There are three levels of needs assessment or analysis. They are organizational, job, and individual.
Organizational Analysis—- In organizational analysis, organizational effectiveness is examined, and areas of improvement are determined.
Job Analysis—– A job analysis can provide information about employee knowledge, skills, and attitudes that are necessary for optimal performance in each type of job.
Individual Analysis—- An individual analysis indicates how well an employee is performing, which employees need training, and what kind of training is needed.
Examine the elements required to maximize the outcomes of a performance management system.
Evaluate the theory, research, and practice related to employee training and career development programs.
The first phase in the training design process is the training needs assessment (or analysis). The needs assessment is used to assess organization training needs by highlighting knowledge and skill gaps. There are many ways to conduct the needs assessment, which depends on the organizational situation and circumstances.
The assessment begins with a need, which can be identified in a number of ways, but is basically defined as the gap between the current and desired states. Gaps may occur between what an organization expects to happen versus what is actually happening, for example, existing and desired skills and competencies or existing and desired performance.
The needs assessment can be useful in identifying competencies and performance of work teams, performance and problem-solving issues, and critical strategies for responding to future changes in the organization or job responsibilities.
Module 2 Overview (3 of 3)
The results of a needs assessment help training professionals to establish training objectives. However, sometimes training is not the solution to issues that can be resolved through more effective communications, job fit, and a more supportive work environment.
Once needs assessment has been completed and training objectives clearly identified, the design phase of the training process commences. This phase involves identifying an appropriate trainer or resource, program content, training methods, training location or setting, and training materials.
After the design phase is completed, it is time for the implementation phase which includes scheduling sessions, participants, trainers, and facilities; preparing materials; and conducting the training. The final phase of the training and development process is evaluation, which indicates whether the objectives were achieved, the participants’ reactions to the training, and the level of learning that occurred.
In this module, you will explore the phases in the training design process.
From the textbook, Employee training & development, 7th, read the following chapters:
Learning and transfer of training
After reading this chapter, you should be able to
Discuss the role of organization analysis, person analysis, and task analysis in needs assessment.
Identify different methods used in needs assessment and identify the advantages and disadvantages of each method.
Discuss the concerns of upper- and mid-level managers and trainers in needs assessment.
Explain how personal characteristics, input, output, consequences, and feedback influence performance and learning.
Create conditions to ensure that employees are receptive to training.
Discuss the steps involved in conducting a task analysis.
Analyze task analysis data to determine the tasks for which people need to be trained.
Explain competency models and the process used to develop them.
Needs Assessment at B&W Pantex and MasTec
Needs assessment is a critical first step in designing new and revising current training courses. Consider how needs assessment was used at B&W Pantex and MasTec.
The B&W Pantex plant, located near Amarillo, Texas, is charged with maintaining the safety, security, and reliability of the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile. The facility is managed and operated by B&W Pantex for the U.S. Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration. The nuclear weapons industry is highly regulated, and most training is focused on mandatory safety and compliance. However, B&W Pantex also offers technical training and management development courses, and every employee has an individual development plan. Training and development at B&W Pantex is of high quality and delivers business results: the company was recognized by the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD, now the Association for Talent Development [ATD]) as a 2010 Best Award winner. The mission of the technical training department is to provide quality training that
is necessary, precise, timely, and behavior- or ability-changing. Recently, the technical training program was reviewed to help improve its efficiency and effectiveness. The review found that training required a great time commitment by employees to be away from their jobs, and 20 percent of the courses accounted for 8 percent of the training hours. As a result, the technical training department reexamined its course offerings by considering if the training was still necessary, if the training objectives were still relevant, if the course provided redundant information, and if the target audience for the course had changed. This analysis led the technical training department to consolidate or remove more than seven hundred courses, and many courses were redesigned to reduce the time of completion by more than half. Many classroom sessions were replaced with computer-based training or informal meetings between employees and their manager. As a result, training efficiency has improved by 49 percent, and employees now participate in 5.5 hours of training each month. MasTec, a construction company that engineers, procures, constructs, and maintains the infrastructures for electric transmission and distribution, oil and natural gas pipeline, and communications companies, wanted to develop an online learning management system through which employees could access training and development courses. MasTec conducted a needs assessment to determine the technology and functionality that was needed to support new training programs, and to identify unique employee needs. As a result, the development team started by conducting a stakeholder analysis. This involved considering who would be involved in the process, understanding how to partner with them, and determining what type of information they could offer. It included meeting with safety team leaders, trainers, and construction crew members, observing employees performing their jobs, and attending existing training classes. The development team recorded every need and request made throughout this process. As a result of this analysis, they identified four goals for the learning management system. These goals include increasing accessibility of training content, increasing flexibility and variety in how training was delivered and completed, improving the training registering process for employees, and creating reporting tools that make training requirements, participation, and completion visible to employees, their managers, and the employee development group.
Sources: Based on J. Salopek, “Keeping Knowledge Safe and Sound,”T + D (October 2010): 64 –66; www.pantex.com, the website for B&W Pantex.; J. Congemi, “MasTec Tackles the LMS,” training (July/August 2014): 52–54.
As discussed in Chapter One, “Introduction to Employee Training and Development,” effective training practices involve the use of a training design process. The design process begins with a needs assessment. Subsequent steps in the process include ensuring that employees have the motivation and basic skills necessary to learn, creating a positive learning environment, making sure that trainees use learned skills on the job, choosing the training method, and evaluating whether training has achieved the desired outcomes. As the NetApp example highlights, before you choose a training method, it is important
to determine what type of training is necessary and how it should be delivered. Needs assessment refers to the process used to determine whether training is necessary.
Needs assessment typically involves organizational analysis, person analysis, and task analysis.1 An organizational analysis considers the context in which training will occur. That is, organizational analysis involves determining the appropriateness of training, given the company’s business strategy, its resources available for training, and support by managers and peers for training activities. You are already familiar with one aspect of organizational analysis. Chapter Two, “Strategic Training,” discussed the role of the company’s business strategy in determining the frequency and type of training.
Person analysis helps identify who needs training. Person analysis involves (1) determining whether performance deficiencies result from a lack of knowledge, skill, or ability (a training issue) or from a motivational or work-design problem; (2) identifying who needs training; and (3) determining employee readiness for training. Task analysis identifies the important tasks and knowledge, skills, and behaviors that need to be emphasized in training for employees to complete their tasks.
WHY IS NEEDS ASSESSMENT NECESSARY?
Needs assessment is important because a manager or other client asking for training (which focuses on closing skill gaps resulting from a lack of knowledge or skill) could really be asking for or need something else, such as employee motivation, changing perspectives or attitudes, or redesigning workflow.2 If a manager requests training for a performance problem, what he or she is looking for is a solution to a problem that may (or may not) involve training. In conducting a needs assessment, your role is to determine if training is the appropriate solution.
Needs assessment is the first step in the instructional design process, and if it is not properly conducted, any one or more of the following situations could occur:
Training may be incorrectly used as a solution to a performance problem (when the solution should deal with employee motivation, job design, or a better communication of performance expectations).
Training programs may have the wrong content, objectives, or methods.
Trainees may be sent to training programs for which they do not have the basic skills, prerequisite skills, or confidence needed to learn.
Training will not deliver the expected learning, behavior change, or financial results that the company expects.
Money will be spent on training programs that are unnecessary because they are unrelated to the company’s business strategy.
Figure 3.1 shows the three types of analysis involved in needs assessment and the causes and outcomes that result. There are many different causes or “pressure points” that suggest that training is necessary. These pressure points include performance problems, new technology, internal or external customer requests for training, job redesign, new legislation, changes in customer preferences, new products, or employees’ lack of basic skills. WakeMed, a North Carolina–based health-care system, spends more than $2
million on clinical, compliance, safety, and interpersonal skills training each year.3 The “pressure point” facing WakeMed has been transitioning all patient information from paper records to an electronic format. To give you an idea of the scope, more than 230,000 patients visit its emergency departments each year! Because the electronic health records were the single source of patient information, it was important that all employees having access to the system received training and demonstrated that they were competent in using it. To prepare for the transition, multiple departments worked together to design training plans to meet the needs of both clinical and nonclinical employees. Training was made available using a variety of methods, including instructor-led classes and online modules.
FIGURE 3.1 Causes and Outcomes of Needs Assessment
Note that these pressure points do not automatically mean that training is the correct solution. For example, consider a delivery truck driver whose job is to deliver anesthetic gases to medical facilities. The driver mistakenly hooks up the supply line of a mild anesthetic to the supply line of a hospital’s oxygen system, contaminating the hospital’s oxygen supply. Why did the driver make this mistake, which is clearly a performance problem? The driver may have made this mistake because of a lack of knowledge about the appropriate line hookup for the anesthetic, because of anger over a requested salary increase that his manager recently denied, or because of mislabeled valves for connecting the gas supply. Only the lack of knowledge can be addressed by training. The other pressure points require reviewing and making decisions related to the driver’s anger-motivated behavior (fire the driver) or the design of the work environment (remind supervisor and drivers to check to that valves and hookup lines are properly labeled at all work sites).
What outcomes result from a needs assessment? Needs assessment provides important input into most of the remaining steps in the training design. As shown in Figure 3.1, the needs assessment process results in information related to who needs training and what trainees need to learn, including the tasks in which they need to be trained, plus knowledge, skill, behavior, or other job requirements. Needs assessment helps determine whether the company will outsource its training (i.e. purchase training from a vendor or consultant, or develop training through internal resources). Determining exactly what trainees need to learn is critical for the next step in the instructional design process: identifying learning
outcomes and objectives. Chapter Four, “Learning and Transfer of Training,” explores identifying learning outcomes and learning objectives and creating a training environment so that learning occurs and is used on the job. Through identifying the learning outcomes and resources available for training, the needs assessment also provides information that helps the company choose the appropriate training or development method (discussed in Part Three of this book). Needs assessment also provides information regarding the outcomes that should be collected to evaluate training effectiveness. The process of evaluating training is discussed in Chapter Six, “Training Evaluation.”
WHO SHOULD PARTICIPATE IN NEEDS ASSESSMENT?
Because the goal of needs assessment is to determine whether a training need exists, who it exists for, and for what tasks training is needed, it is important that all stakeholders are included in the needs assessment. Stakeholders include persons in the organization who have an interest in training and development and their support is important for determining its success (or failure). Stakeholders include company leaders and top-level managers, mid-level managers, trainers, and employees who are end users of learning. There are several ways to ensure that stakeholders are involved in needs assessment. One way is through establishing formal advisory groups that meet on a regular basis to discuss learning issues. Another way is to ensure that relevant stakeholders are included in interviews, focus groups, crowdsourcing, and surveys used for needs assessment. Traditionally, only trainers were concerned with the needs assessment process. But, as Chapter Two showed, as training increasingly becomes used to help the company achieve its strategic goals, both upper- and mid-level managers are involved in the needs assessment process.
Table 3.1 shows the questions that company leaders, mid-level managers, trainers, and employees are interested in answering for organizational analysis, person analysis, and task analysis. Company leaders include directors, CEOs, and vice presidents. Company leaders view the needs assessment process from the broader company perspective rather than focusing on specific jobs. Company leaders are involved in the needs assessment process to identify the role of training in relation to other human resource practices in the company (e.g., selection and compensation of employees). Company leaders want training to anticipate needs, aligned with where the business is going. Training and development needs to improve employee performance in such a way that it supports the business strategy. Learning efforts (training, development, knowledge management) need to be an integrated and holistic approach (rather than a series of fragmented courses and programs) that adds value to the company. Company leaders are also involved in identifying what business functions or units need training (person analysis) and in determining if the company has the knowledge, skills, and abilities in the workforce that are necessary to meet its strategy and be competitive in the marketplace. Mid-level managers are more concerned with how training may affect the attainment of financial goals for the particular units they supervise. As a result, for mid-level managers, organizational analysis focuses on identifying (1) how much of their budgets they want to devote to training; (2) the types of employees who should receive training (e.g., engineers, or core employees who are directly involved in producing goods or providing services); and (3) for what jobs training can make a difference in terms of improving products or customer service.
TABLE 3.1 Key Concerns of Company Leaders, Mid-Level Managers, Trainers, and Employees in Needs Assessment
Hilton Worldwide has executive sponsors for each of its five different learning universities. The executive sponsors meet quarterly to review learning initiatives and discuss business needs. This helps the learning function stay in touch with the company’s strategic goals and identify short- and long-term learning needs that are important for the business.4 IMG College is a collegiate sports marketing company, offering national, regional, and local marketing targeting college sports fans. IMG has a salesforce of more than four hundred employees who interact with schools, sponsors, and licensees to provide coaches’ shows and endorsements; manage digital assets such as websites, mobile applications, and social media campaigns; and coordinate game-day events and hospitality.5 IMG determined that its salesforce had numerous training needs. The needs assessment included phone calls and meetings with senior leaders and middle managers. After reviewing their feedback, sixty-one different topics were identified as skill gaps and areas for improvement. To identify the most important and strategic gaps, IMG held a one-day retreat involving professionals from its training and development and human resources
departments. Based on the retreat, twelve topics were chosen for training that aligned with the company’s strategic plan and culture. Examples of the topics included effective communication skills, public safety, and financial skills.
As discussed in Chapter Two, trainers (including training managers and instructional designers) need to consider whether training is aligned with the business strategy. However, trainers are primarily interested in needs assessment to provide them with information that they need to administer, develop, and support training programs. This information includes determining if training should be purchased or developed in-house, identifying the tasks for which employees need to be trained, and determining upper- and mid-level managers’ interest in and support for training.
Employees have several interests in needs assessment. From an organizational perspective they are concerned with how the company values learning: Is learning rewarded? Does learning help them improve their job performance or meet their career goals? Is it easy to get access to formal and informal learning opportunities? They also want to know if their manager can be expected to encourage them to take courses and programs, or informally learn, and if they will provide support to apply what they have learned. Employees have to determine if they are motivated to learn as well as what tasks, knowledge, skills, or competencies they need for their current job or career.
Company leaders are usually involved in determining whether training meets the company’s strategy and then providing the appropriate financial resources. Upper-level managers are not usually involved in identifying which employees need training, the tasks for which training is needed, or the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics needed to complete those tasks. This is the role of subject-matter experts (SMEs). Subject-matter experts (SMEs) are employees, academics, managers, technical experts, trainers, and even customers or suppliers who are knowledgeable with regard to (1) training issues, including tasks to be performed; (2) the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for successful task performance; (3) the necessary equipment; and (4) the conditions under which the tasks have to be performed. A key issue with SMEs is making sure that they are knowledgeable about the content that training must cover, as well as realistic enough to be able to prioritize what content is critical to cover in the time allotted for the subject in the training curriculum. SMEs must also have information that is relevant to the company’s business and have an understanding of the company’s language, tools, and products. There is no rule regarding how many types of employees should be represented in the group conducting the needs assessment. Still, it is important to get a sample of job incumbents (employees who are currently performing the job) involved in the process because they tend to be most knowledgeable about the job and can be a great hindrance to the training process if they do not feel they have had input into the needs assessment.
Philips, the Dutch technology company, reinvented itself by limiting its focus to three business sectors: health care, lighting, and consumer lifestyle products.6 Philips also recognized the need to change its culture to react faster to the marketplace. It had to encourage employees to quickly develop new products to beat competitors, and, if the products were not successful, to abandon them and come up with new ideas. The cultural shift required a change in the company’s learning and development structure to more closely align with the business. To understand the company’s learning needs, the leader of the learning function and his team met with Philips’s employees across all businesses to find out how they wanted to learn. For example, sales representatives expressed a preference
for learning using short videos and podcasts that provide tips on sales skills such as closing a sale. This fit with their need to learn while traveling or meeting with customers. Also, they found that most employees would take online learning courses at home in the evening rather than at work, but they were often interrupted.
To conduct needs assessment at Saudi Aramco, a oil company headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, they relied on an team consisting of a professional development advisor who reports to the management team, a supporting advisory committee, and a group of subject matter experts.7 This team determines the knowledge, skills, and behaviors required to be a successful performer in a specific job family such as engineering production and drilling. The team also determines the training required to support more experienced professionals.
METHODS USED IN NEEDS ASSESSMENT
Several methods are used to conduct needs assessment, including observing employees performing the job, using online technology, reading technical manuals and other documentation, interviewing SMEs, conducting focus groups with SMEs, and asking SMEs to complete surveys designed to identify the tasks and knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics required for a job. Table 3.2 presents the advantages and disadvantages of each method. Nuance Communications, a global company with headquarters in Massachusetts, focuses on voice communications that can help people use new technologies to interact and communicate with machines.8 Nuance’s CEO wanted its learning and development team to help improve the retention and career progression of its technologists. The learning and development team talked with the company’s leaders to understand their concerns and expectations. Based on their input, they provided some initial training ideas and asked them for feedback. Also, they interviewed technologists to get their impressions of the strategic direction of the company and identify the characteristics and behaviors of average and outstanding performers. The interviews with the leaders and technologists were critical for designing three training programs that met their needs. These training programs included one in which internal experts shared their knowledge and experiences, another that helped technologists develop a better understanding of the company, and a third that helped technologists acquire knowledge specific to the industry or technology in which they worked.
TABLE 3.2 Advantages and Disadvantages of Needs Assessment Techniques
Observation > Generates data relevant to work environment
Surveys > Minimizes interruption of work
> Can collect data from many persons
> Data easily summarized
Interviews > Good at uncovering details of training needs, as well as causes of and solutions to problems
> Can explore unanticipated issues that come up
> Questions can be modified
Focus groups Crowdsourcing > Useful with complex or controversial issues that one person may be unable or unwilling to explore
> Questions can be modified to explore unanticipated issues
> Reduces risk that training based on needs assessment will be rejected by stakeholders Documentation (technical manuals, records) > Good source of information on procedure
Online technology (software) > Objective
> Good source of task information for new jobs and jobs in the process of being created
> Minimizes interruption of work
> Requires limited human involvement
Historical data reviews > Provides data related to performance and practices
· Needs skilled observers
· Employees’ behavior may be affected by being observed
· Requires time
· Possible low return rates, inappropriate responses
· Lacks detail
· Only provides information directly related to questions asked
· Difficult to analyze
· Needs skilled interviewers
· Can be threatening to SMEs
· Difficult to schedule
· SMEs provide only such information they think you want to hear
· Time-consuming to organize
· Group members provide only information they think you want to hear
· You may be unable to understand technical language
· Materials may be obsolete
· May threaten employees
· Manager may use information to punish rather than train
· Limited to jobs requiring interaction with customers via computer or phone
· Available data may be inaccurate, incomplete, or not fully represent performance
Sources: Based on S. V. Steadham, “Learning to Select a Needs Assessment Strategy,” Training and Development Journal (January 1980): 56–61; R. J. Mirabile, “Everything You Wanted to Know About Competency Modeling,” Training and Development (August 1997): 74; K. Gupta, A Practical Guide to Needs Assessment (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1999); M. Casey and D. Doverspike, “Training Needs Analysis and Evaluation for New Technologies Through the Use of Problem-Based Inquiry,” Performance Improvement Quarterly 18(1) (2005): 110–124.
For newly created jobs, trainers often do not have job incumbents to rely on for this information. Rather, technical diagrams, simulations, and equipment designers can provide information regarding the training requirements, tasks, and conditions under which the job is performed. Historical data review involves collecting performance data from electronic or paper records. It provides information regarding current performance levels, which is useful for identifying gaps between actual and desired performance. For example, a needs assessment conducted at a hospital to determine the causes of a high number of errors in radiology orders (e.g., x-rays) from physicians collected historical data on errors, including incorrect exams, examination of the wrong side of the patient’s body, use of incorrect diagnosis codes, and duplicate orders.9 The historical data was used along with semistructured interviews and observations to identify the causes for the errors and interventions to reduce them. Another source of information for companies that have introduced a new technology is the help desk that companies often set up to deal with calls regarding problems, deficiencies in training, or deficiencies in documentation, software, or systems.10 Help-desk management software can categorize and track calls and questions by application, by caller, or by vendor. Report creation capability built into the software makes it easy to generate documents on user problems and identify themes among calls. Analyzing these calls is practical for identifying gaps in training. For example, common types of call problems can be analyzed to determine if they are due to inadequate coverage in the training program and/or inadequate written documentation and job aids used by trainees.
Online technology is available to monitor and track employee performance. This information is useful for identifying training needs and providing employees with feedback regarding their skill strengths and weaknesses. In call centers, for example, technology provides an ongoing assessment of performance.11 An employee who triggers the online system by failing to meet a defined standard, such as receiving more than five callbacks on an unresolved issue, is automatically referred to the appropriate job aid or training event. As shown in Table 3.2, online technology has several advantages: it provides an objective report of behaviors, the data can be quickly summarized into reports, it does not require a trainer or SME to observe or interview employees, and it minimizes work interruptions. However, the use of online technology in needs assessment is best suited for only a small number of jobs requiring interactions with customers through the use of a computer or telephone.12 Also, for online technology to be effective, managers need to ensure that the information is used to train employees, not to punish them. Otherwise, employees will feel threatened, which will contribute to employee dissatisfaction and turnover.
Because no single method of conducting needs assessment is superior to the others, multiple methods are usually used. The methods vary in the type of information, as well as the level of detail provided. The advantage of surveys is that information can be collected from a large number of persons. Also, surveys allow many employees to participate in the needs assessment process. However, when using surveys, it is difficult to collect detailed information regarding training needs. Face-to-face and telephone interviews are time consuming, but more detailed information regarding training needs can be collected. Focus groups are a type of SME interview that involves a face-to-face meeting with groups of SMEs in which the questions that are asked relate to specific training needs. Crowdsourcing can also be used for needs assessment. In this context, crowdsourcing refers to asking stakeholders to provide information for needs assessment. Computer Services Corporation uses “Ideation,” a web-based tool for collaboration and crowdsourcing, to help identify training needs.13 The process requires a review team to filter, sort, and build on the best ideas. The process allows the learning department to get a larger number of employees involved in the needs assessment process rather than relying only on interviews with SMEs. It is important to verify the results of interviews and observations because what employees and managers say they do and what they really do may differ. At Brown-Forman Corporation, producer and marketer of beverages and alcohol brands such as Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, training needs are identified in a number of different ways, including monitoring employee development and performance management data, trends in the beverage alcohol industry, and issues raised by the company’s operating groups who pay for training services.14 Yapi Kredi Academy was established to provide learning and development for Yapi ve Kredi Bank’s headquarters in Istanbul, Turkey.15 The bank’s executive committee (including the CEO, executive vice presidents, and an advisory committee with senior managers and individuals from outside the bank who identify trends, challenges, and opportunities in the industry) provides the strategic direction and vision for the academy.
The bank’s needs assessment process includes branch visits, surveys, and focus groups, as well as meetings with business units. The academy surveyed more than 3,000 branch employees about their satisfaction with the training they received, and their experiences with individual development plans and training offerings. The results are used to determine how to meet learning and development needs.
With the increasing emphasis on Total Quality Management (TQM), many companies are also using information about other companies’ training practices (a process known as benchmarking) to help determine the appropriate type, level, and frequency of training.16 For example, Chevron, Federal Express, GTE, Xerox, and several other companies are members of the ATD benchmarking forum. A common survey instrument is completed by each company. The survey includes questions on training costs, staff size, administration, design, program development, and delivery. The information is summarized and shared with the participating companies.
THE NEEDS ASSESSMENT PROCESS
This section examines the three elements of needs assessment: organizational analysis, person analysis, and task analysis. Figure 3.2 illustrates the needs assessment process. In practice, organizational analysis, person analysis, and task analysis are not conducted
in any order. The question of whether time and money are devoted to training is contingent on the results of organizational, person, and task analyses. While any one analysis can indicate the need for training, companies need to consider the information from all three types of analysis before the decision is made to devote time and money to training. Because organizational analysis is concerned with identifying whether training suits the company’s strategic objectives and whether the company has the budget, time, and expertise for training (the context for training), it is usually conducted first. Person analysis and task analysis are often conducted at the same time because it is difficult to determine whether performance deficiencies are a training problem without understanding the tasks and the work environment. An initial organizational analysis may suggest that a company does not want to spend financial resources on training. However, if person analysis reveals that a large number of employees lack a skill in an important area that is related to the company’s business objectives (such as customer service), upper-level managers may decide to reallocate financial resources for training.
FIGURE 3.2 The Needs Assessment Process
Organizational analysis involves identifying whether training supports the company’s strategic direction; whether managers, peers, and employees support training activity; and what training resources are available. Table 3.3 provides questions that trainers should address in an organizational analysis. Some combination of documentation, interviews, focus groups, or surveys of managers, individuals in the training function, and employees should be used to answer these questions.
TABLE 3.3 Questions to Ask in an Organizational Analysis
How might the training content affect our employees’ relationship with our customers?
What might suppliers, customers, or partners need to know about the training program?
How does this program align with the strategic needs of the business?
Should organizational resources be devoted to this program?
What do we need from managers and peers for this training to succeed?
What features of the work environment might interfere with training (e.g., lack of equipment, no time to use new skills)?
Do we have experts who can help us develop the program content and ensure that we understand the needs of the business as we develop the program?
Will employees perceive the training program as an opportunity? Reward? Punishment? Waste of time?
Which persons or groups (e.g., employees, managers, vendors, suppliers, and program developers) have an interest in seeing training succeed? Whose support do we need?
Sources: Based on F. Nickols, “Why a Stakeholder Approach to Evaluating Training?” Advances in Developing Human Resources (February 2005): 121–134; S. Tannenbaum, “A Strategic View of Organizational Training and Learning.” In Creating, Implementing, and Managing Effective Training and Development, ed. K. Kraiger (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2002): 10–52.
The Company’s Strategic Direction
How the company’s business strategy influences training was discussed in Chapter Two. The strategic role of training influences the frequency and type of training and how the training function is organized in the company. In companies in which training is expected to contribute to the achievement of business strategies and goals, the amount of money allocated to training and the frequency of training will likely be higher than in companies in which training is done haphazardly or with no strategic intent. For example, companies that believe that learning contributes to their competitive advantage or that have adopted high-performance work systems (e.g., teams) are likely to have greater training budgets and conduct more training. The business strategy also influences the type of training. For example, as noted in Chapter Two, companies that have adopted a disinvestment strategy are more likely to focus on outplacement assistance and job search skills training than are companies with other strategic initiatives. Last, the greater the strategic role of training, the more likely that the company will organize the training function using the business-embedded or corporate university models. Both these models emphasize that training is used to help solve business problems.
For example, to stay competitive, IBM has to stay up-to-date on the newest technology and business trends.17 IBM has to constantly reinvent itself to ensure that it can meet the needs of its customers. This means that employees also have to continue to develop new knowledge and skills. From a learning perspective, IBM has to ensure that the learning content it offers, including both face-to-face and online courses, provide employees with the latest knowledge and skills. To accomplish this, IBM keeps track both of how often employees use the learning content it offers as well as of the usefulness of employees’ evaluations. At the end of 2013 IBM eliminated 39 percent of the learning content that few employees found useful or used. This included 7,600 courses!
Support of Managers, Peers, and Employees for Training Activities
A number of studies have found that peer and manager support for training is critical, along with employee enthusiasm and motivation to attend training. The key factors for success are a positive attitude among peers, managers, and employees about participation in training activities; managers’ and peers’ willingness to provide information to trainees about how they can use the knowledge, skills, or behaviors learned in training to perform their jobs more effectively; and opportunities for trainees to use training content in their jobs.18 If peers’ and managers’ attitudes and behaviors are not supportive, employees are not likely to apply training content to their jobs.
It is necessary to identify whether the company has the budget, time, and expertise for training. One of the questions that the company must answer is whether it has the resources (i.e., time, money, and expertise) to build or develop training programs itself or whether it should buy them from a vendor or consulting firm. This is known as the “buy versus build” decision. For example, if the company is installing computer-based manufacturing equipment in one of its plants, it has three possible strategies for dealing with the need to have computer-literate employees. First, the company can decide that, given its staff expertise and budget, it can use internal consultants to train all affected employees. Second, the company may decide that it is more cost effective to identify employees who are computer literate by using tests and work samples. Employees who fail the test or perform below standards on the work sample can be reassigned to other jobs. Choosing this strategy suggests that the company has decided to devote resources to selection and placement rather than training. Third, because it lacks time or expertise, the company may
decide to buy training from a consultant. We will discuss how to identify and choose a high-quality vendor or consultant to provide training services in Chapter Five, “Program Design.”
One way to identify training resources is for companies that have similar operations or departments located across the country or the world to share ideas and practices. Kaiser Permanente is organized by regional business units.19 In each region the company integrates health-care delivery, including hospitals, outpatient services, and insurance providers. One of the concerns was how to provide consistent and high-quality learning and development opportunities for employees in all of the regions. To do so, the vice president of learning and development created a group, The National Learning Leaders, which included leaders from account management, sales, compliance, quality improvement, and patient safety. The National Learning Leaders meet three times every year and in smaller working groups in the months when the full membership is not scheduled to meet. They discuss how to develop learning solutions that can be implemented across the business and what kinds of services should be provided by the learning organizations within each region. This has resulted in learning initiatives that are consistent across the regions and are delivered in a way that enhances employee participation. For example, based on input from The National Learning Leaders, online and hybrid training courses on patient safety were developed. Nineteen thousand employees so far have completed these modules compared to only fifty who attended classroom-based training.
Person analysis helps identify employees who need training; lack of training or poor training is one possible explanation. This is often referred to as a gap analysis. A gap analysis includes determining what is responsible for the difference between employees’ current and expected performance. The need for training may result from the pressure points in Figure 3.1, including performance problems, changes in the job, or use of new technology. Person analysis also helps determining employees’ readiness for training. Readiness for training refers to whether (1) employees have the personal characteristics (ability, attitudes, beliefs, and motivation) necessary to learn program content and apply it on the job, and (2) the work environment will facilitate learning and not interfere with performance. This process includes evaluating person characteristics, input, output, consequences, and feedback.20
A major pressure point for training is poor or substandard performance. Poor performance is indicated by customer complaints, low performance ratings, or on-the-job incidents such as accidents and unsafe behavior. Another potential indicator of the need for training is if the job changes such that current levels of performance need to be improved or employees must be able to complete new tasks.
The Process for Person Analysis
Figure 3.3 shows a process for analyzing the factors that influence performance and learning. Person characteristics refer to employee knowledge, skill, ability, and attitudes. Input relates to the instructions that tell employees what, how, and when to perform. Input also refers to the resources that the employees are given to help them perform. These resources may include equipment, time, or budget. Output refers to the job’s performance standards. Consequences refer to the type of incentives that employees receive
for performing well. Feedback refers to the information that employees receive while they are performing.
FIGURE 3.3 The Process for Analyzing the Factors That Influence Employee Performance and Learning
Sources: R. Jaenke, “Identify the Real Reasons Behind Performance Gaps”, T+D (August 2013): 76–77.; C. Reinhart, “How to Leap over Barriers to Performance,” Training and Development (January 2000): 20–24; G. Rummler and K. Morrill, “The Results Chain,” T+D (February 2005): 27–35.
Interviews or questionnaires can be used to measure personal characteristics, input, output, consequences, and feedback. For example, a package delivery company believed that lead drivers were valuable for providing on-the-job training for new employees.21 The company employed 110 lead drivers, and the job involved driving, delivery, and bookkeeping duties. The lead drivers benefited from training because coaching and training made their jobs more interesting, and the company benefited because on-the-job training was relatively inexpensive and effective. Lead drivers often quickly spotted and corrected performance problems with new trainees, and they knew the technical aspects of the delivery job quite well. Although many of the lead drivers were good trainers and coaches, the company believed that they needed to learn how to coach and train the new drivers.
The company used interviews to identify what type of coaching and training skills the lead drivers needed. Interviews were conducted with fourteen lead drivers, six supervisors, and two regional vice presidents. The interview for the lead drivers consisted of questions such as the following:
What types of situations call for coaching on your part?
What keeps you from being a good coach on the job?
How do you encourage or motivate other lead drivers? Do you use incentives or rewards? Do you try other things (compliments, personal attention)?
What common types of performance problems do new hires have?
What were the biggest problems you encountered as a new coach and trainer? What mistakes did you make? What lessons have you learned over time?
Tell me about a successful coaching experience and an unsuccessful coaching experience.
Recurring trends in the interview data were noted and categorized. For example, interview questions on obstacles to coaching related to three themes: lack of time to coach, the physical environment (no privacy), and reluctance to coach peers. These three topics were covered in the coaching course.
Person characteristics, input, output, consequences, and feedback influence the motivation to learn. Motivation to learn is trainees’ desire to learn the content of training programs.22 Consider how your motivation to learn may be influenced by personal characteristics and the environment. You may have no problem understanding and comprehending the contents of this textbook. But your learning may be inhibited because of your attitude toward the course. That is, perhaps you do not believe that the course will be important for your career. Maybe you are taking the course only because it fits your schedule or is required in your degree program. Learning may also be inhibited by the environment. For example, maybe you want to learn, but your study environment prevents you from doing so. Every time you are prepared to read and review your notes and the textbook, your roommates could be having a party. Even if you do not join them, the music may be so loud that you cannot concentrate.
Marriott International, the hotel and restaurant chain, found that personal characteristics were having a significant influence on the success rate of the company’s welfare-to-work program.23 This program involved training welfare recipients for jobs in the company’s hotels and restaurants. (These types of programs are discussed in greater detail in Chapter Ten, “Social Responsibility: Legal Issues, Managing Diversity, and Career Challenges.”) Many trainees were unable to complete the training program because of poor attendance due to unreliable child care, drug problems, or abusive partners As a result, Marriott has instituted strict standards for selecting welfare recipients for the training program. These standards include requiring trainees to have child care, transportation, and housing arrangements. Also, Marriott added an additional drug test during training.
A number of research studies have shown that motivation to learn is related to knowledge gained, behavior changes, or skill acquisition resulting from training.24 Besides considering the factors of personal characteristics, input, output, consequences, and feedback in determining whether training is the best solution to a performance problem, managers should also take them into account when selecting which employees will attend a training
program. These factors relate to the employees’ motivation to learn. The following sections describe each of these factors and its relationship to performance and learning.
Personal characteristics include basic skills, cognitive ability, language skills, and other traits that employees need to perform their jobs or learn in training and development programs effectively. Personal characteristics also include employees’ age or generation, which might affect how they prefer to learn. As mentioned in Chapter One, recent forecasts of workforce skill levels and survey results suggest that companies are experiencing a skills gap. That is, companies are having difficulty finding employees who have the right knowledge, skills, or abilities to fill open positions or succeed in training to prepare them for today’s jobs.
Basic skills refer to skills that are necessary for employees to perform on the job and learn the content of training programs successfully. Basic skills include cognitive ability and reading and writing skills. For example, one assumption that your professor is making in this course is that you have the necessary reading level to comprehend this textbook and the other course materials such as Powerpoint slides, videos, or readings. If you lacked the necessary reading level, you likely would not learn much about training in this course. As Chapter One discussed, recent forecasts of skill levels of the U.S. workforce indicate that managers will likely have to work with employees who lack basic skills. A literacy audit can be used to determine employees’ basic skill levels. Table 3.4 shows the activities involved in conducting a literacy audit.
TABLE 3.4 Steps in Performing a Literacy Audit
Observe employees to determine the basic skills that they need to be successful in their job. Note the materials the employee uses on the job, the tasks performed, and the reading, writing, and computations completed.
Collect all materials that are written and read on the job and identify the computations that must be performed to determine the necessary level of basic skill proficiency. Materials include bills, memos, and forms such as inventory lists and requisition sheets.
Interview employees to determine the basic skills that they believe are needed to do the job. Consider the basic skill requirements of the job yourself.
Determine whether employees have the basic skills needed to perform the job successfully. Combine the information gathered by observing and interviewing employees and evaluating materials they use on their job. Write a description of each job in terms of the reading, writing, and computation skills needed to perform the job successfully.
Develop or buy tests that ask questions relating specifically to the employees’ job. Ask employees to complete the tests.
Compare test results (from step 5) with the description of the basic skills required for the job (from step 4). If the level of the employees’ reading, writing, and computation skills does not match the basic skills required by the job, then a basic skills problem exists.
Sources: U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Labor, The Bottom Line: Basic Skills in the Workplace (Washington, DC: 1988): 14–15.
It is important to note that possession of a high school diploma or a college degree is no guarantee that an employee has basic skills. If participants do not have the fundamental reading, writing, and math skills to understand the training, they will not be able to learn, they will not apply their training to the job (a process known as transfer, which is discussed in Chapter Four), and the company will have wasted money on training that does not work. Trainers need to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of trainees before designing a training program. The skill weaknesses that are identified can be used to determine prerequisites that trainees need or must acquire before entering a training program. How do trainers identify skills gaps?25 First, trainers collect general information through position-specific training materials and job descriptions. They also observe the job to become familiar with the necessary skills. Next, trainers meet with SMEs, including employees, managers, engineers, or others who are familiar with the job. With the help of these SMEs, trainers identify a list of regularly performed activities and prioritize the list according to importance. Finally, trainers identify the skills and skill levels that are needed to perform the activities or job tasks. For example, nurses must watch for changes in patient conditions, reactions, and comfort levels; they need to identify and recall details when observing patients. These activities require good observation skills, and the trainer needs to find or create a test to measure those skills. Once the skills analysis is complete, trainers conduct a basic (or pretraining) skills evaluation to identify skills gaps that need to be addressed prior to enrolling employees in a training session.
Research shows that cognitive ability influences learning and job performance. Cognitive ability includes three dimensions: verbal comprehension, quantitative ability, and reasoning ability.26 Verbal comprehension refers to the person’s capacity to understand and use written and spoken language. Quantitative ability refers to how fast and accurately a person can solve math problems. Reasoning ability refers to the person’s capacity to invent solutions to problems. Research shows that cognitive ability is related to successful performance in all jobs.27 The importance of cognitive ability for job success increases as the job becomes more complex.
For example, a supermarket cashier needs low to moderate levels of all three dimensions of cognitive ability to perform that job successfully. An emergency room physician needs higher levels of verbal comprehension, quantitative ability, and reasoning ability than the cashier. The supermarket cashier needs to understand the different denominations of bills and coins to give customers the correct amount of change. The cashier also needs to invent solutions to problems. (For example, how does the cashier deal with items that are not priced that the customer wants to purchase?) The cashier also needs to be able to understand and communicate with customers (verbal comprehension). The physician also needs quantitative ability, but at a higher level. For example, when dealing with an infant experiencing seizures in an emergency situation, the physician needs to be able to calculate the correct dosage of medicine (based on an adult dosage) to stop the seizures after considering the child’s weight. The physician has to be able to diagnose the situation quickly and determine what actions (blood tests, x-rays, respiratory therapy, etc.) are necessary. In this case, the physician also needs to communicate clearly to the patient’s parents the treatment and recovery process.
Trainees’ level of cognitive ability also can influence how well they can learn in training programs.28 Trainees with low levels of cognitive ability are more likely to fail to complete training or (at the end of training) receive lower grades on tests that measure how much they have learned.
To identify employees without the cognitive ability to succeed on the job or in training programs, companies use cognitive ability tests. For example, consider the actions taken by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to identify potential air traffic controllers who will complete training successfully.29 Air traffic control work requires quick analytical thinking and strong communications skills. These skills are emphasized and further developed in air traffic controller training. In addition to classroom training, air traffic controllers receive training through computer-based simulations of airport towers and en route centers, which direct planes between airports. The FAA estimates that in the past, it spent $10 million per year on unsuccessful trainees, which resulted in a doubling of training costs. To reduce its training costs and increase the number of new controllers who will be successful, the FAA uses an eight-hour test of cognitive skills that identifies whether applicants can think spatially, have good short- and long-term memory, and can work well under pressure—skills that are needed by successful air traffic controllers. Determining a job’s cognitive ability requirement is part of the task analysis process, discussed later in this chapter.
Readability refers to the difficulty level of written materials.30 Lack of the appropriate reading level can impede performance and learning in training programs. Material used in training should be evaluated to ensure that its reading level does not exceed that required by the job. A readability assessment usually involves analysis of sentence length and word difficulty.
If trainees’ reading level does not match the level needed for the training materials, four options are available. First, trainers can determine whether it is feasible to lower the reading level of training materials or use video or on-the-job training, which involves learning by watching and practicing rather than by reading. Second, employees without the necessary reading level could be identified through reading tests and reassigned to other positions more congruent with their skill levels. Third, again using reading tests, trainers can identify employees who lack the necessary reading skills and provide them with remedial training. Fourth, trainers can consider whether the job can be redesigned to accommodate employees’ reading levels. The fourth option is certainly the most costly and least practical. Therefore, alternative training methods need to be considered, or managers can elect a nontraining option. Nontraining options include selecting employees for jobs and training opportunities on the basis of reading, computation, writing, and other basic skill requirements.
To develop basic skills or close the skills gap, many companies are engaging in skills assessment, training, or a combination of the two. They are working to identify and close skill gaps, either alone or in partnerships with state government agencies.31 For example, to help ensure that employees have the necessary basic skills needed to succeed in training, Georgia-Pacific, a paper manufacturer, used skills assessment in combination with a training program. For employees to be eligible to attend training programs, they had to take reading and math skills tests and score at or above a ninth-grade level. Those who
scored below ninth-grade level were advised to attend basic skills training. Test results were communicated confidentially and were not part of employees’ personnel files. This was done to alleviate employees’ fears that their lack of literacy would cost them their jobs and to establish trust needed to motivate them to attend the basic skills training. A local community college provided the basic training at sites close to Georgia-Pacific plants to make it easy for employees to attend classes before or after work. As a result of the assessment and training, the current workforce has reached the basic skills standard established by the company. To ensure that new employees met the basic skill standards, Georgia-Pacific changed its hiring qualifications. New job applicants are required to have completed (or met the requirements for) a specific eighteen-month schedule of courses at the local community college. Delta Wire, a small manufacturing company in Mississippi, developed a basic skills training program to help employees understand how to record, interpret, and communicate information on a statistical control chart. That helped reduce product defects from 7 percent to 2 percent.
Like many U.S. companies, Southwire Company, a cable manufacturer with 7,500 employees, has experienced difficulties finding employees who had the appropriate skill set and would reliably show up for work. Southwire realized that part of the problem finding employees was the high dropout rate for economically disadvantaged high school students in the areas where the company’s plants were located. As a result, Southwire partnered with local school districts to help high school teens stay engaged in school, gain valuable work experience, and develop a more positive attitude toward work. Southwire works with local school districts to help redesign courses that focus on abstract concepts that easily frustrate students but are necessary to learn and apply on the factory floor. For example, physics and chemistry classes include lessons on electricity and the properties of electric cables, which include students learning to conduct quality control tests on cables. In addition to learning in the classroom, students gain valuable work experience by working in Southwire’s factories. One group of teenagers earns up to $9 an hour packaging electricity cables for sale at big-box retail stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s. The effort has benefited Southwire, the students, and local communities. Since 2007, when the program started, the graduation rate of students considered economically disadvantaged increased from 56 to 77 percent. Forty percent of the students have continued their education at two- or four-year colleges or universities, while 18 percent have taken full-time jobs at Southwire. For local communities where Southwire’s plants are located, the program has provided a skilled workforce of high school graduates.
Self-efficacy is employees’ belief that they can perform their job or learn the content of the training program successfully. The job environment can be threatening to too many employees who may not have been successful performers in the past. For example, as you will see in Chapter Ten, people who are hired through a welfare-to-work program—a program designed to help find jobs for welfare recipients—may lack self-efficacy. The training environment can also be threatening to people who have not received training or formal education for some length of time, lack education, or are not experienced in the training program’s subject matter. For example, training employees to use equipment for computer-based manufacturing may represent a potential threat, especially if they are intimidated by new technology and lack confidence in their ability to master the skills needed to use a computer. Research has demonstrated that self-efficacy is related to performance in training programs.32 Employees’ self-efficacy level can be increased by
Letting employees know that the purpose of training is to try to improve performance rather than to identify areas in which employees are incompetent.
Providing as much information as possible about the training program and the purpose of training prior to the actual training.
Showing employees the training success of their peers who are now in similar jobs.
Providing employees with feedback that learning is under their control and they have the ability and the responsibility to overcome any learning difficulties they experience in the program.
Awareness of Training Needs, Career Interests, and Goals
To be motivated to learn in training programs, employees must be aware of their skill strengths and weaknesses and of the link between the training program and improvement of their weaknesses.33 Managers should make sure that employees understand why they have been asked to attend training programs, and they should communicate the link between training and improvement of skill weaknesses or knowledge deficiencies. This can be accomplished by sharing performance feedback with employees, holding career development discussions, or having employees complete a self-evaluation of their skill strengths and weaknesses as well as career interests and goals. For example, Reynolds and Reynolds, an Ohio-based information services company, uses surveys to obtain sales employees’ opinions about what kinds of training they want.34 The survey asks questions about what additional training the company could provide to improve sales effectiveness and productivity and how employees want to receive training. In response, 60 percent of the employees felt that they needed more training on how to create and present credible estimates of return on investments for each solution they offer customers. Time management training, working in a virtual environment, problem-solving decision making, and listening skills were personal development areas identified by the employees as needing improvement. Most employees preferred classroom training, but they also mentioned webcasts, on-the-job training, or DVDs. The internal training director shares the results with the sales leadership teams, including vice presidents and service directors. The results are being used as part of the process for setting goals for the training department.
If possible, employees need to be given a choice of what programs to attend and must understand how actual training assignments are made to maximize motivation to learn. Several studies have suggested that giving trainees a choice regarding which programs to attend and then honoring those choices maximizes motivation to learn. Giving employees choices but not necessarily honoring them can undermine motivation to learn.35
Age and Generation
There is biological evidence that certain mental capacities decrease from age twenty to age seventy.36 Short-term memory and the speed at which people process information decline as we age. However, with age comes experience, which can compensate for the loss of memory and mental quickness. Although mental quickness and memory losses diminish at a steady pace, at older ages, memory loss is much greater because mental resources are more depleted than at earlier ages.
Chapter One discussed some of the differences (and similarities) of employees from different generations. The terms millenniums and Generation Y refer to people born after 1980. They are optimistic, willing to work and learn, and technology-literate; they appreciate diversity. The term Gen Xers refers to people born from 1965 to 1980. Gen Xers need feedback and flexibility; they dislike close supervision. They have experienced change all their lives (in terms of parents, homes, and cities). Gen Xers value a balance between their work and nonwork lives. Baby boomers are people born between 1946 and 1964. They are competitive, hardworking, and concerned that all employees be fairly treated. Traditionalists are people born between 1925 and 1945. They are patriotic and loyal, and they have a great deal of knowledge of the history of organizations and work life. Each generation may have specific preferences for the arrangement of the learning environment, type of instruction, and learning activities.37 For example, traditionalists prefer a stable, orderly training environment and expect the instructor to provide expertise. But Gen Xers prefer more of a self-directed training environment in which they can experiment and receive feedback. As a result, it is important to consider the learners’ ages and generations as part of the person analysis. We will discuss these preferences and their implications for training design in Chapter Five.
Employees’ perceptions of two characteristics of the work environment—situational constraints and social support—are determinants of performance and motivation to learn. Situational constraints include lack of proper tools and equipment, materials and supplies, budgetary support, and time. Social support refers to managers’ and peers’ willingness to provide feedback and reinforcement.38 If employees have the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behavior needed to perform but do not have the proper tools and equipment needed, their performance will be inadequate.
To ensure that the work environment enhances trainees’ motivation to learn, managers should take the following steps:
Provide materials, time, job-related information, and other work aids necessary for employees to use new skills or behavior before participating in training programs.
Speak positively about the company’s training programs to employees.
Let employees know they are doing a good job when they are using training content in their work.
Encourage work-group members to involve each other in trying to use new skills on the job by soliciting feedback and sharing training experiences and situations in which training content has been helpful.
Provide employees with time and opportunities to practice and apply new skills or behaviors to their work Output
Poor or substandard performance can occur on the job because employees do not know at what level they are expected to perform. For example, they may not be aware of quality standards related to speed or the degree of personalization of service that is expected. Employees may have the knowledge, skill, and attitudes necessary to perform and yet fail to perform because they are not aware of the performance standards. Lack of awareness of the performance standards is a communications problem, but it is not a problem that training can “fix.”
Understanding the need to perform is important for learning. Trainees need to understand what specifically they are expected to learn in the training program. To ensure that trainees master training content at the appropriate level, trainees in training programs also need to understand the level of proficiency that is expected of them. For example, for tasks, level of proficiency relates to how well employees are to perform a task. For knowledge, level of proficiency may relate to a score on a written test. The standards or the level of performance is part of the learning objectives (discussed in Chapter Four).
If employees do not believe that rewards or incentives for performance are adequate, they will be unlikely to meet performance standards even if they have the necessary knowledge, behavior, skill, or attitudes. Also, work-group norms may encourage employees not to meet performance standards. Norms refer to accepted standards of behavior for work-group members. For example, during labor contract negotiations, baggage handlers for Northwest Airlines worked slowly loading and unloading baggage from airplanes. As a result, many passenger departures and arrivals were delayed. The baggage handlers had the knowledge, skills, and behaviors necessary to unload the planes more quickly, but they worked slowly because they were trying to send a message to management that the airlines could not perform effectively if their contract demands were not met.
Consequences also affect learning in training programs. Incentive systems, such as providing gift cards redeemable for food, clothes, or movies or accumulating points that can be used toward paying for enrollment in future courses, may be useful for motivating some employees to attend and complete training courses (discussed in Chapter Five).39 However, one of the most powerful ways to motivate employees to attend and learn from training is to communicate the personal value of the training. For example, how will it help them improve their skills, career, or deal with problems they encounter on the job? It is important that the communication from the manager about potential benefits be realistic. Unmet expectations about training programs can hinder the motivation to learn.40
Performance problems can result when employees do not receive feedback regarding the extent to which they are meeting performance standards. Training may not be the best solution to this type of problem if employees know what they are supposed to do (output) but do not understand how close their performance is to the standard. Employees need to be given specific, detailed feedback of effective and ineffective performance. For employees to perform to standard, feedback needs to be given frequently, not just during a yearly performance evaluation.
In Chapter Four, the role of feedback in learning is discussed in detail. Keep in mind that feedback is critical for shaping trainees’ behaviors and skills.
Determining Whether Training Is the Best Solution
To determine whether training is needed to solve a performance problem, managers need to analyze characteristics of the performer, input, output, consequences, and feedback. How might this be done?41 Managers should assess the following:
Is the performance problem important? Does it have the potential to cost the company a significant amount of money from lost productivity or customers?
Do employees know how to perform effectively? Perhaps they received little or no previous training, or the training was ineffective. (This problem is a characteristic of the person.)
Can employees demonstrate the correct knowledge or behavior? Perhaps employees were trained but they infrequently or never used the training content (knowledge, skills, etc.) on the job. (This is an input problem.)
Were performance expectations clear (input)? Were there any obstacles to performance, such as faulty tools or equipment?
Were positive consequences offered for good performance? Was good performance not rewarded? For example, if employees are dissatisfied with their compensation, their peers or a union may encourage them to slow down their pace of work. (This involves consequences.)
Did employees receive timely, relevant, accurate, constructive, and specific feedback about their performance (a feedback issue)?
Were other solutions—such as job redesign or transferring employees to other jobs—too expensive or unrealistic?
If employees lack the knowledge and skill to perform a job and the other factors are satisfactory, training is needed. If employees have the knowledge and skill to perform but input, output, consequences, or feedback is inadequate, training may not be the best solution. For example, if poor performance results from faulty equipment, training cannot solve this problem, but repairing the equipment will. If poor performance results from lack of feedback, then employees may not need training, but their managers may need training on how to give performance feedback.
It is also important to consider the relationships among a critical job issue (a problem or opportunity that is critical to the success of a job within the company), a critical process issue (a problem or opportunity that is critical to the success of a business process), and a critical business issue (a problem or opportunity that is critical to the success of the company).42 If the critical job issue, critical process issue, and critical business issue are related, training should be a top priority because it will have a greater effect on business outcomes and results and will likely receive greater management support. Table 3.5 shows the relationships among the critical job, process, and business issues for a sales representative. This analysis resulted from a request from a top manager who suggested that sales representatives needed more training because incomplete sales orders were being submitted to production.
TABLE 3.5 Example of the Relationships Among a Critical Job Issue, a Critical Process Issue, and a Critical Business Issue
Critical Job Issue
Critical Process Issue
Critical Business Issue
No incomplete order forms 100% accurate orders
10% incomplete order forms 83% accurate orders
Order cycle time of three days
Order cycle time of thirty days
Market share of 60%
Market Share of 48%
Source: Based on G. A. Rummler and K. Morrill, “The Results Chain,” T + D (February 2005): 27–35.
Consider how a global retailer of rugged, athletic, casual, and stylish clothes for kids and young adults identifies whether a performance need should be addressed by training or other solutions. Figure 3.4 shows how this retailer determines the type of need, who is affected, and the corrective strategy. As you can see from Figure 3.4, training and development is only one of several possible solutions and addresses issues related specifically to knowledge gaps, sharing knowledge and skills, informal learning, and manager and supervisor support.
Task analysis results in a description of work activities, including tasks performed by the employee and the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to complete the tasks. A job is a specific position requiring the completion of certain tasks. (The job exemplified in Table 3.6 is that of an electrical maintenance worker.) A task is the employee’s work
activity in a specific job. Table 3.6 shows several tasks for the electrical maintenance worker job. These tasks include replacing lightbulbs, electrical outlets, and light switches. To complete tasks, employees must have specific levels of knowledge, skill, ability, and other considerations (KSAOs). Knowledge includes facts or procedures (e.g., the chemical properties of gold). Skill indicates competency in performing a task (e.g., negotiation skill, a skill in getting another person to agree to take a certain course of action). Ability includes the physical and mental capacities to perform a task (e.g., spatial ability, the ability to see the relationship between objects in physical space). Other refers to the conditions under which tasks are performed. These conditions include identifying the equipment and environment that the employee works in (e.g., the need to wear an oxygen mask, work in extremely hot conditions), time constraints for a task (e.g., deadlines), safety considerations, or performance standards.
TABLE 3.6 Sample Items from Task Analysis Questionnaires for the Electrical Maintenance Job
Source: E. F. Holton III and C. Bailey, “Top to Bottom Curriculum Redesign,” Training and Development (March 1995): 40–44.
Task analysis should be undertaken only after the organizational analysis has determined that the company wants to devote time and money for training. Why? Task analysis is a time-consuming, tedious process that involves a large time commitment to gather and summarize data from many different persons in the company, including managers, job incumbents, and trainers.
Steps in a Task Analysis
A task analysis involves four steps:43
Select the job or jobs to be analyzed.
Develop a preliminary list of tasks performed on the job by (1) interviewing and observing expert employees and their managers and (2) talking with others who have performed a task analysis.
Validate or confirm the preliminary list of tasks. This step involves having a group of SMEs (job incumbents, managers, etc.) answer in a meeting or on a written survey
several questions regarding the tasks. The types of questions that may be asked include the following: How frequently is the task performed? How much time is spent performing each task? How important or critical is the task for successful performance of the job? How difficult is the task to learn? Is performance of the task expected of entry-level employees?
Table 3.7 presents a sample task analysis questionnaire. This information is used to determine which tasks will be focused on in the training program. The person or committee conducting the needs assessment must decide the level of ratings across dimensions that will determine that a task should be included in the training program. Tasks that are important, frequently performed, and of moderate-to-high level of difficulty are tasks for which training should be provided. Tasks that are not important and are infrequently performed should not involve training. It is difficult for managers and trainers to decide if tasks that are important but are performed infrequently and require minimal difficulty should be included in training. Managers and trainers must determine
whether or not important tasks—regardless of how frequently they are performed or their level of difficulty—will be included in training.
TABLE 3.7 Sample Task Statement Questionnaire
Please rate each of the task statements according to three factors: (1) the importance of the task for effective performance, (2) how frequently the task is performed, and (3) the degree of difficulty required to become effective in the task. Use the following scales in making your ratings.
4 = Task is critical for effective performance.
3 = Task is important but not critical for effective performance.
2 = Task is of some importance for effective performance.
1 = Task is of no importance for effective performance.
0 = Task is not performed.
4 = Task is performed once a day.
3 = Task is performed once a week.
2 = Task is performed once every few months.
1 = Task is performed once or twice a year.
0 = Task is not performed.
4 = Effective performance of the task requires extensive prior experience and/or training (12–18 months or longer).
3 = Effective performance of the task requires minimal prior experience and training (6–12 months).
2 = Effective performance of the task requires a brief period of prior training and experience (1–6 months).
1 = Effective performance of the task does not require specific prior training and/or experience.
0 = This task is not performed.
1. Ensuring maintenance on equipment, tools, and safety controls
2. Monitoring employee performance
3. Scheduling employees
4. Using statistical software on the computer
5. Monitoring changes made in processes using statistical methods
Once the tasks have been identified, it is important to identify the knowledge, skills, or tasks that are difficult to learn or prone to errors such as decision-making or problem-solving tasks. For these tasks it is necessary to determine how the thought processes of experts differ from those of novices. This information is useful for designing training that includes the right amount of practice and feedback for novices to learn. This information can be collected through interviews and questionnaires. Recall this chapter’s discussion of how ability influences learning. Information concerning basic skill and cognitive ability requirements is critical for determining if certain levels of knowledge, skills, and abilities will be prerequisites for entrance to the training program (or job) or if supplementary training in underlying skills is needed. For training purposes, information concerning how difficult it is to learn the knowledge, skill, or ability is important—as is whether the knowledge, skill, or ability is expected to be acquired by the employee before taking the job.44
Table 3.8 summarizes key points to remember regarding task analysis.
TABLE 3.8 Key Points to Remember When Conducting a Task Analysis
A task analysis should identify both what employees are actually doing and what they should be doing on the job.
Task analysis begins by breaking the job into duties and tasks.
Use more than two methods for collecting task information to increase the validity of the analysis.
For task analysis to be useful, information needs to be collected from SMEs, including job incumbents, managers, and employees familiar with the job.
In deciding how to evaluate tasks, the focus should be on tasks necessary to accomplish the company’s goals and objectives. These may not be the tasks that are the most difficult or take the most time.
Source: Based on A. P. Carnevale, L. J. Gainer, and A. S. Meltzer, Workplace Basics Training Manual (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1990); Surface, E. A. (2012). Training need assessment: aligning learning and capability with performance requirements and organizational objectives. In M. A. Wilson, W. Bennett, S. G. Gibson, & G. M. Alliger (Eds.), The Handbook of Work Analysis: Methods, Systems, Applications and Science of Work Measurement in Organizations (1st ed.) (pp. 437-462). Routledge Academic.
Example of a Task Analysis
Each of the four steps of a task analysis can be seen in this example from a utility company. Trainers were given the job of developing a training system in six months.45 The purpose of the program was to identify tasks and KSAOs that would serve as the basis for training program objectives and lesson plans.
The first phase of the project involved identifying potential tasks for each job in the utility’s electrical maintenance area. Procedures, equipment lists, and information provided by SMEs were used to generate the tasks. SMEs included managers, instructors, and senior technicians. The tasks were incorporated into a questionnaire administered to all technicians in the electrical maintenance department. The questionnaire included 550 tasks. Table 3.6 shows sample items from the questionnaire for the electrical maintenance job. Technicians were asked to rate each task on importance, difficulty, and frequency of performance. The rating scale for frequency included zero. A zero rating indicated that the technician rating the task had never performed the task. Technicians who rated a task zero were asked not to evaluate the task’s difficulty and importance.
Customized software was used to analyze the ratings collected via the questionnaire. The primary requirement used to determine whether a task required training was its importance rating. A task rated “very important” was identified as one requiring training regardless of its frequency or difficulty. If a task was rated moderately important but difficult, it also was designated for training. Tasks rated as unimportant, not difficult, or done infrequently were not designated for training.
The list of tasks designated for training was reviewed by the SMEs to determine if it accurately described job tasks. The result was a list of 487 tasks. For each of the 487 tasks, two SMEs identified the necessary KSAOs required for performance. This included information on working conditions, cues that initiate the task’s start and end, performance standards, safety considerations, and necessary tools and equipment. All data were reviewed by plant technicians and members of the training department. More than 14,000 KSAOs were grouped into common areas and assigned an identification code. These groups were then combined into clusters that represented qualification areas. That is, the task clusters were related to linked tasks that the employees must be certified in to perform the job. The clusters were used to identify training lesson plans and course objectives. Trainers also reviewed the clusters to identify prerequisite skills for each cluster.
In today’s global and competitive business environment, many companies are finding that it is difficult to determine whether employees have the capabilities needed for success. The necessary capabilities may vary from one business unit to another, and even across roles, within a business unit. As a result, many companies are using competency models to help them identify the knowledge, skills, and personal characteristics (attitudes, personality) needed for successful performance in a job. Competency models are also useful for ensuring that training and development systems are contributing to the development of such knowledge, skills, and personal characteristics.
Traditionally, needs assessment has involved identifying knowledge, skills, abilities, and tasks. However, a current trend in training is for needs assessment to focus on competencies, especially for managerial positions. Competencies are sets of skills, knowledge, abilities, and personal characteristics that enable employees to perform their jobs successfully.46
A competency model identifies the competencies necessary for each job. Competency models provide descriptions of competencies that are common for an entire occupation, organization, job family, or specific job. Competency models can be used for performance management. However, one of the strengths of competency models is that they are useful for a variety of human resource (HR) practices, including recruiting, selection, training, and development. Competency models can be used to help identify the best employees to fill open positions and to serve as the foundation for development plans that allow employees and their manager to target specific strengths and development areas. The competencies included in competency models vary according to the company’s business strategy and goals. They can include sales, leadership, interpersonal, technical, and other types of competencies. Competency models typically included the name of each competency, the behaviors that represent proficiency in the competency, and levels that include descriptions
representing demonstrated levels of mastery or proficiency. Table 3.9 shows the technical cluster of competencies from a competency model for a systems engineer. The left side of the table lists technical competencies within the technical cluster (such as systems architecture, data migration, and documentation). The right side shows behaviors that might be used to determine a systems engineer’s level of proficiency for each competency.
TABLE 3.9 Competencies from a Competency Model
Ability to design complex software applications, establish protocols, and create prototypes.
0—Is not able to perform basic tasks.
1—Understands basic principles; can perform tasks with assistance or direction.
2—Performs routine tasks with reliable results; works with minimal supervision.
3—Performs complex and multiple tasks; can coach or teach others.
4—Considered an expert in this task; can describe, teach, and lead others.
Ability to establish the necessary platform requirements to efficiently and completely coordinate data transfer.
0—Is not able to perform basic tasks.
1—Understands basic principles; can perform tasks with assistance or direction.
2—Performs routine tasks with reliable results; works with minimal supervision.
3—Performs complex and multiple tasks; can coach or teach others.
4—Considered an expert in this task; can describe, teach, and lead others.
Ability to prepare comprehensive and complete documentation, including specifications, flow diagrams, process control, and budgets.
0—Is not able to perform basic tasks.
1—Understands basic principles; can perform tasks with assistance or direction.
2—Performs routine tasks with reliable results; works with minimal supervision.
3—Performs complex and multiple tasks; can coach or teach others.
4—Considered an expert in this task; can describe, teach, and lead others.
Source: R. J. Mirabile, “Everything You Wanted to Know About Competency Modeling,” Training and Development (August 1997): 73–77.
One way to understand competency models is to compare them to job analysis. As you may recall from other classes or experiences, job analysis refers to the process of developing a description of the job (tasks, duties, and responsibilities) and the specifications (knowledge, skills, and abilities) that an employee must have to perform it. How does job analysis compare to competency models? Job analysis is more work- and task-focused (what is accomplished), whereas competency modeling is worker-focused (how objectives are met or how work is accomplished). Focusing on “how” versus “what” provides valuable information for training and development. A recent study asked competency modeling experts (consultants, HR practitioners, academics, and industrial psychologists) to
compare and contrast competency modeling and job analysis.47 The study found several differences between job analysis and competency models. Competency models are more likely to link competencies and the company’s business goals. Competency models provide descriptions of competencies that are common for an entire occupational group, level of jobs, or an entire organization. Job analysis describes what is different across jobs, occupational groups, or organization levels. Finally, job analysis generates specific knowledge, skills, and abilities for particular jobs. It is used to generate specific requirements to be used for employee selection. The competencies generated by competency modeling are more general and believed to have greater application to a wider variety of purposes, including selection, training, employee development, and performance management.
Another way to think about competency models is by considering performance management.48 Unfortunately, many performance management systems suffer from a lack of agreement on what outcomes should be used to evaluate performance. Manager–employee discussions about performance deficiencies tend to lack specificity. By identifying the areas of personal capability that enable employees to perform their jobs successfully, competency models ensure an evaluation of what gets done and how it gets done. Performance feedback can be directed toward specific concrete examples of behavior, and knowledge, skills, ability, and other characteristics that are necessary for success are clearly described.
How are competencies identified and competency models developed? Figure 3.5 shows the process used to develop a competency model. First, the business strategy is identified. The implications of business strategy for training were discussed in Chapter Two. The business strategy helps identify what types of competencies are needed to ensure that business goals are met and the company’s strategy is supported. Changes in the business strategy might cause new competencies to be needed or old competencies to be altered. Second, the job or position to be analyzed is identified. Third, effective and ineffective performers are identified. Fourth, the competencies responsible for effective and ineffective performance are identified. There are several approaches for identifying competencies. These include analyzing one or several “star” performers, surveying persons who are familiar with the job (SMEs), and investigating benchmark data of good performers in other companies.49 Fifth, the model is validated. That is, a determination is made as to whether the competencies included in the model truly are related to effective performance. In the example of the technical competencies for the systems engineer shown in Table 3.9, it is important to verify that (1) these three competencies are necessary for job success, and (2) the level of proficiency of the competency is appropriate.
FIGURE 3.5 The Process Used in Developing a Competency Model
Following the development process outlined in Figure 3.5 will ensure that competencies and competency models are valid. However, trainers, employees, managers, and other experts should be trained (especially inexperienced raters) in how to determine accurate competency ratings. Training should ensure that raters understand each competency and the differences between them and can distinguish between low, medium, and high levels of proficiency.50
Competency models are useful for training and development in several ways:52
They identify behaviors needed for effective job performance. These models ensure that feedback given to employees as part of a development program (such as 360-degree feedback) relate specifically to individual and organizational success.
They provide a tool for determining what skills are necessary to meet today’s needs, as well as the company’s future skill needs. They can be used to evaluate the relationship between the company’s current training programs and present needs. That is, they help align training and development activities with the company’s business goals. They can be used to evaluate how well the offerings relate to anticipated future skill needs.
They help determine what skills are needed at different career points.
They provide a framework for ongoing coaching and feedback to develop employees for current and future roles. By comparing their current personal competencies to those required for a job, employees can identify competencies that need development and choose actions to develop those competencies. These actions may include courses, job experiences, and other types of development. (Development methods are detailed in Chapter Nine, “Employee Development and Career Management.”)
They create a “road map” for identifying and developing employees who may be candidates for managerial positions (succession planning).
They provide a common set of criteria that are used for identifying appropriate development training and learning activities for employees, as well as for evaluating and rewarding them. This helps integrate and align the company’s HR systems and practices.
For example, at American Express, competency models are used to help managers lead their own teams by providing a framework that their employees can use to capitalize on strengths and improve weaknesses.53 At the company level, competencies are used to determine the talent level of the entire company, including capabilities, strengths, and opportunities. This information is provided to managers who use the data to identify key needs and plan actions to ensure that current and future competencies are developed in employees.
Table 3.10 shows the competency model that Luxottica Retail, known for premium, luxury, and sports eyewear sold through LensCrafters, Sunglass Hut, and Pearle Vision, developed for its associates in field and store positions.54 The competency model includes leadership and managerial, functional, and foundational competencies. The goal was to define and identify competencies that managers could use for hiring, performance management, and training. Also, competencies would help associates identify and develop the skills they needed to apply for different jobs. To use competency models effectively for performance evaluation, they must be up to date, drive business performance, job-related (valid), relevant (or customized) for all of the company’s business units, and provide sufficient detail to make an accurate assessment of employees performance. At Luxottica Retail, developing competencies started with meeting with business leaders to understand their current and future business strategies. Business drivers were identified and questionnaires, focus groups, and meetings with managers and associates were used to identify important competencies and examples of behaviors related to each. Competencies across business units and brands are reviewed every four or five years, or whenever a major change in jobs or business strategy occurs to ensure they are relevant. Also, the weighting
given to each set of competencies in the performance evaluation is reviewed to ensure that they are appropriate (e.g., what weights should be given to the functional skills?). Depending on their relevance for a specific job, various combinations of these competencies are used for evaluating associates’ performance. Associates are rated on a 1–5 scale for each competency, with 5 meaning “far exceeds expectations” HR, training and development and operations teams worked together to define the levels of each competency. That is, what does it mean and what does the competency look like when an employee is rated “meets expectations” versus “below expectations”? This was necessary to ensure that managers are using a similar frame of reference when they evaluate associates using the competencies.
TABLE 3.10 Luxottica Retail’s Competency Model
TABLE 3.10 Luxottica Retail’s Competency Model
Leadership and Managerial
Coach and Develop Others
Business Key Performance Indicators
Foster Open Communications
Build Relationships and Interpersonal Skills
Develop and Manage Oneself
Adaptability and Flexibility
Act with Integrity
Diversity and Multiculturalism
Drive and Commitment
Source: From C. Spicer, “Building a Competency Model,” HR Magazine, April 2009, 34–36.
SCOPE OF NEEDS ASSESSMENT
Up to this point, the chapter has discussed the various aspects of needs assessment, including organizational, person, and task analyses. This involves interviews, observations, and potentially even surveying employees. You might be saying to yourself, “This sounds good, but it appears to be a very elaborate process that takes time. What happens if I don’t have time to conduct a thorough needs assessment? Should I abandon the process?”
Needs assessment is often skipped for several reasons based on assumptions such as training is always the issue or is mandated; it’s too costly, takes too long, and is too complex; and managers will not cooperate. Despite the constraints to conducting a needs assessment, it is necessary to determine if a problem or pressure point exists and to identify the best solution, which could be training.
However, even if managers demand a training course right now, needs assessment should still be conducted. There are several ways to conduct a rapid needs assessment. A rapid needs assessment refers to a needs assessment that is done quickly and accurately, but without sacrificing the quality of the process or the outcomes.55 The key to conducting a rapid needs assessment is choosing the needs assessment methods that will provide the results you can have the greatest confidences in while using the fewest resources (time, money, SMEs). There are several ways to conduct a rapid needs assessment. First, the scope of needs assessment depends on the size of the potential pressure point. If the pressure point seems to be local and has a potentially small impact on the business, then the information-gathering part of needs assessment could consist of only a few interviews with managers or job incumbents. If the pressure point will have a large impact on the business, then more information gathering should be conducted. If, after interviewing SMEs and job incumbents, you can tell that you are not learning anything new about the job, then interviewing could be stopped. Second, consider using already available data collected for other purposes. Error data, sales data, customer complaints, and exit interviews might provide valuable clues as to the source of performance and survey problems. JetBlue uses on-the-job performance data and business results data to identify training needs.56 For example, using data collected when aircraft are regularly serviced, JetBlue found that there was an increase in cosmetic damage to airplanes. This triggered the learning team to conduct more in-depth assessment to identify potential learning needs that may have resulted in an increase in the damage rate over time. Customer complaints tracked by the U.S. Transportation Department revealed an increase in problems experienced by JetBlue’s disabled passengers before boarding. Based on this data, training was revised and expanded, resulting in fewer complaints. The web may be a useful source for quickly conducting interviews and surveys with SMEs in different locations. Finally, if you are attuned to the business problems, technological developments, and other issues facing the organization, you will be able to anticipate training needs. For example, if the company is opening sales offices in an international location and introducing new technology in the manufacturing plants, cross-cultural training and training designed to help employees use the new technology undoubtedly will be needed. Be prepared by understanding the business.
Needs Assessment in Practice
KLA-Tencor supplies process controls and equipment to the semiconductor industry.57 KLA-Tencor service engineers need to diagnose and repair its customers’ complex machines that use advanced laser, optical, and robotic technologies. The engineers need to main proficiency in their current skills as well as add new skills to keep pace with new technology used in the company’s equipment. This is critical for KLA-Tencor to quickly solve equipment problems, which, if unresolved, can result in millions of dollars of lost revenue for its customers. Providing effective service is critical for the company to keep current customers and develop new business. In fact, one of the company’s values is “Indispensable” (the other values are “Perseverance,” “Drive to Be Better,” “High Performance Teams,” and “Honest, Forthright and Consistent”).
KLA-Tencor uses a skill management process (the Right People, Right Knowledge process) to monitor its workforce skills and uses this information to change its training programs. The process involves developing a task list, training on the task, practicing on-the-job training to gain certification, and conducting an annual skills assessment. To
conduct the skills assessment, a survey was sent to all of KLA-Tencor’s more than one thousand service engineers. For each task the engineers were asked to rate their capability of doing the task on a scale from “I don’t know how” to “I can teach it to others.” Also, they were asked to evaluate how frequently they performed the task from “Never” to “More than two times per year.” Based on their responses, they were assigned a training task. More than two hundred courses were created to train the engineers. To ensure that the training was completed, both engineers and their managers were accountable. This helped achieve a 95 percent completion rate within one year after training was assigned. The skills assessment data was also used to identify gaps in current training, resulting in more than two thousand changes in courses and certification programs. The skills assessment is done annually to ensure that service engineers keep up to date with new technology and products.
This example illustrates several aspects of the needs assessment process. First, training was viewed as critical for helping the company meet its strategic objectives. As a result, resources and time were allocated for needs assessment and training. Second, the needs assessment included a task or skill assessment that helped determine who needed training and what tasks they needed to learn. Third, based on the needs assessment, training programs were developed or changed to improve the identified skill deficiencies.
The first step in a successful training effort is to determine that a training need exists through a process known as needs assessment. Needs assessment involves three steps: organizational analysis, person analysis, and task analysis. Various methods—including observation, interviews, and surveys or questionnaires—are used to conduct a needs assessment. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Organizational analysis involves determining (1) the extent to which training is congruent with the company’s business strategy and resources and (2) if peers and managers are likely to provide the support needed for trainees to use training content in the work setting.
Person analysis focuses on identifying whether there is evidence that training is the solution, who needs training, and whether employees have the prerequisite skills, attitudes, and beliefs needed to ensure that they master the content of training programs. Because performance problems are one of the major reasons that companies consider training for employees, it is important to investigate how personal characteristics, input, output, consequences, and feedback relate to performance and learning. Managers and trainers need to be concerned about employees’ basic skill levels, attitudes, age and generation, and the work environment in determining if performance problems can be solved using training and how training should be designed.
Training is likely the best solution to a performance problem if employees don’t know how to perform. If employees have not received feedback about their performance, if they lack the equipment needed to perform the job, if the consequences for good performance are negative, or if they are unaware of an expected standard for performance, then training is not likely to be the best solution.
To maximize employees’ motivation to learn in training programs, managers and trainers need to understand these factors prior to sending employees to training. For example, lack of basic skills or reading skills can inhibit both job performance and learning.
A task analysis involves identifying the task and the training that employees will require in terms of knowledge, skills, and abilities. Competency modeling is a new approach to needs assessment that focuses on identifying personal capabilities, including knowledge, skills, attitudes, values, and personal characteristics.
needs assessment, 118
organizational analysis, 118
person analysis, 118
task analysis, 118
subject-matter experts (SMEs), 122
job incumbent, 122
focus groups, 125
gap analysis 129
readiness for training, 129
person characteristics, 129
motivation to learn, 131
basic skills, 132
cognitive ability, 133
situational constraints, 137
social support, 137
competency model, 144
job analysis, 145
rapid needs assessment, 149
Which of the factors that influence performance and learning do you think is most important? Which is least important?
If you had to conduct a needs assessment for a new job at a new plant, describe the method you would use.
If you were going to use online technology to identify training needs for customer service representatives for a web-based clothing company, what steps would you take to ensure that the technology was not threatening to employees?
Needs assessment involves organization, person, and task analyses. Which one of these analyses do you believe is most important? Which is least important? Why?
Why should upper-level managers be included in the needs assessment process?
Explain how you would determine if employees had the reading level necessary to succeed in a training program. How would you determine if employees had the necessary computer skills needed to use a web-based training program?
What conditions would suggest that a company should buy a training program from an outside vendor? Which would suggest that the firm should develop the program itself?
Assume that you have to prepare older employees with little computer experience to attend a training course on how to use the Internet. How will you ensure that they have high levels of readiness for training? How will you determine their readiness for training?
Review the accompanying sample tasks and task ratings for the electronic technician’s job. What tasks do you believe should be emphasized in the training program? Why?
Explain the process you would use to determine the cause of a performance problem. Draw a picture showing the process.
1. Replaces components
2. Repairs equipment
3. Interprets instrument readings
4. Uses small tools
Explanation of ratings:
Frequency: 1 = very infrequently to 5 = very frequently
Importance: 1 = very important to 5 = very unimportant
Learning difficulty: 1 = easy to 5 = very difficult
Why would we consider age and generational differences as part of needs assessment? Is this important? Explain. Discuss the types of evidence that you would look for to determine whether a needs analysis has been conducted improperly.
How is competency modeling similar to traditional needs assessment? How does it differ?
What is a rapid needs assessment? How would you conduct a rapid needs assessment so that it is valuable and accurately identifies training needs?
Application Assignments img
Develop a competency model for a job held by a friend, spouse, or roommate (someone other than yourself). Use the process discussed in this chapter to develop your model. Note the most difficult part of developing the model. How could the model be used?
The Department of Social Services represents a large portion of your county’s budget and total number of employees. The job of eligibility technician is responsible for all client contact, policy interpretation, and financial decisions related to several forms of public aid (e.g., food stamps, aid to families with dependent children). Eligibility technicians must read a large number of memos and announcements of new and revised policies and procedures. Eligibility technicians were complaining that they had difficulty reading and responding to this correspondence. The county decided to send the employees to a speed reading program costing $250 per person. The county has 200 eligibility technicians.
Preliminary evaluation of the speed reading program was that trainees liked it. Two months after the training was conducted, the technicians told their managers that they were not using the speed reading course in their jobs, but were using it in leisure reading at home. When their managers asked why they weren’t using it on the job, the typical response was, “I never read those memos and policy announcements anyway.”
Evaluate the needs assessment process used to determine that speed reading was necessary. What was good about it? Where was it faulty?
How would you have conducted the needs assessment? Be realistic.
Consider the interview questions for the lead drivers that are shown on page 131. Write questions that could be used to interview the six lead driver supervisors and the two
regional vice presidents. How do these questions differ from those for the lead drivers? How are they similar?
Several companies are known for linking their mission, values, and HR practices in ways that have led to business success as well as employee satisfaction. These companies include Southwest Airlines (www.iflyswa.com), Cisco Systems (www.cisco.com), SAS Institute (www.sas.com), Men’s Wearhouse (www.menswearhouse.com), Container Store (www.containerstore.com), Google (www.google.com), Steelcase (www.steelcase.com), Whole Foods (www.wholefoods.com), and TELUS (http://abouttelus.com). Choose one of these companies’ websites and reviews of the companies at www.glassdoor.com and perform an organizational needs analysis. Read about the company’s values and vision; look for statements about the importance of training and personal development. Is training important in the company? Why or why not? Provide supporting evidence.
Go to www.careeronestop.org/CompetencyModel, the website for CareerOneStop, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration to help job seekers, students, businesses, and career professionals. Choose and review one of the industry competency models. How might these competency models be useful for training and development for companies within the industry you selected? For their employees? For individuals such as students or the unemployed interested in working in the industry?
ConocoPhillips finds and produces oil and natural gas. Go to www.conocophillips.com. Choose “Careers” and click on “Career Development.” Next, click on “Leadership Competencies.” Review the competencies. How could they be used for learning and development of new and aspiring company leaders and managers?
Determining Training Needs at Summit Credit Union
Summit Credit Union, located in Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is a small company with 366 employees. A merger in 2015 doubled the size of the company and made it necessary to build a new corporate culture. Summit’s mission is to improve credit members’ financial lives to help them achieve their dreams. For example, in 2013 Summit members saved over $13 million based on higher savings rates, lower loan rates, and lowerfees compared to for-profit banking institutions in Wisconsin. Summit has invested in creating a world-class learning function, which includes a team of seven professionals who are able to design and deliver instructor-led training as well as e-learning. Summit has shifted away from generic off-the-shelf training to develop online and face-to-face programs customized to employee needs and the company’s goals and initiatives. For example, the learning function is expected to play a key role in dealing with business issues such as efficiency, loan growth, and increased sales. All learning staff members are expected to contribute to new company initiatives, such as new products and services, systems, or regulations. Summit has recently identified a problem with its new lenders. They were starting to perform their jobs without the necessary skills, information, and knowledge that they needed. One potential reason for this is how the lending training curriculum is organized. New lenders attend a course on different types of loans and the lending system, start their jobs, and then later return for a course on lending guidelines, underwriting, and sales skills.
How would you conduct a needs assessment to determine if new lenders are starting their jobs without the necessary knowledge and skills to perform well, and if the organization of the training curriculum (or another training issue) is responsible for this problem? Who would be involved in the needs assessment?
Source: Based on J. Salopek, “Investing in learning,” T+D (October 2011): 56–58; “Connect, Inspire, Impact” 2013 Annual Report from www.summitcreditunion.com.
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