Training Needs Analysis
Training & Learning

Training Needs Analysis: Find Learning Needs the Right Way

A training needs analysis sounds like a complicated procedure that needs a bunch of analysts and instructional designers. But the truth is, it's simple and easy to do if you just ask the right people—your employees.

Also called training needs assessment or learning needs analysis, it is the process of determining the gap between the current and desired knowledge and skills of employees. With the help of this information, you get a bird’s eye view of learning and development areas you need to focus on in your company to improve the overall performance of the employees.

In this article we’re diving deep into organizational training needs analysis methods and will show why the bottom-up approach works best. Let's get started.

top-down vs. Bottom-up learning comparison
Top-down vs. Bottom-up learning comparison

What is a training needs analysis?

A training needs analysis is the process of identifying the skills your employees need to do their job well. To do it successfully, though, you need to turn the tired old model of training needs analysis on its head—literally. Instead of a traditional top-down management approach where managers or L&D departments assess training needs analysis and create course materials, you want to adopt a bottom-up approach, where employees tell you what they want to learn.

A bottom-up or collaborative approach to training needs analysis doesn’t just make your life easier; it encourages your entire company to work together to create relevant and effective training materials faster. Plus, you save the expense of hiring experts to come in and train learners, the task of looking for a venue and equipment (if you’re an in-person or hybrid company), and the overall challenge of scheduling employee training for a fixed time and day.

A bottom-up approach will transform not just your learning programs but your entire company culture.

Types of training needs analysis 

Before we dive into the bottom-up training needs analysis approach, let's talk about figuring out what kind of training your team really needs. There are several ways to analyze training needs, from looking at the whole company to zeroing in on each employee's tech skills or knowledge gaps. Understanding these different types of training needs can help you create a training plan that really hits the mark.

Organizational analysis

The training needs of the entire organization are identified and analyzed in this approach. Here, you conduct an assessment of knowledge and skills possessed by the employees at all levels and departments in the organization so that you can develop a training program accordingly. 

Compliance analysis

Compliance analysis is a process that evaluates whether the organization adheres to regulatory requirements, internal policies, and industry standards. It's about making sure your team knows and follows all the rules, from government regulations to your own company policies. A training needs analysis focused on compliance finds out where the gaps are, in understanding or practice. Then, you can tailor your training to cover these areas.

Role-specific analysis

The knowledge and skill gap of a particular role is determined with the help of role-specific analysis. This learning need analysis approach focuses on the responsibilities of specific roles and takes into account the requirements needed for effective task execution. 

Technology analysis

Efficiently integrating new technology or software can be a challenge. A training needs analysis focused on technology identifies how your employees are using technology and identifies what gaps in knowledge there might be around each tool. 

Knowledge analysis

Knowledge analysis is about understanding where your team's strengths lie and where they could use more support. This type of training needs analysis focuses on assessing their current knowledge so that you can address blind spots.

What are the benefits of training needs analysis?

The benefits to this system are numerous: it's more efficient and more cost-effective, and internally authored courses ship faster and contain more relevant content than courses produced outside the company. Plus, you preserve and use valuable institutional knowledge that would otherwise remain siloed in employees' heads. 

According to the Panopto Workplace Knowledge and Productivity Report, employees spend an average of 5.3 hours a week looking for information a peer could readily supply. Imagine saving that kind of time and boosting productivity. Turning your employees into subject matter experts also keeps their skills sharp and promotes higher employee engagement, which, in turn, boosts employee retention.

Training needs analysis methods 

Next, we’ll dive into different methods for conducting a training needs analysis. You shouldn’t adopt every one of these training needs analysis methods in your company. We advocate for a bottom-up approach, which blends some of these methods together.

Surveys and questionnaires

Surveys and questionnaires are two of the most common methods used to analyze training needs. This involves using questions, polls, and surveys to know more about the training needs across your company.  It's a straightforward way to get a lot of info fast. You can ask about what skills they want to learn, how they like to learn, or where they think they need more support in their roles. This method lets everyone have a say, not just the loudest voices.


Interviews are your chance to dig a bit deeper. One-on-one meetings help you understand what your employees think about their skills and training needs. It's a bit more personal than surveys and lets you read between the lines. You can catch nuances that a questionnaire might miss. Plus, it shows your team you care about their input.

Job task analysis

In this method, you have to break down the job roles into individual tasks and assess each one of them on the basis of skills, knowledge, and abilities. It helps make sure that training is aligned with job requirements. 

Focus groups

Bring a small group together. Ask the group their thoughts on the current learning and development process. You might uncover training needs you hadn't thought of before. It's also a chance for team members to hear what others think and maybe spot their own blind spots. Plus, it builds a sense of community as everyone works together to improve.

Performance metrics

Performance metrics are all about the numbers. You look at data like sales figures, customer satisfaction scores, or project completion times to see where things might be slipping. This method is great because it's based on hard evidence. You're not guessing what training is needed; you're using real results to guide you. It helps you focus your training efforts where they can have the biggest impact on your team's performance.

Bottom-up Training Needs Analysis

A bottom-up training needs analysis focuses on the active participation of employees. A traditional top-down approach is primarily based on the evaluations and decisions by the management. On the contrary, a bottom-up approach to training needs analysis empowers employees to declare their own learning needs. It's about trusting your team's insight into their own jobs.  We’ll go over this method in detail below and show you exactly how to implement it.

How to Conduct a Training Needs Analysis

Running a training needs analysis does not have to be a long, drawn-out process. Here’s how to conduct bottom-up training needs analysis.


Democratize the needs analysis process

Top-down vs. Bottom-up Training Needs Analysis Comparison
Top-down vs. Bottom-up Training Needs Analysis comparison

Democratizing your training needs analysis process means decentralizing it. It means giving the power of choice to your employees.

In a traditional top-down training needs analysis, learning leaders (managers or sometimes L&D departments) are the sole decision-makers on what employees need to learn. They set departmental learning goals, pinpoint knowledge gaps, and prescribe course recommendations. Team members’ opinions might be polled during the process, but ultimately, the top of the organization is making decisions for the people underneath it.

In contrast, a bottom-up approach democratizes the training needs analysis process. A democratized approach gives team members the platform to tell management what they want or need to learn to do their jobs better. After all, if you hired the right candidate, shouldn't they know best what they need to do their job?

Related: Why Top-Down Management Doesn't Work

Empowering team members to contribute to their own needs analysis is an important part of building a culture of learning and innovation, and it’s also practical. Crowdsourcing learning needs eliminates the conjecture that goes into traditional training needs analysis. As a result, you minimize the risk of creating lrrelavant learning materials because the employee specifically asked for them. And as a bonus, the material can be reused by future team members who run into similar challenges and seek the same training.

A collaborative learning platform like 360Learning can let anyone declare a learning need at any time. Then employees upvote their choices, letting the most relevant and urgent course demands rise to the top. Democracy in action!

360Learning’s platform gives employees a voice to declare their own learning needs
360Learning’s platform gives employees a voice to declare their own learning needs

For instance – Connectwise faced problems in maintaining a central location for keeping all their training materials. They were just piling up more work by handling multiple platforms for the same purpose. Their solution was to use 360learning and keep all their training materials in one location.

Lee Savage, Connectwise’s Help Desk Trainer explained, “one of our technicians hit the learning needs button and said: ‘I need training on Azure.’ The next day, their instructional designer and subject-matter experts started working on a course. And now, only a short time later, we have a really nice Azure introduction course”.

Decentralize the training content creation process

Courses created without team member input are destined to miss essential contextual knowledge. This is how we see most training needs are assessed: manager identifies performance gaps; manager hypothesizes reasons for gaps; manager tests hypothesis with course materials. It sounds scientific, but unless you hypothesize correctly the first time, you’re wasting time and resources.

So, what is the most efficient way to find out the type of training employees need? Just ask. Go directly to the source and let team members tell you exactly what information they need. Not only does this save time, but it also guarantees the course materials you produce will be specific and relevant, resulting in the right competencies for your employees' needs.

Our team declaring their learning needs on our 360Learning platform

For instance, you may be able to deduce skill gaps. If the sales team needs product familiarization training, an actual salesperson can narrow the focus even further to the specific functions or features they’re having difficulty understanding. Instead of creating a broad course on the product as a whole, you can create a short and specific training module that effectively addresses their training needs without the fluff.

This type of microlearning is especially well-suited for modern-day employees, who prefer learning in bite-sized chunks—instead of hour-long lectures that overload them with information. Shorter courses help learners retain more information and quickly apply it in their flow of work. This not only solidifies their learning; it gives you the desired outcomes immediately.

360Learning’s mobile apps help with bottom-up training needs analysis
360Learning’s mobile apps help with bottom-up training needs analysis

With awareness about diverse learning styles and rapid digitization of training methods, it’s also beneficial to move the training needs analysis process online with a mobile learning solution. This means learners can log in to their learning management system to complete a course at their pace and when it’s convenient for them. Mobile learning enables learners to brush up on a stat or refresh their memory on a feature over breakfast or on the way to a sales pitch.

Related: 3 Essential Tips to Create Engaging Training for Your Sales teams

Move responsibility for creating learning objectives away from management and to team members. Ask team members what skills they’re missing and what interventions they need to do a better job. Only pursue learning projects that stem from explicitly stated training goals.

Conduct training needs analysis in the flow of learning

Chances are you don’t have much time to devote to a training needs analysis more than a handful of times each year. Meanwhile, your company is continuously evolving: adding new tech, upgrading product features, and changing policies. Older training materials, which may have been expensive to produce, are quickly going out of date.

Rely on your team members to help you keep courses up to date. Instead of doing a complete course overhaul, you can make updates iteratively based on team feedback. You can keep your current training needs at the forefront of your L&D program and your employees well-informed without having to go through the entire training needs analysis process again.

Course feedback within 360Learning
Course feedback within 360Learning

By adopting a collaborative learning platform, you can easily incorporate team feedback to make courses more effective and timely. Let improvements come directly from peers who identify out-of-date content or suggest additions through feedback and data from their interactions within the course.

Give them the tools to be heard, and team members will happily provide the feedback you need to keep materials up to date. We've found that on our platform, up to 25% of peers are providing feedback on the courses they take.

Appen is a high-growth company that deals with the launch of world-class AI. As they grew, the company was experiencing challenges with client training and employee onboarding. They wanted to prioritize the training needs of their team, but struggled to keep up with the changing needs of the business. Appen used the 360Learning platform to rapidly assess training needs and empowered their company to create training materials within days instead of weeks. Kristin Trujeque, Director, Learning & Development at Appen said, “360Learning lets L&D operate at the speed of business. We can address changing business needs at a much faster pace.”

Instant reactions and feedback on one of the courses hosted on our 360Learning platform
Our team giving Instant reactions and feedback on one of the courses hosted on our 360Learning platform

Prioritize training needs by business impact

The traditional course development process is slow, with training needs analysis taking weeks or even months. And because L&D departments can't be experts in every department and function of the company, they often outsource content creation or purchase off-the-shelf courses from outside the company. This forces stakeholders to prioritize course needs based on factors like efficiency and price as opposed to demand within the company. Old-school training needs analysis is also deliverable-driven. The end product is a list of skill sets that need to be created and implemented. Success is measured by the number of training materials created and not necessarily by their quality or their impact on the skill level within the organization.

Today, managers don't have to spend their time doing gap assessments and writing reports. Instead, they can focus on facilitating a better learning environment and helping employees take advantage of learning resources to help meet the company's goals.

At 360Learning, this oversight comes in the form of learning coaches who help individualize learning paths for each team member. They also work on creating more impactful learning programs by making sure that every course is tied to desired business outcomes and measuring training ROI. For example, a sales leader might plug learning data into their CRM to see how sales onboarding contributes to quota.

Training needs analysis software

Traditional top-down learning needs analysis is time-consuming and complicated because it's centered on the idea that only managers can determine what employees need to learn. This may have been true in the past when companies were smaller, and knowledge was more static.

In the modern world, it's simply not possible for one person to stay on top of the complex and constantly evolving learning needs of even a small organization. It's time for a new approach that reflects the dynamic nature of your company's learning needs.

360Learning centralizes feedback across all courses
360Learning centralizes feedback across all courses

360Learning can make your training needs analysis significantly easier by decentralizing the learning process. Anyone on the team can declare, upvote, or comment on learning needs, and you can rank those needs based on popularity and business impact. Feedback on training material is also centralized across all courses, making it easier for L&D teams to see what’s working.  AI-powered authoring tools make course creation a breeze, especially for your internal experts. You can manage courses and projects and even track ROI. This lets you create effective training without all the effort.

Training Needs Analysis Template

This article has covered a lot of info so we created a training need analysis template to make it actionable and easy to takeaway. This also makes it easier to communicate the training needs analysis process with other internal stakeholders. Here’s how it works. 

Getting Organizational Support for Training Needs Analysis

Step 1: Seek Input on Business Priorities

Engage with learners, managers, and C-suite leaders to understand the business priorities. This collaborative approach makes sure the training aligns with organizational goals and addresses the most critical needs.

Step 2: Share Initial Analysis

Distribute your preliminary findings among teams for additional insights and feedback. This step fosters a sense of ownership and encourages active participation in shaping the training program.

Training Gap Analysis

Step 1: Build Skills Based Job Profiles

Create a dual-column framework to match job titles with required skill sets, laying the groundwork for targeted training initiatives.

Step 2: Assess Performance Gaps

Use surveys and interviews to identify current skills gaps. Emphasize a democratic process where employees can declare and vote on their learning needs.

Step 3: Further Analysis

Dive deeper into company records, such as performance evaluations and incident reports, to uncover additional areas for development.

Operational Assessment

Step 1: Determine Target Participants

Identify who will benefit most from the training, prioritizing learners who have actively requested or supported specific learning needs.

Step 2: Consider Legal and Operational Factors

For traditional training approaches, assess legal constraints and factors like time, ROI, and compliance. For online courses, evaluate operational elements critical for LMS implementation.

Training Recommendations

Step 1: Build a Training Roadmap

Outline a comprehensive timeline that includes training topics, sequence, checkpoints, rollout strategy, feedback mechanisms, and evaluation methods.

Step 2: Specify Training Goals

Clarify the objectives for each training module, linking them to specific business outcomes, such as improving customer retention through enhanced employee skills.

Step 3: Identify Experts and Develop Content

Start assembling a team of experts and begin creating course content. Make sure it's timely and relevant.

Step 4: Prioritize Training Topics

Organize training subjects based on business objectives and the availability of in-house expertise, as well as employee interest.

Measuring Business Impact of a Training Needs Analysis

Step 1: Establish KPIs

Set clear key performance indicators for each course to measure its effectiveness and impact on business goals.

Step 2: Analyze Business Impact

Evaluate the success of training programs by measuring against set KPIs and assessing their contribution to business objectives.

Step 3: Collect and Analyze Feedback

Gather course feedback to identify themes and areas for improvement. 

Step 4: Adjust Training Programs

Refine and update training initiatives based on results and insights. Make sure they remain aligned with evolving business needs and employee feedback.

This structured approach to conducting a training needs analysis not only ensures the training is directly linked to strategic business objectives but also fosters a culture of continuous learning and improvement.

Shift the role of L&D from executor to facilitator

A bottom-up training needs analysis is a continuous process and one that requires minimal effort from managers. Employees can request training as soon as a new learning need emerges, so you constantly have your finger on the pulse of the organization’s learning needs.

The bottom-up approach doesn’t eliminate the need for learning leaders; it just shifts their focus from creating content to developing strategies to help employees learn more effectively. The result is more impactful learning programs and more informed team members.

In a truly collaborative learning process, employees aren’t just making content requests; they’re also playing an active role in creating new content.

Training needs software
Training needs software

For example, at 360Learning, anyone in the organization can respond to a learning need and volunteer to become a course creator.

We recently discovered in companies that use our software, only 2% of courses are created by L&D teams—85% are created by team members who are not formal trainers.

Freight logistics "unicorn" Flexport takes a similar approach in decentralizing its learning program by empowering functional teams to be in charge of their own training solutions and priorities.

“In each functional team, the subject matter expert determines the team’s learning needs. We come in as an advisor, but they’re closer to their business. They know what needs to happen now, and what the long-term goals should be,” says Lauren Fernandez, Senior L&D Manager at Flexport.

Final Thoughts

Employee training is not just a checkbox—it's a strategic imperative. However, amidst the fervor for learning initiatives, the crucial step of training needs analysis often gets overlooked. Yet, by adopting a bottom-up approach, organizations can unlock a wealth of insights directly from their employees, paving the way for more relevant, impactful, and cost-effective training programs. 

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