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. The learning consultant needs to uncover 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.
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: