Learner Needs Analysis: Common pitfalls in learning needs analysis

There are some common mistakes often made in learning needs analysis. The following list try to summarise some of them.
Mistaking wants as needs

A common mistake is to ask the employees what kind of training they want. This may produce good results, especially if the employees are well aware of their learning needs, but usually it produce a list of courses which are not needs based. A good needs analysis require some analysis and discussions, where people’s interests play only one role.

Analysing course provision instead of learning needs
The above mentioned problem is based on the fact that when people are asked what they need, they usually think in terms of available courses. Therefore, make sure that your learning needs analysis is based on work processes and current skill levels, not on local course provision.

Running sloppy analysis
The more effort and time you put into the needs analysis the more accurate results you will get. Simple brain storming session or a questionnaire will not usually provide a coherent picture about reality.

Sticking to common beliefs
Needs surveys conducted on business sector usually provide the same needs priority lists with language and computer training on the top. This may of course indicate that these are the true needs, but also it indicates that these are the ‘easy way out’ when needs questionnaires arrive on desks. A proper analysis go deeper, analysing what kind of computing skills are actually needed, and who in reality needs to speak French within the company.

Analysing training needs instead of learning needs
Training and learning may have something in common, but remember that learning can take and take place often outside organised training settings. Not always is it necessary to run a training programme if a learning need is detected. Therefore, thinking of development and learning needs through the ‘eye classes’ of training and education can be dangerous.

Missing the additional skills
If managers and employees are asked what are the learning needs, they usually stick to productive and technical qualifications. The additional skills which enable us to work with others and develop the work processes are almost always left out from the results, even though these are generally considered by experts as the key skills for successful business in modern economy.

Living from hand to mouth
It is understandable that a small business have to life and work within a very narrow time scale, prioritising those needs which are acute. However, a bit longer time perspective (6 months – 2 years) in needs analysis may give some freedom of movement, competitive advantages and a more motivated personnel.

Mistaking training as The Tool
Business development and personnel development are processes, where training and learning play only a single role. Remember that needs are sometimes better met by changing work processes, distribution of work, or using new tools, for example.