Training Needs Assessment Quick Guide


We believe the most successful development of talent happens when you don’t just teach theory, you teach skills. But, how do you evaluate what skills are truly needed by your leaders, sales associates, team members and others? One way is to conduct a training needs assessment.

Training content should be real-world, relatable and repeatable. When participants learn skills that improve their effectiveness, they are more motivated and in turn higher contributors in their roles. Building skills is important, but they need to be the right skills.

What is a Needs Assessment?

A needs assessment can take many forms—conversations, focus groups, review of performance appraisals, skills tests, observation on the job, simulations and more. Training and Development Managers, HR Managers and Talent Development professionals often have a favorite approach. Keep in mind that needs assessments don’t have to be overwhelming, they can be simple. For instance, an online survey can have a broad reach and yield important information. A conversation with a key stakeholder about what she or he sees as needs for talent is often very insightful and confirming. 

Why Conduct a Training Needs Assessment?

Here’s a list of just a few of the things conducting a training needs assessment can do for you:

  • Establish priorities for Training, Talent Management, Coordination, HR functions.
  • Build a case for known or new training, development and other performance management initiatives.
  • Structure annual budgets as part of planning processes.
  • Motivate and build involvement of managers in training.
  • Demonstrate the degree that training and HR values input from specific roles.

Is Now a Good Time To Do A Needs Assessment?

For those whose organizational planning and budgeting cycle aligns with the calendar year, the last quarter of the year is typically a useful time to complete a training needs assessment. It can help identify gaps in knowledge, competencies to be built and areas for investment in the future. 

Cues that a training needs assessment would be helpful include:

  • Senior leaders or others are asking for training as a solution, but have difficulty describing the learning outcomes and behavior change that is desired.
  • As you are designing and developing training, the project scope increases (seemingly with each meeting). This often happens when the underlying needs to be addressed aren’t fulfilled.
  • Your training and development efforts don’t seem to be appreciated or recognized by your organization. This could be a sign that you aren’t addressing the items of most importance to them. 

Is there ever a time not to do a needs assessment? The answer is YES! You may not want to conduct a formal training needs assessment if you have just completed another extensive data-gathering process such as an employee engagement survey or senior leadership roundtables. Instead of bringing in more information, you can tap into that data as a rich source of information about training and development needs. ‘Over-surveying’ can create a build up of expectation for your employee groups and a perception that you, as a talent development professional, have analysis-paralysis.

Support Tools for Completing a Training Needs Assessment

Some needs assessment tools that are good to have on hand as a professional in talent development include:

  • A structured interview template to hold discussions with stakeholders about specific needs. This ensures you are professional and consistent in your discussions.
  • A focus group agenda, to make use of small and large groups’ time.
  • An online, generic needs assessment survey, for periodic input from your leaders and managers.
  • A follow up executive presentation structure you can use to share the information back to your management team or internal client groups.

PPS International Limited has structured formats for conducting structured interviews with stakeholders, analyzing existing organizational data, running focus groups and online needs assessments.

For those organizations who qualify, PPS International Limited also offers a complimentary online needs assessment, which uncovers perceived needs of leaders or their teams. To learn more, contact us at

Click below to download a sample focus group agenda as you prepare for your next training needs assessment.


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