Need Assessment - A way to identify the objective of training

Need Assessment determines the objective / focus of a training. It is done prior to a training or during a training

Need assessment is done in several ways. Some of them are:

  • Interviewing personnel in the organisation which is looking for a change

  • Doing an audit of the system or the sub-system

  • Facilitating a search conference

  • Situational Analysis

  • Administering a questionnaire

Let's examine each of them briefly

1. Interviewing Organisational Personnel: Need for change is generally perceived by the personnel in charge of an organisation or its departments. Interviewing them or using tools like questionnaires or focus-group discussions, one can gather data on issues like the background of the organisation or the change process, the skill level of staff, the desired change etc.

You can interview personnel if the organisation is small and the decision makers are few. A questionnaire will prove useful if the organisation is huge. Focus group discussions can be used along with interviews when it is a medium-sized organisation.

A brief checklist for an interview / questionnaire / focus group discussion is given below.

  1. Name

  2. Designation

  3. How long have you been in this organisation?

  4. How long have you been fulfilling this role?

  5. What in your opinion is the reason for this problem?

  6. What change would you like to see taking place in the organisation vis-a-vis this problem?

  7. How would you like to bring about this change?

  8. What new skills, attitudes and values will be required to bring about this change?

  9. What methods would you like to employ to learn these new skills, attitudes and values?

  10. How much time and resources will you commit for your personnel to learn and implement these new skills, attitudes and values?

2. System Audit: Need assessment can be done using a System Audit. A system audit assesses all or several aspects of a system to understand how and why a system works the way it does. The audit examines available data, information, interviewing personnel, corroborating data, drawing conclusions, making recommendations.

The tools for audit:

  1. Interview schedules

  2. Process Observation Schedules

  3. Content Analysis

  4. Asset Observation schedules

  5. Data Analysis

3. Search Conference: Need Assessment can also be done using a Search Conference. A Search Conference is an organisation-wide process. In this process, the people of an organisation, in their various departments or together, go through stages of the history of an organisation highlighting the following aspects.

  1. Significant events

  2. Significant challenges for the organisation

  3. New interventions

  4. Successful changes

  5. Unsuccessful changes

  6. Disappointing and pleasant experiences

The process is done in periods of life of an organisation. The process should generate an understanding of the current situations, current dynamics, and the need and nature of future change.

4. Situation Analysis: Need assessment is also done through a Situational analysis process. Situation Analysis is done through a set of group activities using the consensus process.

The Consensus Process: The consensus process is based on the belief that most people are generally at conflict with each other over at least one aspect of life if not more. The area of conflict could be related to the personal or the professional components or both. Sometimes, the area of conflict could be to do with beliefs or the politics of a certain situation.

The presence of conflict affects the ability of a group to work together in a human endeavor. However, human endeavor is a part of a productive society and requires a certain degree of consensus for productivity to manifest and increase.

Usually, the consensus process aids in resolving conflict and building consensus for simple as well as complex situations.

1. Grounding: In grounding participants sit in a circle without any tables in front of them. The circle arrangement and the lack of tables is a physical trigger for conflict resolution. Only a circular arrangement ensures that there are no particular power positions in the group. All positions are equal in power. The absence of tables ensures that defenses are down and people are open in their communication

2. Greeting Circle: The greeting circle ensures that all or most of the people in the group greet and meet each other. The activity is described in detail as 'Icebreaker 8' here.

3. Role of the facilitator and recorder: As the consensus process requires people to work in groups, they will need to learn the skills of recording and facilitating, in order to resolve conflicts and be successful in group work. The roles are described here for your reference and use.


Who is a facilitator? A facilitator helps the smooth execution of any process. In the context of a working group, the facilitator is facilitating the sharing of ideas, problem solving and decision making.

During a training session every participant should take turns to become a facilitator and take the opportunity to learn the role of a facilitator.

Why should every participant learn to be a facilitator?

A facilitative environment creates a democratic attitude and human psychology indicates that people freely express themselves. As such they have maximum ownership of their own ideas and this leads to commitment to any decisions that the group makes.

It is crucial for a group to benefit from the individual expertise that exists in the group. Facilitation produces the synergy from the diversity that exists in the group.

Usually in a group, one or two persons are natural leaders or experts on the assigned task and can therefore create a power imbalance and suppress a conflict. This is neutralized by asking them to volunteer to be the facilitator first. How does this help? It helps, because the instruction for a facilitator is to speak last. This forces others to express themselves first and not be influenced by the expert or the natural leader.

Another instruction for the facilitator is to allow members of the group to express themselves irrespective of whether s/he believes that it is relevant to the task or not. S/he can ask clarifying questions, can explain the task again, but cannot stop or reject an opinion by expressing verbal or non-verbal disagreement.

An effective facilitator is :

  • Impartial

  • Open-minded

  • Unbiased

  • A good listener

  • Cordial

  • Honest

  • Trusting

  • Able to see the big picture


A recorder records views and ideas verbatim as expressed by the members of the group. She records this on a flipchart for everyone to be able to see. Everyone during a training should take turns to be recorder.

Why should everyone learn this role?

This role provides an excellent opportunity to developing listening skills. So people who have been accused of not listening should volunteer to take up this role first.

In traditional meetings the minutes of the meeting are noted by the secretary in a way that none of the group members can see it. This creates a sense of insecurity among them as they are never sure whether their contributions have been noted faithfully. Consequently, they worry about their opinions being manipulated and so cannot listen to their colleagues. The visible flip chart writing puts these apprehensions to rest and frees the group members to participate fully and effectively.

Also, as the recording is done visibly, the recorder who holds the pen is in a power position. This power is neutralized (remember that conflict resolution happens in an environment where power is perceived to be equal for all people in the group?) by ensuring that the recorder notes the contributions verbatim.

Noting down contributions arouses great temptation to modify the ideas presented by group members before recording. Some recorders take recourse to speaking and trying to influence the thoughts of the contributing member. This disturbs the power balance and conflict is suppressed.

So, recorders are instructed not to speak while recording. If the urge to speak is overpowering then they are instructed to handover the responsibility of recording to another member while they sit down and express their opinion.

The recorder also hands over the responsibility of the recording to another member, when it is their turn to contribute to the group task.

An effective recorder is:

  • A good listener

  • A good transcriber

  • Impartial

  • Unbiased

  • Open-minded

  • Patient

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