Needs Assessment

Needs Assessment

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Process of collecting information about an expressed or implied organizational need that could be met by conducting training. It is used to determine the difference between current and desired states, often related to the development of a training program. The need can be a desire to improve current performance or to correct a deficiency (performance that does not meet the current standards). Assessments can be formal or informal and may use many data-gathering techniques to discover needs expressed by management, the target audience, or subject-matter experts. The purpose of a need assessment is to answer questions such as why conduct the training, who is involved in the training, how to conduct a performance analysis, what is the best way to perform, and when will training take place. [1]

Needs Analysis and/or Needs Assessment are interchangeable terms and have the same meaning and purpose, to assess and analyze. The primary objective of the training needs assessment - analysis process is to certify that there is a need for training and to identify the nature of content for the training program. Running an assessment is a way to gather information that can be used to agree what type of development will be recognized as relevant and useful. An assessment permits conversations to take place that questions what skills and knowledge are essential for the development to be more effective.

Needs Assessment is a process undertaken for the purpose of establishing priorities and making decisions about programme or project resource allocation or improvement.[2] It forms the basis for conceptualizing and implementing a programme or project by identifying the needs of the targeted beneficiaries.[3] Priorities come from identified needs which are measured discrepancies (gaps) between the current (what is) state of affairs of a group or an organization and the desired (what should be) state in regard to variables of interest. A prioritized need represents a problem or situation which needs to be rectified for the good of the organization and the clients it serves. [4]

See also: Audience Analysis; Stakeholder Analysis; Problem Tree Analysis; Focus Groups

Toolkit.png Guidelines for Performing Needs Assessment


Three levels of needs assessment

Organizational analysis: Examines organizational effectiveness and identifies where training is needed. Examples of areas to consider: cost-effectiveness of the organization, changing technology, political trends, organizational goals and environmental footprint.

Task analysis: It informs about jobs and the necessary set of skills and knowledge to reach optimal performance. Potential sources of information: job descriptions, emerging trends in the job field, sample work, observation and literature review.

Individual analysis: Explores the quality of working performance of employees and determines the individuals who need further training.

The needs assessment process

  1. Focusing on an area of concern or interest for the assessment
  2. Determining and prioritizing “what should be”
  3. Identifying discrepancies between “what is” and “what should be” (gap analysis)
  4. Ranking discrepancies in order
  5. Casually analyzing the greatest discrepancies
  6. Collecting a solution strategy
  7. Designing an action plan for implementation

Steps to follow in conducting a training needs analysis

  1. The identification of the audience and the purpose of the analysis.
  2. The description of the target audience and the environment. Considering the target audience the level one (primary), there are another two levels within the process: level two (secondary), includes the individuals who deliver the services (instructors, teachers) and level three (tertiary), representing the other inputs (salaries, buildings, funders, equipment, curricula etc.)
  3. The identification of the need and the description of the problem taking in consideration all the three levels: primary, secondary and tertiary. It can be achieved using surveys, questionnaires, test scores, and interviews[5].
  4. The needs assessment, consisting in prioritising the needs, identification of potential conflicts between them and assurance of a smooth flow of the approaching process[6].


  • When analyzing “what should be”, it is important to distinguish between actual needs, perceived needs and wants.
  • After determining the needs, set the priorities in accordance with the institutional goals, realities and constraints.
  • When identifying the solutions, ask yourself the question “Is training really the solution?” Training is not the ultimate resolution to all problems; maybe intervention is needed on the organizational level, such as restructuring, performance management or strategic planning.
  • Use a variety of methods in order to get a true picture. Examples of methods: observation, interview, focus groups, tests, questionnaires, consultations with experts and work samples.

How to overcome potential barriers to needs assessment?

  • Confidentiality: When you distribute a questionnaire or gather information in any other way make sure answers can be provided anonymously, if possible.
  • Management buy-in: Involve decision makers throughout the process, use data and calculations on cost-effectiveness to convince them about the benefits of needs assessment.
  • Employee participation: In order to have employees participate in the process, give them appropriate information about the purposes and expected results and benefits of needs assessment. Do not forget to inform them about the outcomes of your research.
  • Costs: Present needs assessment as an investment and illustrate with figures how the results would benefit the organization in the long term.
  • Work interruptions:In order not to distract employees from their work, keep interviews, questionnaires and surveys short and straightforward.[7]}}

Job Aid

Pdf.png Guidelines for Performing Needs Assessment

Link icon.png Web Resources
Find below some additional resources related to needs assessment.
Link Content
Community Needs Assessment Toolkit This document takes you through a needs assessment process with the aim of identifying community needs.
Needs Assessment Toolkit This Needs Assessment section offers methodologies and tools for learning more about users needs and motivations.
Training Needs Assessment Example This Survey Monkey project is an example of how to perform training needs assessment within an organization.
A Guide to Assessing Needs This book provides guidance on assessing needs to make informed decisions about the required steps in project development.
Methods for Conducting an Educational Needs Assessment This is a Guideline for professionals in need of conducting a successful needs assessment. It will take you step by step and teach you about the importance of conducting needs assessments for your learning and training activities.
Comprehensive Needs Assessment This guide will teach how and why it is important to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment.
What is a Needs Analysis? (Slideshare) This Slideshare presentation has some key points about what a needs analysis is as well as tips on how to conduct interviews.
Learning Needs definition This EDUTECH wiki entry defines Learning Needs and Needs Analysis.
Tips for a successful needs analysis This article provides you with tactical steps in assessing needs for space planning and evaluating how well a space works for users.
Conducting a Needs Analysis This article will teach you how you can conduct a training needs analysis.


  1. Rapid Instructional Design, Learning ID Fast and Right. George M. Piskurich, 2006.
  2. Altschuld James W. & Kumar David D. in Mathison, Sandra. Encyclopaedia of Evaluation, pp 276, Ed. University of British Columbia. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2005.
  3. South African Social Security Agency. Glossary of key terms in monitoring and evaluation. Tools Series 2, pp 11, 2008.
  4. Altschuld James W. & Kumar David D. in Mathison, Sandra. Encyclopaedia of Evaluation, pp 276, Ed. University of British Columbia. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2005.
  5. NeedsAnalysis
  6. Steps and Examples
  7. (28 November 2011), (28 November 2011), (28 November 2011), (28 November 2011)