We all know how critical it is to measure the impact of the enablement programs we build. This can be challenging for many reasons – not least of which is we’re often moving so fast that we start to build before we’ve established our baseline. Developing a needs analysis cadence for your organization is a great way to lay the foundation for measuring future programs, while also surfacing potential issues before they reach a crisis point. A needs analysis readout also gives you an instrument to align with your go-to-market (GTM) leaders on priorities during planning, with the added benefit of positioning you as a strategic partner who can offer valuable insights on the business.
I remember running my first needs analysis years ago, fresh out of my Ph.D. program. I got books on survey design and talked to my friends in social science about how to approach the problem. It doesn’t have to be that complicated, though.
Below is the list of everything you need to run an in-depth needs analysis. If you find it difficult to get to all of the the key components, I suggest startingat the bottom of this list and working your way up until you can’t find things or you run out of time.
Key components of a needs analysis
- Business performance data (if you can get it): Analyze how your organization evaluates the performance of your audience, sales activity, account health, and revenue. Determine the expectations for each of these metrics and whether they’re being achieved.
- Skill or competency performance data: Does your organization have core competencies or skills and, if so, are there self-reported or manager-reported evaluations in those areas? Even better, do you have quiz or certification/observed practice scores for key skills or competencies?
- Survey Data: Construct a survey that will provide a sense of where people know they are struggling, where managers feel like they are spending too much time coaching, and where compensation and performance management philosophies aren’t driving key behaviors. Here are some key areas I like to cover in needs analysis surveys to move toward that goal:
- Self-reported and manager-evaluated confidence/competence in key skills for each role (if you don’t have that as part of regular performance data): Bonus points if you look at where manager and team scores aren’t aligned. That will show you where teams don’t know what they don’t know, and it might also show you where your managers need training about feedback and coaching.
- Self-reported confidence/competence in key tools needed to do the job: I like to ask how often people use a tool and how important they think the tool is. This can help you prioritize needs after you get the competency data.
- Self-reported confidence in product knowledge, as needed for a given role: Not everyone needs deeply technical knowledge, but some will. For other teams, ask questions about their ability to position the product as a solution or to tie the product to customer challenges. You may have certification scores that already give you this information, but if you don’t, it’s a good idea to get it during this stage.
- Alignment between performance management and business goals: Validate the effectiveness of incentives and the strength of your managers by asking reps to rate their agreement with certain statements. For example, you could ask if they agree that it’s hard to hit their numbers without doing a key behavior you want to drive. (Ex. “It’s hard to hit my quota without creating a stakeholder map for each of my accounts” or “I struggle to close deals if I don’t have a completed stakeholder map.”)
- Manager feedback on the cause of performance problems. What do your managers think affects team performance? Limit to things you can control, but you may want to ask about quality of hires, onboarding, continuing education, resource and knowledge access, documentation, manager development, or other areas within enablement that you can strengthen as needed.
- Learning preferences. This one is important but often overlooked. Does your team prefer to learn via webinars, videos, activities, asynchronous practice opportunities, shadowing, or mentoring? As you scale, it won’t always be possible to do everything 1:1 or in small group, but it’s always good to have data around learner preferences so you can meet them where they live.
- Focus group data. Focus groups provide an opportunity for learners to bring up things you might not have thought to ask about. They’re also the fastest and simplest way to get input directly from the field. If you have to complete a needs analysis in a month, focus groups are your best friend. Come up with a list of questions (hint: these might look similar to your survey questions!) so each group covers a similar area, and make sure you have top performers and middle-of-the-road folks in your groups. If you’re doing focus groups and sending a survey, avoid repetitive questions but take advantage of the opportunity to dig in on survey data that stood out or needs additional context.
Creating the readout
Once you have all this data, it’s time for the hard part: synthesizing the information into a story that you can share with the business. Code your data and use conditional formatting to help you quickly look for patterns and themes. Here are a few questions you may want to ask your data set:
- Describe the situation as simply as you can – what are the key themes? Are there areas that are consistently strong or weak?
- Were the numerical scores validated or complicated by the information you heard in focus groups?
- What are the loudest challenges? Where do people already feel supported and confident?
After you’ve analyzed your data, create a set of recommendations that you can use to build your action plan. Create outcome-oriented recommendations about what your organization should prioritize in the next quarter, half, or year. For example, you may recommend developing a stronger onboarding program that better aligns with the sales process to help decrease ramp time. Let the data tell you where your energy will be best spent.
Once you’ve completed this, share it with your stakeholders and leadership to validate your areas of focus. After you build alignment with stakeholders, create a roadmap, share it with the field, and start executing! The best part? You can measure your progress against the benchmarks you’ve created as you go. And there’s nothing more motivating than being able to see where you’ve clearly made an impact on the business.