ATD Blog

Don’t Make Assumptions, Assess Needs Instead

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

One trap that many L&D professionals fall into is that of comfort and familiarity.

Perhaps you’ve found yourself in the following situation... A department manager walks into your office (or cubicle) and asks you to deliver a training class for her employees in two weeks. You’ve taught the same class to several other departments over the past year so you are comfortable and familiar with delivering the class. You pause and then say “Yes, let’s get it on the calendar.”

What’s wrong with this scenario? The biggest problem is assumptions. Think about what’s going on. The department manager is assuming this course will fix some problem her department is experiencing. You are assuming your class can help these employees because you’ve seen it work with other departments. Both of you are assuming you know what the problem is, and that it can be fixed by training—and by this class specifically.


However, although this class might have been successful before, neither of you have conducted a needs assessment to pinpoint the real problem or the best way to solve it. So, how should you have responded to the manager’s request for training? Try something like, “I’d love to help. Can you tell me more about what’s going on in your department?”

For more on how to improve your needs assessment process, check out Needs Assessment Basics, 2nd Edition.

About the Author

Beth D. McGoldrick is an instructional designer for RiverSource Insurance, part of Ameriprise Financial, where she has won awards for training projects she designed and developed. She has more than 18 years of experience in training and development in the insurance industry and academia, including skills in analyzing, designing, developing, and measuring training. Beth has written articles and book chapters on various training topics, including needs analysis, instructional design for mobile learning, and evaluation. She mentors other instructional designers throughout the country. She has a master of science in organizational performance and workplace learning from Boise State University.Beth lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with her husband, John, son, and Shetland sheepdog. Beth may be reached at [email protected].

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