Why the Learning Needs Analysis (LNA) has us all working on the wrong things

Just to qualify the title of this post, we (as L&D) might be working in the right direction as a result of our LNA but when individual performance and capability needs are aggregated into common and anticipated themes, and then packaged into courses, the actual needs are likely to be lost. For this reason – and at a time when L&D is seeking to align closer the Business – the very beginning of the Learning Cycle may be the point at which the two parties misalign… and then run on parallel paths.

Don’t get me wrong, I know why needs are aggregated: It usually takes a great deal of time, money and effort to design a common solution and deliver it to a large section of the workforce. However, the requirement to scale consistent programmes, organisation-wide, is affecting our ability to influence the way the work is done, efficiently and effectively.

So, what’s the alternative?

The alternative is to address the actual performance and capability needs before aggregation and test their appropriateness before tackling the larger population.

I don’t wish to sound like a broken record here (just in case you’ve read my previous posts) but creating Digital Resources as the default, rather than courses or programmes, can take a fraction of the time, effort and money of traditional approaches, and equip your entire target audience within days.

How does that work?

On a very basic level, picking up from the LNA conversation, you might be speaking with one leader who tells you that her team needs better Time Management Skills.

Currently, you’re likely to ask what she would like her team to do differently, make a note of her response and think about how that might be addressed – along with similar needs from across your business – in a course. You might even have a course that just needs tweaking!

When thinking ‘resources-first’ (because of the agile nature of resources) you could ask ‘who specifically needs to improve their Time Management?’ I’d recommend you ask for their names and job titles to get into the nuts-and-bolts of the performance gap. If you then realise that entry level workers (let’s say: Sarah and Matthew) seem to prioritise day-to-day activities and neglect longer-term projects, you might follow up and ask the leader ‘what would you like them to do?’ Of course, the answer is like to be: prioritise and recognise what’s urgent, deal with that, but also recognise what’s not urgent and block out time to do the project work.

Now let’s be honest and admit right now that they don’t need a course!? It would be the equivalent of using a sledgehammer to open a walnut. They just need guidance and tools to do these things better.

To address this with Digital Resources, you just need to:

  1. Recognise this from the worker’s perspective and appeal to their motivations. Acknowledge this first in the titles of your resources, which in this case might be: ‘How to manage your daily tasks and get important projects done’
  2. Find a good representation of the Important / Urgent Matrix off of Google Images (see below)


  1. Give them a tip such as: use their calendar to block out time each week to work on their important projects (the Big Rocks Principle)
  2. You could even create another resource called: How I manage my daily tasks and still get my important projects done’ and have more experienced employees talk about what they do and pull out their most useful suggestions as recommendations.
  3. Package all these up as a resource, with the format:


And as long as you have the right technology tools to hand, such as Looop, YOU could do this yourself, now. Because even with a bit of filming on your smartphone (and no Instructional Design experience), this is one afternoon’s work and you’ve addressed an actual business performance need… As quick and easy as this is to do, it’s an example of perfectly aligning to the business, directly impacting how workers do their jobs, better and faster.

For all other Time Management needs, do the same (explore ‘who?’ and ‘what?’ specifically) and build a library of resources that address actual needs. Then, you keep workers in the workflow by addressing their performance challenges as they arise. It is highly unlikely that you’d be running a standard Time Management course again.

Ok, so it might seem fanciful to tackle an entire Learning Needs Analysis like this… but what if I told you that L&D teams are?

There are L&D teams, in organisations of tens of thousands of employees, who run Agile sprints to address business performance and capability gaps quickly and effectively with Digital Resources, and they are tackling their organisation’s biggest priorities first. They are no longer trying to align themselves to the business. They are finding themselves integral to how their workers perform… and the profile of the L&D team has increased as a result.

Organisations, like Sanoma (8000 employees), are addressing their most pressing capability issues with ‘resources-first’ (not ‘resources-only’) in order to equip their people with what they need to perform their roles. This video outlines how they are tackling New Media Know-how, a priority that many established organisations have in common as they wrestle with Digital Transformation.

The Learning Needs Analysis served its purpose when learning needs were most appropriately serviced with ‘courses’ that required broad appeal. But times have changed and there are now more effective ways of equipping workers with the tools they need to perform, as and when their challenges arise. And the good news is that L&D can now have the tools to address performance and capability needs more quickly and effectively than at any other time – and this is the key to business alignment.

So, keep conversations and solutions specific, test that your Minimal Viable Solution (MVS) works and then seek broader appeal based on engagement, utilisation and impact.

It seems so easy, doesn’t it? And that’s because it is! The unfamiliarity may seem daunting to you but the practice and the impact are exciting, rewarding and what your business needs right now.

David James is Chief Learning Strategist with Looop and a seasoned Talent Management, Learning & OD leader with nearly 20 years of experience in the field. Most notably, David was Director of Talent, Learning & OD for The Walt Disney Company’s EMEA region.

Looop help their clients all over the world to digitally transform their L&D and capitalise on how people really want to learn today with a platform that is renowned for its extraordinary levels of learner engagement.

See also:

Digital L&D Pt 2: Resources Before Courses

Digital L&D Pt 3: How To Run A Resources-First Initiative

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