The Lonely Training Needs Assessment

Training Needs Assessment

What is it about a training needs assessment that makes learning professionals panic? 

(Jump to the bottom of this post to enter to win this month’s book giveaway).

I’ve written many times, on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and on this website about the importance of asking the right questions at the right time. Not every nail needs a hammer, not every problem requires a training intervention. 

For every learning professional who tells me they don’t have time for a proper training needs assessment, I ask them if they enjoy:

  1. Creating work that has no hope of success
  2. Developing programs that will waste peoples time
  3. Wasting company money on a solution that has great odds of not working
  4. Wasting your time, because you KNOW you will have to start all over again because what everyone assumed was the problem…isn’t. 

No one enjoys having to recreate the wheel over and over again. If but for a little project management, you can conduct at least a minimal Training Needs Investigation. 

Working Backwards

This requires a little backward planning. Example: Business sponsor states they need a”Little product knowledge refresher program” out to the sales team in 3 weeks.

Let’s assume it’s an elearning program. We already know will take 42 hours to create one hour of passive elearning, (Defelice, Robyn (2018, 01/09) How Long to Develop One Hour of Training? Updated 2017, ATD publishing). 

Training Needs Assessment, How long it takes to create one hour of training

Therefore if we have three weeks, (and we know we will need to dedicate at least 42 hours to create this training) then we know we will have fire up the Articulate Storyline at least 10 days before delivery. This is also to account for program review. This leaves us with 11 days to analyze and properly design the program. 

Begin with the end in mind! 

This where the outstanding book, Needs Assessments Basics, comes into the picture. This is the second edition – I have the first edition, and it’s highlighted and sticky-noted to death. (And, I’ve been around the block a time or two, ANYONE can make great use of this book!)

A few words from the author Beth McGoldrick

Do you remember when you were a kid and you asked questions all the time? After a while, usually the grown-ups got exhausted and told you to stop asking questions or they gave you answers in a manner that made you stop asking any more questions. And so, you went through life curbing your inquisitive nature, and you may have even lost the art of asking questions.

Ifyou’ve lost the skill of asking questions, “Needs Assessment Basics” can helpyou. A large part of a training consultant’s job is asking questions. To helpthe organization improve, you need to get to the deeper need of the business,to understand the learners and the work environment, and understand what iscausing the problem.  In order to do this, you need to ask a lot ofquestions. I frequently tell people that I ask questions for a living.

Ask Questions No One Else Will Ask

As training consultants, we are in a unique position to ask the questions that no one else will ask. We come at the business from a perspective that is outside of the organization, even if we are internal consultants. Generally, we don’t work in the business day-to-day, so we don’t have a deep understanding of whattheir needs are, what their challenges are, and what they do.

Because of this perspective, we aren’t stuck in the same thinking about the business – the people, processes, and products – that people who are knee-deep in the business are. We have an outsider point of view that allows us to see things that no one else can see. We can ask “why” and “how” and “who.” We can ask “what if” and “then what” and get to the bottom of the performance issues.

 In addition to relearning how to ask questions, “Needs Assessment Basics” will help you:

  • Move from being a training order taker to being a valued performance consultant
  • Implement a return on expectation (ROE) focus to help your clients concentrate on what results they expect and how to measure them, and
  • Build a systematic process to discover the human performance root causes that are getting in the way of the results the business needs.

We went from a do-more-with-less employment market after the financial crisis to a very low unemployment market with more jobs than employees. Both situations have caused organizations to need their employees to be more efficient and effective. As a training professional who asks questions that lead to the answers that help them do that, you will be even more valuable.

Your business partners need you to get in there and be that eight-year-old version of yourself. Ask questions all day long of everyone who is involved in the business related to the issue you’ve been asked to solve and find the deeply needed answers that will shed light on real causes of the human performance problem. Help your business partners get to the root causes of their problems and you will be the valued partner you’ve known you and the rest of the training professionals at your organization can be.

Beth McGoldrick, author of Needs Assessment Basics, is also a working training professional, day-to-day getting in and helping the Fortune 500 company she works to solve their human performance problems. Outside of working and writing, Beth will be found with her devoted husband, darling son, and dashing Shetland sheepdog. Beth can be reached at

Enter to receive one of two SIGNED copies of the this fabulous book. 

Training Needs Assessment Book Giveaway 
Shannon Tipton

Shannon Tipton

As Owner of Learning Rebels, Shannon Tipton is a skilled learning strategist, content developer and International speaker. Shannon has over 20 years of leadership experience developing successful learning strategies and infrastructures for training departments within organizations in North America, Europe and Korea.

Shannon works with people and organizations to develop learning solutions that brings actual business results. Recognized as bringing real-world expertise into the learning field, Shannon integrates technologies and social learning tools to strengthen workplace alignment, enhance collaboration and increase learning connectivity.

As author of “Disruptive Learning” Shannon frequently speaking at conferences across North America and Europe and ranks as one of the top 100 L&D influencers on Twitter (@stipton).

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