if they don’t ask for training, how can you judge whether they would benefit from it or not?
Their role description is a starting point: ideally, they would already have the skills and knowledge required to fulfil their role, but in reality, jobs evolve over time. Someone may have moved into a role, or expanded their responsibilities, but not quite have achieved the standard in some areas.
You can also use surveys or tests to check understanding of core concepts or software features. For example, ask how long it takes them to do a task, and then compare that to what an experienced consultancy says about how long that task should take.
Typically, we can save teams time with our targeted, streamlined project management, software and earned value management training because we focus on giving you experience with the features you actually need to use. If you think there is scope for someone to complete their work faster, that’s another sign that training could be beneficial.
Once you have completed your TNA – or if you need a bit of help working out exactly how to upskill your team for maximum efficiency on your program – then we can help to plug the gaps by creating a tailored package of software and skills training that meets your needs. Why not give us a ring and find out how we can help?