Methods of needs identification - the process


The following paragraphs describe ten important steps in training needs identification and analysis.


1. Stakeholder groups, individuals, organizations who have a claim, gain or benefit, or who feelthey should have some ownership of a process, programme or project. analysis

The topic on this subject (Part II - topic 2) clearly indicates how important it is to identify all possible stakeholders with an interest in the training process, including the identification and assessment of the training needs. Stakeholder analysis in the context of needs assessment will reveal the importance and possible influence of the stakeholders in TNA Training Needs Analysis, their type of participation, interest and possible impact on them.


2. Selecting and using the research methods to identify training needs

Identifying training needs is a form of research. First, evidence suggests that there is a basic problem which can be addressed through training. It may also be necessary to address the problem with non-training measures. So it is important to identify clearly the ‘training gap’.  This is found by comparing an existing situation with a future, desirable situation, and then finding out how training can bring us from ‘here’ to ‘there’. Various methods may be used to do this, including the following:


—    self-report questionnaires

—    observation

—    individual interviews

—    checklist / job description

—    diary records

—    work sampling

—    technical expert conference

—    critical incident

—    examination of existing records.


Interviews are one of the most important methods used in TNA: suggestions on how to improve interviewing are given on page 89 - Semi-Structured Interviewing.

The choice of research method will depend on the questions which are to be asked. The questions will emerge as you consider what needs are being addressed (organizational, job, individual). One useful tool is to match the questions with the research methodology, as follows:


Example: TNA related to mangoes


Logistics and strategy for the TNA

Once the questions and methodology have been decided upon, the following issues are also important to think about:

—    How many interviews, observations, questionnaires, samples, etc.?

—    Where?

—    With how many groups?

—    By whom?

—    How long (days)?

—    Training of interviewer (Guidelines for consolidation, piloting with students and                                revisions where necessary)

—    Field work

—    Analysis (primary)

—    Workshop – consolidation

—    Presentation to stakeholders.


All of these points need careful planning.


3. Planning identification of organizational needs

There are two steps:              

—    List organizations with a stake in the training.

—    List questions to ask them, e.g. what are the critical changes affecting the work and operations of the organization? What are the relevant policies within the organization? What are the current strengths and weaknesses of the organization? What opportunities and threats are being presented from the external environment? etc.


The list of organizations and appropriate questions can be presented in a table:

Example: TNA related to mangoes


4.Planning identification of job needs

This should be carried out using a participatory methodology, ideally with the trainees themselves, prior to the training, or with other stakeholders who are able to provide good quality information a source of data or sensory input, organized or arranged into a pattern which can be interpreted. about the professional activities of the target group.

The following steps are recommended:

—    Identify main categories of jobs and make a list of all the tasks associated with a person in that category of job.

—    Using interviews, questionnaires or through observation of people performing tasks, complete this frequency/ importance/ learning difficulty table.


The following scoring/coding can be used for the different criteria related to this task:



1=Seldom (once or twice a year)

2=Occasional (every few months)

3=Weekly or monthly

4=Daily to weekly



1=Very little importance

2=Moderate importance

 3=Very important

Learning difficulty


2=Moderately difficult


 4=Very difficult


Once the table(s) have been completed, it is useful to find out what are the priority tasks. The priorities may be stated as:

* =low                                         

** =medium

*** =high


Again through consultation with representatives of the target group and other relevant stakeholders, it is now possible to choose one of the high priority tasks and identify the (ideal) KSA Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes required for someone to perform it.


5. Planning identification of individual needs

Here, it is important to estimate the training needs of individuals, by preparing a variety of questions to them, such as the following:

—    What tasks do you do regularly?

—    What difficulties do you face when doing these tasks or your job?

—    What could help you to do your job better?

—    What kinds of knowledge A complex construction of information and individual experience with an interrelatedsocial and environmental dimension. (N.B. many different interpretations of knowledgeexist, and this is one preferred in this Toolkit) do you need to do your job?

—    What skills do you need to do your job?

—    What kinds of attitudes do you need to do your job effectively?

—    Which of these KSA do you lack now?

—    How long have you worked in this job?

—    What do you like most about your job?

—    What do you like least?

—    What would you like to change about your job?

—    Do you think you are doing a good job?

—    How do you know if you are doing a good job?


Each of these questions may be followed up with probing (why?, when?, etc.) if necessary.


6. Data collection

This is the point when plans become action. If the planning has been effective, then the data collection should go smoothly, but always expect the unexpected. Flexibility, commitment, energy, organization and a sense of humour will all be needed during this period.


7. Analysis of the data collected in the TNA

It is important that data is sorted out as the TNA survey progresses. This has two advantages. Firstly, it will not be necessary to fight with a huge amount of data at the end of the survey. Secondly, there will be a better understanding of important issues emerging during the survey, which may be explored in more detail or clarified in some way. Identify categories into which data can be inserted.


The knowledge skills and attitudes (KSA) identified will form the basis of the curricula to be developed. Once these KSA have been identified, it will be necessary to prioritize which training programmes can or should be offered, and when. It is therefore important to develop a training strategy once the results of the TNA are known. For any training course/programme developed, there should be clear evidence which justifies its provision. The information collected in the survey which is not directly related to KSA will provide this evidence, and can be useful when developing a training strategy. It can also be useful in identifying non-training needs. Training is not the answer to every problem!


8. Presenting the TNA data

There are different ways in which the data could be presented. One way is as follows:



9. Reporting the data

It is essential to prepare a report of the initial consolidated results of the TNA. This could be organized under the following headings:

—    Policy.

—    Environment.

—    Client organizational issues.

—    Tasks and activities (existing and future).

—    Training provider organizational issues.

—    Individual needs.

—    KSA (existing and future/required).

—    Curricula which are going to be planned (including time frame, and a rough idea                                 of content).


10. Sharing the results

All the stakeholders involved in the TNA should have the opportunity to give feedback on the results. This may be done through a workshop, to which key stakeholders are invited. The results may be presented, and then participants should have the chance to discuss the results in detail, either in small groups or in a plenary session. It is not always possible to invite all stakeholders to a workshop; in this case the results of the TNA should be disseminated in some other ways (for example, the written report). Where data is collected from groups or individuals who cannot participate in a workshop to discuss the findings and have no access to written reports, it is important to provide opportunity for their feedback during the data collection process. A meeting could be held, for example, where the researchers present the findings from the field directly to those who contributed their ideas. This improves the chance for feedback and validation of the results. It also emphasizes the importance for the researchers to sort their data as they proceed with the collection.