What you are about to read is a summary of the Seven Essentials of Needs Analysis. This article is the final chapter of an eBook that tells the story of one learning team as they go through the Needs Analysis process. The company, AshCom, is fictional, but the learning challenges faced by Kathryn, AshCom’s CLO, and her team are real and commonly shared by learning teams in corporations, non-profits, associations, and education. It is our hope that you will be able to connect with the characters, their challenges, and the solutions they discover.
Three Pieces Of Advice
Building a Needs Analysis system is challenging but not necessarily complicated. In fact, the Seven Essentials of Needs Assessment can be simple with the proper focus. This guide is intended to produce a precise, clear, practical guide to the Seven Essentials of Needs Analysis Model to improve the learning you provide for your team. In our needs assessment fable, Kathryn and her team faced the challenge of greatly expanding their digital learning offerings. What was well-paced and planned became urgent and high profile with AshCom’s acquisition of Globex. To understand their challenge and build a plan, they spent significant time and effort going through the Seven Essentials of Needs Analysis.
Before diving into an overview of each essential, we’ll offer you these three pieces of advice:
1. Significant time may not be required for each of the Seven Essentials in every learning project. For example, if in a previous project your team spent time on audience definition and you are creating additional learning assets, it may only be necessary for you to confirm that the size of the group has not significantly changed. If you are building a new module that fits into a Curriculum Map you’ve already created, a quick review of the map may be all that is required. It is a little like driving – you don’t need to constantly double check what highway you are on, but it might be good to pay attention to where you are on that road. Of course, more than one driver has gotten on the wrong road and driven a long way before realizing their mistake.
2. Putting the Seven Essentials into practice will soon make clear that they are not completely distinct steps. In other words, you will find that they bleed into one another. They are interrelated and not independent of each other.
3. Those who have been through a deep learning needs analysis process will confirm that while the Seven Essentials are needed, they will not always come in the same order. Depending on the learning needs of your organization, you may need to begin at Essential #5 – Determining the ROI Metrics – because that is the first task assigned to you, and it has become your top priority.
Essential #1: Curriculum Mapping
Definition: The word curriculum means “a road or path.” Creating a Curriculum Map provides a learning team with a strong sense of where they are, where they are going, and what comes next. It is all about giving visibility so that a team can “see.” A good curriculum map creates alignment and provides the 50,000-foot view. It is most often longer-range planning and provides structure.
- What is our current state of learning?
- What are our company objectives?
- What are the priorities for developing learning modules?
- Where are our learning gaps or redundancies?
- What will be our learning team’s internal objectives?
- What will a “win” look like for us?
Essential #2: KNOW/DO/BELIEVE
Definition: Know/Do/Believe framework helps learning teams categorize what they want learners to gain from their learning experience. These are the three buckets that help the team classify objectives. The Know/Do/Believe buckets can be helpful in seeing how learning components fit together and, in some cases, what the priority is. There will inevitably be crossover between the categories. Some learning materials will focus only on one whereas others will incorporate all three. These buckets are a critical component to a solid needs analysis process, helping you determine what is most needed.
- What do you want learners to know?
- What do you want learners to be able to do?
- What do you want learners to believe?
Essential #3: Audience Definition
Definition: Deep understanding of a group of learners is a key to the success of a learning program. In small organizations, it might be possible to design a learning path for distinct individuals. In larger organizations, such granularity is unlikely, but it is still possible to understand a great many things about your learners. This will be essential in coming to clarity on their learning needs. Not all questions can be answered in the detail you might desire. The idea is to get a picture of the learners and then do your best to tailor learning opportunities to meet your learners’ needs.
- What is the average age of learners?
- Education level?
- What is their first language?
- What do your learners want to achieve?
- What is this experience in your organization’s learning efforts?
- What is their preferred learning style?
- What do learners need to make them more successful?
Definition: The marketing/branding discussion is important in the Needs Analysis stage because it will become vital to the success of the learning program once it is launched. Thinking through brand early on will pay dividends later. Branding is not about how the learning team thinks about the learning being offered. It is more about how the learners will think of learning once it is offered. In other words, it is about what kind of experience the learner will have. Smart branding early in the Needs Analysis process aligns what you want learners to think of learning with what they will actually think of your learning once they experienced it.
- What will be the tone of the learning you deliver? Will it be funny? Serious? Calming? Conversational? Intense? Scholarly?
- What will be the style of the learning you deliver? Traditional? Colorful? Monotone? Industrial? Highly stylized?
Essential #5: Determining The ROI
Definition: ROI is simply “Return on Investment.” The basic concept is that your organization invests money, time, and other resources into something with the expectation that what they receive (the return) is greater than the investment.
- What are your ROI objectives?
- What metrics will you measure?
- How will you measure them?
- When will you measure them?
- How and to whom will you report them?
Essential #6: Building The Team
Definition: Spending time building the team that will build learning material is obvious and important. You need to know who will do which tasks. Part of the Needs Analysis process is determining which roles are required and who will fill them. A less often considered dynamic is that of stakeholders. For some projects, specifically those that are large, complex, and expensive, there will be many people with an interest in its success. It is important to know all stakeholders and consider how you will communicate with them through the lifecycle of the project.
- What tasks need to be completed?
- What roles are needed to complete the tasks?
- Who do you currently have to fill those roles?
- What additional people might be needed?
- Who are all your stakeholders?
- How will you communicate with each group of stakeholders?
Essential #7: Scoping The Project
Definition: Scoping means determining the steps required to produce the material needed to achieve the objectives. Scoping often involves the largest number of questions because it determines some of a project’s limitations.
- What is the budget for this project?
- Do we need 508/ADA Compliance?
- Do we have existing source material for this module?
- Where is the source material stored?
- Where will the source material be stored when the module is built?
- What media and graphics are already available? Where are they stored?
- What will be the desired seat time?
- How often will the team meet? When and where?
- What is the project start date and the completion date?
- What will be the format at final delivery of a module?
- How will the module be field tested before release?
- How will SMEs and stakeholders give feedback to the learning team?
- Will the module be compatible with our LMS? Any concerns?
To read the rest of the chapters in this series on Needs Analysis and to see Kathryn and her team take on the other Essentials, please download the eBook How To Change The Way You Approach Needs Analysis: A Story Around The 7 Essential Elements. You can also join the webinar to nail your training needs analysis and develop a culture of continuous improvement.
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