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10 Tips for conducting a training needs analysis when faced with managerial demand

Whenever there is a team performance issue, the go-to people for most managers are the training specialists. In my many years of corporate L&D experience, I’ve heard more such requests than I can recall off the top of my head. Unfortunately, the great majority of requests were unfounded. Training can do many things, but it’s not a universal fix for all business ailments.

In many of these cases, my team realized immediately that it was not a learning need. Sometimes we were very clear about that and tried to offer alternative solutions. However, other times, we had to go ahead with it because of the circumstances (meaning very determined managers who would not take no for an answer).

To provide training where it is indispensable and avoid doing work that won't pay off, here are some valuable tips for doing a proper training needs analysis before caving in to managerial pressure.

Read more: The need for a Training Needs Analysis

1. Assume a consultant’s role

Most modern managers are flexible enough to accept different points of view – thank goodness we are no longer in the era of “your boss is your god.” However, that does not mean that they can be easily swayed if they've already made up their minds that training is the solution to an issue.

If you want to step away from projects with no added value or tangible results, you’ll need to build a new reputation for the L&D department. Hence, make sure that the L&D specialists are not only instructional designers and facilitators, but also valuable organizational development consultants.

It’s essential to demonstrate that the department's role is to find the best solution.

9 More tips for dealing with specific training demands

  1. Don’t say no immediately, even if you are sure it's not an issue that training can fix. Set a meeting with the manager and investigate their request and the desired outcomes of the training program.
  2. During that meeting, figure out if there are any team members who are performing to standards. Try to analyze what sets them apart from the rest of the team. Talking to these employees or the manager offers valuable insights.
  3. Try to set up a shadowing session with high-performing individuals. You can witness firsthand both what the role is and what they do daily to meet their objectives.
  4. Investigate the team's performance issue history. If the situation has been less than satisfactory for a long time, there might be a problem with the assigned job roles or the procedures. If the issue is recent, you’ll need to look for changes that could have caused it.
  5. Bring any potential barriers to performance you discovered to the manager's attention. You’ll need to approach the conversation as a need for clarification and feedback rather than a refusal to help.
  6. Choose the metrics used to measure the present and the desired performance. Evaluate the urgency of the situation by figuring out know how big is the gap between the two performance levels.
  7. Document all your discussions and findings as you go along to incorporate all the data in a professional response. Whether this will be positive or not, managers must see that there has been an honest effort to find the best solution.
  8. Offer alternatives. If you find that the situation can’t benefit from a learning intervention, offer some other helpful advice or recommend the right people for an assessment. If, on the other hand, your research shows that training is needed, but it will take either another kind of program or a much lengthier one, you’ll need to back that up with convincing arguments.
  9. Run a training needs assessment periodically. Offer your ongoing support to managers and keep tabs on the changing needs of each team. Doing this will greatly decrease the number of training requests that are not valuable to the organization.

Closing thoughts

The relevance and results of training programs depend on their real usefulness to the learners. Consequently, learning specialists need to discern between genuine training needs and situations when other types of interventions are much better suited. L&D should assume a consultant role before delivering on the initial request.

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