Considering a Needs Assessment?


July 13, 2013 by idinnovation

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Conducting a needs assessment is the first step in the design or redesign of training materials. After the needs assessment the course developer will ensure employees have the motivation, necessary skills to learn the content, that the environment is positive and fosters learning, and ensuring employees use skills learned during the course implementation (Noe, 2013). Individual factors include knowledge and skills, capacity and motivation (Stolovitch & Keeps, 2004). Stolovitch & Keeps (2004) contend that according to Gilbert’s Behavior Engineering Model information, resources, and incentives or consequences are environmental factors and not within the control of the individual.  Performance is the culmination of the work, workplace and worker, the work is what employees do to accomplish task, the workplace is the environment in which said work is conducted and the work is the person performing the task which includes the individuals characteristics, competencies and feelings whether positive or negative towards the job (Stolovitch & Keeps, 2004).

It is essential to include senior management in the decision making process it is more difficult to procure funding and support an instructional designer should communicate when the project is conceived if they are not included in the process initially. It is necessary for the to identify the key characteristics and attributes that are important to stakeholders (Allen, & Hardin, 2008).  The chart below displays the key concerns of upper and mid management and trainers in the needs assessment process (Noe, 2013).

  Upper Level Management Mid-Level Management Trainers
Organizational Analysis Does the training relate to the business need and is it important to achieve business objectives. Does it support the organizational strategy?  What threats face the personnel? Is the budget available to spend on training and how much is in the budget? Is there money in the budget to purchase training services and will management support training initiatives?
Person Analysis Do all employees need training? Is it employees in specific functions or units only that need training? What is required of employees to meet the organizational objectives? How will the training assist in meeting the business goals? Does the organization have top talent? Who needs/should be trained? Managers? Professionals? Employee base? How will training and development needs be identified for each role or function?
Task Analysis Does the organization have the personnel with the appropriate knowledge, skills, competencies required to compete in the market? What roles or functions would benefit the most from training and make the largest impact on product quality or customer service? What task do employees need to be trained on? What knowledge, skills, abilities and charereteristics do employees need to be trained on?

Davis, Edmunds, and Kelly-Bateman 2008) contend that learning occurs through prior knowledge, experiences, perceptions, individual realities, comprehension and flexibility. Conlan, Grabowski and Smith (2003) note it is necessary to conduct a needs assessment, develop objectives, and understand the diverse population that will be trained, conduct mini training sessions, offer certificate and in service programs as well as use online, eLearning training tools and more than one delivery method in order to reach a broader audience.

Documentation analysis produces invaluable information pertaining to productivity, manuals, grievance, performance reports and standard operating procedures (Stolovitch & Keeps, 2004). Documentation is my preferred method of data retrieval as it is a good source of procedural information, it is objective, and provides information about take for current and future organizational roles (Noe, 2013).  The downside to documentation is the possibility of understanding of technical information and ascertaining whether the information is obsolete (Noe, 2013).  Using historical documents and records is beneficial because it can be more cost-effective than data collection, it is nonreactive in that it is not altered during the collection and analysis process  (Fitzpatrick, Sanders, & Worthen, 2011) however, it is important to note that the available data might be inaccurate, incomplete or not be a complete representation of performance (Noe, 2013). Surveys are one of the one of the methods of collecting data when there is a large population to survey and data needs to be analyzed in a quantitative manner.  Alternatively, interviews are good for data collection of a qualitative nature.  The major differences between surveys and interviews are that interviews allow for clarification, learning the environmental perspective, behaviors, attitudes and experiences of people (Fitzpatrick, Sanders, & Worthen, 2011).

Dr. Piskurich, contends that instructional designers should: get a clear idea of the content and learning goals from subject matter experts (SMEs) and stakeholders, review results of the job task analysis, examine possible delivery methods and apply constraints to all potential methods to determine which method accommodates the training project constraints (Laureate Education Inc., 2012). Organizations are complex and a systematic approach has to be applied to address all variables to improve performance (Budrovich & Stolovitch, 2013).


Allen, S., & Hardin, P. C. (2008). Developing instructional technology products using effective project management practices. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 19(2), 72–97. Copyright by Springer-Verlag, New York. Russell, L. (2000).

Budrovich, V. & Stolovitch, H.D. (2013) The performance improvement interactive media retrieved on July 13, 2013 from

Conlan, J., Grabowski, S., & Smith, K. (2003). Adult learning. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from

Davis, C., Edmunds, E., & Kelly-Bateman, V. (2008). Connectivism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from

Fitzpatrick, J., Sanders, J., & Worthen, B. (2011). Program evaluation: Alternative approaches and practical guidelines (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Noe, R. A. (2013). Employee training and development (6th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Stolovitch, H. D., & Keeps, E. J. (2004). Beyond training ain’t performance field book: Strategies, tools, and guidance for effective workplace performance. Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press.

Stolovitch, H. D., & Keeps, E. J. (2002). Telling ain’t training. Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press.

Stolovitch, H. D., & Keeps, E. J. (2004). Training ain’t performance. Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press.

One thought on “Considering a Needs Assessment?

  1. idinnovation says:

    It was incorrectly added – I have corrected it.

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