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Let's make "training needs analysis" history - for good!

Published on
December 19, 2023
Painting of a horse attached an old-fashioned delivery cart the wrong way around.
Solvd Together
Staff writers

As a learning professional, you probably know the phrase “Training Needs Analysis”. It’s a phrase we’ve considered banning at Solvd Together. Why? Because it assumes “training” is the answer to a problem that hasn’t been defined or investigated.

The “Training Needs Analysis” does acknowledge that a solution lies in the analysis of users’ needs, and this is definitely a good thing. But the problem is that if you ask people what training they need, their answer is going to include… well, training. This has led many well-meaning organisations and stakeholders to “put the cart before the horse” — deciding what to do before understanding the target audience, their context, and what they care about. Staff got a problem? Just give them some training.

Painting of a horse attached an old-fashioned delivery cart the wrong way around
Don't put the cart before the horse

It’s a bit like the Segway (remember those?), that was billed as the “future of transport”, but only 24,000 were sold over 4 years. The manufacturers were caught off guard by feedback post-launch that it was “dorky”, unsafe, and, in some countries, illegal. Having been kept under wraps, the Segway hadn’t been tested in context with its end-users prior to its release, and, as a result, was not fit for purpose. And no amount of “training” was going to fix that.

Sometimes, “training” isn’t the solution. Sometimes it is. And sometimes the solution — the right one, the one that will actually work — is something else entirely.

This is where the value of the 5Di model lies — because it puts things in the right order. It provides structure so that your stakeholders recognise the importance of not making assumptions about the problem or the solution. We’ve found that by introducing 5Di early, stakeholders are more likely to give you the time and space to conduct thorough and open-minded audience research in the Discover phase of your project. It shows that the early phases of 5Di are deeply connected to the success of all the latter ones, and reassures them it isn’t just a cuddly tick-box exercise.

So — how do you shift your stakeholders’ mindsets?

  1. Keep talking about the 5Di Process

    In the toolkit, we’ve provided ‘An introduction to 5Di’ pack. Use it to talk and gently guide your stakeholders through the process. It gives them confidence that there’s a method to the madness — plus clear, measurable benefits and a rationale for doing things this way.
  2. Ask for evidence that there is a problem to solve

    In the Define Workshop deck you’ll find a list of questions to ask your stakeholders. Get concrete answers to these before even thinking about the solution. Many ideas or demands from the business are based on anecdotal evidence rather than real data. If you don’t know what problem you’re solving, how will you know if you’ve been successful?
  3. Say “no” to the wrong things

    This is always tough — on the one hand, you want to build rapport with your ‘client’ and on the other, you’re being paid to provide expertise in an area that is not your stakeholders’ specialism. Compromises are always needed but usually don’t come easy. It can be helpful to (respectfully!) remind stakeholders that you want to spend their time (and money) delivering something with strategic significance and will genuinely make a positive impact.

    Tip: Saying “no” requires a learning strategy aligned to the business strategy and leadership that’s prepared to back you up. If you don’t have this, you’ll find yourself with a team that is reactive and overstretched.
  4. Focus on building flagship products

    The thing we’ve found over the years — particularly more recently through developing our graduate induction product — is that people don’t really know what you’re talking about until you show them. It can be a real battle at first, but once you’ve proven the value of the 5Di approach with a “consumer-grade” MLP (Minimum Loveable Product), sceptics and tricky stakeholders start to get on board.

    Follow these steps and you’ll soon find yourself working with stakeholders who appreciate the value of curiosity, who feel comfortable testing their assumptions, and who explore solutions other than training.

    Our 5Di toolkit illustrates the process we use to find amazing solutions — but there’s far more to Solvd than that!
    Drop us a line — and let’s solve some problems together.