Needs Assessment

Complete a training needs assessment to ensure the training and development changes performance and aligns with the organization’s strategy.

What is a training needs assessment?

A needs assessment is the process of analyzing different factors that are causing poor performance. For example, a salesperson may be struggling for several reasons. He or she may not have the knowledge and skills they need. Or, they may be compensated in a way that undermines motivation to sell. The factors that impact performance can be grouped:

  • At the job level – the individual’s skills, knowledge and their relationship with their manager.
  • At the process level – internal processes that support (or hinder) the individual’s ability to do their job effectively.
  • At the organization level – broader organization factors such as culture, values and compensation structure.

Listen to this example to learn more.

Why is a training needs assessment important?

It’s important to design a training program with the end in mind. By spending some time upfront identifying what is causing the poor performance, you can create a program that will address that area specifically and result in the change in performance you’re looking for. Without a training needs assessment, you run the risk of spending money on training courses that have little impact.

For example, if a struggling salesperson isn’t familiar with the products or services on the job support materials could be a great solution. They may not need to spend valuable time in a training course. If, however, the struggling salesperson is new to sales then a training program possibly with coaching support would be a more appropriate approach. The salesperson would learn and practice new skills.

How do you complete a training needs assessment?

At its core, a training needs assessment is a gap analysis. I confirm the current situation and clarify the desired state. This could be done through a series of targeted questions with key stakeholders. With a more complex situation, it could be more involved and include conducting focus groups, reviewing internal documentation, and observing employees in their roles. At a high-level, this is the process I follow:

1. Start project

  • Review scope of project, including process and timelines
  • Confirm roles and responsibilities
  • Discuss how to work together
  • Clarify source documents needed
  • Identify contacts for data collection (below)

2. Conduct assessment to identify the current and desired state (performance gaps) and their causes

  • Review source documentation
  • Collect data through any of:

– Interviews

– Focus groups

– Survey(s)

– Direct observation

3. Summarize findings, including current and desired state and causes for performance gap(s)

  • Consider job, process and organization level causes.

4. Make recommendations to address performance gap(s)

  • Consider training and non-training solutions.

Where can you learn more?

The Institute for Performance and Learning (I4PL) has identified this as a core competency for learning professionals. Click here to learn how they structure this competency.

Here are some projects that included a needs assessment to determine the solution that would address the business need:

Email me if you need an objective pair of eyes to determine your organization’s or your employees’ needs and lay the foundation for a path forward.