Time to Analyze

Needs analysis is the process of sifting through the information gathered during the needs assessment to begin to make decisions about next steps.

I am continuing with my plan to devote 2020’s Last Word musings to reminders of the basics that are still relevant and need to be employed to be successful, credible, and accountable for our work in training and development. Let’s move forward from the needs assessment discussed last issue to the needs analysis.

What is the difference? Needs assessment is the action taken to gather, well, needs. This involves curating ideas through testimonials and user feedback, conducting surveys and focus groups, and crowdsourcing through social media— whatever works and is your most effective jam. Needs analysis is the process of sifting through the information gathered to begin to make decisions about next steps. It will look something like a report. It should reflect the results of all of the needs assessment actions taken. Choose to report numbers, percentages, issues, conflicts—whatever is learned. These results help to shape and inform the strategy you devise and propose.

For example, the needs assessment reveals:

  1. Issues with access to particular tools or systems to perform the work efficiently.
  2. Significant negativity about the state of learning content overall.
  3. Learners loved “that one course” from three years ago.
  4. There are two or three people who do the work and are always willing to share their time and expertise with others when they need it.


Solutions you might propose in the needs analysis (report):

  1. The issue might have nothing to do with training people at all—you won’t know until and unless you do further investigation. Let’s say five people are sharing one computer and aren’t given enough time to complete assigned e-learning courses. To be successful together, the solution(s) proposed may not be e-learning. Instead, consider good job aid(s), project-based classroom training, a workplace simulation, etc. You likely would have not considered these alternative choices without having done the needs assessment.
  2. If e-learning is the only way to provide the content, then it is time to propose how you’ll do things differently. Include how you’ll market the “new and improved” content to learners. And how you’ll do a stellar job of collecting evaluative feedback, too.
  3. You know what you have to do: Bring back that experience learners loved, some way, somehow! What did they like about it? Who was involved in bringing it to life?
  4. Those two or three people mentioned are key to everyone’s success. Could they “guest lecture” on their best practices and tips? Think of more than one way to leverage their expertise and internal “fan club.” Record videos or podcasts, host an online forum, speak in person in classes or lunch ’n learns—the list of possibilities is long.


Do the needs assessment. Use what you’ve learned to craft the needs analysis (report) and include a variety of options. Don’t guess. Don’t assume one form of learning is the only way to do things. Be flexible. Propose the best option to help learners succeed!

Dawn J. Mahoney, CPLP, owns Learning in The White Space LLC, a freelance talent development (“training”) and instructional design consultancy. She is passionate about developing people through better training, better instructional design, and better dialog. Mahoney asks the tough questions to ensure the training content is relevant to the work and performance expectations. She does this work because she loves to see the moment when the learning “dawns” on her learners. If you need help, get in touch with her at: dawnjmahoney@gmail.com.

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