You can’t find anything written about how to conduct a Training Needs Assessment that doesn’t include “know your audience.” Most guides go something like this:
- Identify the business need.
- Define your audience and their competencies.
- Perform a gap analysis.
- Prioritize training needs.
- Determine training methods.
- Conduct a cost/benefits analysis.
- Prepare for training evaluation.
- Implement the training plan.
Audience analysis is critical for any training program to be effective. So, what does it mean, exactly? An audience analysis is the process of determining the specific attributes of a group being trained, as well as potential barriers to their success. This information is used to decide what training methods will be most effective.
Why Is A Training Audience Analysis Important?
Behavior change is the goal of any training curriculum. You want your employees to learn the material, and then apply it on the job by either doing something new or performing a task differently than they have before. Much goes into changing an employee’s behavior. They need to want to learn, be able to learn in a way that resonates with them, and be able to remember the material when back on the job.
Many training programs are delivered to an audience comprised of many different demographics in terms of job role and diverse populations of age, education, experience, and expertise. Each learner comes with distinct learning preferences and motivations. For example, new hire training is delivered to new employees in all roles within a company, from production up to executives. Systems training is designed for both an IT audience as well as the end users.
An audience analysis helps you determine learning objectives for the curriculum by discovering what learners know and what they still need to learn. It will also uncover any resistance to the training, which allows you to take steps to mitigate that resistance within the training design.
How To Conduct A Training Audience Analysis
While Training Needs Assessment guides often tell you that you need to conduct an audience assessment, they rarely show you how. An audience analysis can be conducted in multiple ways. Surveys, interviews, and observation can all contribute valuable information to the criteria you consider when designing your training curriculum.
Regardless of the data-gathering method used, the information gathered should include the following:
1. Demographic Information
How many people will be trained? What percentage of the audience are Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, or Millennials? What percentage have a high school diploma, undergraduate degree, master's degree? How many have been in the role less than a year, 1-2 years, 3-5 years, or more?
2. Subject Matter Expertise
What is the level of knowledge they possess? How experienced are they in their role? Do they know how their role fits into the big picture?
What drives their performance? What does it take to get buy-in from this group? Are there barriers or enablers to training? Are they motivated and open to learning new material? Are they a high performing group?
Do they have a computer, and if not, have access to one? What is their level of experience with computers and technology? Do they have internet access? What systems are they currently familiar with? What systems do they rely upon to perform their job?
5. Language And Culture
What is the primary spoken and written language of the group? Are there any special considerations to be taken into account? Are they part of a union or association? Do they tend to be collaborative or competitive?
What is the workspace like? Are they hourly, salary, or temporary employees? Do they work in shifts? How many shifts are there? Do employees on multiple shifts need to be trained? What safety considerations, if any, must be taken into account during training?
How are these employees currently trained? Where do they go when they need questions answered? What materials are currently being used, and can we have a copy of them? Can the entire audience be trained at the same time or does coverage need to be maintained at all times? What is the best time of day to train? Are there any days or times each day, week or month that must be avoided? Can they be absent from their day to day responsibilities for several days to attend training? Is the training different by location? Is the training different by experience level? Are there any union factors or limitations to be taken into account?
Do all employees have an email address? How do you currently communicate with this group? Is there a distribution list to use? Do they read communications they are sent? What is the best way to get their attention?
Once you’ve completed the process, you will have a complete picture of the audience for your training program, their needs, and motivations. This information informs every aspect of the program from training delivery method to learning objectives. In short, a thorough audience analysis provides the basis upon which every other aspect of your program is built. To ensure the behavior changes that drive performance improvements take place, a complete audience analysis is not only recommended, it is essential.
This post originally appeared on eLearningIndustry.com.