Training Needs Assessment Guidelines


Quick Summary
Training projects need the same requirements management, protection from the scope creep, and project definition you devote to your other projects. These guidelines provide a broad overview of the steps in a needs assessment and the reasoning behind doing one, as well as a brief discussion of the different assessment methods you can use to make your next training assignment as effective as possible.


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What this is

Guidelines for setting up and carrying out a training needs assessment. These guidelines can be used for many different types of training. For example, for designing training for your teams and/or new project managers on project management skills, specific technical or other subjects related to the "meat" of your projects, or "soft skills" such as communication.


Why it's useful

It is all too common to design training sessions that are essentially lecture courses, centered around the dissemination of as much information as possible about a topic. Yet the goal of training is to ensure the trainees come away with valuable information they need to do their jobs - not just to demonstrate how much the trainer knows by performing "info dumps." In other words, the goal is to provide them not just skills or information they don't already have, but skills or information they don't already have and need in order to perform their required function.

Targeting information in this fashion requires a training needs assessment. A needs assessment will help determine what trainees already know, what they are comfortable with, possible areas of resistance or obstacles to learning, and the training areas most critical to their job function. Some of the things you uncover with an assessment will be obvious, but others may be things you never would have thought of until you reviewed the assessment results.


How to use it

  1. Determine size of training audience: The size of your desired training program will make determine the nature of your assessment, so start by determining the size of your potential training pool.

    • For a few members in a single department, very informal assessment methods like interviews, observation, and review of work samples may work well.
    • For a group of 10-20, or for a cross-functional group, you may need to use slightly more structured methods, such as questionnaires.
    • Larger groups are often assessed through sampling - using a few representative individuals instead of everyone.
  2. Select the right assessment methods: Review the guidelines, and select the most applicable assessment methods for your trainee pool. See the text on Types of Assessments starting on page 4, and the accompanying table of assessment methods starting on page 5.

  3. Perform the needs assessment. Follow the steps outlined on page 3 of this document to execute a needs assessment for your training project.

  4. Document the results: Keep in mind that an assessment report may not necessarily be a 30-page document (though for larger projects, it might be!). A simple and accurate review with a one or two page report can still provide a valuable assessment of whether training is needed for a small- or mid-sized group, and if so what that training should include.


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