Needs Assessment

Needs Assessment

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Process of collecting information about an expressed or implied organizational need that could be met by conducting training. It is used to determine the difference between current and desired states, often related to the development of a training program. The need can be a desire to improve current performance or to correct a deficiency (performance that does not meet the current standards). Assessments can be formal or informal and may use many data-gathering techniques to discover needs expressed by management, the target audience, or subject-matter experts. The purpose of a need assessment is to answer questions such as why conduct the training, who is involved in the training, how to conduct a performance analysis, what is the best way to perform, and when will training take place. [1]

A process undertaken for the purpose of establishing priorities and making decisions about programme or project resource allocation or improvement.[2] It forms the basis for conceptualizing and implementing a programme or project by identifying the needs of the targeted beneficiaries.[3] Priorities come from identified needs which are measured discrepancies (gaps) between the current (what is) state of affairs of a group or an organization and the desired (what should be) state in regard to variables of interest. A prioritized need represents a problem or situation which needs to be rectified for the good of the organization and the clients it serves. [4]

See also: Audience Analysis; Stakeholder Analysis; Needs Analysis; Problem Tree Analysis; Focus Groups

Toolkit.png Guidelines for Performing Needs Assessment


Three levels of needs assessment

Organizational analysis: Examines organizational effectiveness and identifies where training is needed. Examples of areas to consider: cost-effectiveness of the organization, changing technology, political trends, organizational goals and environmental footprint.

Task analysis: It informs about jobs and the necessary set of skills and knowledge to reach optimal performance. Potential sources of information: job descriptions, emerging trends in the job field, sample work, observation and literature review.

Individual analysis: Explores the quality of working performance of employees and determines the individuals who need further training.

The needs assessment process

  1. Focusing on an area of concern or interest for the assessment
  2. Determining and prioritizing “what should be”
  3. Identifying discrepancies between “what is” and “what should be” (gap analysis)
  4. Ranking discrepancies in order
  5. Casually analyzing the greatest discrepancies
  6. Collecting a solution strategy
  7. Designing an action plan for implementation


  • When analyzing “what should be”, it is important to distinguish between actual needs, perceived needs and wants.
  • After determining the needs, set the priorities in accordance with the institutional goals, realities and constraints.
  • When identifying the solutions, ask yourself the question “Is training really the solution?” Training is not the ultimate resolution to all problems; maybe intervention is needed on the organizational level, such as restructuring, performance management or strategic planning.
  • Use a variety of methods in order to get a true picture. Examples of methods: observation, interview, focus groups, tests, questionnaires, consultations with experts and work samples.

How to overcome potential barriers to needs assessment?

  • Confidentiality: When you distribute a questionnaire or gather information in any other way make sure answers can be provided anonymously, if possible.
  • Management buy-in: Involve decision makers throughout the process, use data and calculations on cost-effectiveness to convince them about the benefits of needs assessment.
  • Employee participation: In order to have employees participate in the process, give them appropriate information about the purposes and expected results and benefits of needs assessment. Do not forget to inform them about the outcomes of your research.
  • Costs: Present needs assessment as an investment and illustrate with figures how the results would benefit the organization in the long term.
  • Work interruptions:In order not to distract employees from their work, keep interviews, questionnaires and surveys short and straightforward.[5]

Job Aid

Pdf.png Guidelines for Performing Needs Assessment

Link icon.png Web Resources
Find below some additional resources related to needs assessment.
Link Content
Case Studies This free online course on needs assessment offers two case studies related to performing needs assessment.
Community Needs Assessment Toolkit This document takes you through a needs assessment process with the aim of identifying community needs.
Needs Assessment Toolkit This Needs Assessment section offers methodologies and tools for learning more about users needs and motivations.
Training Needs Assessment Example This Survey Monkey project is an example of how to perform training needs assessment within an organization.
A Guide to Assessing Needs This book provides guidance on assessing needs to make informed decisions about the required steps in project development.
Methods for Conducting an Educational Needs Assessment This is a Guideline for professionals in need of conducting a successful needs assessment. It will take you step by step and teach you about the importance of conducting needs assessments for your learning and training activities.
Comprehensive Needs Assessment This guide will teach how and why it is important to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment.


  1. Rapid Instructional Design, Learning ID Fast and Right. George M. Piskurich, 2006.
  2. Altschuld James W. & Kumar David D. in Mathison, Sandra. Encyclopaedia of Evaluation, pp 276, Ed. University of British Columbia. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2005.
  3. South African Social Security Agency. Glossary of key terms in monitoring and evaluation. Tools Series 2, pp 11, 2008.
  4. Altschuld James W. & Kumar David D. in Mathison, Sandra. Encyclopaedia of Evaluation, pp 276, Ed. University of British Columbia. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2005.
  5. (28 November 2011), (28 November 2011), (28 November 2011), (28 November 2011)