Kirkpatrick's Four-Level Training Evaluation Model

How do you measure the quality, delivery and impact of training in your organisation?

It is an often discussed and sometimes problematic issue, but there are ways in which you can demonstrate impact and return on investment from training and here are some of them:

Most Human Resources or Learning & Development teams face a challenge when trying to ascertain the impact and quality of training, especially when it comes to management and leadership skills, because it is a factor that is quite difficult to quantify and rarely fits neatly into a report or paper. It is however an incredibly important task, because organisations want to know what value they are receiving from the investments they make.

Training budgets are among the most scrutinised and sacrificed when it comes to cost-cutting in the business environment, despite the fact that the skills and knowledge within everybody’s workforce are by far most companies’ most valuable asset. The challenge is therefore to be able to evidence the quality of the training delivered as well as the impact it has had on the organisation. 

The model most commonly used and most commonly agreed upon today was created by Dr Don Kirkpatrick in the 1950’s and it addresses 4 key factors.

  • Reaction - ie how did the participants rate the training, was it good? Was it engaging? Did they enjoy it? This is most commonly measured with ‘Feedback Forms’ or ‘Happy Sheets’ as they are more informally known...but just because something was enjoyable does not mean that is was good and therefore we must analyse much more than just feedback forms to assess the quality and impact of training.

  • Learning - ie did the participants actually acquire the knowledge and skills that the training intended and did they remember them after the training? This is difficult to quantify but much can be judged by the style of delivery and the follow-up to the training to help cement things in people's’ memories. Did people receive thorough resources? Were they primed for learning and fully briefed prior to the training? Did they receive post-course notes? Did anyone follow-up with participants after the day? These are all things that can help embed the learning.

  • Behaviour - ie did the participants take the knowledge and skills that they learned in the training and put them to use back in their roles? This is the key part of the model in my opinion, it is how the process by which the learning actually benefits the participants, the people around them and the organisation as a whole. So, were there any challenges or tasks set for the participants to attempt back in the workplace? Was there any follow-up coaching from their line-managers or L+D departments? These are some great ways to ensure that the skills transfer from the classroom to the office.

  • Results - ie were the objectives or intended outcomes of the training achieved? Was there a positive impact on the organisation as a result of participants putting their knowledge and skills into practice in the workplace? Again very difficult quantify but some measurements could be incorporated into the annual staff survey and you could also take more qualitative feedback from staff interviews or follow-up focus groups.

With these four factors in mind, clearly feedback forms are not enough to judge training on, and indeed many training courses, interventions or providers do not take them into account. Particularly when working with internal or external partners, this model should be used when planning the training and people should begin the project with a clear view of how each element will be achieved and how it will be measured to ensure successful training that can clearly justify the investment being made in the first place.

If you feel that this kind of clarity and attention to detail is missing in some of your training, click here to download our guide on how to embed training within a business.