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Comprehensive Needs Assessment
Changing business needs and industry trends affect all businesses. Some businesses prosper, whiles others barely survive, and many still, close their doors forever. Competitive and adaptive advantages are tools that organisation teams must master to increase their chances of survival. Comprehensive needs analysis increases both competitive and adaptive advantages. Strategic planning is a complex process, especially, when data collection is necessary for success. External data collection adds another layer of complexity to the planning process. There are no guarantees that the data will yield positive results for the decision making process. However, taking precautionary measures, organisations can increase the potential for collecting valuable data. Comprehensive data collection and analysis provides a tool whereby the information collection adds value for the organisation. Surveys, interviews, group discussions, task analysis, performance appraisals, observations, incidental procedures, performance analysis, and external scans each tell a story of the information collected via those mediums. Hence, it is imperative for the experts conducting data collection and comprehensive needs analysis be well versed in their craft if they are to improve existing business conditions. The research conducted herein presents a comprehensive needs analysis for the The-Second-Greatest-Company Corporation.
Comprehensive Needs Assessment (CNA)
Education and employee development is imperative to any organisation. The planning of education and training does not apply to new hires alone, managers and supervisors are equally valued within the organisation. Organisations must ensure that the training and development process is not just a matter of training, but rather to enhance productivity, improve interactive communications, and increase overall return on investments for stakeholders. Hence, all education and training plans must begin with the goals and objectives of the organisation at the forefront of employee development initiatives.
This document represents a comprehensive needs analysis conducted on behalf of The-Second-Greatest-Company Inc. (a fictional organisation modeled after a real one; additionally, relevant industry information is factual). The-Second-Greatest-Company is a women owned interior design business started by three college students. The students became friends after taking an art course together. They envisioned an online interior design business that suggested design layouts for college dorms.
The-Second-Greatest-Company Inc. receives orders for interior designs via the internet, as well as, their artwork. Interior designs are reasonably priced beginning at ninety-nine dollars for a single dorm. Prices increase with the space size. The business blossomed enough to catch the attention of venture capitalists (this information from the real company, 2015).
Cekada (2010) discusses an example of an employee who accidentally trips over a bucket. The management team immediately suggests more training. But Cekada (2010) questions that motion. Is it actually necessary to conduct training or could other precautions have been taken to avoid slips and trips? Cekada (2010) suggests that not all issues are training related and cautions against using training where none is necessary.
Rothwell and Kazanas (2003) discuss the different levels of CNA. The first level is conducted for strategic planning purposes. The second relates to coordinative purposes. The third concerns operational needs. Hence, they stress importance in identifying where the needs exist at the different levels.
According to Bresciani (2010), data informs the planning process. The information can be converged with environmental information and forecasts for resource planning and policy creations. Bresciani (2010) asserts that the data collection process is not a decision replacement process. It is the data that drives the decision making processes (Bresciani, 2010).
Kärkkäinen, Piippo, Puumalainen, and Tuominen (2001) recommend that companies maintain a vision to the future to meet client demands. They believe that companies should continuously plan to exceed client's expectations with better services and life enhancing products. They posit further that companies must remain proactive in seeking hidden opportunities early in business initiatives. Kärkkäinen, Piippo, Puumalainen, and Tuominen (2001) suggest that CNA processes must include assessment tools and strategies that highlight unrecognized customer needs.
Kärkkäinen, Piippo, Puumalainen, and Tuominen (2001) conducted their study with the "new customer" (p. 393) in mind. They wanted to demonstrate that contrary to popular belief, customers do not have the foresight to know what their future needs are. Kärkkäinen, Piippo, Puumalainen, and Tuominen (2001) found that the clarification experience for determining new customer needs benefitted the participants (various organisation, different industries) by approximately eighty-five percent. As a result, Kärkkäinen, Piippo, Puumalainen, and Tuominen (2001) also found that the companies felt the needs assessment tools helped them increase new customer awareness by forty percent.
Purpose of CNA
The purpose of this comprehensive needs analysis (CNA) was to collect relevant information with the intent of providing recommendations for business improvement. Included herein is an environmental scan (ES) that serves a dual purpose. The first purpose intends to provide interior design industry awareness. The second purpose is to gather information on business competencies. Finally, training and development recommendations are provided.
Rothwell and Kazanas (2003) discuss CNA as an investigative process necessary to determine where business deficiencies and competency weaknesses exist, and thereafter, devise a plan for corrective action. Cekada (2011) discusses training assessments from a capital and resource return on investments perspective. He considers that properly allocated resources will yield returns and vice versa. Shipley and Golden (2013) recommend using the CNA's to identify gaps and resolve them with appropriate training initiatives. Muller and Roberts (2010) recommend looking at impending issues and deficiencies from multiple perspectives with the intent to identify problems which can be resolved without training and development initiatives.
Data collection is about information value that translates into desired changes (Rothwell & Kazanas, 2003). The information value comes from evaluating ways to apply different methodologies for desired changes. The collection process should bring to light the knowledge or skills necessary to implement changes. Rothwell and Kazanas (2003) recommend using multiple data collection methodologies.
Lundberg, Elderman, Ferrell, and Harper (2010) advise caution when collecting data because no process can be one hundred percent correct. They argue that people respond with assumptions when they do not have an appropriate answer. Lundberg, Elderman, Ferrell, and Harper (2010) emphasize further that the potential for data redundancy remains ever-present. Bresciani (2010) advises discretion to ensure the process enhances strategic planning process not eliminate activities in it.
Data collection methods used:
- Interviews provided insight into the client base, services offered, sales process lifecycle, design process, and what the ownership team expected from freelance designs, as well as, what they offered potential freelancers to join their team.
- Interviews with the management team identified management relevant requests concerning their learning and talent development needs.
- Surveys from clients identified service gaps, client levels of satisfaction with the services rendered, client opinions on the quality of service provided, and other services clients would like to have in the future.
- Surveys taken from college students (major clientele) provided their opinions on the future of the interior design industry, number of times they used interior design services in a full year, their thoughts on carefree interior design services.
- Surveys were taken to identify demographic information that will further advance the growth of the company.
- Observations provided information on the status of the interior design industry.
- Task analysis identified the actual interior design and sales process lifecycle, as well as the actions required to complete a sale.
- Task analysis was conducted to examine the freelance design process.
- Advisory Committee formed includes four employees, one senior manager, and consultants to gather ongoing talent development information.
- Performance documents assessed individual and team production.
- Industry Scan provided information on competitors. Two competitors have inferior websites (Decorator, 2015; Homeblue, 2015), hence, giving The-Second-Greatest-Company a higher ranking website. Ibisworld (2015) suggests that the industry is expected to grow at approximately four percent within the coming year. Ibisworld (2015) also predicts positive upward growth for the industry.
During the year 2014, the interior design industry experienced downtime as a result of the recession, economy anomalies, and financial instabilities (Ibisworld, 2015). Current business trends indicate that business will blossom in the next five years. Data analysis indicates that the company is interested in expansion opportunities. Survey analysis indicates that clients are satisfied with the services provided, however, they are interested in follow-up services.
Data collection indicates that the ownership team will benefit from leadership development. The team lacks extensive industry and business expansion knowledge. Task analysis shows that freelancers will benefit from sales development skills. The-Second-Greatest-Company team (owners & freelancers) could benefit from networking skills to grow their businesses and take advantage of the predicted industry boom.
Data collection also indicated that confusion existed with current freelancers who were not sure that sales were something they needed to engage in. The freelancers feel that they are artists and designers. As a result, they cannot see how gaining sales training will benefit them. It is suggested that business development workshops are conducted to help the freelance designers understand how they can see themselves as sales people who enhance the lives of their clients.
Summary of Results
- The-Second-Greatest-Company Corporation desires to become an industry leader within ten years. Crossley, Cooper, and Wernsing (2013) suggest becoming and remaining proactive in the achievement of leadership goals. Crossley, Cooper, and Wernsing (2013) affirm the complexity of remaining in leadership positions for long. They recommend devising plans that coordinate and direct activities towards achieving leadership goals.
- The The-Second-Greatest-Company organisation could benefit from interpersonal communication skills. Perry and Losman (2012) stress the importance of effective communication skills for information exchange. As this company continues to evolve the communication process will greatly enhance their understanding of the industry, their customers, and amongst themselves. Perry and Losman (2012) assert there is great value in improving communication skills because the potential for miscommunication decreases and productivity increases.
- The ownership team will benefit from team and leadership development. Grenny, Patterson, Maxfield, McMillan, and Switzler (2013) discuss the inevitably of relying upon others to transact business. They assert that no one can work alone and that opportunities must be present to allow for the development of abilities in working as a team. Grenny, Patterson, Maxfield, McMillan, and Switzler (2013) posit further the organisation success depends upon experts working in concert with one another to complete projects.
- Industry is following a positive upward growth at approximately four percent per year. Silber and Kearny (2010) use the recession of 2009 to demonstrate that organisations cannot operate in a vacuum. They posit that economic crisis are not the only reason to remain industry aware, but also because competitors will always look for ways to put you out of business. Silber and Kearny (2010) state that the only industry that appears to do well at the worst recessions, "is the alcohol industry, where year-to-date-sales in 2009 were almost double those of previous years" (p. 41).
- The freelance team shows a gap in sales skills. They lack the ability to close sales faster. The lack of sales knowledge interferes with freelancer ability increase sales quotas. Stein (2011) suggest that sales alone will not get the sale, but the ability to use a combination of interpersonal and communicative skills for success. He suggests that clients are high tech and navigate the internet to compare products, services, and prices. Thereby, making the sales process significantly complex.
- The Advisory Committee is expected to meet once weekly to develop the training plans and continue scanning the environment for changes. Rothwell and Kazanas (2003) advise that advisory committees work similar to strategic committees because they serve the same purpose of identifying weaknesses and strengths in the education and development plans. Advisory committees can compare current plans to future expectations and set relevant priorities. The advisory committee role in the development process can never be overstated (Rothwell and Kazanas, 2003).
Implications for The-Second-Greatest-Company Management Action
The Above Examples Might Suggest the Following Implications:
- The-Second-Greatest-Company management's team must meet to discuss budget factors that influence the training process further.
- The-Second-Greatest-Company management's team, Advisory Committee, and Consultants must agree upon the talent development specifics and a time line of delivery.
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