It’s important to emphasize that all the learning programs of a company or organization, whether it’s eLearning or otherwise, are most effective when they are aligned to business goals. Let’s say your company has decided that it needs to focus on more effective customer service. It will then be your task as eLearning professionals to come up with the learning programs to achieve the desired results. But wait! Before you start developing content, you need to know a lot more about the specifics of what is needed. This isn’t necessarily up to you entirely – but you should definitely be a part of figuring out the details of what is needed. Which brings us to the more specific topic of this article: Needs assessment options that help guide you in developing the right content.
Laying the Groundwork for Needs Assessment Options
In the hypothetical situation I’ve set up, the word from the higher-ups is that customer service needs to more effective. The first question you and whoever else from the company is collaborating on this should be the following: “How do we know customer service needs to be improved?” In other words, what are the indicators and evidence that improvements are needed? Perhaps someone has noticed that the company’s post-customer service survey results show consistent rankings lower than what is desired. If those surveys also give any specifics about what aspects of customer service are lacking, you may be able to quickly identify some specific areas that need improvement. But it would still be a mistake to jump into content development at this point. You still don’t know enough to develop a targeted program that will get the kind of results you should be aiming for. Now that you have an idea of some specific areas that appear to be in need of improvement, what you have is enough information to design and administer a needs assessment that will give you the baseline data you need from your customer service staff to inform the eLearning content you develop.
Needs Assessment Options: Too Many Companies Fail to Exercise Them
The Association for Talent Development (ATD) has conducted research indicating that only 56% of organizations actually exercise their needs assessment options. This is a shame because companies that don’t make use of needs assessments are missing out on all the high-impact benefits they can impart. Why don’t more companies use needs assessments? Reasons vary, but among them are stakeholders thinking they know what the needs are, not wanting to spend the time and resources on needs assessments, or perceived difficulty in getting buy-in for the project from others.
It’s worth persevering in these instances because it’s a well-known fact that organizations tend to skimp on the process of adequately defining what it is that really needs fixing. The temptation to jump to solutions often happens with the best of intentions, but if you want to truly solve a perceived problem, conducting a thorough needs assessment will greatly increase your chances of developing the right learning and training programs that get the desired results. Remember this useful analogy: A blindfolded archer rarely hits the target. You can’t aim at something if you don’t know what you’re aiming at! The needs assessment is what defines your target so you can put it squarely in your sites and hit a bullseye with the learning content you develop.
Smart Needs Assessment Options Define the Who and the What
As you develop the needs assessment instrument, keep in mind that what you’re trying to pinpoint are performance gaps~ the difference between the way things are and the way things should be. Think of the needs assessment as the foundation of the structure you’re building, which is learning content to address and reduce or eliminate performance gaps. The foundation has to be rock solid for the structure to have integrity.
When you administer whatever needs assessment you develop, be sure you have the ability to identify each employee’s results individually. Why? There are two reasons for this. The first is that you’ll immediately find out who needs the learning and training content you will eventually develop. After all, you’ll undoubtedly discover that some of the employees are star performers that don’t need any additional learning or training, so there’s no need to saddle them with it. Secondly, and even better, is that those same star performers you’ve identified can be incorporated into the learning and training you develop. You can learn from them some of the secrets of their success that might greatly enhance the content.
Talk to Employees and Managers to Develop Good Needs Assessment Options
There’s no substitute for spending some time talking to the employees and managers in the trenches to get the inside scoop as to what they think is happening with the area in question. Several key conversations will help illuminate what people think is going on, which will help you formulate a more effective needs assessment.
At this point in the process, you may well be asking yourself why you’re spending so much time and effort on these pesky needs assessments. Remind yourself that if you skip this vital step now, it’ll come back to bite you later and wind up costing your company even more time and money because you didn’t end up addressing the right gaps with your learning content. It’s worth taking note of the three negative scenarios you could experience if you skimp on the needs assessment:
- You could end up teaching people the wrong content
- You could end up teaching the right content, but to the wrong people
- You could up with the right content, but not teaching it in the right way
By effectively exercising your needs assessment options, you should be able to avoid the common pitfalls experienced when this vital step is skipped. A well-crafted needs assessment will help ensure you develop learning and training content that gets the results your company needs to close performance gaps. If you need a learning management system (LMS) to organize your content, see how the robust features of eLeaP can meet your needs!