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Latent factor structures affecting the occupational profile construct
of the training needs analysis scale
Joanna Carlisle, Ramudu Bhanugopan* and Alan Fish
School of Business, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, Australia
This study evaluates the latent factor structure of the occupational profile construct of the
training needs analysis (TNA) scale proposed by Hicks, Hennessy and Barwell (1996).
Data were collected from 72 Australian nurses. Principal component analysis and
multi-dimensional scaling methods were employed to delineate a five-factor model.
This study demonstrates a good fit of data as opposed to asymmetrical disposition of
factor structures as promulgated by previous studies. This research confirms the original
latent factor structures; however, validation using a confirmatory framework to analyse
the TNA scale is required in future. This study suggests some practical implications for
human resource managers.
Keywords: Australia; nurse; occupational profile; training needs
The implementation of appropriate human resource practices can benefit the performance
of an organisation (Denby 2010). This is no different for the health-care industry.
In Australia, there are several issues, including patient/nurse ratios, pay levels and work
conditions among other things, affecting health-care organisations. The issue of adequately
identifying training needs and understanding the importance of occupational profile in
performance is under-represented in the research conducted to date. Despite a significant
degree of academic and practitioner interest, the topic of training needs analysis (TNA) for
nurses remains underdeveloped. It is difficult to consistently conduct thorough TNA within
the health-care industry, as there are often other issues for the organisation to focus on,
such as nurse shortages.
Gould, Kelly, White and Chidgey’s (2004) literature review focuses on empirical
research concerned with the need to conduct TNA within the health-care profession. This
review finds ‘of 266 articles identified, only 23 (8.6%) contained empirical findings’
(Gould et al. 2004, p. 473), and most of the studies were conducted in the UK. This
highlights the need for further empirical research to provide greater understanding of the
TNA process and the benefits that can result from appropriate implementation of TNA in
the training and development cycle. To further support this, Furze and Pearcey’s (1999)
review of nurses’ continuing professional development concludes that provision is
fragmented, inequitable, poorly funded and the cyclic process of the training strategy is
Although much of the research carried out on TNA for nurses has been conducted in
the UK, some research has been conducted involving training needs of nurses in Australia.
ISSN 0958-5192 print/ISSN 1466-4399 online
q 2012 Taylor & Francis
*Corresponding author. Email: email@example.com
The International Journal of Human Resource Management,
Vol. 23, No. 20, November 2012, 4319–4341
However, these studies do not focus on a TNA using a psychometrically valid scale nor do
they consider the factors that may influence the training needs of particular nurses or
organisations. Consequently, this current study looks at both these factors by conducting a
TNA using the occupational profile construct of the scale developed by Hicks, Hennessy
and Barwell (1996). Furthermore, it takes into account the qualifications and education of
participants by considering how these factors may influence the perception of nurses in
Australia in defining their job role and training needs. It is hoped this will fill the gap in
empirical research conducted into the TNA of nurses in Australia and promote further
research to provide deeper understanding of this topic to Australian nurses and
the organisations they work for.
Review of literature
A growing demand for professional training within the Australian health service has
created a proliferation of post-registration courses, many of which fail to reach
appropriate training objectives of organisations. This situation is reflected in a number of
studies conducted within Australia into the training needs of nurses (Farrell 1998;
Hicks and Hennessy 1998, 1999; Halcomb, Meadley and Streeter 2009). Whilst these
studies offer useful insights into understanding training needs in general, they create
particular problems for understanding the training needs of Australian nurses. These
include (1) Australian nurses were not their main focal point; (2) the TNA was for a
different purpose than that covered in this research or (3) they do not actually conduct a
TNA for establishing these needs. Also, two of these three studies (Farrell 1998; Hicks
and Hennessy 1998) were carried out over 10 years ago, thus the results may now be
outdated and the scale may need to be re-validated.
The paucity of recent, relevant research to address the contemporary and emerging
training needs of Australian nurses draws attention to a research gap; a gap that the
research reported in this paper has started to fill.
It is difficult to consistently conduct a thorough TNA in the health-care industry.
The need for and importance of TNA is often underestimated in many industries; however,
the nursing sector seems to have a poor record of developing and implementing TNA
strategies (Hennessy and Hicks 1998).
Gould et al. (2004) highlighted two key TNA areas requiring attention in the
health-care industry. First, the importance of using TNA strategically to obtain maximum
benefit to the organisation and the individuals involved. Second, the urgent need for
further research into the application of TNA in health care, particularly in relation to
nurses: ‘The climate of rapid change against the background of nursing recruitment
difficulties in the health service magnifies the need for TNA to be used appropriately’
(Gould et al. 2004, p. 472). Unfortunately, TNA often maximises the benefits to the
organisation while making it difficult for nurses to access training resources.
A study conducted in Ireland that found lack of employer’s support was the main cause
of nurses being unwilling to participate in continuing professional education: ‘Although
respondents understand and accept the positive outcomes, they believe that continuing
professional education is essentially a job related activity, specific to their employing
organisation’ (Murphy, Cross and McGuire 2006, p. 378). This shows that nurses who
want training and further education often go without simply because the organisation
offers insufficient encouragement.
A study conducted in Europe also found an unsupportive workplace and ineffective
leadership within health-care organisations results in low job satisfaction, which in turn
4320 J. Carlisle et al.
raises the likelihood of nurses intending to leave within 1 year (Van der Heijden, Van Dam
and Hasselhorn 2009). This research highlights the need for appropriately trained staff,
which requires a TNA that will ensure who employees are suited for their jobs, one are
competent and receive the training necessary to further build the competencies they
require in their workplace.
The benefits of TNA can be immense; however, often the TNA process for nurses is
not implemented appropriately to maximise the benefits. Gould et al. (2004, p. 474), when
reappraising empirical research, concluded that ‘smaller scale (micro level) TNA
concerned with staff in a single organisation (or similar smaller organisations) emerged as
the most useful in practical terms as well as having the most to contribute towards theory’.
On the other hand, the macro level TNA, concerned with more than one large organisation,
did very little to address organisational goals and training needs. Despite this, of the 23
empirical research studies reviewed by Gould et al. (2004) only seven fell into the category
of micro level. This emphasises the need for TNA to be implemented to provide maximum
benefit to both the nurses and the organisation they work for.
Issues facing rural hospitals
There are many issues that regional Australian nurses must contend with over and above
the current issues facing the Australian health-care industry. Issues, such as stress,
burnout, nurse shortages, lack of resources and limited access to information and specialist
advice, all impact on the job satisfaction and retention of nurses working in rural settings.
These concerns are not specific to Australia, with several researchers contending that this
is an international issue (Hannigan, Edwards, Coyle, Fothergill and Burnard 2000;
Kidd, Kenny and Meehan-Andrews 2012). A study conducted in Wales, regarding the
burnout of rural mental health nurses, states that one in two respondents indicated that they
were highly emotionally exhausted, one in four possessed a negative attitude towards
clients and one in seven experienced little or no sense of achievement in or satisfaction
with their work (Hannigan et al. 2000).
Kidd et al. (2012, p. 1) stated that ‘rural nurses often work outside of their professional
scope of practice and cite isolation and maintaining professional competency as their
greatest difficulty’. Further, the sustainability of rural services is threatened by workforce
shortages due to inadequate funding (Kidd et al. 2012).
Rural nurses also face a higher workload, less support and higher dissatisfaction with
their jobs. A Victorian study on rural psychiatric nurses and stress found that a mean of
82.7% of respondents (n ¼ 136) saw workload as a primary stressor, 61.3% cited lack of
support and inadequate preparation as a stressor and 82.4% saw the job role itself as a
stressor (Pinikahana and Happell 2004). This is further shown in a study conducted
on Queensland rural practice nurses, which cites management practices, workload,
workplace support and job satisfaction as among the top 10 most important influences on
their decision to leave rural nursing (Hegney, McCarthy, Rogers-Clark and Gorman
The job description of the rural nurse has also expanded, causing burnout, stress, job
dissatisfaction and a feeling by nurses that they are inadequately trained and supported
(Hannigan et al. 2000; Hegney et al. 2002; Pinikahana and Happell 2004; Hegney 2007).
The health of rural Australians is poorer than those living in metropolitan areas, with
higher rates of illness or injury such as diabetes, heart disease, pulmonary disease and
motor vehicle accident injuries (Hegney 2007); the issues facing rural nurses need to be
The International Journal of Human Resource Management 4321
Previous studies conducted using a psychometrically valid TAN scale
Hicks et al. (1996, p. 262) developed a ‘psychometrically valid training needs analysis tool
for use with primary health care teams’. The TNA scale was shown to be valid – it has
significant reliability – and appears to be unique. The scale incorporates 30 items where
participants are asked to rate four aspects: (1) how important certain tasks are in order to
successfully perform their jobs, referred to as ‘rating A’ in Hicks et al. (1996, p. 268), and
used to provide an occupational profile; (2) how well they currently perform their
responsibilities, referred to as ‘rating B’ in Hicks et al. (1996, p. 268), and which identifies
particular training needs and (3) whether it is likely that their performance of these
activities will be improved by organisational change or training, referred to as ‘rating C
and D’ in Hicks et al. (1996, p. 268), and used to determine the most appropriate means of
This scale is valuable for two reasons. First, it can be modified to suit different
health-care scenarios, and second, it is translatable for employment in different cultures
without appearing to compromise its validity and reliability. For example, the scale has been
employed in many studies conducted both in Australia and overseas in various cultural
settings including the UK (Hicks et al. 1996), the USA (Hennessy and Hicks 1998),
Australia (Hicks and Hennessy 1999), Greece (Markaki, Antonakis, Hicks and Lionis 2007)
and Indonesia (Hennessy, Hicks, Hilan and Kawonal 2006a; Hennessy, Hicks and Koesno
2006c). Whilst the scale has primarily been used in the UK, several studies in different
cultural contexts also show its high reliability, its construct validity and its accuracy
(see Table 1). Nevertheless, the majority of studies have been conducted in the UK, yielding
a five-factor solution, namely (1) research and audit; (2) communication and teamwork;
(3) management and supervisory tasks; (4) administrative tasks and (5) clinical tasks.
Importantly, the Greek study (Markaki et al. 2007) establishes that the scale can be
translated, and employed in quite a different cultural setting from where it was originally
developed, while maintaining its validity and reliability (a 0.98). This was also shown to
be true for Indonesia, where the reliability of the scale in an Asian context also demonstrates
its validity and reliability in identifying the training and professional development needs
of midwives (a 0.91 highest factor, 0.71 lowest factor).
Significant for its cross-cultural application, the scale was altered with a number of
identified central themes cross-referenced with the original five central themes. Any
themes not covered were then converted to additional items, to ensure that all items
relevant to Indonesia were represented (Hennessy et al. 2006a). Hence, additional 10 items
were employed to not only establish the training needs of midwives, but also compare the
different training needs of midwives among different grades of nurses, and in the different
provinces of Indonesia.
Furthermore, in a study conducted by Hennessy, Hicks, Hilan and Kawonal (2006b),
a six-factor solution was derived. This led to yet another study (Hennessy et al. 2006c) that
discerned a three-factor solution. Hence, the factorial structures thus far inferred in all these
studies were asymmetrical. Of key importance to the study reported here though, is that
these studies highlight the potential adaptability of the scale, and the ability to use this scale
in multiple cultural settings, and in the process, retain the scale’s reliability and validity.
The TNA scale was also used in a comparative study between the UK, USA and
Australia (Hennessy and Hicks 1998), as well as in a study that aimed to define the role of
the nurse practitioner (Hicks and Hennessy 1999).
The comparative study (Hicks and Hennessy 1998) was one of the first studies
involving TNA for nurses conducted in Australia. The results show that when
4322 J. Carlisle et al.
Table 1. Summary of latent factor structure anomalies in previous studies.
Previous studies Country Subject and sample size Items Factors Cronbach a
Hennessy and Hicks (1998) UK, USA and Australia Primary and secondary care
30 Latent factor structure unclear Unknown
Hicks and Hennessy (1998) UK Nurse practitioner 420 31 Latent factor structure unclear Unknown
Hicks and Hennessy (1999) Australia Nurse practitioner 46 30 Latent factor structure unclear Unknown
Hicks et al. (1996) UK Health-care workers 198 30 6 0.70
Hennessy et al. (2006a) Indonesia Nurses and midwives 856 40 6 Factor 1: 0.86, Factor
2: 0.85, Factor 3:
0.42, Factor 4: 0.84,
Factor 5: 0.77, Factor
Hennessy et al. (2006b) Indonesia Nurses 524 40 3 Factor 1: 0.91, Factor
2: 0.89, Factor 3:
Hennessy et al. (2006c) Indonesia Midwives 332 40 3 Factor 1: 0.89, Factor
2: 0.87, Factor 3:
Markaki et al. (2007) Greece Health-care workers 55 30 7 0.98
The International Journal of Human Resource Management 4323
compared to the USA and the UK, Australian nurses placed higher training needs
importance on clinical tasks such as (1) treating patients; (2) planning and organising
patient’s care and (3) undertaking health promotion activities. In addition, the study
demonstrates the need for higher training needs in research and audit, such as
(4) identifying viable research topics; (5) writing research studies reports and
(6) designing a research study.
However, the results of this study cannot generally be applied to nurses Australia-wide
as the results merely indicate between-group differences regarding higher or lower
training needs, with no clear indication about the training gaps between countries.
Hicks and Hennessy (1999) also conducted a second Australian study, using their
original TNA scale. This study was conducted in a Victorian not-for-profit hospital and
involved 46 nurses. The results show that training needs were apparent in the research
and audit area; however, this was not perceived as important to the nurse’s role. Key areas
where training needs did exist included (1) communicating with patients and their carers
and (2) supervision of colleagues. The focus of this study was, however, on defining the
role of a nurse practitioner, rather than on their training needs.
The study ‘indicates that the instrument is appropriate for use in the Australian context,
to determine specific service delivery according to locally determined needs’ (Hicks and
Hennessy 1999, p. 32). While this study does not provide good insight into the training
needs of nurses in Australia, it does establish the reliability and validity of the TNA scale
for use in an Australian context; this is of great help for further research, including the
current study. A summary of the latent factor structure anomalies found in previous studies
is presented in Table 1.
Considering the indistinct disposition of the factor structure and dimensionality of the
TNA scale, this study was undertaken to explore and examine the latent factor structures
of the occupational profile construct of the scale through nurses’ perceptions of those
activities, which constitute their successful performance. The study focuses on the
occupational profile aspect of the TNA scale, and examines the perceived importance
that particular activities have on the successful performance of nurses. The purpose of
this current study then is to analyse the perceptions of registered Australian nurses by
employing Hicks et al.’s (1996) TNA scale, and to identify those activities affecting
nurses’ on-the-job performance which are perceived to be critical to their occupational
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