Assessing Your Training Needs: Needs Assessment to Training Goals

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Sections of this topic

    Assessing Your Training Needs: Needs Assessment to Training Goals

    © Copyright Carter McNamara,
    MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC
    .

    Sections of This Topic Include

    Preparation for Conducting Needs Assessment
    Overall Purpose of Training Assessment and Analysis
    One Approach — Four Steps to Conducting a Needs Assessment
    Another Approach to Needs Assessment to Determine Your
    Overall Training Goals

    More Resources for Training Needs Assessment and Analysis

    Also consider
    Related Library Topics

    Learn More in the Library’s Blogs Related to Conducting Needs Assessments for Training

    In addition to the articles on this current page, also see the following blogs
    that have posts related to Conducting Needs Assessments for Training. Scan down
    the blog’s page to see various posts. Also see the section “Recent Blog
    Posts” in the sidebar of the blog or click on “next” near the
    bottom of a post in the blog. The blog also links to numerous free related resources.

    Library’s Career
    Management Blog

    Library’s Human Resources
    Blog

    Library’s Leadership Blog
    Library’s Supervision
    Blog

    Library’s
    Training and Development Blog


    Preparation for Conducting Needs Assessment

    Before you undertake the various phases of the ADDIE model of systematic planning,
    you might also get a quick grasp of the broader context of training plans. Consider
    the following topics in the Library.

    Designing Training
    (identifying learning objectives, methods to use, etc.)

    Methods
    — Remembering Some Basic Principles About Adult Learning

    Methods
    — Some Basic Mistakes to Avoid When Selecting Methods

    Methods
    — Building More Learning into the Training and Development Plan

    Various Ideas
    for Ways to Learn

    Overall Purpose of Training Needs Assessment and Analysis

    A training analysis is conducted ultimately to identify what areas of knowledge
    or behaviors that training needs to accomplish with learners. The analysis considers
    what results the organization needs from the learner, what knowledge and skills
    the learner presently has and usually concludes with identifying what knowledge
    and skills the learner must gain (the “performance gap”).

    Usually this phase also includes identifying when training should occur and
    who should attend as learners. Ideally, criteria are established for the final
    evaluation of training to conclude if training goals were met or not.

    Depending on the resources and needs of the organization, a training analysis
    can range from a very detailed inventory of skills to a general review of performance
    results. The more complete the training analysis, the more likely that the employee’s
    training will ultimately contribute results to the organization.

    Note that employees can require training for a variety of reasons, which usually
    fall into two categories:
    1. Training to fill a “performance gap” as identified during the performance
    management process
    2. Training to fill a “growth gap”, that is, to be promoted or be
    able to fill another open position in the organization

    One Approach — Four Steps to Conducting a
    Needs Assessment

    (This article was written by Leigh
    Dudley
    ; copyright, Leigh Dudley.)

    Step 1 — Perform a “Gap” Analysis

    The first step is to check the actual performance of our organizations and
    our people against existing standards, or to set new standards. There are two
    parts to this:

    Current Situation

    We must determine the current state of skills, knowledge, and abilities of
    our current and/or future employees. This analysis also should examine our organizational
    goals, climate, and internal and external constraints.

    Desired or Necessary Situation

    We must identify the desired or necessary conditions for organizational and
    personal success. This analysis focuses on the necessary job tasks/standards,
    as well as the skills, knowledge and abilities needed to accomplish these successfully.
    It is important that we identify the critical tasks necessary, and not just
    observe our current practices. We also must distinguish our actual needs from
    our perceived needs — our wants. The “gap” between the current
    and the necessary will identify our needs, purposes and objectives.

    What are we looking for? Here are some questions to ask to determine where
    training and development or even human resource development (HRD) may be useful
    in providing solutions:

    • Problems or deficits. Are there problems in the
      organization which might be solved by training or other HRD activities?
    • Impending change. Are there problems which do
      not currently exist but are likely due to changes, such as new processes and
      equipment, outside competition and/or changes in staffing?
    • Opportunities: Could we gain a competitive edge
      by taking advantage of new technologies, training programs consultants or
      suppliers?
    • Strengths: How can we take advantage of our organizational
      strengths, as opposed to reacting to our weaknesses? Are there opportunities
      to apply HRD to these areas?
    • New directions: Could we take a proactive approach,
      applying HRD to move our organizations to new levels of performance? For example,
      could team building and related activities help improve our productivity?
    • Mandated training: Are there internal or external
      forces dictating that training and/or organization development will take place?
      Are there policies or management decisions which might dictate the implementation
      of some program? Are there governmental mandates to which we must comply?

    Step 2 — Identify Priorities and Importance

    The first step should have produced a list of needs for training and development,
    career development, organization development and/or other interventions. Now
    we must examine these in view of their importance to our organizational goals,
    realities and constraints. We must determine if the identified needs are real,
    if they are worth addressing, and specify their importance and urgency in view
    of our organizational needs and requirements. For example:

    • Cost-effectiveness: How does the cost of the
      problem compare to the cost of implementing a solution? In other words, we
      perform a cost-benefit analysis.
    • Legal mandates: Are there laws requiring a solution?
      (For example; safety or regulatory compliance.)
    • Executive pressure: Does top management expect
      a solution?
    • Population: Are many people or key people involved?
    • Customers: What influence is generated by customer
      specifications and expectations?

    If some of our needs are of relatively low importance, then we would do better
    to devote our energies to addressing other human performance problems with greater
    impact and greater value.

    Step 3 — Identify Causes of Performance Problems and/or Opportunities

    Now that we have prioritized and focused on critical organizational and personal
    needs, we will next identify specific problem areas and opportunities in our
    organization. We must know what our performance requirements are, if appropriate
    solutions are to be applied. We should ask two questions for every identified
    need:

    1. Are our people doing their jobs effectively?
    2. Do they know how to do their jobs?

    This will require detailed investigation and analysis of our people, their
    jobs and our organizations — both for the current situation and in preparation
    for the future.

    Step 4 – Identify Possible Solutions and Growth Opportunities

    If people are doing their jobs effectively, then perhaps we should leave well
    enough alone. (“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”) However,
    some training and/or other interventions might be called for if it’s important
    enough to move our people and their performance in new directions.

    But if our people ARE NOT doing their jobs effectively, then training may be
    the solution if there is indeed a knowledge problem.

    Organization development activities may provide solutions when the problem
    is not based on a lack of knowledge and is primarily associated with systematic
    change. These interventions might include strategic planning, organization restructuring,
    performance management and/or effective team building.

    (Consider writing your training goals in the Framework
    to Design Your Training Plan
    .)

    Another Approach to Needs Assessment to
    Determine Your Overall Goals in Training

    The purpose of the needs assessment is to help you determine what you need
    to learn to, for example, qualify for a certain job, overcome a performance
    problem or achieve a goal in your career development plan. Learners are often
    better off to work towards at most two to four goals at a time.

    1. Optional: You may want to re-review some of the following information:

      Goals
      — Selecting the Training and Development Goals
    2. Are there any time lines that you should consider in your plan?
      Do you have to accomplish any certain areas of knowledge or skills by a certain
      time? If so, this may influence your choice of learning objectives and learning
      activities to achieve the objectives. (Record your time lines in the Framework
      to Design Your Training Plan
      .)
    3. Are you pursuing training and development in order to address a performance
      gap?

      A performance gap is usually indicated from the performance appraisal process.
      The performance appraisal document should already include careful description
      of the areas of knowledge and skills that you must learn in order to improve
      your performance. To understand performance gaps, see
      Employee Performance
      Management
    4. Or, is your plan to address a growth gap?
      If so, carefully identify what areas of knowledge and skills are needed to
      reach your goals in your career. Consider referencing job descriptions, lists
      of competencies or even networking with others already in the positions that
      you want to reach in the near future. The following links might help you.

      Job
      Descriptions
      | Competencies
      | Networking |
      Career Planning
      | Job Searching
    5. Or, is your plan to address an opportunity gap?
      If so, carefully identify what areas of knowledge and skills are needed to
      perform the job or role that soon might be available to you. Again, consider
      job descriptions, lists of competencies or even interviewing someone already
      in the job or role that may soon be available to you.
      The following links might help you.
      Job
      Descriptions
      | Competencies
      | Networking |
      Career Planning
      | Job Searching
    6. Get feedback from others
      Ask for advice from friends, peers, your supervisors and others. They can
      be a real treasure for real-world feedback about you! For example, you (and
      your supervisor, is applicable) could work together to conduct a SWOT (an
      acronym) analysis, including identifying the your strengths, weaknesses,
      opportunities and any threats to reaching the your desired goals.
    7. Should you conduct a self-assessment?
      For example, you (and your supervisor, is applicable) could work together
      to conduct a SWOT (an acronym) analysis, including identifying the your strengths,
      weaknesses, opportunities and any threats to reaching
      the your desired goals. There are also a wide variety of self-assessments
      available at
      Self-Assessments (numerous
      self-assessments)
    8. Is a list of competencies, job descriptions or job analysis available
      to help you identify your training and development goals?

      A competencies list is a list of the abilities needed to carry out a certain
      role. The list can be very useful to you when identifying your learning objectives
      in your training and development plan. See information in the sections
      Job
      Analysis
      | Job
      Description
      | Competencies
    9. Begin thinking about how much money you will need to fund your plan.
      You might need money, e.g., to pay trainers, obtain facilities and materials
      for training methods, pay wages or salaries for employees during attendance
      to training events, etc. Begin recording your expected expenses in the “Budget”
      section of the Framework
      to Design Your Training Plan
      .
    10. Identify your training goals.
      By now, you should have a strong sense of what your training goals are, after
      having considered each of the above steps. It’s important that goals be designed
      and worded to be “SMARTER” (an acronym), that is, specific,
      measurable, acceptable to you, realistic to achieve,
      time-bound with a deadline, extending your capabilities and
      rewarding to you. (For more guidance, see Goals
      and Objectives Should Be SMARTER
      .) Write down your training goals in the
      Framework to Design
      Your Training Plan
      .

    (Consider writing your training goals in the Framework
    to Design Your Training Plan
    .)

    More Resources for Training Needs Assessment
    and Analysis

    Overview
    of training analysis (includes comprehensive, detailed overview)

    Steps
    to Designing a Needs Assessment

    Needs
    Assessment

    Methods
    of Strategic/Organizational Evaluation and Diagnosis

    How to Conduct a Training Needs Analysis (TNA)
    Identifying Risk Management Training Requirements
    What
    Makes a Great Pre-Employment Assessment?

    Analysis
    The
    Training Needs Assessment Disconnect

    Trainers:
    Between the Rock and the Hard Place

    Four Reasons for a Needs Assessment Survey Plus Two
    How to Succeed with Outcome-Based Training
    Selecting the Right Trainer
    Ignore the Bull and Get the Training Results
    The Best Training Assessments Are a Matter of Perspective
    Needs Assessment: Don’t Blow It, Motivate It
    What Will Training Look Like in 2050?
    Depends on “Whose Life It Is Anyway” and Trainers Can Help
    Smart Money Training
    Employees hate/love to go to participate in training

    Go to main Training
    and Development
    page


    For the Category of Training and Development:

    To round out your knowledge of this Library topic, you may want to review some related topics, available from the link below. Each of the related topics includes free, online resources.

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