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:
– Focus groups
– 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.