Analyzing Training Needs

How a HR manager analyzes training needs depends on whether he or she is training new or current employees. The main task in analyzing new employees’ training needs is to determine what the job entails and to break it down into subtasks, each of which then can be taught to the new employee. Analyzing current employees’ training needs can be more complex, since the HR manager has the added task of deciding whether training is the solution. For example, performance may be down because the standards aren’t clear or because the person is not motivated. Some trainers use special analytical software, such as from Saba Software, Inc., to diagnose performance gaps and their causes.

Task Analysis: Assessing new employees’ Training Needs:

Particularly with lower-level workers, it’s common to hire inexperienced personnel and train them. Aim of training here is to give new employees the skills and knowledge they need to do the job. A HR manager can use task analysis to determine the new employees’ training needs.

Task analysis is a detailed study of the job to determine what specific skills – like Java (in the case of a Web developer) or interviewing (in the case of a supervisor) – the job requires. Job descriptions and job specifications are helpful here. These list the job’s specific duties and skills and thus provide the basic reference point in determining the training required. The training manager can also uncover training needs by reviewing performance standards, performing the job and questioning current job holders and their supervisors.

Some employers supplement the job description and specification with a task analysis record form. This consolidates information regarding required tasks and skills in a form that’s especially helpful for determining training requirements.

Performance Analysis: Assessing Current Employees’ Training Needs

For current employees, performance analysis is the process of verifying that there is a performance deficiency and determining if such deficiency should be corrected through training or through some other means like transferring the employee.

There are several methods HR training manager can use to identify current employees’ training needs. These include supervisor, peer, and self performance reviews; job related performance data including productivity, absenteeism and tardiness, accidents, short term sickness, grievances, waste, late deliveries, product quality, downtime, repairs, equipment utilization, and customer complaints; observation by supervisors or other specialists; interviews with the employee or his or her supervisor; tests of things like job knowledge, skills and attendance; attitude surveys; individual employee daily diaries; and assessment centers.

The first step here is usually to compare the person’s actual performance to what it should be. Examples of specific performance deficiencies include:

I expect salesperson to make ten new contracts per week, but John averages only six.

Other plants our size average on more than two serious accidents per month; we’re averaging five.

Distinguishing between can’t-do and won’t-do problems is the heart of performance analysis. First, determine whether it is a can’t do problem and, if so, its specific causes. For example: The employees don’t know what to do or what your standards are; there are obstacles in the system such as lack of tools or supplies; there are no job aids (such as color-coded wires that show assemblers which wire goes where) or no electronic performance support systems that provide on-screen, computerized, step-by-step instructions; you’ve hired people who haven’t the skills to do the job; or inadequate training.

On the other hand, it might be a won’t-do problem. Here employees could do a good job if they wanted to. Perhaps you need to change the reward system. One expert says perhaps the biggest trap that trainers fall into is [developing] training for problems that training just won’t fix.

If training is the solution, then there is a need to set objectives. These specify what the trainee should be able to accomplish upon completing the training program – repair a copier in 30 minutes, program a simple Web site in half a day, or sell five advertising banners per day, for instance.

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