How to Conduct a Simple Training Needs Assessment in 7 Steps

You Can Assess the Training Needs of a Group Using These Simple Steps

Soaking up the information
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Do you want to quickly learn the training needs of a group of employees who have similar jobs? Yet, you don't want to take the time to develop and implement a survey, ask the questions in a computer program, or run an analysis of the demographic information you collect.

This training needs assessment works best in small to mid-sized organizations. It will give you a quick assessment of the training needs of an employee group. In a larger organization, unless you work with subsets of employees, the challenge is more difficult. You wouldn't, for example, want 50 people in the room identifying their training needs.

This training needs assessment helps you find common training programs for a group of employees.

How to Assess Training Needs

  1. The facilitator gathers all employees who have the same job in a conference room with a whiteboard or flip charts and markers. (Alternatively, if each employee has access, you could use a program like Google Docs or another online shared access service. You would lose some of the immediacies of the more visual whiteboard or flip chart, however.)
  2. Ask each employee to write down their ten most important training needs. Emphasize that the employees should write specific needs. Communication or team building are such broad training needs, as an example, that you would need to do a second training needs assessment on each of these topics. How to give feedback to colleagueshow to resolve a conflict, or how to deeply and effectively demonstrate that you are listening to a coworker are examples of more specific training needs.
  3. Then, ask each person to list their ten training needs. As they list the training needs, the facilitator captures the stated training needs on the whiteboard or flip chart. Don't write down duplicates but do confirm by questioning that the training need that on the surface appears to be a duplicate, really is an exact duplicate. Otherwise, participants can feel as if their needs were ignored or marginalized.
  4. When all of the training needs have been listed, use a weighted voting process to prioritize the training needs of the group. In a weighted voting process, you use sticky dots or numbers written in magic marker (not as much fun) to vote on and prioritize the list of training needs. Assign a large dot 25 points and smaller dots five points each. Distribute as many dots as you like but make sure that every employee has the same number of points. Tell needs assessment participants to place their dots on the chart to vote on their priorities. Give the group a ten or fifteen-minute time limit so that you don't have people pondering their decision for a lengthy period of time.
  5. List the training needs in order of importance, with the number of points assigned as votes determining priority, as determined by the sticky dot voting process. Make sure you have taken notes (best taken by someone on their laptop while the process is underway) or the flip chart pages to maintain a record of the training needs assessment session. Or, if available, use more modern technology like a dry-erase board or a web whiteboard.
  6. Take time, or schedule another session, to brainstorm the needed outcomes or goals from the first three to five training sessions identified in the needs assessment process. This will help as you seek and schedule training to meet the employees' needs. You can schedule more brainstorming later, but you will generally find that you need to redo the needs assessment process after the first few training sessions. Employee training needs change as they continue to learn and grow.

Note that the top one or two needs of each employee, may not have become the priorities for the group. Try to build that top priority training opportunity into the employee's personal performance development plan. You will also want to use the results for the employees' career development planning when they meet with their managers. This will ensure they have support to pursue the training that they need and want.

Additional Tips About Training Needs Assessment

  • A training needs assessment can be, and often needs to be, much more complicated than this. But, this is a terrific process for a simple training needs assessment.
  • Make sure that you keep the commitments generated by the training needs assessment process. Employees will expect to receive their key identified training sessions with the brainstormed objectives met. 
  • Ensure that the training needs assessment results are built into the employee's quarterly performance development plan. It is important that the employee's manager becomes a co-owner of the employee's ongoing performance development hopes and needs.

Make sure that you are tracking the training and development opportunities that you provide for each of your employees. Shame on you if you fail to follow through. This is how ​jaded and unmotivated employees are created.