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The seven crucial elements of the needs assessment process

What you are about to read is a summary of the seven fundamentals of needs assessment. This article is the final chapter of an eBook that tells the story of a learning team going through the needs assessment process. AshCom is a fictional company, but the learning challenges that Kathryn, AshCom’s CLO, and their team face are real and shared by learning teams across corporations, nonprofits, associations and educational institutions. We hope you can connect with the characters, their challenges, and the solutions they discover.

eBook release

How to Change Your Approach Requirements Analysis: A Story Around the 7 Essential Elements

How does the fictional company AshCom adapt to changes and develop innovative L&D solutions? Discover the seven crucial components of a successful needs analysis.

Three pieces of advice

Building a needs assessment system is difficult, but not necessarily complicated. In fact, with the right focus, the seven fundamentals of needs assessment can be simple. This guide is designed to provide a concise, clear, and practical guide to the Seven Fundamentals of Needs Analysis model to enhance the learning you provide to your team. In our fable on needs assessment, Kathryn and her team faced the challenge of significantly expanding their digital learning offerings. What was quick and planned became urgent and known with the takeover of Globex by AshCom. To understand their challenge and come up with a plan, they spent a lot of time and effort going through the seven fundamentals of needs assessment.

Before you get an overview of the individual essential points, we offer you these three pieces of advice:

1. Each of the seven essential elements in every learning project may not take a significant amount of time. For example, if your team spent time defining the audience in a previous project and you’re creating additional learning resources, all you may need to do is confirm that the group size hasn’t changed significantly. If you are creating a new module to fit into an already created curriculum card, all that may be required is a quick card review. It’s a bit like driving – you don’t have to keep checking which freeway you are on, but it can be good to pay attention to where you are on that street. Of course, more than one driver got on the wrong road and came a long way before realizing his mistake.

2. When you put the seven fundamentals into practice, it quickly becomes clear that the steps are not entirely different. In other words, you will find that they bleed into each other. They are interconnected and not independent of one another.

3. Those who have gone through a deep learning needs analysis process will confirm that the seven essential elements, while needed, are not always in the same order. Depending on your company’s learning needs, you may need to start with Essential # 5 – Determine ROI Metrics – as this is the first task assigned to you that has become your top priority.

Essential # 1: Curriculum Mapping

Definition: The word curriculum means “a road or a way”. By creating a curriculum map, a learning team can know exactly where they are, where they are going, and what’s next. It’s about creating visibility so that a team can “see”. A good curriculum map provides alignment and offers the 50,000-foot view. It is mostly a long-term plan and offers structure.

Good questions
  1. What is our current level of learning?
  2. What are our corporate goals?
  3. What are the priorities for developing learning modules?
  4. Where are our learning gaps or layoffs?
  5. What will the internal goals of our learning team be?
  6. What does a “win” look like for us?

Essential # 2: KNOW / DO / BELIEVE

Definition: The Know / Do / Believe framework helps learning teams categorize what learners should draw from their learning experiences. These are the three buckets the team can use to classify goals. The Know / Do / Believe buckets can be helpful to see how learning components fit together and, in some cases, what priority they have. There will inevitably be a transition between categories. Some study materials only focus on one, while others include all three. These buckets are an important part of a solid needs assessment process that can help you identify what is most needed.

Good questions
  1. What should the learners know?
  2. What should the learners be able to do?
  3. What should the learners believe?

Essential # 3: Target audience definition

Definition: A deep understanding of a group of learners is a key to the success of a learning program. In small organizations, it may be possible to design a learning path for specific people. Such granularity is unlikely in larger organizations, but it is still possible to understand a great many things about your learners. This is important in order to gain clarity about your learning needs. Not all questions can be answered in as much detail as you would like. The idea is to get an idea of ​​the learners and then do your best to tailor the learning opportunities to meet your learners’ needs.

Good questions
  1. What is the average age of the learners?
  2. Educational level?
  3. What is your mother tongue?
  4. What do your learners want to achieve?
  5. What is this experience in your company’s learning endeavors?
  6. What is your preferred learning style?
  7. What do learners need to be more successful?

Essential # 4: Marketing / Branding

Definition: The marketing / branding discussion is important during the needs analysis phase as it is critical to the success of the learning program once it has started. Thinking through the brand early pays off later. Branding is not about how the learning team thinks about the learning being offered. It’s more about how learners feel about learning when it is offered. In other words, it’s about what kind of experience the learner will have. Smart branding at the beginning of the needs assessment process aligns what you want learners to think about learning with what they actually think of your learning once they’ve experienced it.

Good questions
  1. What will be the tone of learning you deliver? Will it be fun Serious? Reassuring? Conversation? Violently? Scientific?
  2. What is the style of learning you deliver? Traditional? Colorful? Monotonous? Industrial? Highly stylized?

Essential # 5: Determine ROI

Definition: The ROI is simply “return on investment”. The basic concept is that your company invests money, time, and other resources in something with the expectation that what it receives (the rate of return) will be greater than the investment.

Good questions
  1. What are your ROI goals?
  2. What metrics will you be measuring?
  3. How are you going to measure them?
  4. When are you going to measure them?
  5. How and to whom will you report them?

Essential # 6: Building the team

Definition: It is obvious and important to spend time building the team that is creating study materials. You need to know who is doing what. Part of the needs assessment process is determining what roles are required and who will fill them. One that is less often viewed as dynamic is that of the stakeholders. On some projects, especially large, complex, and expensive projects, there are many people who are interested in their success. It is important to know all stakeholders and how you will communicate with them throughout the life cycle of the project.

Good questions
  1. What tasks have to be done?
  2. What roles are needed to get the tasks done?
  3. Who do you currently need to fill for these roles?
  4. What additional people might be needed?
  5. Who are all of your stakeholders?
  6. How will you communicate with each group of stakeholders?

Essential # 7: Scope of the project

Definition: Scoping means determining the steps necessary to produce the material necessary to achieve the goals. Scoping often involves the most questions as it determines some of the limitations of a project.

Good questions
  1. What is the budget for this project?
  2. Do we need 508 / ADA compliance?
  3. Do we have existing source material for this module?
  4. Where is the source material stored?
  5. Where is the source material stored when the module is built?
  6. What media and graphics are already available? Where are they stored?
  7. What is the desired sitting time?
  8. How often will the team meet? When and where?
  9. What is the project start date and finish date?
  10. What will the format be when a module is finally delivered?
  11. How is the module tested on site before it is released?
  12. How do SMEs and stakeholders give feedback to the learning team?
  13. Will the module be compatible with our LMS? Any concerns?


To read the rest of the chapters in this series on needs assessment and see how Kathryn and her team handle the other basics, please download the eBook. How to Change Your Approach to Needs Assessment: A Story About the 7 Essential Elements. You can also attend the webinar to analyze your training needs analysis and develop a culture of continuous improvement.

eBook Release: Inno-Versity


Inno-Versity creates individual e-learning for some of the largest companies in the world. We remove complexity from critical e-learning projects. We are an in-house team of talented and experienced instruction designers, artists and learning experts.

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