6 reasons why your training needs analysis isn’t making an impact

6 reasons why your learning needs analysis isn't making an impact

You’ve been completing your annual training needs analysis (TNA) / learning needs analysis for your organisation to feed into your learning strategy.

You’ve noticed that the approach isn’t having an impact on improving business performance.

The bad news is a lot of L&D professionals struggle to align their training needs analysis, so it results in improved performance.

The good news is I’ve identified why that is are and how you can improve your approach.

The 6 reasons why your training needs analysis isn’t making an impact

1.      Too much focus on low level courses and individual needs.

Training needs analysis discussions aren’t meant to be your stakeholders turning up with a list of training courses that individual members of staff need.

I’ve seen first-hand TNA discussions become very low level and lacking in strategic direction. I once had a manager whose only contribution was that one individual in their team needed an excel course. I think we can aim a little higher with improving performance than that!

Top tip: Keep the focus should be on high level performance needs and addressing departmental skills gaps.

How to improve: Make it clear what the purpose of TNA is for and where the discussion should be focused. Often managers aren’t clear on what they should bring to the discussion.

2.      Managers bringing a wish list and expecting you to pay for it.

Of a similar ilk to the above, training needs analysis isn’t about stakeholders giving you a long list of demands and expecting payment. Unless you’ve got a huge L&D budget!. If their expectation is this, then you need to change the focus fast.

Top Tip: Focus on all developmental needs. Then ask your stakeholder to rank them in order of priority if there were a limited budget.

How to improve: Make it clear either in the discussion, or prior that the L&D budget needs to be fairly allocated across the departments. Explain that no agreements will be made until all stakeholders have been spoken to and it’s been allocated based on priority.

3.      Focus of the discussion is not on improving performance through learning.

TNA’s are there to formulate L&D strategy for the coming year, and to align with business objectives. If it isn’t aligned with business or departmental performance improvement then your L&D strategy won’t focus on the right things.

Top tip: Keep the business objectives front and centre to the discussion by taking a copy along to the meeting. You can also ask your stakeholders to rank their performance or skills gaps against the business objectives.

How to improve:  Align the TNA to business strategy through the top tip above. Your employee appraisals are another opportunity for alignment to ensure developmental requests coming through this route are relevant. Change your development question to the business objectives. Ask “what development do you require to meet or exceed these business goals?”.

4.      Lack of manager engagement with learning.

You can have the best TNA processes in the world but if your managers aren’t engaged it makes it difficult to achieve sustained impact.  

Top Tip: Managers are the glue than holds together great scoping and learning together.

How to improve: Ask your managers to rate their commitment from 1-10 on how committed they are to improving performance based on the learning interventions discussed. For those who aren’t engaged, find out why, having them onboard is key to effective learning and getting employees to complete. Read this post for other tips on how to improve manager engagement with workplace learning.

5.      Limited stakeholder engagement throughout the process

Stakeholders are usually engaged at the beginning of the process, but their enthusiasm can dissipate once the training begins. As they might perceive their role as being completed. Stakeholders are crucial in keeping learning on the agenda throughout. If they lose interest post-scoping, their managers may not be as focused on the learning also.

Top Tip: Stakeholders need to sponsor learning throughout, not just at the scoping stage.

How to improve: Make clear the expectations on stakeholders to sponsor the project. Explain they’re expected to be engaged throughout. The success of a project lies in their continued buy in and support.

6.      Data not being effectively used to drive discussions around performance

You might be barking up the wrong tree with your learning needs. Are you clear learners need these learning interventions your creating? What’s the drive? If the drive is only on a hunch from the manager or stakeholder, then you need more data to drive the discussion.

Top Tip: There is so much data out there that can drive a learning needs analysis discussion. Use it to your advantage.

How to improve: Look at any training measures or other data available and what is telling you. This is where the conversation happens – review any competency frameworks, talent strategies or other data such as health and safety accidents. Consider other drivers such as skills gaps against future needs too.


Training needs analysis is an ongoing, developmental process. If completed well gives you a clear direction for the coming year that’s linked to improving business performance. If your training needs analysis doesn’t feel like that currently these simple tips can make that shift.

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