What is a Needs Assessment?

A needs assessment is a means to evaluate what the desired outcomes of a plan are. It identifies 'gaps' in the current situation that need to be filled. The needs assessment covers how all these gaps will be filled to remedy the situation the plan is rectifying. It is a useful tool for businesses when they are aiming to make improvements.

Usually the first step of making a plan, it is now an essential part of designing a process and is used by almost all companies when formatting a strategy. There are many different types to choose from, some being more suitable for certain situations rather than others. However, all models share a common aim: to identify any gaps in a current system.

There are four main stages that make up the assessment. The first is to identify the gaps in the current situation. This could include examining employee skill sets in a company, or analyzing the goals set by a firm (are they realistic, or set too low?). Then the desired situation is assessed: this gives a clear picture of where the planner wants to be after the plan has been carried out.

The second stage involves deciding which of the desired outcomes are the most important, in order to prioritize what should be done and in what order. It must be determined whether the identified needs are worth addressing, to ensure the plan is cost effective. This stage also recognizes any issues of urgency.

Stage three considers what could be done to fulfill the needs. It could be helpful here to think about why things weren't right in the first place - maybe some employees weren't doing their jobs properly, or there wasn't enough funding in a particular area. Any problem areas and opportunities are seen at this stage.

The final stage of a needs assessment concludes it by deciding what should be done. After thorough evaluation it can be decided what strategies to implement. All possible courses of action are considered before deciding which is the most suitable, i.e. most likely to produce the desired outcomes.

There are multiple methods that can be used to complete a needs assessment - these include questionnaires, interviews with employees and direct observation of what is currently happening. It is often best to not just rely on one of these methods, in case it produces an unsatisfactory outcome. To ensure all aspects are fully covered, a few different methods should be employed.

To summarize, a needs assessment is useful to make sure a planned course of action will have a positive effect and complete all objectives. Other problems may be discovered during the assessment; these can subsequently be dealt with promptly. The success of an assessment depends on how thoroughly it is carried out, to ensure no problem areas remain undiscovered.