ATD Blog

First, Know Where You Want to Go

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

“I think we need to train better!” I’m guessing if you are in the talent development field, you have heard this statement or one with a similar message before, right? More than once, you say?

When I was new to talent development, I would often take a defensive stance to this statement even if it wasn’t directed to me. What I soon realized is that this statement is wielded with insufficient information more times than it is leveled accurately. And that is OK! After all, “training” can mean many things to many people, and much of that understanding is in the eye of the beholder. It’s our job as T&D professionals to help orient and educate the “beholder” on what they really mean. But before we can do that, we first need to educate ourselves.

Observations, experience, or level of knowledge can lead people and organizations to summarize the answer to pain points in their company down to “training.” Before we can develop a solution to a problem, we as the SMEs of learning in our companies need to help members of our organizations—ourselves included—by taking a tactical pause and walking through a needs assessment.

In Alice in Wonderland, Alice asks the Cheshire Cat, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” You may recall the Cheshire Cat’s response and remember that for Alice, it doesn’t matter which way since she doesn’t know where she is going, nor where she should begin. The lesson? As I learned in the ATD needs assessment training, you must take a methodical approach to knowing where you are and where you want to go to determine the best way to achieve the desired result.


Reaching the goal in our fast-paced, microlearning-driven, “I-want-to-learn-when-I-want-to-learn” world means knowing your audience and knowing the need. Focus groups, surveys, observations, and individual interviews—and understanding the pros and cons to each—will equip you here. Just as important as understanding your audience, you must also know and understand your organizational and performance needs to help identify solutions. Making sure that the training strategy aligns with the corporate strategy will go a long way. Not doing these things can send you down the wrong path and result in missing the target altogether.

One of the valuable things I gained from the ATD needs assessment training was the confidence to help others navigate through the change process. Recognizing the challenges we face with resources as a company has helped me proactively guide learners and mitigate unnecessary discomfort they may experience from the results and integration of the needs assessment process. If you recognize members of your organization, or even yourself, at times standing in front of a Cheshire Cat asking, “Which way ought I go?”, I would say the answer is clear—and it does matter which way you go. The way is through the ATD Needs Assessment Certificate program.

About the Author

Logan Welsh works with Jenkins Restorations as the director of Jenkins University. He is responsible for developing and delivering the necessary learning opportunities to more than 350 employees in 23 offices across 11 states. Prior to Jenkins Restorations, where they proudly “Restore properties and live with a servant’s heart,” Logan spent 12 years contracting with the Department of Defense teaching communications and safety skills. Life is fullest when he is with his family enjoying the outdoors. Logan is currently on track to obtain the CPLP designation this year.

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