How to Conduct a Needs Analysis

Designing Digitally

08/27/2020

Now that we have described the components of a Needs Analysis in our previous post, let’s look at the steps required to construct them: Form a team, prepare for data gathering, collect information, evaluate responses, and write a summary report in detail. Keep in mind, you may choose to alter the process based on how you are gathering information.

Form a Team

First, establish your project team. Include the SMEs, all stakeholders for the project, and the entire development team. If you do not know who will develop it, since this could depend on the format of training you choose to create, then use your best judgment in recruiting representatives who can provide knowledgeable input in discussions. Also, invite a few members of the target audience to be part of the project team whenever possible.

Let the project team members know upfront what kind of time commitment you expect from them, such as a few one-hour meetings or simply being available to answer questions via email. If you wish to hold full team meetings, which can be beneficial, estimate how many you think will be required, and schedule the full series in advance. You may not be able to create a timeline for the full project yet, considering you do not know what it will entail, but you should establish a deadline or mini-timeline for the Needs Analysis to ensure you complete it in a reasonable amount of time.

Prepare for Data Gathering

The next step is to get ready to collect information. If you will be interviewing members of the project team, create a list of topics to discuss with each group of people. For instance, prepare questions for the stakeholders to find out their expectations, any ideas they have for the project, their deadline, budget allowances, etc. Your questions for another group, such as members of the target audience, should address different topics that relate to input they can provide.

Ask the interviewees if they can share data or materials with you prior to the interview. For example, ask SMEs to send you any documentation they have on the training content in advance so you can review it and prepare specific questions. Your first meeting will be much more productive if you can hit the ground running.

If you will be making observations of employees in the workplace, make a list of things to look for. You will hopefully find more observations once you get there, but be sure to note items you need to remember. Also, create a way to easily document your findings. This could mean a spreadsheet where you fill in answers or a simple note-taking app on a tablet. Consider any other tools you may need, such as a stopwatch to time processes or safety-compliant shoes to wear in an industrial setting. 

We also mentioned surveys as a possible tool to learn more about your target audience or pain points. Write out your survey questions and create a distribution plan if you decide to use this approach.

Collect Information

After you complete your preparations, set your plans into action. Hold the interviews, distribute the surveys – whatever applies to your situation. Be careful not to judge or ignore any of the feedback you receive. An audience member may tell you they do not need any further training because they perform their job perfectly and always receive an excellent annual review. While it is tempting to write off this individual as annoyingly arrogant, it could be worthwhile to understand their perspective. He or she may not be the only person with a callous attitude towards training, and if that is the case, you found a significant hurdle you have to overcome in your training program. Take notes on everything you learn so you can evaluate it later.

Evaluate Responses

Reviewing and comparing your findings will likely bring some contradictions to light. It is not uncommon for stakeholders to have differing ideas or for SMEs presentation of a process to vary from what employees are practicing. This could be the time to hold one or more all-team meetings if you have not done so already. Present your findings, calling special attention to discrepancies, and aim to find out why there are differing views. It is quite possible the employees in the field are not blatantly disregarding the procedures set by the SMEs, but in fact found a more efficient way to accomplish something. Or, the employees could be causing a problem for a different department they were not even aware of, and this behavior needs to be rectified immediately. You never know what you will find!

The real work of the Needs Analysis comes out during this phase. You are not just capturing information and dumping it into a report. You are making discoveries and finding realistic ways to improve your organization! Persevere through meetings with the project team to reach an agreement on what the pain points truly are and the best training goals to address in order to thoroughly solve them.

Write a Summary Report

Once the team reaches a consensus, or at least a direction they can all live with, compile the outcomes into a report. Refer back to the four key components of the Needs Analysis: the audience, pain points, training goals, and technology expectations. You can include as many details as you see necessary in the report. In some cases, it is good to list out the initial findings, then explain how the team interpreted those results and crafted training goals. The primary goal is to document the team’s takeaways from the Needs Analysis process so all the facts are laid out before beginning the design phase.

Distribute the report to everyone on the project team. Have them all review it to ensure the report accurately states what they understood the outcome would be. This is especially important if you are a contractor the corporation hired to spearhead the Needs Analysis or to develop the training. If necessary, revise the report, then have the key players sign off on the finalized document. 

Conclusion

A Training Needs Analysis is not a rigid procedure you have to follow precisely. It is a discovery process to learn how you can maximize the impact of the training you develop. Take time to assess your audience, pain points, training goals, and technology expectations for each and every project. If some of the suggestions discussed are too overwhelming, then set those aside! Even a brief analysis will give your training a significant advantage. To learn more about the Needs Analysis process, download the full white paper! 

Our six-phase production process at Designing Digitally includes Needs Analysis consulting. One of our Project Managers, an Instructional Designer, and our Development Team will lead discovery sessions with your team and write a conclusive report. Contact us today to learn more and start growing your company through effective L&D! 

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