Targets and stakeholders are key

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Written by Martin-Christian Kent on 5 March 2014

Before you conduct any training it's important to ensure that it's the right solution for your business. Training should only be considered if it targets problem areas that need to be addressed, yet many organisations choose a particular training solution because it's the easiest thing to do or it's the cheapest, without considering whether it will deliver any improvement. There's little point in evaluating a training programme that has been selected this way because it's unlikely to show any return.

So how do you work out if training is needed and how do you establish what areas to focus on? 

There are a number of techniques you can use to help maximise your return on any training or intervention in your business by ensuring it's focused on the areas that really need it.

One of the most important techniques is stakeholder analysis, which can help you identify who needs to be involved in any project, what their needs are and how to meet them. The key steps in a stakeholder analysis are:

1. Identify your stakeholders

2. Prioritise your stakeholders

3. Understand your key stakeholders  (Mind Tools, 2013)

If you get your stakeholders involved at the beginning and make sure you're addressing their issues and concerns, they will be more supportive of any intervention, which increases its chances of success. They will also be more helpful when you are evaluating the intervention, which can be key (as discussed in my previous blog). 

A stakeholder analysis would ideally be used together with one of the following techniques.

Root cause analysis (RCA) can be used to trace a problem to its origin, so you can determine what happened, why, and how to reduce the likelihood of it happening again. An RCA looks at physical, human and organisational causes and can often reveal more than one root cause. The key steps in a root cause analysis are:

a) Define the problem

b) Collect data

c) Identify possible causal factors

d) Identify the root cause

e) Recommend and implement solutions (Mind Tools, 2013)

Alternatively, if you're looking to achieve a long term goal, a theory of changeanalysis may be more appropriate. It can be used to show the small steps that can set the stage for long-term results. The key steps in a theory of change analysis are:

a) Identify a long-term goal.

b) Identify the conditions you'd need to achieve that goal. 

c) Work out what interventions you'll perform to create these conditions. 

d) Develop indicators for each condition that can be used to assess the impact of the interventions (Center for Theory of Change, 2013).

If you decide your business needs training, a training needs analysis can ensure you address the right skills and knowledge to help your business grow and develop. It can be carried out at all levels of a business and identify:

• Where staff have training and development needs

• How team members learn best

• Barriers staff face when doing their work

Using the above techniques will not only help an intervention, but also make it easier to evaluate as you'll already know the needs and objectives at each stage of the evaluation.

About the author
Martin-Christian Kent is research and policy director at People 1st. He can be contacted via

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