5 Questions to Analyse Your Training Needs

Published on 2013-07-03

5 Questions to Analyse Your Training Needs
BEFORE DESIGNING ANY TRAINING MATERIALS, it is vital that you first conduct a needs analysis. This should involve speaking to as many people involved with the training as possible; the trainees themselves, their coworkers, their managers, their team members, even the suppliers or customers that they work with. But when you speak to them, what should you be asking them?
Here are 5 simple questions to guide you – Who, what, when, why and how.
Sometimes your training will be for everyone in the company, such as on-boarding, but other times it will only be for a select few. No matter what the situation though, it is vitally important that you clarify who the trainees are as this can give you valuable information such as their current level of understanding, their own expectations and how what they learn will be used on the job.
Ultimately, the purpose of training is to change behaviour. Even if your training is on-boarding where the trainees are just learning about company values or company policy, the purpose is still to change their behaviour, or ensure they behave in a certain way. The behaviour might be “perform duties in alignment with company values” or “abide by company policy”.
It’s okay to be a little vague at this stage, “perform duties in alignment with company values” is actually quite vague because it doesn’t point to any measurable behaviour. You will get into the specifics when you come to the ‘How’ question.
The reason we start off with a vague answer is because sometimes that is all we have, and a vague answer is better than no answer. The people you are interviewing may not be able to give you specifics, they may expect you to be the expert and to define what those specifics should be. But once you have a vague answer, you are then in a very good position to get more detailed.
All behaviour is contextual. For example, you only swim in water, you only sell when you are with customers, you only present when in front of an audience. Sometimes the context is a lot more specific, maybe you need the trainees to follow a set protocol when a customer brings up a specific complaint, or maybe they need to respond in a certain way when a specific bug is discovered in the IT infrastructure.
Context builds triggers, and triggers build habits. Habits are what we want the trainees to have, because they are automatic behaviours that the trainees no longer need to think about, allowing the trainees to perform sometimes complicated procedures with minimal effort, freeing up their mental energy so that they can focus on other things. For example, in ClarkMorgan we train the 5 Step Introduction for our Presentations Skills (Name, Topic, Sections, Timing and Question Policy). This becomes a really effective habit, because as soon as trainees start their presentations they know exactly what to say, they don’t need to think about it, and this consequently also gives them more confidence.
Charles Duhigg in his book The Power of Habit talks about the Habit Loop Theory. Habits start with a trigger, for example when you walk down the high street you see a McDonalds sign. Next comes the routine; after you see the McDonalds sign you walk into McDonalds and buy a hamburger, fries and a soft drink. Finally comes the reward, the taste of the food in this case, which is what drives you to perform the routine. We want to build triggers which initiate habits, so clarifying what the trigger is, and reinforcing this during the training, will help make your training more memorable, and thus more effective.
The final part of the Habit Loop Theory is the reward – the thing that motivates us to behave in that particular way. Reward is equally as important as the trigger, because it allows the trainees to see for themselves why they need to do what you are training them to do.
If I ask you to give me your house, you won’t do it. If I ask you to jump out the window of your office, again, you won’t do it. The reason is simple, because there is nothing in it for you. Always think about WIIFM, ”What’s In It For Me?’. By showing the trainees the benefits, not only does this increase their engagement levels during training, but again it makes the training more memorable.
For example, when training people on how to build rapport, one of the rules we train is ‘We Like People Like Us’. We can follow this rule by trying to find things to agree with, and things we have in common with each other when we are talking to other people. After the trainees have learnt this rule, I get them to stand up and find someone in the room that they still don’t know very well and to try it. Normally it works so well so that the trainees get deep into conversation and forget they are even training at all! When I tell them to stop they don’t want to stop!
Finally, this is the most important question of all. With the How we get into the specifics of the behaviour. As a general rule, check if what you have written down can easily be measured, if it can’t then you need to be more specific.
For example, “Trainees use the 5 step introduction” can be measured whereas “Trainees begin presenting with confidence” is a bit vague. How do you measure confidence? Are we talking about how they feel? Or their body language? How about their voice control? Try to be objective as possible here. Check with someone else to see if you both have the same understanding of what you’ve written down, if you each have a different understanding then it’s obviously too subjective.
What you want to aim for here is descriptions that could be used for a simple ‘Yes/No’ checklist by anyone. If you are training someone on presenting with confident body language, then the specific behaviours could be:

  • Stands straight
  • Uses calm and controlled gestures

These are very simple to tick off on a checklist.
The Next Step
This is the crux of your training, the thing that determines whether or not it has been successful. Not only does this give trainees clear instructions on what to do, but it also allows you to measure their behaviour after the training. And ultimately, improving behaviour is how you measure a great corporate training program, or as a matter of fact, the best training company.