How to Conduct an Training Needs Analysis

HR Question:

In my current position, I need to carry out a training needs analysis for the employees in the office as well as for the field staff, but there are no formal job descriptions or appraisals to follow. How do I even start, let alone accomplish, this massive project successfully?

HR Answer:

The fact that no performance appraisals or job descriptions are in place certainly makes your assignment more complicated. However, there are other sources you can turn to for your needs analysis:

  1. Check to see if supervisors have made critical incident reports. That is, have written notes for their desk file about employees who have either done outstanding work on an assignment or had a problem with an assignment or customer. Critical incident reports aren’t official performance evaluations, but they could be helpful to point out areas of weakness that need improvement.
  2. Do you have any employee exit interview data? If exit interviews have been conducted, the notes from the interviews could provide some valuable data about training needs, particularly for supervisory staff.
  3. Have employee opinion surveys been conducted? These survey results might shed some light on training needs for both employees and supervisory staff.
  4. You could conduct one-on-one or group meetings with supervisors to ask them directly what training needs they believe exist. They will probably identify training they’d like for themselves as well as their direct reports.
  5. Consider conducting focus groups of employees and ask them directly what they perceive to be some training needs. They may have a different perspective than their supervisors about what skills, knowledge, and abilities should become a focal point.
  6. Read through your file of customer comments and complaints (those obtained either in writing or via a customer hotline). If you review those comments, you’ll likely find a pattern with regard to training needs, such as needing more effective customer service or better telephone skills.
  7. Evaluate if your office has any new processes, systems, or technology. These additions or changes to daily operations will likely result in training needs. For instance, if you’ve recently acquired – or plan to acquire – new software, you’ll want to schedule training on that software for end-users.

Assessments can be conducted at any time but are often done after hiring, during performance review times, when performance improvement is needed, for career development plans or succession planning, or when changes in an organization involve changes in employees’ jobs. It is beneficial to perform these assessments periodically to measure changes in employees’ knowledge and skills and also training program effectiveness.

In summary, a training needs analysis is the first step to any successful training program and is a critical part of succession planning. Conducting this analysis allows an organization to focus its efforts on areas of training that are necessary for employees to successfully carry out the organization’s goals, make optimum use of the company’s training dollars, and motivate employees by contributing to their career development.


Training and Development of your employees is a key factor in remaining competitive. Not only does it keep your up-to-speed technologically with your competitors, but it also gives you the edge when recruiting or retaining employees. Strategic HR has experience in training needs analysis and developing training programs to keep you on the leading edge. Visit our Training and Development page to learn how we can assist you with your training and development.