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Conducting a Needs Assessment

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1 Conducting a Needs Assessment
This module consists of three 50-minute class sessions This needs assessment module consists of three 50-minute class sessions which could alternatively be covered in two 75 minute class sessions or one three-hour class. Needs assessment is a process used to identify whether training is the correct intervention for a performance problem. The importance of needs assessment cannot be overemphasized. When a needs assessment is not conducted or conducted improperly, a training program may fail to clearly meet the performance need, thus resulting in diminishing returns on what is likely a costly investment.

2 Think About It Your sales director complains that her representatives are not making their monthly quotas. She is convinced they need more sales training to address this issue and asks you to design something by the end of the week. What would you do? This may be a familiar scenario for students involved in training in their organization. It may also be a familiar thought for those who believe training is the answer to all performance issues. The goal of this opening scenario is to get students to think about the role of a needs assessment before deciding that training is the appropriate intervention. Have students read the scenario on the slide and ask what they would do: For those who answer that they would design the training without question, ask “how do you know that training will fix the problem?” “What other influences might be affecting the sales representatives’ performance?” For those who answer that they would collect more information before designing training, ask “What types of questions?” “Who would you ask?” The answer is that there is not enough information provided by the manager to assess that training is the right solution to address the performance issue. The trainer or HR professional should collect more information in the form of a needs assessment. This discussion provides a nice transition to review the learning objectives on the next two slides.

3 Learning Objectives Describe the role of a training needs assessment to address performance issues. Discuss the reasons to complete a training needs assessment. Describe the three steps to conduct a training needs assessment: organization, person/learner, and task analysis. The objectives will be covered during the next three lessons. Lesson 1: Objectives 1 & 2 Lesson 2: Objectives 3 & 4 Lesson 3: Objective 5

4 Learning Objectives Describe the methods available to collect needs assessment data. Design a needs assessment plan based on a performance issue.

5 A Short Primer on Assessing Performance Issues
How do you determine the exact cause of the sales representatives’ failure to meet their sales quota and whether training is the answer? Process: Conduct a performance analysis; desired vs. actual employee performance. What is the difference in current vs. desired performance? Conduct a training needs assessment (TNA) to determine if training is the most appropriate intervention. How can the performance gap most effectively be eliminated? Before we discuss the specifics of a training needs assessment, it is important to understand how a needs assessment is positioned in the larger context of addressing performance issues. So, this short primer on assessing performance issues should be helpful. Using the sales representative (or another example) is useful. For the sales representative, before we know what to do about the performance issue (low sales quotas), we first need to know what the desirable performance outcome is. How much in sales is expected?. We also need to know the cause(s) of the low quota numbers. Possible scenarios could be an equipment issue, unclear expectations, lack of knowledge of skills or a result of a poor attitude or low motivation. Training is the appropriate intervention when a performance issue is caused by a knowledge or skill deficiency.

6 What Is a Training Needs Assessment (TNA)?
A TNA is the process to determine whether training to address a performance gap is necessary. Training might be appropriate when the performance issue is a “can’t do” issue: Poor performance (resulting from a knowledge or skill deficiency). Lack of basic skills (reading, writing, technology, math skills). Legislation or policies requiring new knowledge or skills. New technology. A customer request for new products or services. Higher performance standards. New jobs. Additional information on each of the examples: Poor performance (resulting from a knowledge or skill deficiency) is a “not knowing how” issue such as making errors in a sales record because of not understanding the correct sequence of input steps. Lack of basic skills (reading, writing, technology, math skills). Basic skills training is common in many organizations. English as a Second Language (ESL) and basic writing and technology skills are also common. Legislation or policies requiring new knowledge or skills: New equipment or safety policies may warrant training. New technology: The introduction of new technology (a learning management system or an HRIS, for example) may require training on the part of internal and external users. A customer request for new products or services: Customer requests for new services (online banking, for example) or products (like personal communication devices) may require retraining for salesperson knowledge. Higher performance standards: Organizations may increase performance standards for certain jobs to comply with new laws or to achieve a quality or service recognition. For example, implementing total quality management or a new customer service approach. New jobs or work redesign due to expansion: Jobs are created based on supply and demand. In a knowledge-driven economy, jobs often require the acquisition of new skills and knowledge that can be developed through training. Alternative option: Have students provide examples of each.

7 When Is Training NOT the Best Intervention?
Training is not the best intervention when the performance issue is a result of: Recruiting, selection or compensation problems. Policies and procedures issues. A lack of coaching and feedback. Insufficient tools, equipment or resources. Physical setting problems. A lack of motivation (job-person fit; person-org fit); a “won’t do” issue. Any of these issues can be addressed through a non-training intervention. A needs assessment can determine if the performance gap will be effectively addressed through training or another performance improvement approach (i.e., job redesign, increased feedback, goal-setting, removal of obstacles, improved communication). Additional discussion: Ask students to give examples of non-training interventions that are appropriate for the situations listed on the slide.

8 Role of TNA in the Training Process
A TNA is the first step in the training process model. TNA assessment involves: Organization analysis. Task analysis. Person/learner analysis. A TNA will directly influence other steps in the training process (also called the instructional systems design process). For example, the information gathered in the learner/person, task and organization analysis will influence how training is designed, developed, implemented and evaluated. While organizational analysis is the first step in the TNA, task and person analysis can be done in tandem. When information is not gathered, training may be ill-designed to address the performance issue.

9 Three Types of TNA Analyses
Organizational Analysis To align training with business strategy and to ensure there are resources and managerial support for training. Task Analysis To identify the important work-related tasks and knowledge, skills, behaviors, abilities (KSBAs); determine if the content and activities are consistent with trainee on-the-job experience; and to develop measurable and relevant content, objectives and methods. Person Analysis To ensure that trainees have the basic skills, motivation, prerequisite skills or confidence. After reviewing the types of analyses and the reasons for conducting them, ask students to reflect and answer the following question: What would offering a solution to a performance problem without conducting a needs analysis be like? Possible answer (if none are give): It would be similar to a doctor prescribing a treatment to a patient without assessing the extent of their ailments.

10 Class 1 – Summary and Activity
Needs assessment assures that training is the most appropriate intervention to address a performance problem. The first activity will measure your knowledge of the key terms and theories reviewed in this class session. In our next class, we will focus on the three steps to conduct a training needs assessment. Activity #1: Have students complete the Knowledge Check activity. Ask them to compare answers and then discuss their answers as a class. Answers are provided in the activities document.

11 Class 2 - Introduction Activity: A Quick Review
Identify three learning points from our previous class of identifying performance issues and the role of needs assessment in the training process model. Pair off with another student and share your ideas. We will discuss these as a class. Class 2 introduction activity: Ask students to share what they learned from the first class. Clarify and extend student comments. Main topics covered in the first class: Definition of needs assessment. When training is the best intervention to address a performance issue. Examples of non-training interventions. Reasons to conduct a needs assessment. Role of needs assessment in the training process model. Now that you understand the definition, reasons and goals of needs assessment, we will now discuss the three main steps to conduct a needs assessment.

12 Think About It Recall a training experience where you thought the content to be mismatched to the tasks you actually performed on the job. How did this mismatch influence your ability to learn in the training program? To successfully use your knowledge and skills on the job? Ask for student feedback to questions. Ask students to provide examples. Students may respond that they lost interest in the training; had to make generalizations about how to use content on the job; did not see connection between what was learned in training and what was expected on job; did not successfully learn or transfer new knowledge and skills in work setting; or failed to improve performance. Student comments about how mismatched content affected their ability to learn or use training can be traced back to a failure in one or more steps/levels of a TNA: learner/person, work/task, organization. We now will discuss the three main steps of a TNA.

13 Organization Analysis
An Organization Analysis involves determining the: Appropriateness of training given the organization’s strategy. Resources (financial and development) available for training and transfer after training. Support by managers and peers for training and transfer. Gather data mainly from senior and mid-level managers. Why? Is there a reason this TNA step should be accomplished first? Recall that in the last class we discussed the three steps to conduct a TNA: assessing the organization, task and learner. We will now discuss each step in detail. Conducting an organization analysis ensures that the organization is supportive and on board with the training initiative. The alignment of training to the business strategy, the support by stakeholders (mostly managers and peers) and the resources available (mostly money) are the main issues sought in an organization analysis. Senior and mid-level managers are usually the focus of this inquiry because they make decisions on strategic planning and training budget allocations. If there is low interest or support for training, then another performance intervention might be better. Training is one of the more costly interventions, so before any work is done on training design, it is essential that the organization agrees to support the training design, development, implementation and evaluation.

14 Task Analysis Task Analysis involves:
Identifying the important work-related tasks and knowledge, skills, behaviors and abilities (KSBAs) that must be emphasized in training. Data sources: Subject matter experts (SMEs), managers, exemplary employees. A task analysis focuses on the specific responsibilities of the job. Understanding what employees need to accomplish in their job is important to understanding how training can help address a performance problem. As mentioned previously, there is not an implicit order when completing a task or learner analysis. Often, these are completed simultaneously or in the reverse order (person then task analysis). Data is typically gathered from people who have direct knowledge of the work tasks and responsibilities and the expected level of performance.

15 Task Analysis Process The task analysis process involves:
Selecting the job(s) to be analyzed. Developing a list of tasks performed (from an interview or survey of exemplary employees). Mining data sources: Ask SMEs, managers and/or exemplary employees to validate tasks: Frequency: How frequent is the task completed? Importance: How important is this task to the overall work? Difficulty: How difficult is this task? Identify KSBAs that should be trained to address the gap. The four-step process involves gathering data on the specific tasks employees must complete for their job. These can be gathered through interviews or surveys of subject matter experts (SMEs), managers and high-performing employees. Essentially, the tasks analysis answers the question: “What does good performance look like?”. Results from a task analysis can be used to identify the specific gaps (in desired or actual performance) and to decide if training can address the gap. If training is the appropriate intervention, the information from the task analysis can be used to design training.

16 Person/Learner Analysis
The person/learner analysis involves: Determining whether performance deficiencies result from a lack of knowledge, skill, behavior or ability (a training issue) or from a motivational or work design problem. Identifying who needs the training; who has a KSBA deficiency. Determining readiness for training: basic skills, motivation, self-efficacy. Data sources include learners, managers and document reviews (personnel records, prior training records, or testing). A person/learner analysis identifies who has the KSBA deficiency and if there is an appropriate level of learner readiness to be successful in training. The next slide will present specific questions that can be answered through a person analysis. As mentioned previously, task and person/learner analyses can be completed in any order or simultaneously, however, the organizational analysis should occur before either the task or person/learner analysis.

17 Data for a Person/Learner Analysis
Person: Is the person cognitively and/or physically able to complete the task? Does the person believe in their ability to complete the task (i.e., self efficacy)? Barriers: Does the person perceive any constraints to performing the task correctly? Are the constraints physical or managerial? Performance expectations: Does the person understand the level of performance expected? Consequences: What consequences exist to correct an incorrect task demonstration? Feedback: Are people receiving timely and accurate feedback about their performance? In a person/learner analysis, it is important to understand the context in which the learner performs. Each of these aspects affects performance. For example, if the person is not cognitively or physically able to complete the task (for example, lift a certain weight) then her/his performance will not be acceptable. Performance is also likely to suffer when the person does not understand the expectations of the task or responsibility. Alternative option: An alternative to this slide is to include just the categories (person, barriers, etc.) and ask students to suggest questions that could capture each category.

18 Quick Review: Think-Pair-Share
We’ve just explored the three areas in a TNA. Let’s review before moving to the methods used to collect TNA data. Consider the following superlatives and answer each concerning the content we just covered: A key point that was most surprising. A key point that helped me understand needs assessment. A key point that was most useful. Be prepared to share with the class. This quick review activity (“superlative”) is based on Thiagi’s review and summary activities ( , go to interactive lectures). This activity is number 30. Several other activities are available for free on the website.

19 TNA Data-Gathering Methods
Observation Questionnaire Focus Groups Interviews Document Review We now turn to how we collect data for the organization, task and person analysis. You are probably familiar with each of these steps but we focus on how these are used to collect data for a needs assessment. Ask students for general definitions and how these can be used in a TNA. Clarify their responses with the definitions below: Observation: Observe a learner complete a job task. Use a checklist or other rating sheet to identify specific tasks. Can also be used for a learner analysis to observe if the learner has basic skills. Questionnaire: A series of questions that can be administered during an organization, task or learner analysis. Best when assessing ability (cognitive or intellectual) or attitudes. Interviews: One-on-one interviews to assess attitudes or reactions to a situation. Can also be used to follow-up on questionnaire items that require additional explanation. Focus groups: An interview with more than one person. Best to use when the feedback and interaction from multiple persons is needed to understand an issue. Document review: Reviewing documents such as personnel, training and performance records and other files that may be useful to understand the issue. Particularly useful for assessing learner readiness. It is often useful to collect data using more than one method. For example, using a questionnaire and then following up with an interview to explore the responses.

20 Pros and Cons of TNA Methods
Observation: Pro Con Questionnaire Interviews While all data collection methods are useful, some might be more realistic to use given time or available resources. Ask students to discuss the strengths and weaknesses associated with each method. The next slide lists some of these but their initial comments will be a useful starting point. Consider writing their responses on a dry erase or chalk board, then proceed to the next slide to show the answers.

21 Pros and Cons of TNA Methods
Observation Pro: Generates data relevant to work environment and minimizes work interruptions. Con: Requires a skilled observer. Employees’ behavior may be affected by being observed. In addition, it is time consuming. Questionnaire Pro: Inexpensive and can collect data from a umber of people. Con: Provides limited information. There are also anonymity concerns. Interviews Pro: Good at uncovering details of training needs and the trainer can explore questions that arise. Con: It is time consuming and difficult to analyze. To succeed, need a skilled interviewer.

22 Pros and Cons of TNA Methods (Cont’d)
Focus Groups: Pro Con Document Review

23 Pros and Cons of TNA Methods (Cont’d)
Focus Group: Pro: Useful with complex or controversial issues that one person may be unable or unwilling to explore. Con: Time consuming to organize; status or position differences may limit participation. Document Review Pro: Good source of information on procedure; objective. Con: May not be available, accessible, or valid; technical language might require SMEs to explain.

24 Class 2 Summary Conducting a TNA requires gathering data at the organization, task and person/learner level. Each level includes specific questions, data sources and collection methods. In our final session, we will review case questions you will answer after reading the case for homework. You will also design a needs assessment plan for your organization.

25 Activity #2: Homework Read the mini-case (Activity 2). Please answer the associated case questions and be prepared to discuss them in our next class session. The homework assignment is based on a three 50-minute class sessions or two 75 minute class sessions. Students may also complete it in class if the module will be presented in a one-evening session.

26 Class 3 Now that you’ve had a chance to explore a needs assessment process in the case study, we will discus your reflections on the case and then design your own needs assessment plan. For homework, you’ve explored the needs assessment process with a case study. We will spend the first 10 minutes of the class discussing the case and reflecting on it as it relates to the Class 2 concepts.

27 Activity #2 Homework - Case Review
Review your case study responses. In groups of three, review your answers. Discuss any differences in member responses and come to a consensus on an answer. Be prepared to share your responses with the class in a general discussion. Allow 7-9 minutes for this activity. After time is up, call on groups or have groups volunteer to discuss questions. Be sure to clarify any questions. Additional content about the correct answer is provided in the activity materials.

28 Challenges of TNA Time constraints can limit the length and detail obtained from needs assessment. What should you do if you lack the time to conduct a TNA? Lack of management support : The scope of the needs assessment depends on the size of the performance issue. Starting over each time. However, you can anticipate training needs if you are attuned to: Business problems. Technological developments. Other issues facing the organization. Now that we’ve identified and critiqued the TNA process, we can discuss some of the challenges when conducting a needs assessment. Some of these issues become apparent in the organizational analysis. Time constraints: Focusing on the essential elements of a needs assessment can minimize the time needed to complete the analysis. For example, you can obtain information for the organizational analysis rather quickly, so moving on to a task and learner analysis can expedite the data gathering process. Lack of support: Often, organizations want training yesterday and do not understand the value of a needs assessment. You can use some of the reasons presented in first class to substantiate why a TNA should be completed, but consider amending the process to include fewer steps. For example, perhaps you can limit your data gathering to a few (groups of) persons. Load: TNA data can be used for multiple training scenarios. If HR professionals are attuned to business needs and trends, needs assessment can be gathered before a training request.

29 TNA Review When to conduct a TNA.
When training is the appropriate intervention. The three main analyses included in a TNA. Data sources and collection methods used. Challenges to conducting a TNA. Ensure that all students understand each of the TNA areas. Clarify any misunderstanding and then transition to the final module activity (Activity #3). The majority of time in the last class period will be spent on this activity and in the final discussion.

30 Activity #3: Design a TNA
Using a current performance issue in your workplace, create a needs assessment plan that describes the specific assessment process and methods used to collect data. Individually or in small groups of 3-5, be prepared to discuss the: Performance issue. Specific process used. Methods you will use to collect necessary needs assessment data. Review Activity #3 assignment instructions and how to facilitate this discussion. Distribute the handouts included. Activity debrief: Students should share their scenarios and proposed needs assessment processed with the entire class so others can learn from their example. If there is not enough time for each student to share his/her scenario and proposed process, have students share their information in smaller groups of 3-5 students and ask two or three groups to share their examples. Ask other groups to respond to the group comments.

31 Review and Closing Direction: How will you use your new knowledge?
Gas: What resources or support do you need? Luggage: What new knowledge will you take with you? If time permits, ask students to consider how they will use their new knowledge about needs assessment. It is useful to make a copy of this slide for students or ask them to write their thoughts on the handouts provided. Students can complete this individually or in small groups. This closing activity is based on the Transfer Vehicle activity found in Solem and Pike (1997) Effective Training Closers. Exhaust: What are you leaving behind?

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