How to Use the CBAM to Design, Evaluate and Improve Professional Development

By Barry Sweeny, 2011

Getting to this step has taken some preparation. Thanks. We have given you opportunities on other web pages to learn critical background concepts for development of a needs assessment. Here they are again if you missed any of them:

  1. The research on the needs of proteges, including  – New Employee Needs, and The Unique Needs of Youth / Students
  2. How to PLAN for a Needs Assessment, including issues to consider and methods in general, and how the different kinds of protege shape what you should assess.
  3. The great value of the CBAM “Stages of Concern” as a tool for needs assessment, planning and evaluation programs, AND mentoring.

We have asserted that a needs assessment should be thought of as an integrated part of the whole program evaluation process.  Well, ALL of that information and best practice is brought forward and applied in what follows. THAT IS WHY we offer here the step- by- step directions for a best practice needs assessment process within the whole evaluation process.

We advise you to do it this way. If you just assess needs alone, your own thinking can limit what you can accomplish. If you do this as a whole, integrated process, you WILL be wonderfully more effective. Promise.


A Brief Outline of the Process

Why is needs assessment discussed on a MENTORING web site? Read through the page to the end to see the full “connection” that is made. Basically, mentoring is the follow up support that protégés need to help them successfully implement what they have learned in a training, and to take it back to their workplace and put it to work in their practice. If you have not yet read about this “Bridging” function of mentoring, click on that link. It is the foundational concept for this process.

The following is a summary – the “big picture” of the process. It leaves lots out, so do not use it as a guide. use the detailed process below that.

    1. Design and use a “topical” need assessment
    2. Use those data to design and publish a schedule for the trainings
    3. Send a Needs Assessment to people who are enrolled to assess where on the “Stages of Concern” they are for that specific topic.
    4. Design the training for those assessed needs
    1. Conduct the training according to the plan.
    2. Assess “Stages of Concern” for each participant again at end.
    1. Use the end of meeting data to plan next step and follow up support.


    STEP #1: WHAT

    1. Read the research on the needs of your specific participants.
    2. Create a “Topics” list from this for your use.
    3. ADD other topics which have emerged since the dates of the research, (e.g. competencies/ standards, technology, accountabilities, etc.)
    4. Develop from these needs an “Assessment of Employee Perceived Needs” for learning in the priority TOPICS.

    Illustration - Topic needs assessment prioritiesWHEN

    A. Mail out on hiring or before the beginning of the sequence.

    B. Ask mentors to guide proteges in assessing their own needs regarding standards or competencies as the basis for choosing what the protege needs to learn and enrolling in trainings.

    C. Ask participants to mark their perception of their needs using a 1-5 Likert-type scale. Collect so the data are a true “base line” indication of initial perceptions of their own needs before the program could have effected that.

    A. Tally employee perceived needs data

    B. Compare:

    • Local perceived needs data
    • The research on needs for the same topics
    • Expert advice on employee needs (like this web site offers)
    • Your Organization’s needs, eg. strategic initiatives, calendar/events & deadlines

    C.  Reach conclusions about priority learner needs and training topics likely to best target these needs.

    Example - Training Schedule based on assessed needsSTEP #3: BEFORE THE EVENT – WHATA. Schedule employee trainings to reflect topic priorities seen in needs data

    B. Assign leaders for each training. Train them in use of the CBAM as an assessment and for program design that responds to needs.

    C. Inform & invite (optional) thementors to come too. Do this so they know what the protege has learned and, therefore, how best to provide follow up support for implementing that learning in the protege’s work.


    A. Teach the trainers how to develop training content and process based on the needs data.

    B Trainers design a ONE topic needs assessment using the CBAM “Stages of Concern


    A. Send out the CBAM-based one topic needs assessment 1 month prior to event just to the participants for that one training.

    B. Collect and tally needs assessment data on the topic at least two weeks before the training date.

    How participant needs data might look on the CBAM StagesSTEP #5: BEFORE THE EVENT – WHAT – Work with trainers, teaching them to use these CBAM-based one topic data to design the training for the specific developmental needs of their learners.

    A.It’s necessary to sort out and interpret the responses so that each participant can be placed on one of the CBAM Stages of Concern. The first time, this needs to be modeled for the trainer by someone expert in the use of the CBAM

    B. The data will tell you how many participants are at each “Stage of Concern”, and each stage needs different training and support methods. Here are the training needs for the people represented by this diagram:

    • 10% at the “Awareness Stage -These folks need basic introductory information.
    • 50% are at the “Information Stage – These already have the intro stuff, and so they need in-depth teaching of the theory and essential elements of the topic.
    • 28% at the Personal Stage – These already have the theory and essentials, so they need to consider their strengths, how those can help them use the topic in practice, and then to develop a plan to use the information and their strengths and to just do it.
    • 12% at the Management Stage – These folks feel they know what’s needed to start, have a plan to do it, and are already started. They need help problem solving, encouragement, corrective, non evaluative feed back, and a chance to talk with an expert in the topic.

    C. As just shown, expect that the learner data will show diversity in where learners are and what they need. If that happens, probably two or more groups are needed to effectively address ALL their needs and not ignore some and target others.

    D. This is a critical step. It has the potential of causing amazing improvement in trainer effectiveness. They deserve and need support as they go through this step the first time IF you want to be sure they “get it” and can really DO it, and then do it again later without your support.


    A. Conduct the training(s) according to the data-based plan.

    B. Post Training Assessment – Assess “Stages of Concern” for each individual again at end of the training using the same assessment on the same piece of paper as the pre training assessment.

    C.Make a copy of these papers and return them to the participants for the next step.

    D. Prompt learners to individually reflect on what they learned based on the pre to post changes in their assessment data, AND to consider what they need to do next regarding:

    1. The follow up support the need from their mentor to help them to implement what they have learned. Invite them to share their data with their mentor.
    2. The next training they might need.

    AFTER EACH TRAINING: Example - CBAM Post Event Needs DataSTEP #7: WHAT

    A. Tally and compare new (post training) & old (pretraining) “Stages of Concern” data for the degree of growth.

    B. Decide what needs exist for continued training and for mentor or trainer support for employee implementation of their learning into their practice.

    C. In this case (see image):

    • 3% still need more in-depth information on the topic. (What is it about the training that they don’t they “get it” by now?)
    • 32% still feel a need to understand how THEY can do it successfully. They need individual support in self-assessment and in using the self-assessment to develop a plan for implementation.
    • 61% are ready or already started doing the topic and need the support described above. A visit from the mentor or trainer, and time with their peers as a support group would be valued.
    • 4% feel they know how to do the topic correctly, have solved the basic issues of skill building, but now are wanting evidence that doing it right has the effect or results it’s supposed to have. They probably would like help in assessing their own impact.

    D. Schedule needed additional training and group level support by trainer.

    E. Inform mentors of individual participant Stages of Concern data and any needs for on-going support for protege implementation of their learning.

    STEP #8A: AFTER THE EVENT – WHATA. Trainers use analysis of the Stages of Concern data to design follow up group level or individual support and the next training for those who need it.

    B. Trainers use the pre and post training needs data, and conclusions about the extent of growth caused by the event, to reconsider their training design and adjust it to improve it’s effectiveness at meeting learners’ needs.


    Mentors use individual protege Stages of Concern data to plan mentoring support for each protégé for the implementation of the learning gained in the training.