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Chapter 4 Implementing needs assessment.


We have devised the needs assessment plan. What we need now is to find out from whom the information will be gathered, and how this will be accomplished. In Chapter Three we put together the following "to do" list.

1. Request existing documents (see plan and send letter).

2. Assemble general manager questions for interview.

3. Make an appointment and interview GM.

4. Collect and analyze the population, labor, and economic forecasts.

5. Develop the questionnaire for staff and department heads.

6. Prepare materials (script) to present the needs assessment process to employees.

7. Plan and implement task analysis.

We must now develop appropriate instruments for items two, five, six, and seven in order to implement the plan.

Developing reliable and valid instruments is a skill that can be taught. The purpose of this chapter is to present questionnaire and interview construction instruction that will enable us to devise effective questionnaires and interview schedules that will result in the collection of necessary data. This chapter will also address developing scripts for introducing the needs assessment process to existing staff. Task analysis, where we break down each duty on the job into sequential steps, is the basis of training design and will be dealt with in Chapter Five.

Upon completion of Chapter Four, the student should be able to

* Develop interview schedules to obtain appropriate data for any particular purpose.

* Develop a reliable and valid questionnaire to obtain appropriate data for any particular purpose.

* Devise a plan and script for introducing the needs assessment process to staff in an already-existing operation.

Interviews and Questionnaires

The purpose of both interviews and questionnaires is to obtain information from people. Whether we choose a questionnaire or an interview format has to do with the type of information we wish to obtain and the number of people involved.


An interview is a face-to-face verbal question-and-answer interaction between interviewer and respondent. When we want to find out specific information, we will devise a structured list of questions. If we conduct interviews with several people for the same information, we can use the same list of questions and compare and contrast answers later. We generally choose the interview format when we are interested in gathering information from only a few people. Interviews are time-consuming, thus expensive to use.

Interviews may be unstructured--that is, without a specific list of questions. An unstructured interview is useful when we are not sure what information we are looking for. While we will generally use structured interviews in needs assessment, we should be open to any other information that may come to us in the interview. One of the benefits of the interview method is that people will often say more in person than they would in writing. Also, their body language and tone of voice may give us important information that we could never have obtained on a questionnaire. In interviews we often allow respondents the opportunity to expand on their answers by asking open questions. Open questions do not give specific answer options. They are instead phrased to elicit more and less controlled information.

Closed: Do you like to read? [] Yes [] No

Open: What kinds of things do you like to read? If you do not like to read, why not?

It would be easy to count the number of people who answered yes and no in the above closed example and then say, "X number like to read," and, "Y number do not like to read." If we were interested in finding out if people liked or did not like to read, this would be the easiest and most effective way to find out. If, however, we were interested in their reading habits and motivations, the closed question would not be useful. We can get more information from open questions, but they will be more difficult to tabulate because there could be as many answers as there are respondents.

The Garden Terrace Inn--Interview Development

Our GM interview will be conducted utilizing a written list of questions to avoid wasting time with questions that are unnecessary or fail to elicit specific responses. We may add additional questions during the interview if pertinent to the original need we are attempting to assess. We note the answers to our questions in the interview in writing and do not rely on memory. We may find that a question we ask is not clear to the respondent. Because interviews are face-to-face, though, we can clarify the question immediately.

We used the needs assessment planning checklist in Chapter Three to put together a list of questions to ask the general manager in an interview. Organizational needs must be identified first because they determine the scope and direction of training. We will simply reorganize and clarify questions and rewrite them on a separate piece of paper with room for the GM's answers.

Organizational needs--Questions for the general manager:

1. What is the mission and philosophy of GTI?

2. What problems do you believe the training program can correct? (We will need to determine if the problems are real and, if so, whether training can alleviate them.)

3. What results do you expect from the training program?

4. What do you expect the training to look like?

5. Which positions are to be included in the training program?

6. How much time and authority will you provide?

7. How much money will be available?

8. What space and provisions are available for training? (Also observe.)

9. Are improvements in technology or equipment foreseen?

10. Is GTI planning on moving or expanding in the future?

11. Is GTI planning on targeting new markets in the future? (If respondent answered "yes" to any of the last three questions, we need to ask how we will handle changes in terms of updating the training, etc.)

12. How should we introduce the needs assessment process to the staff and get their involvement?

So, we have a structured list of questions for the GM. They are open questions, and we will ask them in a conversational form and follow up with more probing/clarification questions and further statements to establish understanding and rapport.


A questionnaire is a written form containing questions and answer options that is administered either verbally (like in a phone survey you may have experienced), or in writing (like surveys you may have received in the mail and been asked to fill in and return). Surveys generally ask closed questions where answer options are specified such as, "male/female," "yes/no," or "Strongly agree/agree/undecided/disagree/ strongly disagree." Questionnaires are usually used when data is to be collected from a large group of people. They are relatively easy to analyze, although time consuming to construct properly.

Questionnaires must be pilot tested to be sure they work before administering them to the selected respondents. A pilot test is where we administer the questionnaire to just a few people who resemble the people the questionnaire was designed for. We do this to see if they have any trouble understanding questions or how to answer them. In the past, we may have been asked to fill out a questionnaire and found some of the questions to be unanswerable. Perhaps there wasn't a response that was a good match for our opinion, or the question brought up conditions in our mind that were not addressed in the available responses, or the question may have been contradictory.

The pilot test allows us to test construction of the questionnaire so we can make any necessary corrections before we give it to our target group. It is a waste of resources to administer a questionnaire that people return with question marks and blank spots. Poorly constructed questionnaires can frustrate people and result in nonresponses.

The pilot test also allows us to tabulate and analyze the results to see if there are any problems that need to be corrected before the real questionnaire is administered. We may find that we need an additional question for clarification, or the numbering system is inadequate, or anything else that gets in the way of efficient analysis. Even the most experienced designers need to pilot test. It's like proofreading our own papers--we often do not catch our own mistakes, and what seemed perfectly clear to us may be incomprehensible to someone else.

Questionnaire Development Checklist

The following is a list of things to consider when constructing a questionnaire. It is a good idea to check our questionnaire against the list and address discrepancies before conducting the pilot test.

1. The questionnaire should be easy to read and well organized. It should not be crowded or busy. The questions should be simply stated, and easy to figure out.

2. The questionnaire should not be too long or take too much time to fill out. Be sure it is no longer than necessary.

3. Questions should not sound threatening to the respondent.

4. No unnecessary questions should be asked. Consider how each relates to a particular research topic.

5. Be sure to ask for just one answer per question. For instance, "I believe that the administration is always right and people who miss more than three days a month should be terminated. [] Yes [] No" This actually asks two questions. A respondent could believe the administration is right, yet not think a person should be terminated, or the other way around. Only if the respondent agreed or disagreed with both questions could he or she comfortably answer yes or no.

6. Don't ask a question based on an assumption that may be incorrect, such as "Employees who use the Internet at work for personal business should be [] terminated [] disciplined [] demoted." This assumes that employees consider the act as wrong. If they do not feel that using the Internet for personal business at work is wrong, they cannot answer the question.

7. Ask questions so that they flow sequentially, if possible. The sequence of questions should make sense to the respondent.

8. Can the answers be easily tabulated and analyzed?

9. Has the questionnaire been pilot tested and corrected if necessary?

The Garden Terrace Inn--Questionnaire

We will now develop a survey instrument to be administered to all department heads and workers to determine their individual needs. We chose the questionnaire format because we have to survey many people. We would not bother constructing a survey instrument for just a few people. To facilitate this, we provide boxes for them to check rather than have them write long explanations and comments that might or might not answer the questions and would be difficult to tabulate and analyze.

Questionnaires must be kept simple and to the point. Data collected in such a way is easily analyzed.

Our research questions are

1. What are the skill levels, attitudes, and knowledge of workers?

2. What do workers expect from their jobs?

3. What particular needs do workers have (i.e. child care, health care, vacations, tuition reimbursement, flexible hours, etc.) that can impact their performances?

The questions will be posed to determine individual needs. We are trying to identify our staff--who they are, and what is important to them. We will be designing training for them or employees similar to them, and it must be a good fit.

Employees will have been introduced to the needs assessment process prior to filling out the questionnaire and should have been reassured as to its nonevaluative nature. However, we still must be cognizant of how employees may interpret our questions and make ourselves available for further clarification and/or reassurance.

The individual needs portion of needs assessment may be the smallest. Position needs is by far the largest. As a result, our instrument does not have to be very big. We have asked just ten questions starting with the employee's name. This is not scientific research, and we do not have to protect the anonymity of the sample respondents. We are interested in who has what to say. Later, we may want to talk to the individual who filled out a particular questionnaire for further information or clarification. This is a small operation, and because we are not dealing with thousands of employees, we can afford the time for some individual interaction if it is useful.

An employee's actual position in the company would be pertinent information. We might find that all dishwashers or servers have the same needs and that they differ from housekeeper's needs. We will be able to consider their levels of education, which makes a difference in the way we design and present training.

Unless management intends to change its recruiting procedures, it is likely that any new employees will be similar to the present employees. Thus, by identifying education levels, needs, expectations, and time on the job for current employees, we can identify a profile of the typical employee for each position. We will then use this to develop training specific to each position that should be a good match for future trainees.

The Garden Terrace Inn Employee Questionnaire

1. Name: --

2. What is your position?

[] Cook

[] Dishwasher

[] Housekeeper

[] Front Desk

[] Night Auditor

[] Server

Other: --

3. How long have you worked at GTI?

[] Three months or less

[] Between four months and one year

[] Between one year and two years

[] Between two years and three years

[] Over three years

4. What education have you obtained?

[] Have not yet completed high school

[] High school diploma

[] Vocational-Technical school certificate/degree

Subject: --

[] Some college

Major: --

[] College degree

Major: --

Other: --

5. After you have checked any of the items below that you would like to be able to obtain from your job, please number them in terms of importance to you with the number one being the most important.
[] Money                                       --
[] Friends and social life                     --
[] Job security                                --
[] Promotion                                   --
[] Personal growth                             --
[] Challenge                                   --
[] Professional growth                         --
[] Independence (not a lot of supervision)     --
[] Structure and supervision                   --

Other: --                                      --

6. Please check any of the following needs you may have, and then number them in terms of importance to you.
[] Vacation                                    --
[] Tuition reimbursement _____                 --
[] Full-time hours                             --
[] Cross training and job rotation             --
[] Inn discounts for self and family           --
[] Employee parties or activities              --
[] Employee wellness program                   --

Other: --                                      --

7. In your current position, which would you prefer?

[] More responsibility

[] Less responsibility

[] I am satisfied with the present level of responsibility.

8. In your current position, which would you prefer?

[] More supervision

[] Less supervision

[] I am satisfied with the present level of supervision.

9. I might like the additional responsibility of training new employees.

[] Yes

[] No

10. Please write in the space below any comments or suggestions that you think could help us to better know and meet your needs.

We would then, of course, pilot the questionnaire with several people similar to the employees to make sure they understand it, that the questions make sense, and that answers can be tabulated and analyzed with ease. We will also want to ascertain whether or not the information collected is useful. It's easier and less costly to modify the questionnaire before administering it to everyone.

Prepare Employees for Needs Assessment

Employee involvement in needs assessment is essential within existing operations. Needs assessment can look and feel very much like employee appraisal. We are, however, not interested in evaluating employees' performance, but rather in finding out what they actually do and think about what they do. We want their input. If they think their responses to our questions will in any way hurt them, they may not give us useful, honest answers. They may say what they think we want to hear, or what they think they should say, rather than the truth. They must be reassured that their answers will be used to develop training for future employees and will not in any way credit or discredit their own performance.

Depending on the operation, we might choose to hold an employee meeting or several shift meetings to explain the process and purpose. The whole point is to reassure employees and make them comfortable and open to involvement in the process. How we accomplish that will differ from operation to operation. We must assess the climate and determine what approach will be most effective. Management will usually know what works best with their particular employees, and we can also pay attention to our surroundings. With practice we can tune into what people respond to.

The Garden Terrace Inn Introduction to Needs Assessment

After interviewing the GM, we decided to hold a 45-minute paid employee meeting to present the needs assessment process and purpose. There will be another meeting for those who could not attend the first. The employees know and trust Jim, the GM, and it was determined that he would enthusiastically introduce us and the plan. We then described exactly what we will be doing and what we need the employees to do, and why we are doing it. The following is the script we will loosely follow in the meeting.

Jim: "Good afternoon, everyone! It is nice to all be in the same place at the same time for a change. We have come a long way in the past six years, and it's all because of you and your professionalism and dedication to gracious service. I am proud to be a part of The Garden Terrace Inn, and I am very proud of all of you.

"As we have grown and established our reputation, we are now at a point where it makes sense to formalize our training program. We have never really had one. We have tried to make sure that new employees knew what they were doing before working with our guests, but there was never a specific plan. Many of you have taken new employees under your wing and shown them what to do, but you were not given the time and materials that would have made it easier.

"All of us are too busy to devise formal training, so I have brought

in Hospitality Training Design to put together a program for us that will result in consistent training. This will be easier for us to do than what we have been doing. No outsider can tell us how to do our jobs, of course, so it is essential that we get involved in this process and clue them in on what we do and what we need ... so they can design training that really works for us. I want you to make them feel welcome and give them your complete cooperation."

Designer: "Hello, everyone! I am so happy to be here. I know why Jim is so proud of The Garden Terrace Inn and all of you. I was here three years ago at the most beautiful wedding I have ever attended. The food was wonderful, the service was unobtrusive and gracious, and the ambiance was perfect. We are not changing anything you do. What we are doing is putting together a written training program which will help GTI train new employees to do just what you already do.

"We will be around for the next few days, observing, asking questions, and getting your input. We will not be evaluating your performance. You know how to do your jobs. You know how the positions at GTI fit together to result in the total care your guests receive. You know the things that new employees need to know and do. We are going to combine your job expertise with our training design expertise ... and work with you to develop the most efficient, effective training program possible.

"None of your input will be used against you in any way ... or manipulated to judge your performance. If you are aware of any improvements that could be made, or have any suggestions at all, please be sure to share them with us. We will begin with assessing needs--the needs of the inn, the needs of the positions, and your needs. You will all be receiving a questionnaire that we would appreciate your filling out and returning to us. We will be asking some of you questions about what you do and your thoughts about the job. We will also be observing selected employees--not to evaluate your performance--but to see if what you are actually doing matches what you say you do. In that way, we will not miss anything that should be in the training.

"The training you have been giving new employees has worked, and some of you might think designing a formal training program is a waste of time and money. But it is not. Well-designed formal training programs work better and easier and faster. They take no thought. All the thought has already been done and written down. Some of you who are interested may want to become 'official' trainers. You will be given paid release time and training to train new employees. If any of you have ever experienced formal training, you know that it works much better. So, please share your job knowledge with us and help us to make the best training program we can.

"Are there any questions?"


Needs assessment is common sense with a few technical skills thrown in. By using a needs assessment planning checklist, we can determine what we need to find out and from whom and how. Instruments are developed to obtain the specific information in a style that matches the people we are trying to ask. We are simply asking ourselves, "What do I want to know, and how can I find it out?"



Open Questions

Closed Questions

Structured Interviews

Unstructured Interviews


Pilot test


1. Think about a previous job interview you have experienced. Did the interviewer have a list of questions to ask you? Did the interviewer write down your answers? Who did most of the talking? You, or the interviewer? Were you asked job-specific questions? What was the objective for the interview? Do you think that objective was met? Why or why not?

2. Describe advantages and disadvantages of the interview format. For what types of situations might an interview be the best way to obtain the desired information?

3. Define and describe the difference between structured and unstructured interviews. What are the advantages and disadvantages of both structured and unstructured interviews? Give examples of situations where each type might be the better choice.

4. Define and describe the difference between open and closed questions. What are the advantages and disadvantages of both open and closed questions, and when might each be a better choice?

5. Think of any surveys you have been requested to fill out recently. Were there any questions where none of the answer choices matched your response? Were there any questions that were not clear to you? What characteristics of surveys (you have participated in) have you found annoying?

6. Define and describe pilot testing. What is the purpose of pilot testing, and why is it necessary?

7. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the survey data collection method? When is it best to use a survey rather than another data collection method?

8. How are surveys and interviews tabulated? How do you handle and what do you do with the information you obtain from the survey or interview?

9. Discuss the purpose of needs assessment and why it is essential for employees in existing operations to be involved. Describe how management might go about preparing employees for this involvement, and the pitfalls management would want to avoid by adequately preparing employees.

10. Discuss how needs assessment is a matter of common sense and how questionnaires and interviews relate to it.
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Publication:Training Design Guide for the Hospitality Industry
Article Type:Professional standards
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2003
Previous Article:Chapter 3 Needs assessment planning.
Next Article:Chapter 5 Planning job analysis.

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