How do I know if my survey questions will give me the answers I need?

The whole point of running a needs assessment survey is to get information.  Before administering the survey, you should check your work so far to make sure it will get you what you want.  You would hate to administer the survey, get confusion/angry emails from the participants who didn’t understand your questions, and then have to rework the survey and run it a second time.  To reduce the chances of that happening, there are two tasks that you need to do to improve the quality of the data you will get from your needs assessment survey.

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OK. So I have to do a Needs Survey. How do I write the questions?

In the last post on needs assessments, Why Should I Have to Run a Needs Survey?, we talked about why you should run the needs assessment.  In this post we will talk about how to prepare for that assessment.  Needs Survey QuestionsConstant Contact has several suggestions about writing survey questions.  Use the following list as your guide to help avoid these possible pitfalls.

  1. Write questions that are simple and to the point. …
  2. Use words with clear meanings. …
  3. Limit the number of ranking options. …
  4. In a multiple choice question, cover all options without overlapping. …
  5. Avoid double-barreled questions.
  6. Offer an “out” for questions that don’t apply.
  7. Avoid offering too few or too many options.
  8. Make recall easy.

Constant Contact has given some good ideas about how to prepare for a survey.  But let’s take those ideas and apply them specifically to a needs survey.  Remember that the needs survey is intended to discover information that will be used to make business decisions.  We’ve all had a teacher at some point in our education who wrote “gotcha” test questions.  A “gotcha” test question is one that asks for information you would only know if you memorized every procedure manual written.  That is OK for a lawyer’s bar exam but not it’s what you’re writing here.  The questions that you should write for your survey should be easily understood, limited in the topic it’s asking about and have clear choices for responses.

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Planning for Successful Training

Frustrated in Training I’ve had several conversations recently with someone that is in training for a job doing data entry for billing at a national firm.  The program started out well with lots of time to learn and practice skills.  Early in the conversations I in fact said that someone who knew what they were doing set up the training plan (I was thinking someone with training development or instructional design experience but didn’t say it out loud).  The training for this job was set for two weeks and while the pace picked up some toward the end of the first week, it still wasn’t bad.  Starting the second week however the pace increased significantly.  By the middle of that week the instructor was covering material faster that his students could highlight in their manuals much less practice the new skills.  Three-quarters of the way through the training one person quit and a second is deciding if it is worth staying on.  I wish that this was unusual for onboarding training programs – but I have seen and heard the same story several times.

This type of training experiences usually occurs because of one of three reasons: Continue reading

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Why Should I Have to Run a Needs Survey?

Needs SurveyI have been in training situations where a needs survey either wasn’t done or totally ignored.  I have talked to other trainers who felt the same way – we went into the workshop with material prepared for one topic and the participants took the learning a totally different direction.  Life happens and that is part of our job description to adapt on the fly.  However, the training would have been more useful if we had the correct materials with us when we went in.  Because this has happened several times I have started to wonder why needs assessments don’t play a bigger part in training.  To help organizations, training participants and trainers get more out of workshops and seminars, I have pulled together information from several sources to help develop, administer and understand results from needs surveys.

Running a needs survey can basically be broken down into five different tasks:

  1. Determine the scope of the survey
  2. Develop questions
  3. Beta test survey
  4. Administer survey
  5. Crunch the numbers

I will cover each of these but today will start with Determining the scope of the survey.

The scope of a needs survey actually covers several different areas:

  • The topic(s) to be included in the survey
  • The survey participants
  • The time frame the survey will be available

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Where is Training More Effective – Onsite or Offsite?

Planning for trainingAs with many questions in business, the is no easy answer to whether training is more effective.  Onsite or offsite, it depends!  OK, what does it depend on?  There are several factors that work into the formula providing the correct answer for your business and this one training – cost, space, access to materials, and interruptions are some of those factors.

COST

The first consideration many managers look at is the cost of holding an event offsite as opposed to onsite.  Even though cost is a real consideration and comes up early in the discussion, it really should be one of the last factors to be considered.  Other factors, if given reasonable consideration, could easily out weight the cost of an offsite facility.  However, when planning for cost be sure to include any transportation, meals/food, and parking that may be associated with holding an offsite training. Continue reading

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