What is a Needs Assessment: definition, importance, model, and tips
Each organization is a complex unity. This is why it’s often difficult to realize what prevents the company from growing. Needs assessment helps analyze the business needs and pave the way for attaining them and ensuring its constant growth.
What is a needs assessment?
Needs assessment, also called ‘environmental scan,’ is a process that involves determining the company’s needs and setting criteria for understanding how to best allocate available resources such as money, people, and facilities so that the business could improve its structure, operations, and processes.
But what are the needs then?
Needs are the gaps between your company’s current achievements and your desired future accomplishments. When organizations define a need, they determine it as a priority and start looking at all possible activities to improve their performance and reach their goals.
Let’s say, a company feels its marketing processes are unfolding slowly. Upon conducting a needs assessment, it realizes a strong need for marketing automation. The business decides to implement an outreach automation solution, e.g., Snov.io. Here’s how it happens:
- The company’s technical advisors decide whether the chosen platform fits the intended purpose.
- The financial department estimates prices and determines whether they are affordable.
- Senior management may ask external stakeholders for their opinion on the proposed change, if appropriate.
- The company also browses alternative solutions to determine whether there are any more suitable options available.
As a result, the organization decides to use the service, which helps streamline its marketing processes.
What is the purpose of a needs assessment?
Needs assessment plays a pivotal role in a performance improvement cycle, as it makes it continuous and systematic.
It happens due to the following reasons:
Needs assessment guides decision-making. It’s a systematic process that offers a set of procedures companies can always reflect on and continuously improve to enrich their decisions in the future.
It justifies decisions before they are made. Needs assessment allows businesses to avoid situations when decisions are made spontaneously, and it’s too late for changes. Instead, it helps organizations think proactively.
It’s adjustable to any project, time frame, and budget. No matter how monumental your project is, your needs assessment is a flexible process that can take place at any time and be scaled up.
It provides solutions to complex problems. The performance of any company is not a result of a single decision. Thus, its improvement must be due to complex measures. Needs assessment allows canning the company’s processes from top to bottom, which enables management to combine various activities for improving their performance.
How to conduct a needs assessment?
Smart companies are used to following four stages of needs assessment: needs identification, data collection & analysis, data application, and evaluation.
At this stage, the company analyzes its current state and needs. It should also discover other undisclosed needs that may be hindering the organization from moving to the desired goals. Then, the business should rank them in order of importance to the improvement. This way, it sets the scope for its research.
Data collection & analysis
This stage presupposes gathering information necessary for the company to better understand the gaps between where it is now and where it strives to be. Data may be collected both from internal company records (micro-level research) or externally (macro-level research). The latter means getting information through market research techniques such as surveys.
Here are some needs assessment example questions that can be helpful at this stage:
- Is lead generation regular?
- Do employees understand they are the best fit for the company?
- Do the company’s goals align with its vision?
- Can the company provide a proper onboarding for talented employees?
- Do existing customers bring in regular referrals?
As soon as the company has collected and analyzed the necessary data, it uses these findings to evaluate solutions and determine which one is best from the point of costs and benefits. This helps come up with an action plan on how to implement the chosen solution and also allocate resources required for this.
Evaluation can help organizations understand what made an action plan successful or find any weak points in the needs assessment. For example, you may find out that you have missed an important gap or allocated not enough resources to fill it.
Tips for effective needs assessment
Now that you understand how to build your needs assessment process step by step, here are some tips that will let you complete it most efficiently:
Find your best way of collecting data
Remember that your company is represented by people of different ages and backgrounds. This will determine the choice of your best method of collecting data. More so, the larger your organization, the more factors will influence how you should collect data. Think about gathering information via a diversity of forms: one-on-one interviews, surveys, focus groups, etc.
Ask everyone and be consistent
When it comes to improving the company’s processes, every word matters. To ensure needs assessment is accurate, ask the same questions to every person within your organization. Beware of ambiguity and don’t ask the same questions in different ways.
Know where you’re going
While completing the assessment, you should have a clear picture of what needs you are trying to satisfy. Don’t be shy to draw the ideal picture of your company’s state and keep it as your main landmark on the way to improvement.
Don’t stick to only one solution
Different needs require different solutions. Sometimes you will rearrange your company’s resources. Or you will have to change the way of employing staff. Be ready to look for various approaches to achieving the desired results in the course of your needs assessment.
No matter how successful the performance of a company is, one day the time for changes will come. The question will arise: ‘What should be done to improve the business processes?’
Needs assessment is a tool that helps organizations fill the gaps between what they currently have and what they want to have in the future. Initiated at the earliest stage possible and run systematically, it’s a reliable guide for the strategic planning of your business.