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


  1. Hi Amber

    Thanks for sharing your very thoroughly needs assessment plan for Whole Foods Market, you made several excellent points such as including consumers as stakeholders, you wrote “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”. You also underscored the dual importance of gaining buy-in from the team members (employees); you wrote, “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)”. I agree, collecting data from consumers and team members are essential to ensuring as well-rounded perspective as possible of Whole Foods Market and its’ real needs.

    Using a table to represent the three phases of analysis, identify stakeholders, assign targeted questions within each phase to specific stakeholder groups, and outline what documents and resources would be used to collect data provided a comprehensive and concise overview. The table was an effective strategy for providing the information and the format added visual interest to your post. I agree with your recommendation to utilize a mixed methods approach for data collections as it allows multiple opportunities for stakeholders to provide information and actively participate in the process. Willis (1993) discussed the significance of reframing assessment as a participatory process as adult learners desire to directly involved in their learning experiences; by including learners as actively engaged stakeholders throughout the needs assessment Whole Foods Market would increase the likelihood of team members supporting training as their input was considered.


    Willis, N. (1993). Computer managed and based assessment. Paper delivered at the Heads of Computing Conference, York 1993.

  2. Amber,

    The blog post you presented on "Planning for a Needs Assessment" is wonderfully written.

    You provided an insight on the Whole Foods organization, and an excellent detailed description of each phase of the needs assessment. I like the way you included a store visit, along with your internet search in learning about the organization. The field visit gave you a personal insight and experience on how the products are presented in Whole Foods, the products themselves, and how employees interact with customers (within each department).

    In your needs assessment, you have included all important people of the Whole Foods organization to make the assessment successful in identifying whether training is necessary or another form of intervention is best suited for the performance issue. The inclusion of employee teams is very important, for they are the ones performing the jobs and work with the products in the store, they are most knowledgeable about their jobs, and their input in the needs assessment can lead to their support of training (if training is the solution) (Noe, 2013).

    Your creation of a colorful needs assessment table, outlining the details of the assessment (organizational analysis, person analysis, and task analysis, the stakeholders involved for buy-in, the questions to ask, the documents to use, and the techniques to employ), makes the assessment easy to understand and follow. You have used a good combination of open ended questions, to be answered by each stakeholder group. Open ended questions allow you to probe deeper, if more information and/or explanation is needed for clarity (Fitzpatrick, Sanders, & Worthen, 2011). The documentations and techniques you listed directly relate to the analysis understudy and the stakeholders involved.

    Thank you Amber, for your great blog post. You have given me a great insight on all of the details to include in a needs assessment.



    Fitzpatrick, J., Sanders, J., & Worthen, B. (2010). Program evaluation: Alternative approaches
    and practical guidelines (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

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

  3. Good afternoon, Amber!

    There are so many positive comments I could make about your approach to Whole Foods. Like you, I spent a good deal of time examining the web site of my client - there is much to be learned from how a company presents itself on the web. That said, a company's web site is in some ways much like a hotel or real estate posting: you only get to see the favorable pictures!

    The table of questions you laid out is exceptional, addressing the three basic assessment points at each of the organizational levels. I must confess that for the purposes of our assignment this week it did not occur to me to go that far in depth, but now that I see your plan of action, I will without hesitation use it as an assessment approach! You took the time to create a truly workable plan; I could see you putting it into action if Whole Foods were to contract you to assist them.

    Well done!


    1. Amber,
      I thought the “Analysis Questions & Stakeholders table you presented was great. It is easy to follow and the breakdown of the three types of analysis involved in the needs assessment (Noe, p.114) questions was very specific and direct.

      I would say that ensuring you get buy-in from everyone (leadership, management, and team members) is paramount to the success of the needs assessment. The whole staff needs to understand the goal of a needs assessment, which is to determine whether training need exist, who it exits for, and for what tasks training is needed (Noe, p. 116). I believe that in order for a needs assessment to succeed we will need everyone’s approval and commitment in the needs assessment process.

      I also agree with going out and observe employees in action and maybe asking some questions. There is nothing like firsthand information. The only suggestion I have is to maybe add some type of feedback process in the person analysis when it comes to training specific tasks. I see surveys from previous years, not sure if you are making reference to feedback or not, but I believe this can provide insight from the team member’s perspective. We need to consider that training is costly and time consuming. Training needs to be aligned with the business strategy therefore I believe feedback from team members will not be biased and as the training developer we can find out the actual facts from the people who really are in the front lines. We owe to the stakeholders.

      Great job!



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

  4. Amber,

    Great needs assessment analysis. I enjoyed how you made everything easy to review and the table presented a great way to organize all the information. Your summary shows the extensive amount of research you spent in the company. I also agree with Roberto. You may want to implement some sort of evaluation process after the fact to ensure success . Overall great assessment.

  5. Amber,
    Awesome analysis. Very thorough and organized. The table was helpful for a visual learner such as I. In your analysis, did you find any specific group of stakeholders that might be more difficult to get buy in from? What would you do to encourage this group?

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