An excerpt from Training Big for Small Businesses by Niki Tudge


Available June 2017

To be thorough about our training program needs it is necessary to conduct a needs assessment. This may be for a team, individual, department or an entire business. For example, if an individual has been performing below standard and their manager or someone else in the organization has determined they need to be trained, take a few moments to consider and explore the reasons for the poor performance.

In any situation with employees, we should first assess and lay blame to processes and policy before punishing performance. It may be neither an attitude issue, nor a lack of knowledge or skills. Consider instead that it may be due to poor management, inadequate leadership, or a lack of clarity in a poorly-implemented standard operating or workplace policy. A needs assessment may bring to light more entrenched problems. In these situations, a broader training approach, or the involvement of management to address operating structures or policies, will be needed.

When conducting a needs assessment, the following steps should be considered:

  1. Review the needs of the job. This should be easy if a well-written job description is on hand. If not available, this will be a good opportunity to develop one. Employees are evaluated based on the needs of the job. If the job needs are unclear, then it is impossible to ensure they are trained adequately and evaluated fairly.
  2. Review the job task analysis. From the job description, there should be a list of the job tasks that need to be performed by the individual and to what standard. These should be documented in a department training manual. Each task will be analyzed based on what it is, how it is to be performed and why it needs to be performed to that standard.

Using objective criteria, we can review the gap between an employee’s performance and the job task analysis. This will determine the training need. The training program is designed specifically to meet the needs of the employee, but must also meet those of their direct superior/manager and the business owner or person who invested in the training.

Understanding who is responsible, who is accountable and who needs to be consulted or kept informed is an important component to developing a successful training program. This is referred to as the RACI Model. This stands for:





Who is directly responsible for the training goals?

Who is accountable to ensure the training is a success?

Who needs to be consulted before, during and after the training program?

Who needs to be kept up-to- date and informed on the progress of the training?


At the same time, we must take into consideration the needs of other individuals invested in the training. It is our job to find out the supervisor or manager’s expectations and incorporate these into our program. The same goes for those who are financing the training or have allocated money into the budget. If we can meet the goals of the trainee, the supervisor or manager and the person financially invested in the training, we are more likely to achieve a successful outcome. These stakeholders may also have concerns about the program, the approach or, in some cases, the individual being trained. These concerns need to be aired and discussed before training commences. Once we have gathered the needs and concerns from the stakeholders and conducted a needs assessment, we can further analyze individual motivation.

Trainees have been described as having the mentality of a prisoner, a vacationer, an expert, or a learner.  

  • The prisoner is the employee who has been sent to training by their superior and sees no value in being there.
  • The vacationer views training as an opportunity to get away from the grind of everyday work. They will be lackadaisical in their approach, arrival and departure times and program commitment.
  • The expert is the individual who will challenge the trainer on every topic. They love the challenge and think they already know it all.
  • The learner is the person who loves to learn and will absorb everything they can. They will ask lots of questions, arrive early and stay late.

Knowing which of these labels best reflects our trainees will help determine our approach. Understanding who they are and how motivated they are to learn, coupled with the training needs assessment, will help us prepare and provide them with the experience they deserve.