Nowack, K. M. (1991). A quantitative approach to training needs analysis. Training and Development Journal, 45, 69-73

The first step in any systematic training needs assessment is to differentiate training wants from true training needs. A true training need exists when specific job knowledge, skills or abilities (KSAs) are important to a position and/or job level and the employee’s competence or proficiency level is moderately low or low. A training want may arise when specific KSAs are less important or critical to the job and an employee’s proficiency is also low.

A well designed competency based training needs assessment questionnaire can assist in identifying true training needs of an organization. This article discusses a quantitative survey approach to assessing training needs. It introduces a nine-step approach for identifying training needs and provides a sample competency based survey to assist practitioners in conducting organizational training needs assessment.

The two main measurement domains on the training needs assessment questionnaire include importance and proficiency. Importance is defined as the relevance of the KSA in a particular position or job level to ensure effective performance. Proficiency is defined as employee’s current level of knowledge or ability in each of the competencies identified as being at all relevant to the position.

To get a quantitative measure of the training need, separate ratings of importance and proficiency are collected by incumbents and managers on a set of job related competencies (these can be initially identified by interviews or focus groups with subject matter experts, incumbents). A “critical training need index” is calculated by multiplying the importance rating by the proficiency rating for each competency included in the training needs assessment questionnaire. Competencies are then ranked according to the “critical training need index” (product of importance by proficiency scores) to determine those most critical to address for future training and development interventions. A convergent approach can also be used by comparing the “critical training index” competency rankings of incumbents to the rankings of management.

A comprehensive training needs assessment process includes the following nine steps:

  1. Step 1: Conducting a job profile with subject matter experts and incumbents to identify critical knowledge, skills, abilities and competencies.
  2. Step 2: Developing a competency based training needs survey instrument measuring both importance and proficiency.
  3. Step 3: Administering the training needs survey to incumbents and/or managers.
  4. Step 4: Analyzing the survey by calculating and ranking the critical training needs index (importance X proficiency).
  5. Step 5: Interpreting the survey results and using appropriate statistical techniques to compare incumbent and manager ratings.
  6. Step 6: Using targeted focus groups to further interpret and clarify specific training needs for the future;
  7. Step 7: Providing written and oral feedback to your internal client(s) about the results of your training needs assessment.
  8. Step 8: Developing behavioral based training objectives based on the survey results.
  9. Step 9: Designing, implementing, and evaluating your training intervention.

Nowack, K. M. (1991). Psychosocial predictors of physical health status. Work and Stress, 5, 117-131

This prospective study examined, in a sample of male and female adults, the relationship between specific psychosocial factors and health status. Measures of stress, health habits, social support, Type A behavior, and coping style (Stress Assessment Profile) were collected for 203 professional employees in a large aerospace organization. One year later a follow-up questionnaire assessing self-reported physical illness and job burnout was administered resulting in a final sample of 95 employees.

When adjustments for age, sex, education and initial psychological well-being were made, perceived stress, physical exercise and an avoidant coping style significantly contributed to predictions of physical illness in multiple regression analyses. Employees who possessed less hardy appraisals of work and life and expressed greater Type A behavior reported significantly more fatigue and emotional exhaustion type of burnout one year later. Type A behavior was significantly associated with depersonalization (i.e., being less sensitive and caring towards others). Finally, individuals who perceived less stress and expressed more cognitive hardiness reported significantly greater overall work/life satisfaction. Overall, the data support the view that psychosocial factors may be differentially associated with diverse physical and psychological health outcomes.

Nowack, K. M. (1991). Evaluating training programs using the pre-post-then method. ASTD Trainer's Toolkit: Evaluation. American Society for Training and Development, Alexandria, VA, pp. 105-111.

Almost all supervisory and management training programs use some type of post-program formative evaluation process. In most cases these subjective evaluations provide little information about self-perceived learning or skill transfer back to the job. In this ASTD Trainer's Toolkit, an actual sample of a "pre-post-then" evaluation is provided to improve your formative evaluation efforts. The "pre-post-then" method gathers information from respondents after training is completed ("post" evaluation) as well as asking the same questions based on a retrospective evaluation of existing levels of knowledge and skills prior to the training ("then" evaluation) intervention. Scores on the "post" and "then" measures can be compared and summarized to provide a learning index that more accurately measures training effects. This 1991 ASTD Trainer's Toolkit: Evaluation is available for purchase by contacting the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) at 703.683.8100 or at their website:

Nowack, K. M. (1990). Using a survey approach to training needs assessment. ASTD Trainer's Toolkit: Needs Assessment. American Society for Training and Development, Alexandria, VA, pp. 111-131.

Conducting a competency based training needs assessment can be challenging in most organizations. In this ASTD Trainer's Toolkit, an actual sample of a competency based training need assessment survey is provided for use with all levels within any organization. The training needs evaluation survey can be easily customized to meet the needs of any organization. A brief, psychometrically tested, organizational climate survey is also provided for organizations also looking to include some type of employee attitude survey. This 1990 ASTD Trainer's Toolkit: Needs Assessment is available for purchase by contacting American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) at 703.683.8100 or at their website:

Nowack, K. M. (1990). Special issues in organizational questionnaires: Getting them out and getting them back. Training & Development Journal, 44, 82-85

Several major issues can make or break the relevance of information gathered through organizational surveys. For example, if your survey or questionnaire didn't go to a representative sample of your audience, or if the sample that receives the survey didn't complete them, your efforts may be wasted. This article discusses some specific guidelines for getting your organizational questionnaires and surveys to a random and representative group of employees and answers three specific questions:

  1. How you can ensure a representative sample when administering organizational surveys;
  2. How you can determine what sample size is appropriate for your data gathering procedure; and
  3. How you can increase compliance to complete and return your organizational surveys and questionnaires.

The article discusses the difference between random and representative sampling procedures and provides a practical training needs assessment survey case study to illustrate this point. A comprehensive table is provided summarizing ten specific ways to increase responsiveness and return rates for all organizational surveys and questionnaires. A statistical table is included for determining minimum sample sizes required to generalize survey results with a .95 confidence level.

Nowack, K. M. (1990). Initial development and validation of an Inventory to Assess Stress and Health Risk. American Journal of Health Promotion, 4, 173-180

In recent years, considerable attention has been given to the role of individual variables in the stress-illness relationship. Of particular value at this point are measurement tools that evaluate the possible effects of two or more individual variables on health status. This study summarizes the initial development, psychometric properties, and validation of a brief, rationally derived, and reliable stress and health risk factor instrument (Stress Assessment Profile). This 123-item instrument has shown criterion-related validity with both physical and psychological health outcomes in a study with 194 employees working in several large companies. Implications for future development, application and research are discussed. The article provides a complete description of each of the Stress Assessment Profile scales psychometric properties of the instrument and validation study results.

Nowack, K. M. (1989). Coping style, cognitive hardiness, & health status. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 12, 145-158

This study investigates the effects of coping style and cognitive hardiness on physical and psychological health status. Measures of coping style (positive intrusive thoughts, negative intrusive thoughts, avoidance, problem focused coping), cognitive hardiness, health habits, psychological distress, and physical illness were collected for 194 professional employees.

Multiple regression analyses revealed that intrusive negative thoughts and avoidance coping styles significantly contributed towards predictions of psychological distress and physical illness outcomes, respectively. Cognitive hardiness significantly contributed towards predictions of psychological distress but not physical illness outcomes. Health habits were significantly related to both measures of health status. Two coping approaches, intrusive positive thoughts and problem-focused coping did not significantly contribute to predictions of either physical or psychological health status.

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