Needs assessment for a CHW training program

Needs Assessment for Community Health Worker Programs

A needs assessment, or analysis, is an important first step in creating an online training initiative for community health workers. Establishing what stakeholders need from a program, and what your trainees need to learn, will help you create a program that has a greater chance of success.

Too often, people either skip the step of creating a needs assessment, or they make mistakes. But a messy training needs assessment could set the tone for your entire program, and could lead to unsatisfied health workers or wasted funds.

When you’re planning on bringing online training to your community workers, minimally start by looking at what your students need; what your agency, organization or funder needs; and what kind of technology you need to make it a success. Likely, there are other factors you’ll need to assess, but you can start here, more or less in this order:

Core Competencies for CHWs

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Conduct A Needs Assessment for A Health Program in 7 Simple Steps

1. Define the Problem You’re Hoping to Address

One common mistake is looking too narrowly at your organization when documenting needs. For example, some administrators know they need to address a knowledge gap because of new cancer screening guidelines. But they forget to consider if their in-person training staff is qualified to handle online discussions. They assume that uploading a PDF toolkit to a website will be enough for to everyone. Looking at only one piece of the puzzle will solve exactly one piece.

Once you’ve defined the problem, look at it from all angles. Ask yourself:

  • What’s causing the problem?
  • Who’s affected by it?
  • How are they affected?
  • What do you need to do to address it?
  • Has anyone done anything about it yet? If so, what happened?
  • What resources do you have to do something about it? How can you use them?

2. Find Out What Your Employees Need to Learn.

Next in your needs assessment, define what your learners need to know to address the problem. Do they need cultural communication techniques? Do they lack health literacy skills? Does your state require anything for certification? If so, start there. 

You may also have results-based needs, such as addressing a growing population with an influx of volunteer community liaisons. Looking at gaps in learning will help you identify how to address them.

Note: You can ask your students what they want to learn, but proceed down this road with caution. Sometimes, they don’t know what they need and lack the terminology to tell you, or have very little experience with (or love of) online learning.

3. Determine Gaps in Your Infrastructure.

Once you’ve identified what your audience needs to learn, your needs assessment needs to include a section about the weaknesses you see in your infrastructure to make that happen. For example, you might need to hire a new fleet of trainers with skills in online teaching strategies. Or, your grant has reporting requirements, and you’ll need evaluation tools to address them. You also can group stakeholders with your infrastructure, because they will also have requirements you’ll need to address, such as the ability to become self-supporting with your new courses.

4. Decide on the Best Technology for Your Needs.

Knowing what your needs are for learning and for your infrastructure will help greatly when you analyze what kind of technology will work best for your organization. Then you can begin to decide if you need self-paced learning, you want instructor-led online courses (and what those instructors need), or are looking to build a blended-learning program. When you have a list of digital tools and features you need, you can measure them against providers and vendors that can help address those.

5. Define A Strategy and Objectives to Successfully Complete It.

Remember that a needs assessment is just the beginning. Look at it as the launching point for a deep investigation into what it will take for your program to succeed. Jumping into something for the sake of it might seem like a fast solution, but you’ll be glad you took the time to look deeply into your requirements before you begin building.

Your strategy must clearly define the problem you’re working on solving, the training your CHWs need to complete, and the steps your organization needs to follow in order to achieve a successful program. Break down the project into milestones to keep everyone aligned and report on progress more easily.

6. Define Your Performance Measures or KPIs.

Before implementing any online training program, you’ll need to define the key performance indicators that will tell you whether the initiative is successful or not. Some metrics you could consider include certifications achieved or completion rates. But you’ll have to evaluate internally what your ultimate goal is based on the program’s objectives and the problem you’re addressing.

7. Set A Budget.

Finally, once you’ve defined exactly what the program needs to look like to solve the problem, it’s time to set a realistic budget. It may seem counterintuitive to list this step at the end, but entering the needs assessment with a budget in mind may hinder your ability to take all factors into account — after all, if you’re focusing on a number from the beginning, you may have a skewed perception of what your organization needs or how it can achieve it within that constraint. Plus, it’s hard to set a budget without a clear view of what your program needs in the first place.

A Needs Assessment Is A Priceless Tool For Any Online Learning Program

A needs assessment is the only way to get a big-picture view of the problem you’re addressing to ensure that any steps you take can address it appropriately. Furthermore, a needs assessment is an effective way to document the issues your program is addressing and keep everyone involved in the same page about what’s being done and why. Without it, you risk wasting precious resources and leading your team down the wrong path.

Core Competencies for CHWs

Register now for this foundational course and save with the Early Bird Discount.