Picture this: a manager at your organization senses employees aren’t meeting performance expectations, so she asks you to develop e-learning to address the problem. 

As a training professional, it’s your job to take a step back, analyze the challenge, and determine the best response—which may not even be training at all! This is where a training needs analysis comes in. The objective of a training needs analysis is to identify the problem and determine whether it can be fixed with training. 

Since training provides knowledge and skills, if the performance gap or problem is caused by something other than a lack of knowledge and skills—like poorly functioning software—then training isn’t the solution. That’s why—before diving headfirst into creating a course—you should always complete a thorough analysis to make sure training is the answer. So how do you do that? Let’s walk through some simple steps using an example, so you can see for yourself. 

Say you’re a course creator at Widget Incorporated. Management is concerned that call center employees are taking too long with each customer, so you’ve been asked to create training on ways they can speed up their processes.

Step 1: Identify expected performance

Your first step is to identify exactly what’s expected from call center employees in terms of processing calls. Is there a specific performance metric or goal? What standards or procedures are they required to follow? To find out, you’ll need to investigate a bit deeper by reviewing job descriptions or looking into company records like Standard Operating Procedures and corporate guidelines.

After some digging, you uncover that at Widget Inc., company guidelines specify that call center employees are expected to process customer calls in 5 minutes or less. They’ve also been given a set of steps they’re expected to follow when handling calls. 

Step 2: Identify current performance

Next, identify how employees are actually performing the task. How can you find out this information? Try interviewing employees and supervisors. Another option is to visit the call center and observe employees’ performances directly. You can also dig into performance records or other documentation to review metrics. 

At Widget Inc., you review the employee call logs and discover that they’re processing calls in an average of 7 minutes, instead of the 5-minute standard outlined in the company documentation.

Step 3: Identify the performance gap

Once you know the expected and current performance, it’s time to compare the two. Take a look at how they’re supposed to be doing the job versus how they’re actually doing it. The goal here is to identify whether there is a gap between the current and expected performance and, if so, exactly what it is.

At Widget Inc., the expected performance is for calls to be processed in 5 minutes. But right now those calls are taking 7 minutes on average. Based on that, we know there’s a performance gap of 2 minutes for this task.

Step 4: Determine the cause

Now that you know the exact performance gap, it’s time to determine what’s causing it. There are lots of factors that can affect performance, including:

  • Knowledge and skills
  • Motivation and incentives
  • Physical and mental capabilities
  • Tools and equipment
  • Directions or guidance
  • Environment

Remember: training can only solve a performance problem caused by a lack of knowledge and skills. If a problem is caused by another factor, such as a lack of proper tools, even the best training won’t solve the issue, which is why it’s superimportant to nail this down before you start building a course.

To determine the cause of the performance issue, try observing or interviewing employees and analyzing records.

While shadowing employees at Widget Inc., you confirm they’re successfully following the steps outlined in the company guidelines, so there isn’t a problem with knowledge or skills. However, you notice the call center computer system is very slow—causing employees to wait 2 minutes for customer data to load during each call. 

Would training help these employees complete the calls more quickly? No. The cause of the 2-minute performance gap is a slow computer system, not employee performance. In this case, designing and delivering training on how to process calls faster wouldn’t solve the problem. A faster computer system, on the other hand, would resolve the 2-minute gap.

Step 5: Propose a solution

The final step is to report your findings and recommend a solution. Keep in mind, you’re only going to suggest training when the performance gap is caused by a lack of knowledge and skills. In the case of the call center employees, you’d instead recommend the organization invest in upgrading or replacing the computer system.

When training is the solution, remember that it needs to be provided in a way that reaches learners without interfering with business operations. So before proposing a particular approach, think about which method of training is the best fit for the situation. 

For example, if our call center example had required a training solution, it would be essential to keep schedules and call coverage in mind when picking a training format. Classroom training would require groups of call center employees to be away from their desks and unavailable to take calls, which could result in longer wait times for customers. Instead, offering training via e-learning would allow employees to take the training during low-volume call times or when their individual schedules allow for it. 


By using this straightforward and methodical 5-step process, you’ll be able to think through future training requests and identify a solution that’s best. For more tips and topics related to training analysis and evaluation, have a peek at the following articles:

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marty simon

Hi Nicole, Nice summary and some great points. One thing to consider (after working in call centers for 20 years) is who/how Widget company came up with the 5 minute average talk time metric. That in itself would be an area of research and analysis. I have encountered several large organizations that had unrealistic expectations of the representative and the duties they perform on that '5 minute' call - especially as new products, functions, edicts and programs kept being added to their duties. Perhaps that talk time needs to be re-evaluated. Just something to consider in the analysis phase if your very solid steps don't uncover the issue. (Although, as you mentioned, observing and especially interviewing may lead you in this direction. The representatives will not hesitate to tell y... Expand

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