When you can translate coursework into your professional work, it’s a bonus on multiple levels. I had such an opportunity in the Fall of 2011 when I was enrolled in the Organizational Analysis course (ELFH 662) taught by Dr. Denise Cumberland. In this class I learned important concepts regarding the organizational analysis process, and more specifically, how to conduct a needs assessment as part of the main class project. This assignment prompted a reflection on potential needs that might exist within my own work environment. Initially, I struggled with identifying needs because I would quickly match them with possible solutions. I soon realized how often premature decision-making occurs in an organizational setting and how a “needs assessment” is a tool that can help prevent this from occurring.
In my current role as Employment Manager at the University of Louisville, I am frequently presented with challenges that require thoughtful reflection, and in which I must consider institutional needs, resources available to meet those needs, as well as internal and external regulations. I realized that, organizationally, the need to offer an orientation session for new part-time faculty had already been identified, and a solution to mirror the new session to existing sessions for full-time employees, with a few adjustments, was already underway. I decided this was a great opportunity to take a step back and conduct a formal needs assessment.
During the data collection phase of the needs assessment we consulted with existing part-time faculty, the part-time faculty senate commission, and department administrators. This process enabled us to gather valuable information regarding the specific needs of part-time faculty, and how an orientation session could address those needs. The recommendations that resulted from the needs assessment ranged from the ideal length to the content to be covered in the sessions. This data enabled us make decisions that shaped a session that is beneficial and specific to part-time faculty needs.
The conceptual component of the class helped me understand the process of gathering information and appropriate data collection methods and instruments available to evaluate organizational needs. Today, I am a better leader and professional because I have learned the conceptual knowledge and skills to look deeper into an issue and involve multiple stakeholders to ensure the “real” need is uncovered. This course also helped me understand that identifying solutions without a comprehensive assessment comes at the potential risk of addressing symptoms rather than the root cause of the problems we are attempting to solve.
Paula Soder, SPHR is current student in the M.S. in Human Resource Education Program and serves as Employment Manager at the University of Louisville. She will enter the Human Resources and Organization Development Track of the Educational Leadership and Organizational Development Ph.D. Program in the fall of 2012.