According to Dr. Don Kirkpatrick, there are three reasons to evaluate a training program:
- To know how to improve future training programs
- To determine whether to continue/discontinue a training program
- To justify the existence of a training program or department
In my previous blog, I presented a brief introduction to the Kirkpatrick’s Model of Evaluation and its impact on training. This blog will talk about the model in more detail.
According to Dr. Don Kirkpatrick, there are four levels of evaluation of any training program.
Level 1 – The Reaction Level
This is the most basic level of evaluating a training program, wherein learners who have completed a training program are asked for inputs regarding how they liked the program, how they liked the training venue, the ease of participation in the program, if the trainer was good, about their overall experience of the program, and the like.
Whatever the feedback, the responses provide valuable inputs as to how employees:
- Liked the training program
- Found it engaging
- Found it useful
- Found it relevant to their jobs
Most organizations do not evaluate the success of their training program; but whether they realize it or not – this first level of evaluation is always carried out, with bosses or managers informally asking their employees as they walk out of a classroom session, “how did it go?” This off-hand question invites very honest answers such as, “Too long,” or “The air conditioner was not working,” or “Very exciting and informative”.
A formal way of evaluating training at the Reaction level is to get employees to fill out a questionnaire, feedback form, survey, or even an interview after completing the training program. All these are inexpensive and quick ways to gather immediate responses and determine if the training program was worth the investment – and more importantly – if it was accepted well by employees.
Level 2 – Learning
This is when it gets a bit more serious.This level measures the degree to which employees acquire the intended knowledge, skills, attitude, confidence and/or commitment.
As you can see, we now move from a superficial level of understanding the success of a training program, to a deeper level of understanding the extent of learning that has taken place, based on the employee’s participation in the program.
To measure what was learnt during training, one must first understand:
- The original level of knowledge of the employee, by conducting an assessment before training
- Conduct an assessment during training
- Conduct an assessment after training
- Compare the before, during, and after results to obtain a true measure of learning
This can be done by observation, assessments, simulations, exercises, demonstration of skills, and skill practices.
Level 3 – Behavior
This level measures the degree to which the knowledge/skills/attitude/confidence/commitment learnt during training, is applied to the employee’s job.There must be a change in behavior after a successful training program – the question now is “how much of what is learnt, is implemented?” Having spent time, money and effort to train his team to enable better workplace performance, the manager awaits the results, eagerly – after all, the proof is in the pudding. But the results are not always observed immediately; and the most valid results are those that are collected over a period of time to check:
- The change in behavior when it happens (e.g.,if a particular job is done better, faster, or with more ease)
- The relevance of change – as and when it happens (if this is the change that was intended)
- How sustainable this change is over a period of time ( a change is seen immediately after training; but will this change last even a year after training – or will it be forgotten?)
Observation, on-the-job testing, assessments conducted at regular intervals (immediately after training, a month after training, six months after training, a year after training), appraisals by the employees themselves (as well as their managers), are all ways that can be used to measure behavioral changes.
Level 4 – Results
This is considered the most important of all four levels, because this level measures the impact of training on business. At the end of the day, the final goal of any training program is to provide healthy business benefits and results. So this is not measured at an individual level or a department level, but at an organizational level.
There are several Key Performance Indicators that can be used to measure the impact of training on business, depending on the type of training conducted. Some examples are:
- ROI (Return on Investment)
- Customer satisfaction
- Customer complaints
What I have presented here is the model in its very basic form. When each of these levels is examined individually, you will find that there is scope for deeper and more refined evaluation of a training program at each level. There is also scope to find loopholes in each of these levels – although these are few and far between.
We will discuss this and more in the third part of this Kirkpatrick series.