Different approaches to training needs assessment

What is need assessment?

“A training need exists when an employee lacks the knowledge or skill to perform an assigned task satisfactorily. It arises when there is a variation between what the employee is expected to do on the job and what the actual job performance is.”

To pinpoint the range of training needs and define their content, the HR department uses different approaches to needs assessment.

1. Survey:

  • Survey the potential trainees to identify specific topics about which they want to learn more.
  • It suggests that trainees are more likely to be receptive to the resulting programs when they are viewed as relevant.
  • The group’s expertise may be tapped through a group discussion, a questionnaire, the Delphi procedure, or a nominal group meeting.

2. Group recommendation:

The group’s expertise may be tapped through a group discussion, a questionnaire, the Delphi procedure, or a nominal group meeting.

i. Group discussion:

  • Resembles face-to-face interview technique, e.g., structured or unstructured, formal or informal, or somewhere in between.
  • Can be focused on job (role) analysis, group problem analysis, group goal setting, or any number of group tasks or themes (e.g., “leadership training needs of the board”).
  • Uses one or several of the familiar group facilitating techniques: brainstorming, nominal group process, force fields, consensus ranking, organizational mirroring, simulation, and sculpting.
  • Advantages:
  1. Permits on-the-spot synthesis of different viewpoints.
  2. Builds support for the particular service response that is ultimately decided on.
  3. Decreases client’s “dependence response” toward the service provider since data analysis is (or can be) a shared function.
  4. Helps participants to become better problem analysts, better listeners, etc.
  • Disadvantages:
  1. Is time consuming (therefore, initially expensive) both for the consultant and the agency.
  2. Can produce data that are difficult to synthesize and quantify (more a problem with the less structured techniques.

ii. Questionnaire:

  • May be in the form of surveys or polls of a random or stratified sample of respondents, or an enumeration of an entire “population” ranking.
  • Can use a variety of question formats: open-ended, forced-choice, priority -ranking.
  • May be self-administered (by mail) under controlled or uncontrolled conditions, or may require the presence of an interpreter or assistant.
  • Advantage:
  1. Can reach a large number of people in a short time.
  2. Are relatively inexpensive.
  • Disadvantage:
  1. Make little provision for free expression of unanticipated responses.
  2. Require substantial time (and technical skills, especially in survey model) for development of effective instruments.
  3. Suffer low return rates (mailed), grudging responses, or unintended and/or inappropriate respondents.

3. Task identification:

Evaluating the job description to identify the salient tasks the job requires. Once trainers have an understanding of those tasks, specific plans are developed to provide the necessary training.

4. HR weaknesses:

HR may find the weaknesses among HR activities, includes inappropriate placement, orientation, selection, or recruiting may lead to workers with deficiencies.

  • Errors in these activities may stem from weaknesses in HR planning, job design, or the HR information system.
  • Training and development may be needed to increase the workers’ performance and it may modify other activities to ensure a better fit between people and performance.

5. Other sources of information:

  • Reviewing other sources of information
  • Includes different reports, e.g. production records, quality control reports, grievances, safety reports, absenteeism and turnover statistics, and exit interviews of departing employees
  • May reveal problems that should be addressed through training and development efforts.
  • Advantages:
    1. Readily available
    2. Provide objective evidence of the results of problems within the agency or group.
    3. Can be collected with a minimum of effort and interruption of workflow since it already exists at the work site.
  • Disadvantage:
  1. Carry perspective that generally reflects the past situation rather than the current one (or recent changes).
  2. Need a skilled data analyst if clear patterns and trends are to emerge from such technical and diffuse raw data.


  • Observe employees on daily basis.
  • Supervisors may recommend an employee for training and development as reward good employees.
  • Self-nominations:
  • Employees are asked to nominate themselves for training and development programs where they want the differences in between their expected skills, knowledge and abilities and actual.

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