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Workplace learning with coaching and mentoring
Workplace learning with coaching and mentoring

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1.6 Critical thinking about TNAs

Recent developments in HRD thinking have highlighted the crucial significance of the ‘real world’ context of TNA activities. This involves acknowledging the social networks and power relations of organisational life, including the influence of self-interest, self-promotion and/or self-preservation among the organisational members whose opinions you are seeking in your TNA research. For instance, when employees are asked to describe the constitutive components of their jobs, they may be motivated to describe an ideal job performance rather than a realistic one, or to over-emphasise the complexity of the job in order to boost their own profile in the organisation. Questions such as whether a formal qualification is essential for a job’s performance may well be a matter of opinion, rather than unchallengeable fact, perhaps revealing organisational members’ personal prejudices.

Clarke (2003) presents a useful list of questions for HRD professionals, highlighting some of the key issues associated with the politics of TNAs. You may find some of these questions useful when completing Activity 2, which follows.


  1. Who are the key stakeholders in the TNA and what are their sources of influence?
  2. How might the TNA and its conclusions influence the current balance(s) of power?
  3. What are the expressed motives for the TNA?
  4. Can the nature of any undisclosed motives be identified?
  5. How might the TNA affect job security or career prospects?

Organisational conflict

  1. What is the degree of conflict between organisational members with a stake in the TNA?
  2. What is the nature of this conflict?
  3. Is there a climate of openness and trust?
  4. How do different stakeholder groups view each other?
  5. Are the goals of the TNA shared?

Activity 1: Doing a TNA

Timing: Allow around 60 minutes for this activity

Think about your current role, or one you may have in the future, or one with which you are familiar from your previous experience. Using the content of this course so far, note down in the text box below your answers to the following questions:

  • a.How would you go about gathering information to guide a TNA for this role?
  • b.What training methods would you consider if you were designing a programme to address these needs, and why?
  • c.How would you evaluate the effectiveness of the training you design? Would you use the Kirkpatrick criteria, or are there other important considerations when considering the value of training? Would an informal approach work better? If so, why?
  • d.How would you take into account the political context of your TNA? Are there any ways in which self-interest or organisational conflict might influence your conclusions?
  • e.What are the strengths and limitations of this formal training-based approach to understanding learning and talent development requirements?

Keep hold of your notes, because you will need to refer to them in the next activity.

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In thinking about potential data sources for your TNA, you may have considered the options depicted in Figure 2. You may also have found yourself drawing on more informal sources of information, such as your own judgement and instincts about priorities, and your own experience of what works well within the particular context you have chosen. You might think that the formal methods depicted in Figure 2 are relatively intensive in terms of time and effort, and that the pragmatics of organisational life sometimes require a ‘quick and dirty’ approach instead. However, if you do have to do TNA work more quickly, be prepared for robust challenge from organisational stakeholders who want to know what data your work is based on. Training and development interventions can be expensive, and sponsors will need to be persuaded that the design is based on a trustworthy analysis of the organisation and its needs.

Throughout the previous activity, you may have started to wonder whether training is always the best answer to an organisation’s or an individual’s capability gaps. Traditionally, HRD professionals have reached for the training ‘solution’, almost irrespective of what the performance ‘problem’ actually is. This assumption is increasingly being questioned; and this is the focus of the next section.