Published 15 Mar 2022
What is a Needs Assessment?
A needs assessment is the systematic process of identifying and evaluating organizational needs and gaps. It is conducted across a range of settings, such as communities, schools, hospitals, states, and business organizations. The assessment gives the organization a snapshot of where they may be lacking and help them refocus their resources to progress toward goals with greater efficiency.
Use this needs assessment template during the project planning process to help the team obtain a better understanding of economic, social, and environmental factors that may affect the outcome of the project. This template is specifically focused on non-profit organization projects, but can still be customized accordingly to organization needs.
In this article we will briefly discuss the following:
- The difference between a needs assessment and needs analysis
- How do you conduct a needs assessment?
- Data collection methods for needs assessment
- What is a needs assessment tool?
The terms needs assessment and needs analysis often get used interchangeably. While seemingly the same, the two are actually distinct.
As mentioned, needs assessment identifies the needs and gaps that currently exist in the organization. Once gaps and needs are discovered, needs analysis or gap analysis is then used to determine the ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’ and ‘why’ of the gaps. The two processes work in conjunction to bring the organization from one point to the next in order to bridge the gaps in the organization.
Needs assessment is a powerful tool that can aid project managers in decision making, resource allocation, and ultimately reaching business goals. The following are steps project managers can take in conducting a needs assessment successfully:
Understand the requirements and define objectives.
Project managers and their team members should clearly understand the overall objective of the project and the requirements to bring it to completion. As a project manager, help bring clarity to the team by going through the following questions:
- What does success look like with this project?
- What individual milestones or deliverables will be involved?
- What will the general project flow look like from start to completion?
- What’s our wishlist for the project?
Determine existing resources.
Given the requirements and objectives of the project, determine the available resources in your organization that you can use for the project.
Identify needs and gaps.
By determining the available resources, you’ll also be able to identify gaps that need to be addressed in order to progress towards completion. This is done through data collection and analysis. There are various methods that can be used to help pinpoint gaps.
Develop a plan of action.
At the conclusion of the needs assessment, review the data you gathered and compare it with the objectives you set for the project. Doing so emphasizes which steps the team needs to take in order to achieve project goals. Your plan of action should outline key approaches and strategies and should assign a team lead and deadline for each.
In identifying needs and gaps, there are various ways of conducting data collection for needs assessment. The following are 3 basic data collecting methods that may be used in conducting needs assessments:
Surveys are useful tools in gathering data for needs assessment. It can be conducted in a written or electronic format. It is a cost-effective method that allows you to gather data for your needs assessment when your goals require:
- a cost-effective method to collect responses from a large set of individuals;
- a method to collect responses to a fairly large number of questions;
- data that is easy to summarize and report; and
- a method that allows a degree of anonymity for respondents to collect a more candid response;
Interviews are done by collecting data through one or more conversations between two or more people. Interviews can be conducted face to face or via technology (video conference, telephone, or online.) Interviews are used to identify the people who can provide in-depth information about the needs and gaps of the project and gather their ideas on how to address it. While this method is labor and time-intensive, it is inexpensive and can gather a variety of perspectives, and give interviewers better clarity on interviewees’ responses.
Focus groups are group discussions conducted in person with a limited number of stakeholders to gain information about views and experiences on the same topic. Focus groups can be highly valuable for planning a needs assessment, as you can gather several perspectives and learn about attitudes and beliefs. However, this method may cause members to piggyback off each other’s ideas and statements and only get information from the outspoken members of the focus group.
Perform digital surveys when conducting your needs assessment to gather in-depth information efficiently and effectively. Conduct surveys flexibly with a mobile or tablet device. Replace paper survey forms to remove the chances of losing valuable data.
iAuditor by SafetyCulture is a versatile checklist and inspections app that can support project managers in conducting a needs assessment to address project needs and gaps to successfully achieve goals.
With iAuditor, you can:
- Share digital needs assessment survey forms to respective audiences within the organization;
- Easily fill out and complete needs assessment forms using a mobile or tablet device;
- Automatically generate survey and needs assessment reports upon completion and securely save them online in the cloud. Access them anytime, anywhere, when you need them. Preview a sample needs assessment pdf report here;
- Use analytics for better measurement and analysis of survey reports
To help you get started, we have provided 4 needs assessment templates that you can download and customize according to your needs.
Featured Needs Assessment Template
This needs assessment template consists of questions designed to gather information about business/department needs. Organization leaders or managers can use this template to determine performance and learning needs, and gather feedback from the team to determine rooms for improvement.