How A Needs Assessment Can Make or Break Your Measurement Strategy

Once you’ve determined that training is a possible solution to a problem, the training needs assessment becomes a critical activity to take on. The link between the training needs assessment and the course material is evident. During the training needs assessment, you’re finding out about the problem, who is not performing, and what the best way to reach them through learning would be. However, what many people don’t realize is how critical the training needs assessment is to your ability to measure training impact.

The ROI Institute uses a V-model to help illustrate the connection between the needs assessment and evaluation. Through this model, there are 5 levels for a training needs assessment:

1. Preference Needs
2. Learning Needs
3. Performance Needs
4. Business Needs
5. Payoff Needs

You might be able to guess, but each of these levels has a major impact on the Kirkpatrick and Phillips levels of evaluation. Through each level of the training needs assessment, you start to see a direct correlation between the information you collect upfront and how you will evaluate the program after it is delivered.

Connecting the training needs assessment with evaluation is what makes the upfront assessment so important. It’s critical to dig into the problem and understand how the business is missing a chance to make more money or be more efficient. Without this, you will never know the impact objectives you need to start measuring once the course is delivered. If you don’t ask questions about the audience, along with where and how they are performing, you will never identify the right behaviors that you need to start measuring once the course is delivered. If you don’t ask about the obstacles to ideal performance, you may never know what outside factors are getting in the way of applying training on the job.

The training needs assessment and the evaluation plan go together like peanut butter and jelly. Yes, each can stand on their own as pieces of output, but they are so much better when you put them together. You could even go so far as to say that the ability to evaluate your courses can go well or go completely off the rails before you develop anything.

At St. Charles, we take a 5-phase approach to our Enterprise Learning Assessment (ELA) Methodology that helps organizations move from their current state of learning to their desired state. Our 5-phase process can be used in totality or applied at any point in the assessment based on the organizations needs or changes.

The StC ELA phases include:
1. Define Outcomes – What goal do we want to achieve?
2. Assess Current State – What is the current state?
3. Identify Gaps – What is missing and could hinder us from achieving our goal?
4. Recommend Solutions – What options do we have to fill the gaps?
5. Implement – How will we execute and what will we need to do so?

These phases may be applied to one or more areas within the learning organization including organizational structure, geographies, functions, roles, skills, curricula, etc. ELA will help your organization determine where the gaps exist and what actions are needed to fill those gaps.

StC ELA Methodology

The best way to perform an effective needs assessment is to be more consultative in your approach instead of taking in a request. You have to be comfortable asking questions that allow you to dig into the problem. This is a critical moment in the development process. Depending on how you view it, it could be the single most critical thing you do in the entire process. Plan ahead. Have a set of questions that you ask every requestor when they come to you. Preface your conversation with the requestor by letting them know you will be asking questions to dig into the problem. Let them know it helps you understand how big the problem is, the behaviors that need to change, and how to measure whether an impact is being made. This might even be another emphasis on why you shouldn’t think about evaluation at the tail end of your delivery. The connection between the needs assessment, the outcomes of the course, and how you will determine the impact is evident. Treat this part of the process with as much importance, if not more than the design and delivery of the course.

If you would like to learn more about the Enterprise Learning Assessment, please reach out to StC today!

About The Author:

Jason Davis has spent his entire career supporting Fortune 100 companies.  In those experiences, he established processes to measure learning effectiveness for 43,000 learners, has coached more than 225 frontline managers, and reduced training expenses by more than $1.5 million.  As a Talent Optimization Consultant for JMM Advisory Group, Jason focuses on measuring learning effectiveness and leadership development.

Jason Davis