Training Analysis: The Gap Between Actual And Desired Performance

A look at training analysis and a list of objective indicators that employees may need training.

Whether a manager is preparing to implement total quality management or planning a training program for his or her staff, gap analysis is quickly becoming an invaluable tool. Gap analysis is simply the process of comparing one¡¦s standards to actual performance and identifying what the gap is between the two. When an unacceptable gap occurs, it is usually a sign that training is necessary.

Gap analysis begins with managers identifying their company¡¦s performance standards. Many businesses have written out measurable, clear standards that are communicated to the employees. If they have not, then the first step in gap analysis is to create these performance standards¡Xor at least commit to writing the standards that are ¡§understood¡¨ by the managers. Managers may be surprised at how much disagreement there over standards that have been taken for granted.

The second step in gap analysis is for managers to observe their employees and identify which specific knowledge, skills, and attitudes must be developed or improved to bring employee performances up to the company¡¦s standards.

There are several objective indicators that employees may need training. These include:

- Customer dissatisfaction and complaints

- Low morale or productivity among employees

- Sanitation problems

- High waste

- Excessive employee turnover, absenteeism, overtime, or negative information collected in exit interviews

- Employee grievances, discrimination charges, and unfair employment practice suits

- A high frequency of work-related injuries, accidents, or illnesses

- Excessive labor cost

- Low business volume compared to the market

- High level of employee theft

- Compromise of internal control systems

- Excessive energy and water consumption

Once managers have determined that training is needed, they must pinpoint on which specific problem to focus. This third step in the gap analysis process determines the skill, behavior, or attitude that causes the gap.

Professional trainers have developed several techniques for determining precisely what type of training is needed and which problem is the cause of the observed performance gap. Some of these include:

- Training needs survey. Managers survey other managers and employees through written questionnaires or personal interviews.

- Management observation. Managers can watch employees at work to determine where there is a gap between the company¡¦s standards and the performance of the employees.

- Employee surveys. Employees should always be a part of the gap analysis process since they are the ones expected to meet the established standards and are closest to the problems and deficiencies that management might observe. Surveys can ask employees how they feel the company is measuring up to the established standards.

- Customer comments. Informal, unsolicited customer complaints can signal that there is something wrong and that customer needs are not being met. Some companies have established systems for continuous customer input through comment cards, focus groups, or formal interviews.

- Employee meetings. When there is evidence that employee performance is below standards, managers can hold an employee meeting in which employees informally discuss the job tasks they feel they do well and those that need improvement. Employees can then suggest methods for improving performance and set goals to raise performance levels.

- Inspections. Managers can perform internal inspections the same way government agencies inspect organizations. The manager can create an operational audit checklist that lists the key areas of performance and the standards for each one. The inspection compares actual performance with the state or federal standards.

At this point, gap analysis is technically complete. The gap between desired and actual performance has been identified and the source of the gap determined. It remains now for managers and trainers to identify the method of training and then to evaluate its effectiveness.

How often should gap analysis be conducted? The answer to that question will depend on many variables within the organization. Is turnover high? Is the gap between desired and actual service large? Have there been major organizational change? In all of these instances, gap analysis may need to be conducted more frequently. If the organization is fairly stable, managers may conduct gap analysis on an annual or semi-annual basis.

© High Speed Ventures 2011