Needs Analysis is the process of defining what is required from a workshop before developing it. By discovering what the organization’s current practices are, and then determining its expectations from running the workshop, you can identify what is needed to fill the gap between an organization’s practices and its expectations with a helpful development workshop.

So, why is Needs Analysis critical for an engaging workshop?

A Needs Analysis is essential to identify the training needs for the design of a developmental workshop. With a Needs Analysis, the workshop will be more effective, objectives will be met, and participants will be motivated.

There is sometimes a mismatch between expected and actual performance in an organization. The first step in understanding what is required for successful training is determining where is this mismatch or gap.

This post will show you the value of development workshops in the workplace, and how Needs Analysis can make those workshops more effective.

Why use workshops?

Workshops serve many purposes in an organization. Some of these purposes include:

  • Introducing a new method to do a task.
  • Demonstrating a new direction or a change of mindset.
  • Explaining the reasoning behind a decision.
  • Training new members of the organization.
  • Setting up an ongoing cycle of training.

The purpose of a Needs Analysis

The purpose of a needs analysis is to show you (the workshop designer) what your team already knows, so you focus on addressing the gaps or the weaknesses that are present. It allows you to avoid designing workshops that lack purpose or have no benefit to the people attending them.

According to InnProBio (Forum for Bio-Based Innovation in Public Procurement), Needs Analysis is research that provides information to identify the goals and the needs of an organization’s members.

Needs Analysis also determines the effectiveness of current workshops and where necessary, promote changes to them. In some cases, workshops will be constantly improved and refined as the organization changes direction.

Needs Analysis benefits

Instead of providing the same training year after year, a Needs Analysis will help you by adding a specific purpose to your workshops. This analysis will help the organization’s goals and objectives in the following ways:

  • The focus of Needs Analysis is typically job performance (Anderson). By determining exactly where the performance gaps are, workshops will be more practical and to the point.
  • It allows workshops to be more aligned with the organization’s goals and objectives.
  • It provides opportunities to assess the effectiveness of a workshop afterward, as performance gaps close after the workshop.
  • Budgets are often limited, and investing in a development workshop with a purpose will deliver a positive return on investment.

How to determine the needs

Before creating a workshop, there are several ways to determine an organization’s needs. Some of these ways are:

  • Observation
  • Asking members of the organization
  • Interviews with potential workshop attendees
  • Asking management or supervisors
  • Job analysis
  • Surveys
  • Long-term goals

Often, when the needs of an organization turn out to be broad, further study can determine which needs should be addressed first, and where the organization should focus on improving immediately (Reed & Vakola). This allows the organization to prepare for a cycle of continuous improvement to address a wide range of needs without being overwhelmed.

What is Gap Analysis?

“A Guide to Performing a Requirements Assessment and a Gap Analysis” by Anthony J. Janetti, explains the importance of both needs assessment and gap analysis when building an effective workshop for an organization.

The process of Gap Analysis means determining the gap or the difference between the organization’s performance expectations and its actual capabilities and performance. It comes down to “what should be done” vs. “what is being done”.

This gap must be defined in order to design a useful workshop. A Needs Analysis is used to define this gap.

Why include members of the organization?

Including members of the organization in the process of determining needs accomplishes a couple of objectives:

  • Firstly, the act of inclusion fosters trust and allows members to commit to the overall vision of the organization. This community trust builds credibility and provides an opportunity for all members to share in the organization’s mission.
  • Secondly, the involvement of the organization’s members provides insight into problems or roadblocks that have not been addressed or are not evident to those designing workshops.

Level of needs

When doing a Needs Analysis, keep in mind that there are multiple levels of training to consider.

1. The organization has needs relating to its weaknesses.
After identifying these needs, workshops and training can work to close the most significant gaps.

2. There are also tasks or occupational needs inside the organization.
The needs assessment should look for gaps between the skills needed to perform a task and those needed to meet the organization’s expectations.

3. Individual needs should also be assessed.
Finding out what skills or knowledge would best support an individual would reflect the organization’s goals.

How to conduct a Needs Analysis

According to Peter Exner’s article, “How to Conduct a Training Needs Analysis,” there are specific steps to take when doing a Needs Analysis.

  • Look for performance gaps to identify current issues. Also, take note of productivity strengths so you can see why some areas are so successful.
    • Interview management and supervisors from all levels to obtain feedback regarding strengths and weaknesses. They are often very insightful about current practices.
    • Interview employees to get their perspectives on the strengths and weaknesses of current practices.
  • Evaluate the data received to identify the trends of the most significant gaps between performance and expectations.
  • Write the Needs Analysis report to include those who have needs and what exactly those needs are.
    This report should:
    • Include a summary of findings at the beginning of the report for quick skimming.
    • State the purpose of the needs assessment.
    • Define the methods used to collect information and how that information was interpreted.
    • Describe the data’s findings.
    • Describe workshop recommendations and who should be included.
    • Discuss how the workshop’s effectiveness of the workshop will be measured. The needs assessment should show a closing of gaps for whatever the workshop’s objective is.
    • Summarize all the findings and conclude with an explanation of how the workshop supports the organization’s goal.
    • Include a delivery plan or strategy.

Needs Analysis follow-up

After defining your goals, deciding who needs to attend, and creating an agenda for a relevant and engaging workshop, it is essential to follow up to evaluate the workshop’s success. Often this comes in the form of feedback, but the effectiveness can also be measured by determining whether or not the gaps that were identified in the first place have been closed.

The Needs Analysis will highlight goals if a business maintains a cycle of continuous development. As your organization strives to achieve these goals and evaluates feedback and proof of achievement, it enables continual improvement.


  • Anderson, G. “A Proactive Model for Training Needs Analysis.” Journal of European Industrial Training, vol. 18, no. 3, 1994.
  • Reed, J. & Vakola, M. “What Role Can a Training Needs Analysis Play in Organisational Change?” Journal of Organizational Change Management, vol. 19, no. 3, 2006.