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How to Know When Your L&D Team Needs to Conduct a Needs Analysis

and when to call in an expert.

So, you need to build a new training. Perhaps there’s been a system-wide change in conditions, but no update to processes. Maybe there are teams within your organization that aren’t quite hitting performance goals. Possibly revenue is down, and leadership is looking to make some changes. When does an L&D team need to conduct a needs analysis to build that training, or should they just move forward?

It may be tempting to go directly into concepting a learning solution without taking time to perform a needs analysis. Leadership may have already offered some early direction. Additionally, you may already have a gut sense of what you need to do; your team may have a shared sense of potential solutions. But there is a more specific, effective, proven process for making and refining that decision about how best to proceed.

Enacting a needs analysis is the first order of business when designing new learning solutions. Taking that step may seem like a hinderance, but in fact it can save time and budget by ensuring that your new learning or training solution is actually the right answer to the right questions and will actually solve the problem.

When you need a needs analysis?

  1. When your organization needs to make cultural changes, such as those needed to better support accessibility, diversity, equity, inclusion, and mental health awareness.
  2. When you’ve had a major shift in processes, such as the one we experienced last year with the move to a remote work environment (and now back to the office in some cases).
  3. When you need to update processes to reflect new conditions, such as new compliance rules, or a change in how you conduct onboarding.
  4. When you have some sense of which established process is failing, but you aren’t sure of why or where the errors are coming in.

So, maybe you’ve run through those questions and realized your organization would benefit from conducting a needs analysis. Perhaps there’s a sense that your organization needs to enact significant transformations, but it would take a review to determine where to start. What do you do when you realize you need to make a change, but aren’t sure what change to make to maximize the potential for a successful outcome and realize a return on your investment?

A needs analysis is based on evidence. Basically, you gather the information by taking specific steps, then use best practices to review the data and pinpoint areas that need your attention. You can even rank those needs based on your goals.

How do you perform a needs analysis? It’s all about gathering information. Start by taking inventory. Survey your team, talk to leadership, gather data from IT and from the impacted departments.

But that’s not the end of the process. You’ll need to know how to sift through your data to determine what’s important, and what may have no impact on your problem. You’ll want to have the expertise to correctly diagnose your issue.

Your team may have the ability to do that in house. That’s useful. But you may want to call in an expert to help you take careful measure and give you the basis to move forward. Here’s how to know when that’s necessary.

When to call in an expert to perform a needs analysis

There are times when your L&D team have taken all of the correct steps, but still don’t have the answers you need to reach a solution. Ask yourself the following to determine whether your organization could use a fresh, outside perspective.

  • Could your team use help to gather feedback from employees, departments, and leadership? Would it be helpful to have resources with the experience to effectively conduct the interview or survey processes, or run focus groups, and then accurately compile that information?
  • Have you taken employee surveys and gathered feedback from managers, without reaching a consensus on the issues? Could you use support to analyze data and pinpoint greatest areas of need, and /or draw insightful conclusions from currently anecdotal evidence?
  • Would it be useful to have an expert on hand to help interpret financial data, user data, or other metrics that may influence your decisions and help to find solutions?
  • Does your team have the expertise in-house to develop a high-level vision for the education plan, and a roadmap to guide the development process? Would an outside consultant help to give your team the perspective and support it needs to get started?
  • Do you have in-house, dedicated technical support to help you determine the best mix of in-person vs. remote solutions for your training? Could they make informed recommendations based on educational best practices?
  • Has your team already spent time trying to determine the correct solution, and would it be helpful to have an outside observer to come up with fresh insights?
  • Could your team use a refresh of insights on the latest educational best practices?

Just reviewing these questions may be enough to guide your team to know what the next steps should be. But if you have doubts, you’ll increase your ROI by bringing in a consultant.


Now that we’ve moved to a remote hybrid work environment, it may be useful to intentionally redesign and update your eLearning solutions to ensure effectiveness. You’ll want to perform a needs analysis to determine the next steps, ideally using a performance consultant with educational knowledge to help coordinate with instructional designers and your team.

It’s the best way to ensure the success of your L&D initiative.