An overall organisational training needs assessment should be a very comprehensive examination of what is currently being trained, what knowledge, skills, and abilities should be added to a training programme, and what may need to be added in the future.
Areas of assessment and assessment methods can differ from subject to subject within the organisation, and most certainly differ between organisations themselves. You can easily categorise your organisation’s needs into a few areas. First, a ‘felt’ or perceived need is an overall desire for improvement in a certain subject area.
For example, management may point out that customer service complaints have risen. There may not be a direct link to the training programme, but the identification of a rise in complaints is a perceived need.
Next, comparative needs are those needs that are discovered by comparing the training audience to a set of criteria, either internal or external. For example, hard‐number production reports may tell you that a certain target audience is not meeting its goals.
Third, an identified need occurs in response to a failure of some type, such as not meeting goals for a set time period. Identified needs can also be so‐called “critical incident” needs, which occur because of a catastrophic failure such as a factory explosion, a regulatory breach, or even a natural disaster.
The final needs category is future or anticipated needs, which are obviously needs that will occur based on organisational changes, such as new products, new services, or mergers and acquisitions. Although this is a very simple view of the needs you may encounter, it serves as a starting point for the organisation’s overall needs analysis.
Needs can also be related to tasks or jobs, for example if an identified or critical incident need appears, it may be because of gaps in job or task performance, which may point to training gaps.
Needs assessment and analysis methods vary widely based on the organisation, its goals, the timeline for the intervention, and staffing and budget.
Competency identification is another way to assess needs, especially if you are starting from scratch. For example, you may be charged with creating a comprehensive training programme for an entire department or family of jobs where no training currently exists. In this situation, stakeholders, managers, and the people who perform the work can be asked to identify competency areas and the skills that fall under those competencies.
Measurements may be goals, reports, or other data that point to skills gaps. Many times, an operational measurement may be the most concrete identification of a training need. Before you begin assessing various organisational areas for training needs, it’s a good idea to start with training that already exists. Determine the framework for the needs assessment in relation to existing programmes.
What is the scope of changes required? A simple departmental checklist could become a full‐blown course that reaches across various levels of the organisation. Or, it may be something that can stay within its individual department.
Also, look closely at the current delivery method. Can anything that currently exists in a classroom format be converted to a blended or online format? Consider this question in the opposite form: are blended, online, or classroom courses wasting time that could be spent on‐the‐job with a checklist and daily coaching sessions?
Another aspect to consider is whether existing training programmes should be discontinued altogether in order to make room for new or improved programmes?
These are difficult questions to answer, but in order to begin your organisational assessment on strong footing they are necessary.