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Are you translating your Training Needs Analysis into effective experiential learning?

Are you translating your Training Needs Analysis into effective experiential learning?

We often encounter clients who conduct a 'conventional' Training Needs Analysis (TNA) and then struggle to convert the results to the design of an experientially based programme of learning. A combination of line manager / peer observation, survey and strategic considerations should reveal a pretty comprehensive representation of individual training needs - so how do you then select the experiential tools which will effectively and efficiently respond to identified needs? Let me suggest that there does not need to be a hard boundary between where TNA finishes, and training starts - your first training intervention can also be the final part of the TNA.


The results of a TNA should allow a L+D practitioner to divide training needs into two broad categories: namely cognitive learning needs and affective learning needs. Translation of the cognitive category should be a relatively straightforward process of providing or sourcing the appropriate programmes or courses, or alternatively assigning an internal expert to begin a skills/knowledge-transfer process. The affective learning needs (i.e. the development of attitudes and behaviours that are appropriate to the role) are best suited to an experientially based response. However, the decisions about the design of this response are often made more difficult in that traditional TNA processes are notoriously poor at identifying exactly the attitudes and behaviours that need developing. I often come across results that suggest that e.g. interpersonal communication is an area for individual development - I can accept that, but I need a whole lot more data to work with. Communication with whom? In what circumstances? At what times? The answers to these closer questions are what I need to finalise my design, but getting these answers adds considerable time and cost to the TNA process....or does it.


The alternative that I'm most likely to use is to commence the experiential intervention with an activity that will give me the answers to most of my questions about the specifics of individual needs. If I have a group whose interpersonal communication has been suggested as being in need of development, I can start my work with them by offering an activity that will allow me to closely observe how they communicate within the group. They get some learning time against an area of identified need, I get the information I need to adapt the rest of the experience / review process to address what I see as demonstrable need. The great thing about working in this way is that I don't need to wait until the next session to start my adaptation, all I need to do is to choose some different questions to use as I review their first activity, questions which are based on my own immediate observations.


RSVP learning tools have a great track record among customers who use them for assessment purposes, so it's not hard to find the right tool to match the needs of your learners. We often support assessment centres by recommending and supplying a suite of activities against the appropriate assessment criteria. Having the same observer facilitate a number of groups through the same activity enables accurate comparisons to be made between individuals. With this versatility it's easy to select a first activity in any intervention and use your observations to confirm and refine the TNA results that initiated the intervention in the first place. So, for instance, if it was a perceived need for development in the area of interpersonal communication, I would choose an activity that emphasised this facility - Simbols could be my ideal starting point as it would give me the opportunity to watch every individual interacting with both group and other individuals in a structured setting. I know that some people would turn to Colourblind here, but the somewhat artificial constraints imposed by people wearing blindfolds could place some restrictions on what I'm able to observe.


Beyond the first activity it's still entirely possible, indeed advisable, to continue tweaking your design and delivery to respond to your observations of how individuals and groups are responding. I've already suggested that TNA's are notoriously vague about the specifics of desired affective development so there's some responsibility on the part of the facilitator to treat TNA results as guidelines, rather than a prescription. Choose versatile activities (the 'V' in RSVP stands for versatile) and as a facilitator you should be able to build on the assessment results and deliver what individual learners need with much greater accuracy.

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