Thursday, May 15, 2014

Planning for a Needs Assessment

This week in our Training and Development course we have been examining learning and how to effectively address the needs of individuals partaking in training initiatives in order to support learning and transfer of training. We have also examined the important process of conducting a needs assessment which is a “process used to determine whether training is necessary” (Noe, 2013, p.114). Conducting a needs assessment in the workplace provides an opportunity to examine the organization, the employees, and the tasks that are completed not only to determine whether or not training is the most effective solution to any potential organizational issues, but also for informing the design of the training if training is in fact the identified optimal solution to ensure successful learning and transfer (Noe, 2013).

To gain additional insights on effectively planning for a needs assessment we were charged with the task this week of examining an organization and determining who our stakeholders might be, what types of questions we might ask to support an analysis of the organization, people, and tasks, what documents or records we might seek additional information from, and what methods we might employ when conducting the needs assessment. The organization that I selected from the several options presented to us is Whole Foods Market. Having not previously shopped at a Whole Foods Market I sought to gain some additional background knowledge on Whole Foods Market and what a needs assessment for the organization might entail by examining both the organization’s website to gain a sense of the business and culture as well as went on a brief field trip to experience what the organization is like first hand.

After examining the organization’s website and visiting one of their locations in my area I determined that the organization is a grocer that focuses on attempting to sell natural and organic products and values supporting the well-being of its employees through providing comprehensive benefit packages and a supportive working environment as well as the communities in which it is located (Whole Foods Market, n.d.). The organization appears to value conveying a message that their focus is on the betterment of the global community through environmental initiatives and focusing on healthy living for everyone including its employees (Whole Foods Market, n.d.). While visiting on of the Whole Foods Market location and in visiting the website I also determined that the stakeholders that would be necessary to gain buy-in from would be the executive leadership team at the corporate level, individuals in management roles, consumers, and team members. Buy-in from those at the executive leadership level would be essential as these individuals are the decision makers of the organization and thereby will be the ultimate determining factor on funding a training initiative for the organization as a whole. Additionally, those in an executive leadership role would be in tune with the objectives and value of the organization overall which would be necessary to have an understanding of the business in determining if or what type of training is needed and how it will support the business strategies (Noe, 2013). Manager buy-in would be necessary as these individuals would need to support any changes that implementing a training initiative would entail which includes supporting a climate that is conducive for transfer (Noe, 2013). Managers also would be important for determining budgets for training, identifying employees for the training, and what areas may require further examination for identifying training to improve performance (Noe, 2013). Including consumers as stakeholders is also important as they are essential to the success of the organization in whether or not they choose to shop there and their overall satisfaction with the products and service provided. Team members at Whole Foods Market perhaps are the most critical for gaining buy-in from especially if the training would be primarily focused towards their roles and developing knowledge and skills associated with the tasks they complete. Team members are also important as they can be a valuable primary source of information for examining and determining needs as well as for conducting an analysis of tasks performed (Stolovitch & Keeps, 2004).
To gather additional information for the needs assessment it would be important to conduct an analysis of the organization, the employees or individuals receiving training, and the tasks performed. Conducting further analysis in these areas requires both asking questions from the stakeholders mentioned above as well as seeking out data and information from other sources. When asking questions of stakeholders it is essential to ask questions that focus on eliciting factual information (Stolovitch & Keeps, 2004). Additionally, other resources and documents that exist within the organization would be valuable sources of information when conducting the needs assessment. The following chart includes examples of possible documents and a sample of questions I might ask to gain information for conducting an analysis on the organization, the people, and the tasks as well as which stakeholders I would be directing some of the sample questions towards.


Analysis Questions & Stakeholder(s)
Documents/ Resources
What are your business goals and objectives?
What are your external factors are driving your business?
Executive Leadership
●Documentation of organization’s stated mission and values.
●Documents of budgets for training and development.
●Consumer feedback from surveys or commentary from Whole Foods website or social media site.
●Documents comparison. organization’s financial success to other similar organizations.
●Documents on market trends.

Are you willing to invest in training and development initiatives?
Why do you shop at Whole Foods Market?
What are the needs of employees within the organization that will help to support the business goals?
●What challenges exist for employees that inhibit them from supporting business goals?
●Employee satisfaction surveys from previous years

●What skills are necessary for managers to effectively lead in ways that support attainment of business goals?
Executive Leadership
●What are the positive and negative aspects of working at Whole Foods Market
●What growth/ development  opportunities have you been able to participate in?
What can you tell me about current states performance and productivity and what would be the ideal state?
●Documentation of processes and procedures.
●Documents indicating current performance levels.
●Documents on any workplace occurrences that have negatively impacted quality and safety.
●Customer complaints on products and services provided.

What support systems or processes exist that help you to be productive and provide high quality service?
●What obstacles or challenges exist in your daily work that inhibit your ability to provide quality service?


























Asking questions and reviewing various existing documents to gain information for the needs assessment can be facilitated through and in addition to different techniques or methods used when conducting a needs assessment. Questions may be asked directly to the various stakeholders through the use of interviews either in person or over the phone. However because interviews can often times be time consuming I would limit interviews to the executive leadership team, the managers, and a smaller sample of employees (Noe, 2013). Employees and consumers could also be asked questions through the use of a questionnaire as questionnaires can be more cost effective, less time consuming, and can be used to gather information from a larger group of people especially if conducted through the use of technology (Noe, 2013). Historical data on the organization and performance would also be used by reviewing documents and data previously collected such as surveys, information on productivity and profits, or comparisons to competitors (Noe, 2013). Based on my brief visit to Whole Foods Market I would also find it beneficial to use observation as a method of collecting information for the needs assessment as this would provide information on the actual work environment (Noe, 2013). Taking a more comprehensive approach of mixing the different methods and techniques would be useful for triangulation to ensure validity and accuracy of the data collected for the needs assessment (Fitzpatrick, Sanders, & Worthen, 2011). Overall taking this mixed method approach would also provide a broader picture of the true needs of the organization, the people, and the tasks and be beneficial for making more informed decisions on whether or not training would be appropriate as well as how to proceed with effectively designing the training to meet the different needs of the organization as well as the people working there.

Fitzpatrick, J. L., Sanders, J. R., & Worthen, B. R. (2011). Program evaluation: Alternative approaches and practical guidelines (4th Ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Noe, R. A. (2013). Employee training and development (6th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Stolovitch, H. D., & Keeps, E. J. (2004). Training ain’t performance. Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press.

Whole Foods Market. (n.d.). Mission & values. Retrieved from

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Truth About Training

As begin our first week EIDT 6501: Training and Development, we were asked to create an elevator that could help convince someone that training is important for their organization. In my elevator speech I highlight a few points that I found to be factors that have an important impact on making decisions on investing in training. These factors include linking training to business strategies, employee engagement, and adding value to the organization by getting a greater return on investment through taking a systematic approach to identifying training that can attract and retain high quality and productive employees. With that said, please take a moment to listen to my elevator speech. Feedback on how to improve of course would be welcomed and the script for the speech is located below.

Elevator Speech Script:
Picture your organization five or even ten years from now if you eliminated the vast majority of all training programs that were not mandated by law or necessary for training new hires at your organization. What would the climate of your organization be? What would potential candidates think of your organization? How might your employees react and how will you fill positions internally that require advanced knowledge and skills or leadership training? The picture you are envisioning might be one of stagnant growth and lack of employee engagement. Ultimately, over time this will negative impact your organization’s ability to maintain a completive edge in attracting and retaining high quality skilled employees as well as potentially negatively impact the organization’s productivity and growth due to lack of employee engagement (Noe, 2013).

I know budgets are tight, but implementing effective training programs that take a systematic approach and are linked to your business strategies will help your organization maintain success (Noe, 2013). Our training team can help you identify these business strategies in order to develop training initiative and activities that will add value to your organization and help you to achieve a greater return on your investment. We can help you overcome potential challenges with attracting and retaining high quality and skilled employees by providing training opportunities that promote your organization’s focus on learning and developing skills as well as providing opportunities for professional development including training on leadership skills (Noe, 2013). Additionally, providing training opportunities that allow your employees to advance their knowledge and skills will help to strengthen employee engagement which will positive impact their commitment to the organization and their productivity (Noe, 2013). New technologies are also available that can help your organization provide training that can be accessed regardless of an employee’s time constraints or location which will help you save on travel expenses that may have been associated with training in the past.

If you will allow me the opportunity to discuss with you in greater detail what your organization’s goals and objectives are we can work together to identify how training might help your organization to achieve those goals and continue to maintain a competitive advantage by having a well-trained and high quality workforce that is engaged and productive. 

Noe, R. A. (2013). Employee training and development (6th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.