Magazine article Talent Development

Roger Kaufman: Professor Emeritus, Florida State University Tallahassee, Florida

Magazine article Talent Development

Roger Kaufman: Professor Emeritus, Florida State University Tallahassee, Florida

Article excerpt

Roger Kaufman, known as one of the pioneers in needs assessment, is professor emeritus at Florida State University and a distinguished research professor at the Sonora Institute of Technology (Mexico). He has been awarded the International Society for Performance Improvement's (ISPI) top two honors: Honorary Member for Life and the Thomas F. Gilbert Award.

Kaufman is a past ISPI president and a founding member, and is the recipient of ASTD's Award for Distinguished Contribution to Workplace Learning and Performance. He has published 40 books and more than 275 articles. His latest book is Needs Assessment for Organizational Success (ASTD Press), co-authored with Ingrid Guerra-Lopez.

WHAT IS NEEDS ASSESSMENT AND WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND?

Needs assessment is often talked about and poorly understood--and when done poorly, this leads to lousy results. Many are actually "wants" assessments and don't focus on results and consequences.

Need is frequently used as a verb: "I need to do this" or "I need more training." This dumps you into a solution--a means--before you know the problem.

If you use need as a gap between current results and the desired results, this allows you to talk about results first. It also allows you to prioritize those needs on the basis of the cost to meet the need or close the gap in results versus the cost to ignore it, and then select the best means to close those gaps. If one looks only at wants or means, you tend to rush into solutions before knowing the problems.

WHAT IT IS ABOUT YOUR WORK IN ORGANIZATIONAL LEARNING THAT INSPIRES YOU?

What inspires me is how many smart people there are in the field. If you look at the stable of people who publish with ASTD and other places, we are now starting to see whether organizational learning is important. And the answer is yes, it is, because that's where concept and planning gets translated into results and things that can add value at all three levels of results, including the workplace.

What's happening now in organizational learning, and ASTD is one of the leaders in this, is people are saying that it's not just individual human performance improvement. You have to align that with what an individual performer accomplishes with organizational accomplishment and then external clients' and societal value added.

So more and more this field is expanding to not deny organizational learning and not deny training and not deny individual performance improvement, but to say let's make sure that what gets done at the operational level adds value up the value chain. …

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