A training needs analysis is the perfect tool to help you improve employee job performance, regardless of whether you’re a startup or an ASX200 company. But how exactly do you do one and do it right?

Knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) can often make or break a company. With the right ones, your company can thrive, whilst the wrong ones will see you lose your competitive edge to the competition.

In fact, most experts agree that a top-tier training program will help you attract even better talent from the competition, as well as help reduce staff turnover.

What is a training needs analysis?

A training needs analysis, also known as a training needs assessment or by the acronym TNA, is the process used to identify what employee training is needed to give them the desired knowledge, skills and abilities.

They are typically done with the help of mandatory training schedules (eg. X training should be given by Y date followed by A training by B date) and can cover your entire company, specific teams only and/or individual employees (eg. key decision makers).

Why perform a training needs analysis?

Now we know what a training needs analysis is, there are many reasons why employers of all sizes would want to go through the TNA process. These are to:

  • Identify skills gaps before they become a serious problem.
  • Ensure new technological developments are embraced and that employees know how to utilise them to be more effective.
  • Prioritise training to ensure current resources are invested properly under the right timeframe and budget.
  • Plan future training to ensure future (expected) resources are invested properly.
  • Determine who gets trained so only those who need it get the right training at the right time.
  • Ensure there's a shared company direction so that training is done to be in line with business goals.

How to conduct a training needs analysis: a step-by-step guide

Employers can perform a training needs analysis using the below guide and examples to help.

1. Start with some objectives

Although it might sound obvious, before you can even consider doing a TNA, you have to think about the end result; what do you want to achieve from this?

Ideally, these objectives should be measurable and have some sort of timeframe attached to them. You might come up with two or three objectives, but unless they're incredibly similar, focus on one at a time to achieve your desired outcome.

Examples of some objectives could be:

  • Increase the number of likes/comments on social media by the end of the week
  • Improve employee job satisfaction/morale by X% by the end of the month
  • Improve financial performance (increased revenue, profit, share price etc.) to X by the end of the quarter
  • Get an average sales team customer satisfaction score of X by the end of the year

This is quite possibly the most important step of the entire TNA process, so do not rush it. You may find that this is the longest step, but if you rush it, you risk training the wrong people, not giving them the right training or both!

2. Outline (all) required skills, abilities and knowledge

Now you know what you're aiming for, you need to work out how you're going to get there.

The best way to do this is to sit down with the managers and team leads of the various aspects of your company, share with them the new-found company goals and ask for their input.

Using their input - both the positive and the negative - create an employee behaviour table to find out the KSAs you need. It should look a little like this:

Employee Behaviour


Knowledge, Skills & Abilities Required

Behaviour 1

Brief description of what the behaviour is and what the employee(s) do

  • K1 - Example
  • K2 - Example
  • S1 - Example
  • A1- Example

Behaviour 2

Brief description of what the behaviour is and what the employee(s) do

  • K1 - Example
  • S1 - Example
  • S2 - Example
  • A1 - Example
  • A2 - Example
  • A3 - Example

Remember, the more specific you are with what required knowledge and skills are needed, the more effective your evaluation process, and thus your training programs, will be.

3. Evaluate current performance

Perhaps the hardest step, you now need to look at the KSAs your employees have at the moment.

There are literally dozens of different ways to do this - all of which have their pros and cons - but the best way to do it is through a mixture of two or three from this list:

  • Interviews
  • Questionnaires
  • Observations
  • Work Examinations
  • Competency Assessments (Skills Audits)
  • Competitor Analysis

In essence, what you should be looking for is the discrepancies between what management asks for and what employees deliver.

At this point, you may want to make it clear to your employees that you are not evaluating them in any way, and less-than-desired performance will not be punished, else this may compound pressures and throw your performance analysis.

4. Work out where the gaps are

The next step is to look at both your desired and current performance in the context of one another.

Regardless of whether you're Sydney's largest home builder or an independent café overlooking Darling Harbour, you'll probably find that you have a few performance gaps and maybe even a surplus or two.

When you've found your performance gaps, it might be worth breaking them down and looking at them in a bit more detail. You might find that inside those gaps, there are bits you are doing quite well, but others not so well, causing the performance gap.

For example, if you have a financial-oriented skills gap, you might find that although your sales teams are good at selling your product/service to existing customers, but struggle to onboard new ones.

In this example, it would be better to focus job training on onboarding new customers as opposed to focusing on increasing repeat customers.

It's worth noting, however, that it's not always a lack of employee knowledge, skills or abilities that may be causing the performance gaps; things like incentives (or a lack thereof), management style and poor motivation could also be the cause.

Particularly if you have a decentralised team of employees based both inside and outside of Australia, you might find that there are cultural cues that are wholly or in part causing the gap(s).

Alternatively, if your industry is less team-oriented, you may choose to define gaps in relation to your employees by comparing them, with those routinely being below the average for a particular metric (eg. the KSAs to achieve your goals) being the ones considered for training.

5. Make a plan

With your gap analysis complete and a better idea of where you need to improve, you should next make a training plan, including as much detail as possible of:

  • Who's being trained?
  • Is everyone (doing the same job) getting the same training or are some people/teams getting more/less training than others?
  • Where they're being trained? Eg. Is the training being delivered online or in person?
  • Who's training them? Eg. Is it an internal or external trainer?
  • When are they being trained? And when do they need to be trained by?
  • How are they being trained?

The answer to each of these questions should be clear in your plan.

For example, your sales team might be getting relationship-building training to increase your revenue. This will be done next Tuesday by an outside expert in the conference room.

However, next Wednesday, your three lowest revenue sales representatives are getting more intensive, one-on-one training with the outside expert to learn some new skills and get more specific skills training.

The plan should also talk about after the training. It should talk about when you are going to evaluate if the training was successful in the run-up to the deadline set in your original objective and the contingencies that need to be put in place if you don't get there.

One thing people often forget to include is how much everything is going to cost, both physically for the training, and the loss of revenue whilst you are providing training.

6. Start an effective training program

With your entire training needs analysis complete, the final step is to put it into practice!

Follow your plan as closely as possible, ensuring each aspect is done as best as possible. Remember, every employee will have a different learning style; some will get it quicker than others, so don't worry too much if one employee's taking a little longer than the rest.

Assuming all this is done, as your analysis process was thorough enough, you should easily meet your company's goals. If it doesn't work, simply begin the process again to find where you went wrong and go again.

Training needs analysis best practices

  • Manage your expectations - for a TNA to be successful, everyone has to be on the same page. Whilst the management might want one thing, employees might want another, and customers a completely different thing, so you might have to lower your expectations to get everyone on the same page.
  • Integrate it - whilst you might be tempted to do it piecemeal to minimise the loss of revenue, giving your training over a spaced-out period of time can actually do more harm than good if some employees have more training than others.
  • Use technology to help you - whether it's Microsoft Word, Excel or a dedicated team management software, technology, particularly those which can easily be distributed across to different stakeholders, is the key tool to a successful TNA.

Interested in doing your own training needs analysis? PLUS UTS has tools that can help you analyse the skills your people have, employee by employee, and the ones you'll need in the future. Ask us about it and we'll organise a demo!