Why Conduct a Needs Assessment? - dummies

By Elaine Biech

Why a needs assessment? The ultimate goal of a needs assessment is to determine the current and the desired performance. The difference or the gap between the two is the learning that must occur and the basis for a good training design.

Supervisors and managers may approach trainers and request that they conduct training because of some incident that has happened. For example, your hospital cafeteria is getting an unusually high number of customer complaints. Because of this, the trainer may be asked to develop a customer service skills program.

Although it may be tempting to quickly put together a customer service training program, it would be much wiser to first determine whether there is really a need for it. An assessment can help you make such a determination.

When you invest time, ask good questions, and follow the questioning line to the real reason (root cause analysis) your assessment and analysis glide right into the next step and become the design. Reasons for conducting a needs assessment include at least these:

  • Determine whether there is a training requirement.

  • Ensure the training will be linked to organizational needs.

  • Determine root causes of poor performance.

  • Determine desired performance (training results).

  • Provide baseline data.

  • Identify what to measure and how to measure it.

  • Identify content and scope of training including examples of what works.

  • Provide content to turn some of the war stories you hear into role plays, mini case studies, and examples.

  • Gain participant and organizational support. (Often, folks get on board when they have involvement from the start.)

The bottom line is that an assessment helps you pinpoint the problem, confirm the problem, and seek solutions.