Every successful business is founded on the premise of identifying and solving a certain market problem by creating value for its customers. For companies to achieve their objectives, they are required to have a functional system to ensure that the different operational needs are met for client satisfaction. However, despite the robustness of the systems in place, firms, from time to time, face various challenges as they attempt to adapt to the ever-changing business environment. As such, organizations have to carry out a need assessment to address the existing gaps and achieve the desired conditions for operational efficiency. This paper addresses the various aspects of a need assessment based on the scenario presented in Fastlab’s case scenario.
A Needs Assessment for Fastlab
The first step of a needs assessment for this company would involve establishing what is already known about the current situation. It is important to compare Fastlab’s current performance against the existing standards, specifically after the implementation of the new enterprise resources planning (ERP) to meet Amazon’s supply needs. In this case, the first step would be evaluating how the implementation of the new ERP has contributed to the reported increased rate of returned goods, shipping error rates, and overtime, as the inherent challenges associated with the current situation. A gap analysis would play a central role in highlighting what should be done to address the underlying problems.
To start with, the current state of the employees’ skills, knowledge, and abilities concerning the new ERP system should be analyzed to identify areas of training or improvement. At the same time, Fastlab’s organizational goals should be checked to understand both external and internal constraints contributing to the aforementioned challenges. The second step would involve looking at the desired outcome – in this case, to reduce overtime, the rate of returned goods, and shipping errors. This step entails identifying the critical tasks that are needed to address the underlying problems for the achievement of the desired goals (Cekada, 2011; Ment, 2011). For instance, it would be necessary to identify if training is needed for the employees to learn how to use the new ERP system. Generally, the starting point is to establish the gaps between the current situation, mainly with the usage of ERP, and the desired situation to understand the needs, purposes, and objectives of the needs assessment process.
Given that the major problem at Fastlab is the application of the new ERP system by the employees, the data that should be gathered revolves around this area. Such data include their level of understanding on how to use the system, the challenges that they face in the process, their strengths and weaknesses when using the system, and any suggestions of what they should expect for improved performance. The employees’ skill sets and previous exposure to various ERP systems would also be important data to assess the level of training that is needed. These forms of data are important because they directly address the issues associated with the problem of the new ERP application in the company’s operations.
Three Levels of Analysis
Traditionally, a needs assessment analysis focuses on three levels – organizational, task, and individual analyses (Wedman, 2014).
At this level, the focus should be on Fastlab’s organizational effectiveness to identify the various training needs. Specifically, I would examine the company’s training and development protocols concerning the implementation of the change process. Any form of organizational change is complicated, as it requires the change leaders to convince their teams on the importance of the same and provide the necessary resources to support the process. Therefore, at this level, I would be looking at the company’s preparedness for change in terms of the availability of finances and other resources that are needed for an effective change process. Additionally, I would seek to understand the management’s willingness to support the implementation of the ERP system. Some of the arising questions would be whether the management welcomed the implementation or whether there was resistance from different quarters. Such information could be important in understanding why employees are failing when transitioning to the new ERP system. In summary, Fastlab’s organizational culture and its approach towards change implementation would be the major areas of concern at this level of a needs assessment analysis.
This level focuses on the nature of tasks and the commensurate skillsets and knowledge required to achieve optimum performance and reach the set goals. In Fastlab’s case, the task involves the successful implementation and application of the new ERP system. The needs at this level would be assessed by understanding the required competency level for the successful usage of the ERP system. Given that the system had been implemented successfully and applied for some time, I would seek to understand the specific areas that are not clear.
This level is solely focused on the employees’ performance and skillsets to identify individuals that need further training. In Fastlab’s case, it is clear that the employees in the Shipping Department have not been trained adequately to deploy the new ERP system. Therefore, I would assess the individual employees’ competence level and skillsets with the objective of understanding the nature of training that should be used. I would use employment records to determine each person’s qualifications. Additionally, I would give out questionnaires to gather data on the competency level with such systems and what was not taught or understood during the initial training when the system was being implemented.
Some possible “non-training” needs might be available in this case. Mostly, these needs are associated with the common problems underlying the successful implementation of a change process. According to Pollack and Pollack (2015), employees’ attitude towards the change is one of the aspects that could derail the process. Additionally, the management could also be against some aspects of the change process. Therefore, the employees working at the Shipping Department might have resisted the implementation of the new ERP system; hence, the current problems.
Just-In-Time (JIT) Training
According to Kerr and Houghton (2010), JIT allows companies to use information when needed. Therefore, after identifying the relevant needs that should be addressed, I would recommend the affected employees to undergo the classroom-based learning, which was in the original plan. While this approach is time-consuming, it would allow the employees to interact one-on-one with their trainers and ask all the relevant questions for accelerated learning. I would also recommend the use of a JIT tool that can be accessed through the employees’ mobile phones. This approach would simplify the problem of the affected employees not having enough time to look for “help”, which is currently in a PDF format. An ERP mobile application would offer timely information accessible anywhere anytime. Therefore, the content delivery methods of choice would be classroom-based learning and mobile application learning.
These steps include analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation (Emerson & Berge, 2018). The analysis stage would involve understanding the underlying training needs that are needed to ensure that Fastlab’s employees can competently and effectively use the ERP system and meet Amazon’s needs and those of the other clients. The design stage would focus on designing the needed learning materials to support the desired learning experience. Specifically, it would be concerned with the relevant content to be included in the JIT training program noted earlier. Under the development stage, the relevant learning materials and experiences would be developed. For instance, in Fastlab’s case, this stage would involve developing the training materials, such as PowerPoint presentations and manuals that should carry the content designed for this process. At this stage, the mobile application to be used for the JIT training would also be developed. The implementation stage would entail executing what has been developed for the JIT program including training employees in a classroom and teaching them how to apply the mobile application. Finally, an evaluation would be conducted to assess the effectiveness of the entire process from analysis to implementation.
Fastlab is facing a common problem that organizations undergo after the implementation of a change process. The employees in the Shipping Department were not trained sufficiently on how to use the new ERP system effectively even when handling huge volumes of work. However, this problem could be addressed by conducting a comprehensive needs assessment to identify the underlying issues and create an executable plan to train and equip the affected employees with the requisite skills using a JIT training program.
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Emerson, L. C., & Berge, Z. L. (2018). Microlearning: Knowledge management applications and competency-based training in the workplace. Knowledge Management & E-Learning, 10(2), 125-132.
Kerr, D., & Houghton, L. (2010). Just in time or Just in case: A Case study on the impact of context in ERP implementations. Australasian Journal of Information Systems, 16(2), 5-16.
Ment, T. (2011). Training need assessment: A critical study. International Journal of Information Technology, 4(1), 263-267.
Pollack, J., & Pollack, R. (2015). Using Kotter’s eight stage process to manage an organizational change program: Presentation and practice. Systemic Practice and Action Research, 28(1), 51-66.
Wedman, J. (2014). Needs assessments in the private sector. New Directions for Evaluation, 144, 47-60.