3 Needs Analysis: What problem are you trying to solve?

“The logic of needs assessment can be summarized as a simple equation:

Desired status – Actual status = Need

Needs assessment is sometimes called discrepancy analysis. The discrepancy is the observed difference between the desired status and the actual status.” (Dick, Carey, & Carey, 2014, p.23).

Tim Slade does a great job of explaining what a Training Needs Analysis is and why we need it in the following YouTube Video. Note the term KPI stands for Key Performance Indicator.

When training isn’t the right solution

Oftentimes, and I’ve experienced this many times, a boss or supervisor will come to you exasperated at some situation and the words “we need training for this” will come out of their mouths. Training might be required, but it might not. There are ways of fixing, or ameliorating, issues with performance without going the training route, so we first need to figure out out if a learning intervention is what is actually needed. Training is often an expensive solution to the problem, so you don’t want to create training that you don’t need.

Here are some examples of times when training might not be the right solution to the problem, and alternative solutions that might be more appropriate.

Fix the problem

Many times you’ll be asked to create training for something that isn’t a training problem. For example, if a user interface on a computer application isn’t well designed – you might be asked to create training to teach people how to use the application. Often, changes to the user interface can be made to avoid the need for training. Fixing the problem in the product design is a more effective solution than training around the problem.

Redesign the process

Sometimes you are asked to create training to teach people how to perform complex tasks or workflows. Sometimes these complex tasks or workflows can be redesigned to be less complicated. When this is possible it is a better solution to the problem.

Write documentation

Training is a lot more expensive to produce than good user documentation. Also, people often would prefer to look up what they need to know when they need to know it. If there is no good documentation, you’ll need to ask if documentation alone would solve the problem. You may find that you need to create documentation in order to create the training anyways.

Good documentation can be a real asset when designing training.

Create a job aid

A job aid is something that can be used directly on the job that replaces the need for specific training. An example of a job aid is a handwashing poster that is placed right over the sink. The poster is more efficient and effective at getting people to wash their hands properly than a course in handwashing.





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Foundations of Instructional Design by Rebecca J. Hogue is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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