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How to do an eLearning Needs Analysis

Luke Leighfield
Luke Leighfield, Content Writer

Performing an eLearning needs analysis takes time and costs money. But as an eLearning course designer, you know that it saves you a lot more time (and therefore money) further down the line when you start creating your eLearning content.

If you skip this vital analysis process, you're likely to have huge knowledge gaps. Which means your learning experiences will have too much content, not enough content... or entirely the wrong thing. Gulp.

It's hard to know which type of training will suit your organization. But effective training needs analysis ensures that your training program is the right solution for your audience. Before you dive into your eLearning design, let's see what's involved.

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Decide whether to create a training program

Whatever you call it – eLearning needs analysis, training needs analysis, or training needs assessment – the goal of this analysis process is always the same. It's about identifying whether your business has training needs – and if so, what they are.

All businesses have deficiencies, but training isn't always the right solution. Sometimes your learning objectives might be solved with a non-training solution. And sometimes you might decide that corporate training is too costly, and it's more sensible to live with the problem. For now, at least.

Here's an example of a scenario that might benefit from training:

“Boords' Customer Success Specialist, Karen, wants to speed up the time taken to answer emails by Boords' sales team. Based on the team's current performance, it takes five minutes per email. Karen reckons they can cut it down to three minutes. So Karen asks you to design an eLearning course that will improve the team's email response time. You start the needs assessment by watching the sales team in action. They're doing everything perfectly and at a whip-smart pace. However, when you take a closer look, you realize each email takes a couple of minutes to send because the server's overloaded. Drat! ”

In this case, an eLearning project won't help. Karen and her team are let down by a sluggish server, not a lack of training. Thankfully, our task analysis process has revealed the true problem. Now, Karen can explore other solutions that don't involve online courses.

Create your eLearning needs analysis

There are bajillions of ways to conduct needs assessments. But the first stage is always to get all the information you need. A solid structure for asking the right questions is the classic why, who, how, what, and when. Here's how to use it in the analysis process.

Why do you need training?

Why do you think you need a training solution? What are the knowledge gaps that you want to fill? Take a deep dive into the problem and look for evidence in the company: things like performance metrics, process breakdowns, customer feedback, and employee observations.

As well as looking at the current state of affairs, have a think about the future. Have you got new policies, processes, or technology in the works? If so, you might need some online training.

Who should be involved?

Figure out which people and departments are involved in the problem and anyone else who might benefit from the training. This is your target audience. Think of these people as a focus group. Get to know their function in the company. See how they do their jobs. Consulting with these subject matter experts will inform your eLearning design.

How should you do it?

Come up with creative ideas to tackle the performance gap. Do you need a training program? Or could you address the current performance problem in other ways?

Consider new options that could also be the right solution. Is there a way to use existing resources and create less disruption? This might be a more sensible way forward.

What do employees do?

Perform some task analysis, taking a closer look at what employees actually do in their jobs. What's the best way for them to complete their tasks? Do they have the knowledge or skills they need to perform at the required standard, based on company policies and operating procedures?

Getting feedback from workers on the ground is vital. It can help you identify performance gaps that you might be able to solve with training materials or the right training plan.

When should the training happen?

If you decide to go down the corporate training route, then it's important that you get your timing right. Is there a time to host the training where you'll maximize the number of people who'll benefit from it, and minimize the burden on company operations?

This will depend on the type of training. Is it online learning that employees can do in their own time on mobile devices? Or is it a different learning experience that requires everyone to be in the same place at the same time?

If your training means taking people off a production line and into a classroom, then try to find a time of day when the production's slower. This will minimize disruption to your output. You should also consider when employees will benefit most from corporate training in relation to future business operations.

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Analyze the data

Once you've completed your needs assessment and gathered all the data, it's time for the analysis process. Look for knowledge gaps and problems, and think about how you can provide the right solution. Understand employees' current performance relative to requirements or standards they need to meet, and when they should meet them.

The important thing is that you trust the data to guide you toward solutions, approaching the process with an open mind. This will help you see whether your problem can be solved with training, or if you need a different solution.

If your analysis shows that there isn't a performance gap, then it might mean that while you like the idea of training, it's not totally necessary right now. It'll save you time and money to know this before creating training materials, rather than after.

In summary

As you reach the end of this eLearning training needs analysis process, you should have a clear picture of the problems that your company is facing, potential solutions, and whether training can help.

If your needs assessment has shown that training will be beneficial, then the evidence you've discovered in the investigation can help to justify the cost of training to your organization. So you can use it as a starting point for creating your eLearning course.

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