We have all spotted these ‘Landmines’ while conducting Training Needs Analysis discussions with Business Managers.
Here is my list of the most dreaded TNA Landmines and what I say during the discussion to dodge them.
The “What I say” section in the article offers practical advice on how can you steer the learning needs analysis discussion to keep the focus on uncovering critical business needs.
I have also included a “What I want to say” section for each point purely to tickle your funny bones. The purpose is not to offend anyone, and I do understand where the business managers are coming from when they pose these question/demands. If I was in the buyer’s seat, I might be saying the same things.
Business Manager: We need a training program on email etiquette.
You sure do…one that tells you not to treat me like your butler. Right now, all I hear is – “Dear Alfred, be a darling and fetch me the charcoal black Bat Suite please.”
Sure, we can design an intervention on email etiquette. However, going a step back, can you help me understand what has led you to believe that the current standard of email writing capabilities is low in your team. Would you have samples of poorly written emails? Hopefully, these samples are not only recent incidences or just a one-off case, in the spirit of avoiding the Recency and Primacy bias.
What particular business parameter is being affected by this problem of poorly written emails? For example, is it affecting sales, customer satisfaction, or something else? How do you know the impact on the business parameter and would you have data to support it?
Business Manager: We want to build a 3D game that uses machine learning. I want to engage the learner.
Sure. We could also organise a trip to Mars for our annual meet, you know to improve employee engagement.
It may be a little early in the process to talk about design and technology. We must start the conversation from the business need and the learning gap that is affecting it. What the design will look like or what technology we use will be a factor of our business problem, learning gap, platform readiness, learner profile and not to forget time and budget.
I could also add:
Use of technology can be a great enabler, but engagement is not limited to technology. While visual and tactile engagement is great, the key is to cognitively challenge and engage learners in a way that allows them to practice what they are expected to do in real work situations.
Business Manager: I have a budget of X dollars, and I want a program of n hours. What I want you to focus on is:
- Performance Management
- Emotional Intelligence
- Situational Leadership
- (and if time permits) Driving Strategy.
I want to say:
We could also cover:
- How to start a nuclear fission
- How to clone yourself to improve productivity
- How to build a robot you can delegate tasks to
- (and if we still have time left) how to solve the problem of world hunger
If we focus on too many topics we will be setting ourselves up for failure. The intervention will not result in any significant behaviour/skill improvement in either of the areas. If you were to choose only one of these skills that you feel will have the largest impact on business parameters/performance, what would you choose?
Business Manager: Why don’t you do a program on design thinking or gamification. Let’s do something new and exciting.
Yeah because we have already captured 100% market share and our costs are down to zero and our customers are always elated. Forget development, let’s amuse.
Yes, these are fascinating topics and can be used to solve real business problems. While we try to do something exciting, it should be in the realm of context and relevance. We must begin the process by identifying our most critical business problems. We may then go on to explore a new way of thinking or an inter-disciplinary approach to solving the business problem. What is your top most business problem where L&D can partner with you in resolving it?
Business Manager: See the nature of their job is extremely competitive. But I would love to see them collaborate and work as a team. What can you do for us?
I can pray for you! Seriously, it’s like asking Big Boss candidates to stay civil and mind their own business.
We can design the greatest learning intervention on collaboration, but if the work environment incentivises learners to stay competitive or there are disincentives that curb teamwork, learners will soon fall back to their default behaviour.
If you have a business case for fostering collaboration then along with the training, we must also introduce systemic policy changes that incentivise/promote collaboration at the workplace.