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Training needs and objectives



Category: HRM

Training needs analysis

Training should always meet a need. Otherwise it is not efficient. The need arises from a problem situation involving skills, which may be defined as a “skills gap” (the gap between actual and desirable skills).

Any training needs analysis should cover the following factors:

— Actual change (in products, markets, technology, careers, etc.).

— Operational objectives: strategic planning, development plans, projects, and action plans.

— Human resources management: qualifications, mobility, career changes, promotions, competence, etc.

— Job definition and characteristics (roles, responsibilities, activities, etc.).

— Outcomes and results to be achieved: productivity, quality, etc.

— Situational analysis: unsatisfactory situations, dysfunctions, problems to be solved, etc.

— Individual or group claims, aspirations, interests, expectations, advancement, etc.

— Once identified, needs must be ranked.

The outcome of this stage is: “Needs analysis summary”

What is a training objective?

According to R. F. Mager (1972), a training objective is “an aim stated in writing which describes a change that is desired in the trainee. This statement specifies how the trainee will have been altered or modified after having successfully completed a given course of instruction; it states which behaviours it is hoped the trainee will be able to demonstrate.”

As can be seen from this, objectives flow logically from the study of the needs: they indicate who is to be trained to reach which outcome when.

Defining training objectives

It is essential to set training goals, to define the scope and understand the overall significance of the training.

Why should training objectives be defined?

There are, at least, five reasons:

— The design of appropriate training programmes that…

— meet the real needs and performance levels expected of trainees on completion of the programme, which assume that the course aims have been clarified beforehand. Objectives are set in order that trainees can actually reach them!

— allow the company or the establishment to achieve its own objectives, i. e., having skilled employees who are ready to meet the challenges of their present and future work,

— indicate clearly “where we wish to end up”, and, thus, provide a reliable guide (for trainer, trainees and institution alike) to “where we are headed” at any given moment in time,

— facilitate communication between the various participants: every communication situation benefits from all actors knowing what the “rules of the game” are, before “play” begins.

— Trainee motivation (insofar as they know what they will be doing, why it is to be done and how).

— At the implementation stage, objectives are the pivotal reference-point which allows appropriate methods to be selected; the more specific and well-focussed the objectives are, the easier it is to choose the right training methods. This also ensures that trainees will, in fact, be able to perform pre-defined tasks. For instance, even the most brilliant lecture by an expert in the field is not sufficient, if the desired result was to train participants to repair a microcomputer.

— To make adjustments, whenever necessary, to the training programme, as it progresses: in other words, to correct or re-position the aim as required (to make it more relevant to long-term goals, for example, or to bring it more in line with trainees’ expectations and needs, etc.).

— To monitor and confirm attainment levels (i. e. that targets are being reached):

— verifying, at each stage of the training process, that both trainer an trainees are achieving what they had hoped or expected,

— assessing results once training has been completed: the final impact of the training. How else can efficiency is determined, except through defining what the training was ultimately to be used for?

The different levels of training objectives

Training objectives can thus be situated on different levels:

— Firstly, they say what is to be learnt: the behaviour which, at the end of the training, the trainee has acquired (“what we want the participants to be able to do once they have finished the course”).

— Beyond this, they also describe hoped-for outcomes: what trainees are supposed to be able to achieve when they return to their jobs, the changes that will be observed, the expected improvements, the progress to be made, the criteria for evaluating the consequent outcomes.

It is especially important to distinguish between:

— operational objectives: business targets to which training can contribute,

— the tasks inventory, which defines general aims and related training areas,

— performance objectives: how training will affect the performance of trainees in their day-to-day work,

— training objectives: actions which trainees will be able to perform, in a work situation, on completion of training,

— instructional objectives (also called learning objectives), which specify attainments to be achieved at the end of a training session and are thus necessary for shaping the course structure itself (e. g. course content, relevant learning activities, sequencing of course modules, etc.).


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