How To Evaluate Training
Assessing your training programs could help you determine the effectiveness, impact and value for your employees and organization. When evaluating training programs, keep in mind the following question: What is the goal of the training, and to what extent is this goal being met? You may discover a need to assess training on multiple levels, ranging from the reactions of trainees to the impact of the training on business results. Consider using the four-level structure outlined by Donald Kirkpatrick in his book Evaluating Training Programs. Kirkpatrick was credited with creating The Kirkpatrick Model, the most recognized and widely used training evaluation model in the world.
Level 1--Reaction. To assess training at the reaction level, you measure the reaction of the participants to the training experience. After the training session, consider asking the following questions: "Did the facilitator keep the group’s attention? Did you enjoy the exercises? Was the training room comfortable? Would you recommend that others take this workshop?" Responding to the feedback can help your trainers develop stronger facilitation skills and maintain the training department’s positive reputation.
Level 2--Learning. When you evaluate training at the level of learning, you assess whether or not the participants actually acquired new skills and knowledge, or changed their attitude as a result of the training. Consider asking questions like these to assess Level 2 learning: "How much of our sales volume is attributed to each of our top ten customers? Which new products were introduced in the past six months? Who should you call if you have questions about the benefits offered by the company? Do you believe it is important to expand our diversity outreach efforts?" If scores on a post-test are higher than scores on a pre-test, you can see that some learning has taken place. Keep in mind, though, that memory fades with time; if you want to know how much learning took place in one program compared to another, you must keep the conditions constant.
Level 3--Behavior. There are many who would say that learning skills and adopting new attitudes is fine, but that doesn’t mean much until you change behavior. To assess behavioral change, many companies rely on the supervisor’s observation. You may also measure behavioral change using 360-feedback or by looking for trends on employee surveys. Remember, if you don’t see the behavior change you hoped for, it may be a result of something outside the training program. Once an employee returns to the work environment, many factors must come together to support the behavior change, including the manager’s role-modeling and support, rewards (both formal and informal), and a climate that supports trying out new behavior.
Level 4--Results. Another way to measure the impact of your training programs is to establish their direct link with business results. If you can show that training reduces operating costs, improves profits, reduces turnover or speeds cycle time, then your training is having a definite business payback.
When designing your next training program, involve your managers and top performers, and begin by focusing on the Level 4 results that you want, working backwards from there. Determine the behaviors that will produce the results, attitudes and skills needed by your organization, and lastly, the program design that will produce a positive reaction in participants.