Planning for a Needs Assessment

12 Sep

This week’s blog assignment was to research a company and develop a plan on how would a conduct a needs assessment on the chosen organization. I decided to do my research and needs assessment plan on Southwest Airlines which has been one of the most profitable airlines the last 40 years according to Forbes (Gallo, 2014). A need assessment is a process used to determine whether training is necessary and is the first step in the instructional design process (Noe, 2013). The needs assessment consists of three types of analysis which are organizational, person, and task analysis. Organizational analysis involves determining the appropriateness of training given the company’s business strategy, its resources available for training, and support by managers and peers for training activities. Person analysis focuses on identifying whether training is the solution, who needs the training, and whether employees have the skills, attitudes, and beliefs needed to ensure they master the training program. Task analysis identifies the important task, knowledge, skills, and behaviors that need to be emphasized in training for employees to complete their tasks (Noe, 2013). To begin a needs assessment it helps to gain some familiarity with the organization.

The mission of Southwest airline is dedication to the highest quality of customer service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and company spirit. Their main purpose is to connect people to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, low cost air travel. Their vision is to become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline (Gallo, 2014). These three items make up the building blocks of Southwest’s business strategy. This ties in with their goals for their employees which is to provide a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth. They encourage creativity and innovation that will improve their airlines. Part of what makes Southwest Airlines successful is keeping operations simple. They maintain one type of aircraft which is the Boeing 737 which keeps training and equipment cost down since it is only focuses on one type of aircraft. They don’t charge their customers for luggage and they don’t assign seats. Their entire operation is run by about 45,000 employees throughout the southwest.

When conducting a needs assessment it is important to include different stakeholders since they are the subject matter experts familiar with the organization that can provide the information required for each analysis. Noe (2013) state that stakeholders such as upper managers, mid-level managers, trainers, and job incumbents should be included in the analysis since it provides a view from different levels with the organization. The following are sample questions that I would ask the stakeholders at Southwest Airlines for each analysis.

Questions for Organizational Analysis

Upper Mgmt – What is your business strategy? What capabilities will be required to fulfill the business strategy? What competencies does the company require in order for it to succeed? What and how much resources are dedicated to training?
Mid-level Mgmt – Do you have money budgeted toward training? How much are you willing to spend on training? Do you have and maintain quality/statistical reports on productivity? How do you see training helping your work centers requirements? Are you willing to provide employees the time to seek training? Will you support and encourage employees to apply what they learned on the job?
Trainers – Does management support training? Are resources available to provide effective training? Are employees given the time and support to be trained?

Questions for Person Analysis

Upper Mgmt – Does the organization HR department have a plan to ensure that all jobs are assigned with the proper personnel? Does the organization lack any skilled employees in any of their departments? Overall are the employees meeting all company standards and goals?
Mid-level Mgmt – Do you have the right people for the tasks in your work center? What training or skills are your employees lacking? What are you satisfied with the employee’s performance level and is it meeting the organizational standard and goals? What is the background and make-up of your employees?
Trainers – Are all employees going through your training able to successfully complete the course? Are you aware of any performance problems or trends within the organization? Do you have statistical data showing if the training provided transferred to the job?

Questions for Task Analysis

Upper Mgmt – Do you have the employees to accomplish all the tasks required to accomplish the mission and goals of the organization? Are all the resources provided and available to accomplish the required tasks within the organization? Are there any new requirements that will be coming out in the near future?
Mid-level Mgmt – What are the most critical task required for the success of the work center? What knowledge, skills, and abilities are required by employees to complete the tasks in the work center? Does the work center have all the resources to accomplish all its tasks?
Trainers – What tasks are the most critical to accomplishing the goals of the organization? Are all resources available to accomplish these tasks? Do employees currently have all the skills required to complete the tasks assigned? Are the critical tasks the main focus within the training program? Does training on these tasks increase performance?

To do a thorough need assessment it helps to look at as many sources of information as possible besides just speaking to stakeholders. I would ask to look at Southwest Airlines safety reports and quality assurance assessment reports that are usually conducted by an independent agency within the organization since this will highlight any areas affecting performance that might be training related. I would look at policy and procedure regulations since they can tell you a little about how the company operates. I would also look at any training records or certifications that the employees of Southwest Airline might have to maintain.

There are several techniques available to conduct a needs assessment. Noe (2013) states that no single method is superior to the other and the using multiple methods usually gather the best results. The techniques I would use at Southwest Airline are observation, interviews, and documentation. Observation would let me see first hands the employees performing on the job and give me an idea on the processes used to accomplish the work center tasks. I would then follow up with interviews since now I can ask further questions on the items I observed and unlike questionnaires I have the person in front of me which makes it simple to read their body language to ensure they are being honest with their replies. Lastly I would go through several documents such as training records, technical manuals, and policies to name a few that would give me further details on how the organization is performing. All these techniques would give me firsthand look at the employees and their environment to help determine if training will be a good solution to any performance problem or if another approach would work better which is the why needs assessment is important since it addresses this and ensures money is spent on the right solution to correct whatever issue is stopping the organization from fulfilling its mission and goals.


Gallo, C. (2014). Southwest Airlines Motivates its Employees With a Purpose Bigger Than a Paycheck. Retrieved on September 11, 2014 from
Noe, R. A. (2013). Employee Training and Development (6th ed.). NY, NY: McGraw

1 Comment

Posted by on September 12, 2014 in Uncategorized


One response to “Planning for a Needs Assessment

  1. Stacie

    September 14, 2014 at 2:04 pm


    Very thorough and in depth assessment. You and I think alike insofar as the techniques we would use to conduct a needs assessment: observation, interview and documentation. These three methods compliment each other in that one would allow the trainer/instructional designer to ascertain additional information that the other two methods may not reveal.


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