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I don’t do TNA (training needs analysis) here’s why…

I assume the headline enticed you to click on this, so let me get to the point from the get-go.

A big reason I don’t do TNA is due to it being a shopping list rather than solving real problems. I spend a lot of time (trying) to change the perception of what an L&D function does in an org to shed that wishlist mentality.

I talk with people and have more conversations to make the whole thing less transactional so that my team is not searching for likes and shares through engagement but producing real value add solutions.

I’m not saying“you should do this” or “this is the way”. That would be overtly stupid of me, but let me explain why I think this way.

I believe to get the real picture of what’s happening across your organisation today, you need to get out and speak to the people. You know, those who are doing the work day in and out. 

The first common problem I find with the traditional TNA approach is that it mostly caters to the views of the most senior levels of an organisation. And, that plays a dangerous game of opinions. And most opinions are biased and without data. 

This is why in all my writing, I strongly recommend not to take the easy road of assumptions and siloed conversations behind closed doors with only the chosen few. It’s not helpful when trying to build a learning and performance function that wants to enable real value for its people.

I’ve often, in a tongue-in-cheek way, of course, described the way most workplace L&D teams operate like a Mcdonald’s drive-thru.

We’re often a transactional relationship when people are in need of a service from our world. For many companies, it’s a small matter of a stakeholder saying I’d like to order this and the local L&D team cooking it up in the kitchen with no fuss.

The problem with operating like this is that it continues to cement the reputation of L&D teams producing fluffy stuff of little value. Not cool, right?

TNA’s feed into this behaviour too. A TNA is like taking a menu to a five-year-old and saying “pick anything you want” or even akin to creating a wishlist for Santa. Asking people what they want generally turns out to be a wishlist of stuff that they don’t need.

It’s essential for us to recognise that most of us don’t know what we need to know.

Hence why feedback and continual development conversations connected with strategy developments in the organisation are so useful to be close to or at least informed on.

This is why it’s on us as industry practitioners to shine the light on the right stuff and not just churn out a conveyor belt of things because people say they want this and it will move the engagement metrics that most of us are held hostage to. Sometimes what people want and what they need do align, but not always.

The inevitable question now becomes, what could we do instead?

We have a number of possibilities here. One I engage with in my own practice is performance consulting or what I’ve nicknamed performance engineering because I’m fancy like that.

You can find more words on this approach here and how I navigate conversations on capability and performance activities with stakeholders too.

It’s key to remember that we need to collect data. But this comes by asking the right questions and deploying the best approach to make this happen. Sadly, TNA’s don’t encourage this. 

I find they’re more of a soulless and transactional process of conversing over emails or completing forms and surveys to gather the said wishlists.

But look, I know this is not easy, as many functions are measured on how engaged people are with their work rather than, “did this bring value to them and our business performance?”

TNA’s provide that simple checklist which can be shown to leadership to say “Hey, we ticked all the boxes on the stuff people asked for” Yet, did that improve performance on a workforce or company level? I tend to think not.

For many of us, engagement is the constant elephant in the room in workplace L&D. 

Like most of the wider operations of HR teams, L&D is measured by the vanity metric of engagement rather than value. This is why I feel TNA is still so popular. It’s an easy engagement metric that most can understand.

A solution to move away from the shopping list mentality is in adopting a data-led approach to build a strategy that actually helps fellow humans get better every day. This data can come from many areas including employee surveys, performance reviews, strategic projects and more.

So…not TNA’s

A simple action you can take today to identify the right data pools for you is just talking to people across the organisation about what’s going on in the world of your business. 

And this sums up why TNA’s fail in my eyes and are, for me, a relic of the past. It feeds that reputation of a transactional operation rather than a conversational one where true value can be obtained.

I know which one I’d like to be part of, what about you?


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