Conducting an Effective Needs Assessment
B y T ra c e y L . C e k a d a
IN BRIEF •The ﬁrst step in developing a training program is to determine whether training is needed. •A training needs assessment provides some certainty that the time, money and resources used to develop and conduct training will deliver desired performance-based results. •How is a training needs assessment conducted? What model can be followed? Does this model work across different disciplines or industries? Answers to these questions can guide the development of an effective training needs assessment.
n employee trips over an open file cabinet drawer. Another has a near hit while standing beneath an overhead hoist. The typical solution: Training, training and more training. But is this really necessary? While workers without occupational safety and health training likely are at greater risk for workplace injury and illness, the critical question is whether the training is adequate (Cohen & Colligan, 1998). Sometimes, too much training can dampen its effectiveness and decrease its credibility. The difference between
Tracey L. Cekada, D.Sc., CSP, CHSP, is an assistant professor of safety sciences at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She holds a B.S. in Occupational Health and Safety from Slippery Rock University, an M.S. in Environmental Science and Policy from The Johns Hopkins University, and a D.Sc. in Information Systems and Communications from Robert Morris University. Cekada is a professional member of ASSE’s Western Pennsylvania Chapter.
effective and ineffective training may be death, injury, pain, suffering and lost pro ts (Whiles, 1999). A large amount of time and money is spent on training. In 1992, Broad and Newstrom reported that an estimated $50 billion was spent each year on formal training, with another $90 to $120 billion spent on less-structured, informal training. ASTD (2010) estimates that in 2009, U.S. organizations spent $125.88 billion on employee learning and development. The group reports that nearly twothirds of the total ($78.61 billion) was spent on the internal learning function, and the remainder ($47.27 billion) was allocated to external services. How much training content do employees retain 1 month, 6 months or 1 year after training has been conducted? Estimates suggest that only 10% to 15% of the content is retained after 1 year (Broad & Newstrom, 1992). This problem is compounded when an organization believes that its regulatorymandated requirements are met once training has been completed and documented. They focus little on whether the training was effective. In some settings, training is seen as the answer to all workplace-safety-related problems. In these cases, training is implemented at every turn. Often,
this may leave real problems unresolved. Overtraining also can frustrate employees and cause them to question the credibility of management and the training program (Blair & Seo, 2007). Furthermore, the transformation from implementing required training to newer, performance-based models only heightens the need to ensure that training is the correct solution and, if so, that it is effective (Holten, Bates & Naquin, 2000). What Is a Training Needs Assessment? Is training the right solution to workplace problems? To answer this, one can conduct a training needs assessment. This assessment is an “ongoing process of gathering data to determine what training needs exist so that training can be developed to help the organization accomplish its objectives” (Brown, 2002, p. 569). More simply put, it is the “process of collecting information about an expressed or implied organizational need that could be met by conducting training” (Barbazette, 2006, p. 5). Essentially, a training needs assessment is a process through which a trainer collects and analyzes information, then creates a training...