Nuts and Bolts of Needs Assessment: Q&A With Beth McGoldrick

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Beth McGoldrick is an instructional designer and author of Needs Assessment Basics, 2nd Edition. She has more than 18 years of experience in training and development in the insurance industry and academia, and has won awards for training projects she designed and developed. In this Q&A podcast, I spoke with Beth about the nuts and bolts of needs assessment, as well as some of the new information in the latest installment of this ATD Press book.

For starters, we discussed why needs assessment is so important. If you’re like many professionals in our industry, you may be pressured to give an immediate “yes” to a training request. Instead, says Beth, we need to start playing an essential role in driving our organizations forward by using needs assessment to target training programs to support critical business goals.

“If we don’t know what the real problem is, we’re not going to come up with the right solution,” she explains. Beth advises L&D professionals to take a step back and question: What’s really going on? What’s going to make an impact on the business?


Each problem is different, though. So to drill down into each problem to find a solution, L&D will need to pull together specific data. And although there is no single formula for a needs assessment, there are some general issues that need to be covered. Fortunately, Needs Assessment Basics, 2nd Edition can guide you all the way through data collection to making training recommendations. The bottom line, says Beth, is to ask a lot of questions—and then ask some more questions.

For more on how to improve your needs assessment process, listen to the complete Q&A podcast and check out Needs Assessment Basics, 2nd Edition.

About the Author

Amanda Smith is the former Learning & Development Community of Practice manager at the Association for Talent Development (ATD). Her specialties include educational planning, PR/marketing, and project management. Amanda has more than 12 years of experience in the non-profit sector, developing and marketing professional development programs for the adult learner.

Amanda brings a diverse and unique perspective on program development. She has worked for companies in healthcare, foodservice, commercial real-estate, and media industries, including the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA), American Society of Consultant Pharmacists (ASCP), International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA), Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), and the National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation (NABEF). 

She also serves as president and spokesperson for the Alliance for Women in Media, National Capital Area Chapter (AWM-NCAC) in Washington, D.C.  She resides in the D.C. Metro area with her husband and two children.

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