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Making the Most of a Needs Analysis with Custom eLearning

Identifying troubling performance is easy. It’s clear when you look at revenue or utilization numbers. On the other hand, diagnosing the underlying conditions that lead to poor performance is often a challenge. Without doing so, an organization can’t hope to find an effective eLearning solution. But that’s what separates good companies from the best. While not all organizational challenges are innately training challenges, needs analyses are a critical step in any organizational change. They aim to discover the gaps in knowledge, behavior, or skillsets that impact organizational performance.

In that sense, it’s important for an employee training and development team to be involved in the process of setting organizational goals. The data from needs analyses can give critical insight into both challenges and the pathway to success. And with that data, you can create custom eLearning that has the greatest impact on your learners.

Tactics for Needs Analyses

Kicking the tires of your company and checking under the hood might lead to some uncomfortable truths, but recognizing performance gaps and deciding to take action shows your investment in individual and organizational growth. If you’re not sure how to start, here are a few tactics for finding performance challenges:

Individual interviews with employees allow for deep dives into the processes and performance of a specific role. This is the best way to capture first-hand experiences.

Focus groups are a great way to gather more general data of groups. For example, using a random sample of employees of the same role can provide data that represents the larger population.

Surveys and knowledge assessments serve as more objective measurements of knowledge.

Observation can reveal behaviors that don’t make it into self-reported data gathering methods. But, keep in mind that employees will act differently when they know they’re being observed.

Some less-common sources to consider are customer reviews or discussions with clients. While their knowledge of day-to-day expectations and operations will be small, they could provide an outside perspective that leads to fresh ideas.

Custom eLearning Tips

Custom eLearning has become a common training strategy because business processes have become progressively more unique. As such, they often require unique learning solutions to create the desired changes. Needs analyses may uncover performance gaps, but employee training and development teams apply their findings to improve performance. While there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for creating custom eLearning, there are a few strategies that have proven effective:

  • You can make eLearning content more engaging just by changing the format. For example, you might convert text content to training videos so learners can see and hear from subject-matter experts. Marketing strategies have used video-based content to draw upon emotion and increase motivation.
  • Using immersive training technology, like augmented reality, can help learners visualize scenarios, workspaces, or equipment. Simulations with branching scenarios also allow for immersive trial-and-error in a safe environment.
  • Fast-paced jobs are perfect for learner-directed modules and microlearning that keeps training flexible.

Case Study: Panera Bread

For an example of the importance of needs analyses and the impact of custom eLearning, let’s look at a recent project in foodservice. Panera Bread partnered with AllenComm to create a leadership development training initiative to support their growing company. Their current internal promotion process of transitioning assistant managers to general managers was outdated. So, after the initial needs analysis, a custom training solution was developed that took learners through twelve online micromodules. Each module targeted key skills critical to the success of their transition into management. Learners then applied those skills in on-the-job experiences guided by mentors. The learning strategy also included custom action planners to guide learners through their daily goals and activities. Moreover, pre-test and post-test diagnostics assessed learners’ abilities, in relation to Panera-specific competencies.

The custom eLearning initiative resulted not only in improved performance for new leaders, but employee retention and quality of service as well.


As your organization tries to create a pathway to success, remember that the best performance goals are data-driven. But getting data on employee performance requires careful needs analyses. You should constantly revisit goals, evaluate performance gaps, and design custom eLearning content that targets the unique needs of your organization.