Training and Development – The need for a Needs Assessment

Dr. Donna L. Roberts

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As highlighted in Donaldson & Scannell (1986, p. 20), “Training won’t solve all problems” and “Not all problems are training problems”. Therefore, training programs should be developed and implemented in response to a thoroughly researched analysis of the situation which culminated in the conclusion that a skill deficiency exists, rather than conducted indiscriminately as a panacea to all problems. In order to determine that training is the correct intervention to this workplace dilemma, a needs analysis must be conducted. This step is analogous to the process of diagnosing a problem in order that the appropriate solution can subsequently be implemented.

In order to justify the necessity for a needs assessment, the following arguments may apply:

By accurately assessing the problem at hand, a needs assessment can assist in developing the most appropriate, effective and efficient means of problem solution, thereby conserving organizational resources. The needs assessment serves a variety of purposes, all of which justify the effort put forth in conducting the analysis. Management should be informed of the various benefits of needs analysis in order to persuade them to accept this procedure as the initial phase of the problem-solving process.

A needs analysis can serve to assess the current level of employee performance. Not only does this assist in accurately categorizing the deficiencies noted, but it functions to identify hidden problems and set a standard of measure for later use in the evaluation process. Additionally, a needs assessment can specifically target the employee population in need of a specific program and categorize the level and type of training required (i.e., basic skills, new skills, practice, fine tuning, etc.) as well as filter out those individuals not in need of additional instruction or development, thus avoiding redundant or unnecessary training. Furthermore, a needs analysis can yield additional information regarding aspects of the organizational culture, its environment and the attitude and morale of workers. This information is useful as feedback for various aspects of human resource development as well as general policy and procedures. In this way specific weaknesses, threats and dangers can often be foreseen. Finally, this first step secures participation and input from the entire work force, thereby imparting to them a sense of ownership, control and investment in the decision-making process and consequently increasing the likelihood that they will actively participate in subsequent programs.

Management must be made aware of the fact that when a problem is more clearly and definitely defined it can be more adequately addressed. This can be accomplished by conducting a thorough needs assessment. Furthermore, the needs analysis will lay a solid foundation for the ensuing program planning and implementation.

Steps in a Needs Assessment:

  1. Identify and define the existing problem or deficiency - through data sources - records, reports, documentation, interviews, surveys. questionnaires, performance tests, observations
  2. Describe the expectation/desired performance level or condition
  3. Assess current baseline performance level
  4. Measure the degree of discrepancy between current and desired levels
  5. Determine the root cause of the measured gap/Assess nature of problem
  6. Analyze and synthesize information as precursor to program planning

From this thorough analysis, one can determine if training is the correct intervention to the defined workplace dilemma,

Reference

Donaldson, L. & Scannell, E. E. (1986). Human resource development: The new trainer’s guide, 2e. New York: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co.

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Writer and university professor researching media psych, generational studies, addiction psychology, human and animal rights, and the intersection of art and psychology.

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