Assessing Needs

But, Have You Paid Attention To the Post-It Notes?

The resolution to the many diatribes posted in social media about L & D and instructional designers jumping to solutions and tools BEFORE considering all of the options to determine what, specifically, is needed, is simple: Conduct a needs assessment and craft a needs analysis report of what you found out.

Say this out loud: Sometimes building an “e-learning” course is NOT the only or best solution. Say it again, only louder—and this time with feeling.

All joking aside, it appears that many in the L and D profession either don’t know or have forgotten a few of the fundamentals of the work we do.

Myth Busting: The myths around the needs assessment process are just that, myths. They don’t need to take copious amounts of time, involve piles of surveys to be waded through, nor any of the other icky things being rumored. Instead, needs assessment is best thought of as a series of good conversations. Conversations that can take place in person, in groups, on the phone, by email, via Web conference, on SharePoint—whatever works.

Quick Vocabulary Lesson:

Needs Assessment is the first step. It will include interactions with several people, at various levels in the organization. How to accomplish it is whatever makes sense. Gather as much information as you can, quickly and efficiently. And, use as many methods, as possible. For example, focus groups, questionnaires, formal and informal conversation, observations, etc.

Needs Analysis is the second step and the report you craft that reveals and summarizes what was discovered while completing the assessment work. This can be a document, presentation, dialog, Web session. Key is to write it in the language of the business and not in training “speak”. You’ll use this information to also craft the proposed learning plan.

Our job: Provide a solution(s) that best address the business need.

Translation: Provide an opportunity for people to acquire a skill or knowledge, address a performance issue(s), or to inform.

Therefore, before arriving at a solution(s) and how it will be provided to the learners, there is work to be done. And, if you care at all that the solution fits the business need, you need to get to it. Assessing needs that is.

Observation is a really good way to find out more than what the initial project charter and early discussions provide. Observing the people who routinely do the work, use the system or tools, follow the procedures, etc. will give you keen insight into the rest of the story. What should you observe? The performance support tools and job aids they’ve created (Pay attention to the Post-It notes around their work area!), who they go to for guidance, what is used for help. And, ask them questions—as many as you can manage, taking good notes. And do what you can to get them to be your allies and supporters of the project, doesn’t hurt either.

Need help managing through the needs assessment and analysis process? How can I help? Contact me. Today.