We see many reasons that companies and organizations reach out to us for support – some of these reasons identify a problem, and others represent an opportunity.
- Increased costs (training or operations)
- Decreased productivity
- Increased number of customer complaints
- Decreased sales or profit
- Organizational changes or growth
- New processes, procedures, software or equipment
In fact, a customer may be experiencing one of these problems or opportunities – or they may all blend together into a challenging conundrum at the same time.
This is where training needs assessment comes into play.
Needs assessments are used to identify whether or not training can in fact solve a problem or opportunity – it also sets a framework for the process of evaluating a training program, but more on that at in a future blog post.
Let’s face it, training can be overused and abused. It may be viewed as a Band-Aid or duct tape solution for a surface-level problem, of which the root or source hasn’t been properly identified. In some cases, the training is designed, deployed and evaluated, and low and behold, the problem (or opportunity) still exists post-training. Sure, a proper needs assessment takes time, but it helps lessen the possibility of an expensive training solution missing the mark.
Our Senior Instructional Designer, David Welichka, has implemented a modified method of training needs assessment, in a nutshell, that compares the present state of affairs (now) with the desired state of affairs (future). This is essentially a comparison between the problems and/or opportunities and the desired outcome post-training. For example:
- Present: A decreased quarterly revenue and increased amount of customer complaints
- Desired: A 15% increase in the next quarter’s revenue and a 50% decrease in amount of customer complaints during the same period
Obviously, when we discuss needs assessments some form of data is involved. This data may be pre-existing (sales reports, customer feedback cards, HR records, etc.) or may need to be divulged through a combination of document review, interviews, surveys, and job observation. When it comes to obtaining data we try to source it from the largest pool available, which may include executive, management, consultants, employees, customers, community, etc. After all, a problem may have vastly different sources and solutions, depending who you speak with. For example:
- Management may report a decrease in productivity they feel is attributed to improperly trained or complacent staff. Speaking to front-line supervisors and workers may uncover that a recent software upgrade is causing problems with the existing process, or physical layout of the workspace is leading to the inefficiencies.
- An increase in customer complaints may be documented, and executive may feel that training in customer service and soft-skills will solve the problem. A training needs assessment may uncover that customers are actually frustrated about the rules of a promotional contest and taking out their frustrations on staff who is simply upholding corporate processes and procedures according to their training.
Who, What, Why
As you can see, training needs assessments seek to understand the Who, What, and Why of the training business. Without a properly conducted and impartial needs assessment before embarking on the task of creating a training program, you’re left guessing whether your proposed learning objectives will in fact bridge the gap between your present situation and the desired outcome.
Take the necessary steps while planning your training and it will create a much more effective program that is dialed in to your target learners’ and organization’s needs. Want our help? Contact us today and we’d be happy to guide you on the right path to reaching your training goals and objectives – even if you need our help to identify what those should be.
Xpan develops digital learning solutions for companies all over the world. From design to deployment our team is making heroes of Learning and Development Officers and contributing to the worldwide number of individuals bettering their workplace experience (and lives) with better learning.