Preparation is Important. The purpose of the Needs Assessment should be explained to employees in advance. Employees should also understand what a Needs Assessment is and is not. It is an opportunity for employees to express their views of how the organization is doing, to raise concerns they may have, and to offer suggestions for innovation and improvement. It is not fact-finding, an investigation or performance appraisal, and it is not about blame. The intent is to learn, to grow and to continue to improve the overall functioning and well-being of the agency. The source of information gathered in a Needs Assessment will be kept confidential. The expectation that all employees will participate in the process helps preserve anonymity and provide balance. Oftentimes, those who feel they "have nothing to say" are the best resources in a Needs Assessment.
Information Gathering involves a review of available background information concerning the organization, followed up by individual interviews conducted by EAP professional staff. Interviews are scheduled in advance by a designated agency staff person who will be responsible for keeping things on schedule. Interviews are generally 30 to 50 minutes long and are uniformly structured around open-ended and clarifying questions. Open-ended questions are preferred over surveys because they do not limit content: staff sets the agenda. Questions typically solicit a brief description of job duties, length of service, what is most satisfying or rewarding about the job, what difficulties are encountered in the course of the work and, finally, what changes are suggested.
Reporting takes the form of a written summary of employees' perceptions of agency strengths, their identified problems and concerns and, most important, their suggestions for improvement. Needs Assessments seek to identify trends and/or consensus; consequently, isolated issues seldom appear in the final report. The Needs Assessment report should be viewed by the requesting authority in light of their knowledge of their agency's operations, procedures and personnel as it is beyond the scope of the EAP to assess information for accuracy.
Follow-up can include in-depth discussion of the Needs Assessment with the requesting authority, as well as consultation regarding follow-up meetings with the work group for feedback and/or strategic planning purposes, training, and resources that are available to support change initiatives.