If you are conducting a Training Needs Analysis with every training project, you are ahead of the game. Many instructional designers get an assignment, open a tool, and start developing their training. If you are not completing the Training Needs Analysis, let’s change that and supercharge your training design!
If you are using the ADDIE Instructional Design model, you begin with Analysis. Just make sure you go all in on it and really analyze the training needs by completing the 3-Step Training Needs Analysis template.
When instructional designers skip the Training Needs Analysis, they are setting themselves and the training up for failure.
Have you ever been in a situation where the conversation about what should have been in the training came after you were done building it? I have, and it sucked! But guess what, it was my fault because I didn’t ask any questions. It was my job to ask, and I didn’t so that mistake was on me.
Training Needs Analysis
Now, wouldn’t it just be amazing if every training you created was perfect? I know this is just a dream but you can get closer to perfect by completing a Training Needs Analysis. Download a free copy of the Training Needs Analysis template here.
When you get a new training project, simply follow these 3-steps and get improved results!
- Ask the Business Owner for More Information.
- Schedule a Scoping Meeting.
- Host the Scoping Meeting and Complete the Training Needs Analysis Template.
In the following sections, I will cover what you should do during each of these three steps to help you supercharge your trainings.
Step 1: Ask the Business Owner for More Information
After painfully learning that it was a mistake to assume or guess what went into a training, I became more methodical in my analysis. Today, I complete the Training Needs Analysis template with nearly every training I create. I even complete the process for trainings I personally want and build.
When building courses for others, I ask them (i.e. the business owners) questions about the training. Business owners are usually the people who request the training or the department that needs the training.
For some strange reason, many of us fear asking questions. That fear seems to be more powerful when we are speaking to a VP or Chief something or another. We have this unrealistic idea that we should know all the answers. So wrong! That is what the Subject Matter Experts are for. We come, as experts in instructional design, with questions and they, as SMEs, provide the answers.
Asking questions is a basic component of analysis and of understanding goals and needs. If we don’t ask, we don’t know.
So, what questions should you ask?
When a training request comes in or when you are assigned a training, send your business owner (i.e. requestor) these questions to complete.
- What is the training topic/title?
- In 2-3 sentences, how would describe the training?
- Which key performance indicators/business objectives does this training support?
- Is there a desired course length?
- Who are the Subject Matter Experts?
- What are the success metrics for the training?
You may be wondering why these questions and why ask them before the Scoping meeting? The answers to these questions can help you with 3 very important activities.
First, these answers can help you prioritize the training. If there is an immediate business need for the training, it might get moved to the front of the line to be worked on.
Second, these questions can help you determine about how long it might take you to build the training.
And, third, asking these questions and expecting answers, let’s your business owner know that building good training is a collaborative process.
What do you do when the business owner won’t answer the questions in advance?
If you have a business owner who is too busy or just plain difficult and won’t answer the questions, it’s okay. Gather as much information as you can and move on to step 2 with whatever information you have.
Step 2: Schedule a Scoping Meeting
I always recommend instructional designers begin a training project with a Scoping meeting. You will invite the business owners, Subject Matter Experts, and anyone else who will be involved with the training to the meeting. This might be leadership, your analytics team, developers, or end-users.
The Scoping meeting, often called the Kick Off meeting, is the time to ask questions and clarify roles and responsibilities.
Could you imagine if an IT team was asked to create a Training app and started building it? How would they build an app satisfying the customer if the team never asked what should be in the app? They wouldn’t be able to unless they got really lucky.
The same is true for us as instructional designers. Without an insane amount of luck, we can’t build trainings meeting our business owner’s expectations without knowing what they expect. The good news is that it takes very little time and work to understand wants, needs, and goals.
In your invite, you can explain the ground rules of the meeting, the goals of the meeting, and any pre-work that needs to be completed as well as provide the information collected in Step 1.
Step 3: Host the Scoping Meeting and Complete the Training Needs Analysis
Every instructional designer does things a little different and that’s okay. Some have meetings and ask questions. Others use sticky notes to brainstorm content. And, some do nothing and just get to work. I use a Training Needs Analysis template.
What is important is that you are completing an analysis. How you do it doesn’t matter as long as you are doing it.
Running the Scoping meeting
A couple of years ago, I had the privilege of going through a Ferrazzi Greenlight program about building organizational culture. The program was founded by Keith Ferrazzi, who authored Never Eat Alone. In the program, we were taught some basic principles for fostering collaboration. I have incorporated some of the basic yet powerful tenets of that program into my Scoping meetings.
At the start of every Scoping meeting, I thank everyone for participating, go over the agenda, state the goal of the meeting is to complete the Training Needs Analysis, and review the ground rules I have for the meeting. Then, I ask for everyone’s agreement on the ground rules, goal, and the agenda.
I also ask for a volunteer or two to help us keep on task and stick to the agenda. In the Ferrazzi Greenlight program, we referred to these individuals as Yodas. I then explain the volunteer’s role and that the volunteer has been empowered to bring us back to the agenda any time a member of the group takes us off on a tangent. You won’t believe how powerful this is in managing the Scoping meeting or any meeting for that matter.
As you can imagine, different people have different perspectives on what is important to include in a training. Keeping the conversation on the Training Needs Analysis and empowering people to keep the group focused is very effective.
Completing Step 3 of the Training Needs Analysis template
After going over the expectations of the meeting, it’s time to dig in and get more information. You can get more information by going through each of the bullet points listed below and asking clarifying questions as you go.
If someone gives you vague answers or pushes off an answer, I give you permission to lean in. Leaning in means you ask questions until you have the information you need.
People don’t love more questions. They don’t love being put on the spot or getting specific enough to be held accountable. Sometimes you have to push them outside their comfort zone to get to the real answers.
As an instructional designer, you own getting the information. Digging deeper and leaning in may push you out of your comfort zone, too. The good news is that this discomfort does not last forever. Just push and lean in politely.
Here are the questions you will cover.
- Who is the audience for this training? (use personas if you have them)
- What should the learner be able to do following the training?
- Who is the Subject Matter Expert (SME)?
- How will we evaluate the desired results have been accomplished?
- Which delivery method will be used?
- If F2F, who will be the facilitator?
- Will a facilitator’s guide be needed?
- Is voice or onscreen talent needed? If yes, who?
- Which tools are needed?
- Will there be an end of course assessment?
- Are there any existing trainings or resources that should be reviewed?
- Are there any specific visuals that should be included?
- Can I get a commitment from the person signing off to complete all reviews with in 2 business days?
- How many reviews will we have? Agree upon the number of planned reviews – set expectations and write them down
After the Scoping Meeting
Soon after the scoping meeting is completed, it is a good idea to send out an email recap. You will want to include the completed Training Needs Analysis template with all of the information you have collected. This is another opportunity for you to ensure everyone is aligned on the goals and content of the training.
Going through this process and completing the Training Needs Analysis template can improve your trainings. Simply getting together with key stakeholders at the start of a training project to discuss the needs of the training increases communication, facilitates information gathering, creates alignment and fosters collaboration.
Does any of this sound bad to you? No, I don’t think so either. It’s all positive.
Now, that you have an overview of the Training Needs Analysis, try it out. Once you do, jump over to The Hangout, a group for instructional design lovers at all levers. Share how it went with me and the Hangout community! I would love to hear from you and learn how well your Training Needs Analysis went.