Need Analysis: 5 Important Areas
Updated: Jul 20, 2021
Author: Ritu Bhattacharya
When a client approaches you with a training requirement, you get prepared with a set of questions to gain clarity on the requirement. Here, I have tried to categorize these questions into five areas for easy recollection. These are the five most important areas that should be on top of your mind while doing a need analysis. let's have a look at each of these areas.
Content is of foremost importance in any training. Therefore, start your interaction with the client with questions on content. The questions that you can ask are:
What is the training about? / What is the content about?
Is it an application-based training?
Is it a training for some certification?
You can ask further questions on the topic based on the answer of the client. Knowing about the topic will place you at a vantage point from where you can envision the next levels of your questions.
Remember that if the client has already told about the topic of the training before the first interaction, do not bore the client with these basic questions. In that case, you can save the content related questions for a later stage of the interaction and base your questions around the level of difficulty of the content. Even in that case, craft your questions in a subtle manner so that it really helps you gain insight of the subject or of the client's plan regarding the treatment and presentation of the subject. Knowing about the client's thought process will help you align yours with it and suggest improvement ideas.
Let me ask a simple question.
Why is it important to gather information about the audience? In case you do not know about the audience, how is it going to affect your training?
The answer is, you need to know about the audience to understand their requirement.
Otherwise it will be like making chocolate cake for one who hates sweets altogether.
This reminds me of an anecdote. As a kid I used to hate chocolates like anything. It is rare and you do not expect it from a child. As a result, 90% of the gifts that I used to receive on different occasions consisted of chocolates only. It was because, the givers did not know about me. They did not know what I actually want. They simply assumed based on their experience. Therefore, however, experienced you are as a learning expert, you need to know your audience, their need, and demand first.
Once, a client approached me for a software training. Before I started the audience analysis, I had a few strategies in my mind as to how the training would be.
I got my first shock when I came to know that the audience is a group of trainers and it would be a TTT program. They were not going to use the software in their day-to-day professional life. Secondly, though the trainers were highly experienced, the software was a new launch and they did not know anything about the software.
So, a group of experienced trainers needed a training on a new software for which they were going to take a training. Then I began to think afresh, how my training would be and how to tailor it according to the audience need.
Had the training been for an audience who was going to use the software daily, may be my focus would have been more on trouble shooting scenarios, daily problems etc.
The audience being a group of trainers, now my focus shifted to overall knowledge of the software, it's basic use, and most importantly to what the ultimate trainees whom these trainers were going to train, might ask.
Thus, without knowing the audience you cannot build a training for them. Your audience-profile related questions may include:
Who will take the training?
Where are they located?
How many years of experience do they have?
How much knowledge do they have of the subject?
What is their age group?
The location of the audience will help you not only take care of the cultural aspect but the required training interventions also.
Caption: Without knowing the audience you cannot build a training for them.
The audience' knowledge/skill level from the perspective of the content can be at the level of a beginner, at an intermediate level or at an expert level. In the case of the TTT program that I just mentioned; the experienced trainers were at a beginners' level in respect to the knowledge about the software. Depending on their profile and knowledge level you need to decide how much they need to be trained and what the appropriate training strategy would be for that. For knowing the skill level of the audience, you may ask:
What is the skill that you intend the audience to acquire through the training?
Where do the audience stand from the perspective of the level of the required skill?
How do you expect them to use their skill once they go back to their work?
4. Business perspective
Ah, now comes the business perspective! Ultimately, it all boils down to business. So, you already know its importance! Still let me explain it a bit.
Understanding the business perspective will help you understand how much the client is eager to invest in the training. Your strategies will depend on the importance of the training from business perspective. Let's take an example.
Once a Thailand-based customer approached our organization for a training requirement. The training was for all the service departments and therefore the content and the audience varied.
As we got over our questions about the content and the audience, we asked:
Why do you want the training? / What problem are you facing for which the training is required?
How pressing is the problem?
What is the goal of the training?
Our aim was to understand, how important the training was from business perspective and if resolved, how much it would contribute toward the business.
The client explained that the training was required as there was a drop in the number of new customers visiting the hotel. The top management thought that the hotel needed a competitive edge over other hotels in the market in terms of its service and facilities. While they were working on the competitive facilities, they were aiming at better services from the employees in every department. This was a major business issue and the top management was expecting huge ROI from the training.
After understanding the business perspective, we decided our strategies. We thought of a blended program as the audience was based out of Pattaya only. For the e-learning part, we developed short video-based scenarios presenting the service-related problems in each department. These videos were shot with real artists. Each of these scenarios were branched. The learners watched the scenarios and tried to resolve them in their own way. After five attempts, if they still went on to the wrong direction, they would be given advice to connect to the consultant in the classroom. During the classroom session, the facilitator helped them with the right solution.
Now, the question is, how did understanding the business problem helped us in deciding the strategy?
Had we understood that the required skill was not so important from business perspective, we would have created some text-based scenarios or would have simply taught the skills through theories. This would have ensured that the learners were just able to identify the problem areas and tell the possible solutions. However, since we wanted the learners to get equipped enough to identify, analyze, resolve, and ultimately handle new similar issues in real life, we created real branched scenarios. As already mentioned above. these e-learning modules were followed by classroom sessions where the trainer explained how the problem would be resolved and why it needed to be resolved in that particular way.
5. The bigger picture
Get the bigger picture of the training that you are developing. Find out where the training stands. Is it a plug-in, a part of a bigger program, or a stand-alone module?
The bigger picture will help you align your training to the ultimate goal of the program and make it consistent with the rest of the program from all aspects.
The questions that you may ask at this stage are:
Is there any existing training? If yes, what is the modality? Why do you want to change the training?
Is this training a part of a whole program?
What is the goal of the whole program?
In the journey to the goal of the whole program where does this training stand?
Remember that training need analysis is the most important part of your job as a learning solution provider. The more relevant your questions are the more effective your training will be. Therefore, be selective and careful about how and what to ask. Also, your training is the result of the ultimate conclusion to which you reach after your analysis. Therefore, the training strategy that you think of, after analyzing one area may change once you explore another.
You can keep the areas and questions that I listed above handy while interacting with the client. However, be creative and ask innovative questions. Ultimately creativity is the core skill that any client would expect from the solution provider.
About the Author: Ritu has been in the learning and development industry for the last 10 years and loves to go beyond the boundaries in the learning and development field. Exploring new fields, innovative ideas, how human instructional designing can survive in the world of AI and encouraging new entrants in the filed - are some of her core interest ares.