Tip #906: A Four-Step Process to Assess Training Needs

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“The hardest thing on earth is choosing what matters.” Sue Monk Kidd

Training needs assessments traditionally sought to identify the knowledge and skills gaps for specific positions. There was no consideration of how the performance of these positions would affect the organization as a whole. Nor was there necessarily any structured or formal follow-up to determine if the training needs were met.

This insular approach is no longer effective or acceptable.

Linda Dausend proposes a four-step training needs assessment process that places and evaluates the desired performance in terms of its impact on the organization. She uses this process to identify the training needs for a leadership development program. However, the same needs assessment process can work for any training initiative.

Here are the four steps:

Step One: Review the Larger Organizational Picture.

A training program should be structured so that the resulting employee or leadership actions and behaviors support the organization’s objectives. The program also has to be viable.

These questions can help determine the organizational vision for the program:

  1. What does the organization want to achieve as a result of this program?
  2. How does the organization expect to see results related to business outcomes?
  3. What external factors need to be considered?
  4. What internal constraints, like budgets or timing, could limit the program?

Step Two: Understand Current Performance

The proposal for a learning development program indicates there is an existing gap between current and desired performance.

These questions can help define the situation:

  1. What knowledge and skills do the participants need to be successful?
  2. Where are the current gaps in knowledge and skills?
  3. How will resulting changes in behaviors or actions be identified and measured?
  4. What reinforcement is necessary to ensure sustained development?

Step Three: Determine the Ideal Participants 

The employees or leaders who participate in the program should have a role that has a current or potential impact on organizational success.

These questions can help identify the participants:

  1. Who should be part of the program?
  2. What are the individuals’ key characteristics or constraints?
  3. How many participants will the program have?

Step Four: Focus on Evaluation

It is important to be able to prove the success and ROI of the program by identifying specific and measurable outcomes that are linked to the organization’s larger strategy.

These questions can help prove the effectiveness of the program:

  1. How will you measure the desired outcomes?
  2. What will you know if the program is effective?
  3. What are recommended methods for identifying and evaluating the needs that have been established?

Question: Does your current training needs assessment process take all four steps into account?

May your learning be sweet- and safe.





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