Delivering successful TNA's in large organisations

Written by Nicky McCrudden on 6 April 2018

Dear All,

As a new subscriber, this is my inaugural posting to the forum - so with baited breath here goes... 

Working on an organisation-wide TNA with a client who has a very large (+6,000) staff base with very diverse roles (from estates to highly specialised scientific roles).  The TNA is of all skills - generic and specialist, including apprenticeships, but excluding leadership - and historically the don't get very high-levels of engagement from managers/staff in this type of thing.

We are working to a fairly lean budget, but I wondered if anyone out there had any tips for efficiently, and yet creatively gathering TNA data from such a large population base?  (There is some opportunity for us to attend staff meetings, but 'helpfully' the organisation doesn't have a clearly defined list of managers so we can't directly target managers, nor do they have any baseline figures to work from).

Keeping all crossed for some interesting suggestions and good conversations!


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Submitted on 9 April, 2018 - 10:37


Assuming TNA to mean Training Needs Analysis, my first observation might be to ask why someone considers 'training' rather than 'learning' to be the best intervention.

In my experience, one size does not fit all, and although there may be some topics, such as Health and Safety, data protection (DGPR), fire regulations, Green Travel Plan, Information Management, etc, which may be mandated by law, many of the desired competencies will be specific to a particular career employment group.  It sounds to me as though you are being expected to assess what training the entire organisation must facilitate in order to grow, which is a huge undertaking.  You may not even know what learning has already been delivered, how it has impacted on organisational outcomes, and what lessons have been identified.

My starting point might be to identify what training the organisation is legally compelled to deliver, which is non-negotiable.  There are plenty of inexpensive off-the-shelf e-learning packages that might be used for this purpose, some of which might be modified slightly to suit the customer, if only to have the CEO introduce each subject, and express his or her support for the initiative.

I'd want to establish the Vision, Mission Statement and objectives of the organisation, its approach to learning and development, and strategic advantage.  For example, if your customer were a manufacturer, I might be inclined to propose more investment in innovation and development learning than in administrative functions.

Even in a large organisation, you may find that there are common job specifications, particularly if it is geographically dispersed.  If it were possible to identify up to ten 'core' job profiles for example, you might then be able to identify recurring themes, such as communication skills, financial and commercial awareness, governance, risk management, performance measurement, planning, etc.  In addition to the legal requirement to deliver certain generic training, it might then be possible to establish a reasonable number of additional specialist competencies that need to be learned.

With the greatest respect, I'm not sure whether your thread provides enough detail.  Analysis is only the first stage of the traditional Systematic Training Model, and in my experience the purpose of a TNA is not necessarily to scope learning options, but to establish the learning requirement.  What evidence exists that the organisation requires a learning intervention at all I wonder.  Only once a specific learning need has been established, would I suggest that attention should be given to designing and developing, delivering, and then evaluating that intervention.  You might wish to read Chapter 5 of A Handbook for Training Strategy, Martyn Sloman, (1999), A Gower Book, pp.99-127.

Personally, I'd like to know more about the justification for a TNA, and the expectations of the customer.

Good luck.




Richard Gadd


Submitted on 10 April, 2018 - 11:31

Hi Richard,

Thanks for the comprehensive, thoughtful and helpful reply.  And you're right, as I was reading your response, I started to realise that my initial post lacked detail!

So, TNA - training was my (lazy) shorthand, but I always take that to encompass all forms of learning.  

As for the client, they are already good at monitoring Mandatory training, so that would be excluded and they have a comprehensive leadership strategy (hence excluding leadership). 

What is missing is the understanding of some of the more advanced technical skills that they could be accessing from local Universities.  They are a healthcare provider and typically qualified staff (i.e. nurses) will develop specialisms by moving to different roles in the organisation (so organically, rather than a planned career path).  For example in ophthalmology, a qualified nurses works alongside an Optometrist but may not have accessed any specialist training in eye care, they learn from their peers (potentially perpetuating bad habits and not being on top of the most research approaches).  What they currently do isn't unsafe, or necessarily 'wrong' it's just this organisation is striving to become world-class so they want a baseline of what staff have specialist training and then set a target of what they'll commission over the next few years.

In addition, they are keen to make use of their apprenticeships levy for the breadth of roles - including non-clinical roles.

I suspect our biggest challenges will be identifying 'where' everyone is (literally, finding the managers) and actually getting people involved in the data collection; they are usually (rightly) focused on patient care.

But you're right it is a HUGE job, so I really like your idea of agreeing a set number of role profiles that they would like us to tackle.  Your response certainly gave me food for thought!

As an aside, I wonder how the Apprenticeships Levy is changing the process of planning L&OD solutions - rather than a systematic research, how many organisations are looking at what they can be offered and slotting people into what exists in order to 'get back' their levy.

Thanks again Richard - and for the book tip, I'll go and re-read (it's been a while!)

Best wishes,



Submitted on 10 April, 2018 - 11:34

Hi Nicky and welcome to the forum.

I checked in with this thread having written something which seems to have gone astray... did I forget to press a button?  I don't know.  I may echo some of Richard's comments above, though I notice I might place these in a different order of importance.

I would personally want to have a very clear context for a TNA, understanding Vision, Mission and objectives of the organisation, and where it's starting from.  This would provide a meaningful context for the work you have been asked to do, highlighting where the stretch might be and likely investment - Richard illustrates this very clearly in his post. This is about the most strategic investment for the organisation, i.e. the learning which is most important in meeting core aspirations.  In this context, I noticed that leadership is excluded from your brief - is it being covered via another initiative?  In terms of strategic importance, I'd place this high on the list for consideration.

Like Richard, I might also want to look at changes in the law or other factors that need to be considered, which might point to the need for learning in parts or all of the organisation.  This is about compliance and if the organisation gets it wrong, it could have consequences in terms of fines, PR disasters, i.e. negative consequences.  I would expect the learning in this area to be about knowledge and part of wider initiatives to bring policy and practice in line with emerging laws and other trends.  Asking questions about what initiatives are happening in response to e.g. new laws, would be a starting point with scope to dive further.

Then there's a category which I think you highlight in your post.  It's about the broader learning needs of staff in order (a) to do their existing jobs effectively and (b) to prepare for more significant contribution and/or promotion.  This could include knowledge, technical skills and behavioural (competency) development.  I would want to look at what frameworks are in place - individual job descriptions or broader job family descriptions, skills dictionaries and competency dictionaries etc.  If these are not in place, there is a risk of a TNA as a "shopping list" of desirables without any clear context.

Assuming these are in place, the natural mechanism for gathering date from managers would be via the organisation's appraisal system, with some clear targeted questions around what the areas for development are, whether they are contributing to effectiveness in current role, development towards future roles and/or delivering strategic or other organisational objectives.

Given what you describe, I'd also be curious about why managers are not engaging in this question... which might be a good place to start.

Having said all this, in your shoes, I might also want to check that budget...

Will you let us know if these responses are helpful?  And how you get on?





Submitted on 10 April, 2018 - 11:45

Noting also that we "crossed in the post", Nicky :-)


Submitted on 10 April, 2018 - 13:46

Hi Nicky,

Welcome.... just to echo my esteemed colleagues above. I am working with the apprenticeship levy - although a challenge it may really help you - drop a line if you want to discuss.


Good luck remember small steps = small wins to get to the big win!