Sometimes I get a call from a client who thinks they need training, and training is not the answer.
A needs assessment is key before starting any training project.
People often want to rush by the needs assessment to save time and get straight to the training. But this research ~ which can be extensive or quite brief ~ benefits you in so many ways.
A needs assessment helps answer questions like:
- What percentage of downtime is due to employee error?
- What sales are being lost due to poor communication?
Where is the gap?
- Do your employees have the skills they need? Why or why not?
- How are you supporting the use of the proper skills?
- Are your job aids (user guides, wikis, fact sheets, etc.) easy to read?
- Does the format and reading level address staff needs?
It will examine what now works and what doesn’t:
- Is the existing training being measured for reaction? learning? transfer to the job? business impact?
- If so, where is the break in effectiveness? If not, why not? How can we measure?
- Is your evaluation strategy asking the right questions?
- Is there a consistent assessment or measurement of success that each employee must meet to complete the training?
Maybe training isn’t the answer:
- Are supervisors requiring the use of these new skills?
- Are your best practices clear to employees?
- Do you have your resources compiled for training?
Needs assessments are important because we don’t know what we don’t know. Assumptions early on can mean you spend thousands in staff time on the wrong issues or deliver training in the wrong way.
If you know of anyone who needs help with their training, please email this post to them. Often people are responsible for training because they’re subject matter experts so they may not know the importance of or what questions to ask in a needs assessment.
What is your experience with needs assessments?
Catherine Doucette BPR, MEd, a learning systems consultant and speaker , has more than 20 years of training and communications experience. She has developed interactive, measurable training for enterprise software to business writing to trash talk (landfill technology) and more. Audiences include those with low income or low literacy, labourers and truck drivers, and well educated professionals.
Catherine holds a Master’s degree in Adult Education as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations. She is the Chair of the New Brunswick Chapter of the Canadian Society for Training and Development (CSTD). Contact Catherine to learn more about her services.