Article • March 28, 2024

Taking Needs Analysis into the Future

By Denise Stalter, Glen Newton, and Anjani Sharma

Before designing any new learning and development program, most L&D professionals start with some form of needs analysis.  After all, it’s not wise to design a program without first gaining a deeper understanding of the need (or needs) that it’s supposed to meet.  A good needs analysis involves a robust methodology for:

  • Defining the current state
  • Defining the desired future state
  • Determining the knowledge, skills, and capabilities needed to bridge the gap between the two

Recently, the Salience Learning team gathered for a company retreat in Las Vegas, NV. Our goal was to pool our creativity and devise fresh ways to enhance how we deliver solutions to our clients.  In one session, we focused on ways to improve the needs analysis process.  In this short blog article, we share a few high-level thoughts and ideas.

Traditional Methods for Needs Analysis

To kickstart our creativity, we considered a scenario involving a commercial pharmaceutical company seeking to craft a capability model and identify the knowledge and skills required to future-proof their customer-facing roles.  In this scenario, the company (our hypothetical client) also wanted to:

  • Represent to “voice of the employee” from all levels and regions
  • Leverage technology to incorporate global perspectives

Our initial step was to compile a list of traditional methods for gathering insights from target learners and leaders during project initiation.  These typically include:

  • Internal research to assess organizational objectives
  • External research to identify industry trends driving change in the company’s environment
  • Interviews with learners, managers, and corporate leaders to gather insights into what learners need to know and do differently to improve performance and adapt to change
  • Focus groups with cross-functional partners to define opportunities for enhancing cross-functional partnerships and improving matrixed ways of working
  • Surveys to validate initial insights with a broader range of stakeholders

Newer Ideas

With these traditional methods established, we then ventured a bit farther afield to generate some out-of-the-box ideas.  We proposed several potential strategies that could more effectively uncover the true learning needs within the company, such as:

  • Collaborating with internal departments to access field coaching reports and performance reviews to gain further insight into potential gaps
  • Engaging with external customers (e.g., healthcare providers, payers, strategic accounts, and others) to acquire insights into customer engagement needs
  • Partnering with external research firms and recruiters to access benchmarking
  • Leveraging social media platforms for intelligence gathering
  • Exploring analogous roles in different industries to draw parallels
  • Implementing a nudge strategy to glean insights over an extended period
  • Integrating advanced technology tools for more efficient analysis

Now, it’s true that in various cases, budget constraints may prevent a company from implementing some of these ideas.  For any given situation, the team would need to evaluate the feasibility of any given method and ensure that it’s properly aligned with the company’s strategic objectives and available resources.  As we move forward, we recognize the need for continued innovation, as well as evaluation and alignment with client expectations to ensure successful outcomes for L&D programs.

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