Assess Training Needs: Conducting Needs Analysis

What to know

  • A needs assessment identifies gaps in knowledge or skills within the workforce, and helps you determine if training is necessary.
  • The training needs assessment is one of CDC's Quality Training Standards.
  • Conducting an effective needs assessment involves planning, data collection, and analysis.


Needs assessment is the first of eight CDC Quality Training Standards. A needs assessment provides information to help you determine if training is needed.

If a training need is identified, conduct a training needs analysis to gather information to guide your training development process.

Needs assessment is a form of evaluation. Some of the resources on this page will link to evaluation tools.

Training needs analysis

Use these steps to guide you through the needs assessment to determine if training is needed to address a gap and gather information for your training development plan. Adapt the checklist to suit your specific project.

Training Development Tool‎

Download a printable version of the Needs Assessment and Training Needs Analysis Checklist.

1. Plan for needs assessment

A needs assessment is usually driven by a perceived gap in accomplishing the program goal. Use your program goal to help you determine your needs assessment goal or the desired outcome of this type of evaluation. Evaluation questions will help focus your information collection to identify the gap source and potential solutions.


Your program goal is to vaccinate 70% of your population. The gap you've identified is your vaccination rates are lower than your program wants them to be. An evaluation question might be: Why are vaccination rates low? Your program gathers information to better understand why the rates are low (the gap source). If you learn that one source is a lack of knowledge or skill among newly hired staff members in charge of providing vaccinations (a performance gap), then you would want to consider training your new staff as a solution.
  • Define the goal of the needs assessment in relation to your program's goal.
  • Describe the gap(s) by identifying the program goals or outcomes that are not currently occurring. Focus on understanding the current situation, not solutions.
  • Identify decision makers or partners who will use the needs assessment and how.
  • Establish and engage with stakeholders (partners) that include diverse and relevant representatives of the learner audience (e.g., different professions, generations, race and ethnicity, and gender identity).
  • Plan to provide updates to your partners throughout the needs assessment process.
  • Develop questions you want the assessment to answer about your program that will identify the source of the public health or organizational gap.

2. Collect data and information

Collect the information you need to answer the assessment questions and help find the source of the performance gap.

  • Identify existing data or scientific literature about the gap(s).
  • Conduct an environmental scan, if needed. Existing data and results from an environmental scan might be sufficient to answer assessment questions or to find gap sources.
  • Identify who can provide information about the gap(s).
  • Select the best methods (e.g., existing data review, interviews, surveys, or focus groups) to collect information about the gap(s). If you are creating new data collection tools, allow time and resources to pilot test with the intended audience. Evaluation questions may include questions about the gap source and what is needed to close the gap. Closing the gap might include the following elements:
    • Policy changes
    • Change in the work environment
    • Leadership
    • Communication
    • Attitude change
    • Knowledge
    • Skill(s) Behavior
  • Use data collection tools to answer your evaluation questions.
  • Collect data from people, if needed.

3. Analyze the data

Analyze your data. If you find that a need exists to change knowledge, skills, or behavior, then a performance gap exists, and training can be a solution (e.g., Cathy Moore's Will Training Help? Flowchart). Different solutions might be available, such as changes in policy, technology, organization, or standard operating procedures. Your analysis will help you learn if training is a solution that can address the gap.

  • Identify specific gaps in knowledge, skills, or behavior.
  • Describe potential gap causes, in terms of both people and systems.
  • Set criteria for identifying possible solutions to close the gap.
  • Evaluate context (e.g., existing resources and lessons learned from past efforts).
  • Identify barriers and facilitators for training delivery to ensure inclusion and accessibility (e.g., language, technology, or location).
  • Collaborate with partners to decide on potential solutions.

If training is part of the solution, conduct a training needs analysis.

4. Conduct a training needs analysis if training is needed

Use the Needs Assessment and Training Needs Analysis Checklist to guide you through the abbreviated steps to determine if training is a solution and provide valuable information for your training development plan.

If a performance gap exists, then you will want to identify what your organization needs to provide training to your audience. Conduct a training needs analysis to collect information about the "who," "what," "when," and "where," specifically for developing training. The "who" is the job performer and is often referred to as the learner. Your training needs analysis may include additional information collection and should help as follows:

  • Clarify expected learning outcome(s) or the training goal with decision makers or partners.
  • Describe the learners. This information comes from a learner analysis. The data are collected separately from step 2, and it will help you gather specific information about your learners, which includes the following:
    • Characteristics of the learners (e.g., demographics or role in the organization).
    • Barriers and facilitators that affect your learners' performance (e.g., language, technology, or location).
    • Learners' training preferences (e.g., formats, timing, or current sources of learning).
    • Learners' educational and reading levels.
  • List critical competencies to address in the training, if relevant.
  • Assess opportunities to build trust, engage, and advance equity through training.
  • List and review trainings that already exist.
    • Determine if these trainings meet CDC Quality Training Standards.
    • Review training evaluations and determine if the current trainings meet the needs of the learners and address the performance gap.
  • If no trainings exist, conduct a content analysis to identify, focus, and organize the potential training content for best learning. Describe what is needed to create new training that includes the following:
    • Source(s) for the content.
    • Organizational constraints (e.g., budget and time).
    • Available resources for creating or delivering training.

5. Review and interpret findings to identify possible training solutions

In the training needs analysis step, you collected the information needed to address the organization, learners, and current resources and capacity for addressing the performance gap. Conduct a careful review of this information to provide the context for developing recommended training solutions.

In this step the information is reviewed, analyzed and prioritized with input from partners. Your review and interpretation will provide context for developing recommended training solutions.

  • Engage partners to strengthen the relevance of conclusions and recommendations.
  • Consider strategies to make content and delivery methods appropriate for learners and their settings.
  • Prioritize which training solutions to implement based on your organization's long-term goals and resources.

6. Summarize and make recommendations

After conducting your needs assessment and training needs analysis, analyze the results, make recommendations, and write a report (e.g., the National Center for School Safety's 2021 Training Needs Assessment summary report). Share and discuss the report with key partners to determine next steps. Include the following information in your report.

  • The goal of the needs assessment and background for context.
  • The evaluation questions that the needs assessment was designed to answer.
  • The methods for collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data.
  • A summary and findings of the data collected.
  • Your recommendations, including:
    • how to develop the training;
    • which technical topics to cover;
    • the primary learning audience;
    • what learning methods will best serve the audience; and
    • how to address diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility.
  • Watkins, R, Meiers, MW, and Visser, Y. A guide to assessing needs: Essential tools for collecting information, making decisions, and achieving development. 1st ed. Washington, DC: World Bank Publications, 2012