One of the challenges in evaluating training is how organizations go about measuring and communicating the value of it. Most organizations review how participants have reacted to the training. Employees talk about what they liked or didn’t like about the event itself. “Hey, what did you think,” “Did you like it,” “How was the trainer.” Although getting a positive reaction is good and evaluating training with “smile sheets” is one step, in today’s competitive world, that just isn’t good enough.
The next step for organizations to evaluate training is to assess participants for what they learned or knowledge they obtained in the course of the training. What insights do they realize that they didn’t have before the training began? It’s important for training to create some learning because the purpose is usually to modify previous ways of working to new ways of working that are more productive, positive, and effective.
Ultimately though, we must realize that learning to do something is not the same as being able to do it. I can know how to juggle, but I can’t do it right away just because I have obtained the knowledge to do so. The learning must manifest itself into actions and behaviors that are positive. Insight can be a catalyst for action, but it doesn’t automatically translate into action.
Leadership Training Evaluation Model
In his classic model, the Four levels of Training Evaluation, Donald Kirkpatrick provides a practical way to look at training. It shows that organizations can and should be looking for more than just reactions and learning. Levels 3 is about Behaviors or application of the material reviewed, and Level 4 is about the impact of those actions, or the results produced.
Personal productivity, management and leadership are defined by the actions that are taken and the habitual behaviors that one employs, not just by the knowledge and understanding one has. A training program must guide participants to translate the new knowledge, insights, and learning, into actions and behaviors, otherwise things won’t change. When people complete a training program, they should be able to list the new actions and behaviors they are implementing, based on a positive reaction to what they learned.
Once actions and behaviors are employed, it’s possible to start capturing the outcomes of those new actions and behaviors. What is happening for the individual, the team and the organization because of those actions and behaviors? When participants are aware of the changes that they made based on the actions they took, they can then realize the impact and results those changes have produced. Examples like these emerge:
- I started planning my week, so now I get 10% more done every month
- I am meeting with my team consistently, so they are interrupting me less, there are less complaints to HR, and our work quality went from one of the worst in the company, to one of the best
- I’ve shifted my focus from always having the answers for my team, to coaching them to find the answers for themselves. They’re serving clients faster and more effectively, and I’m able to focus on strategic plans and key changes.
Leadership Development Training That Pays Off
When an organization commits resources to a training program, they aren’t looking for people to just enjoy the training and get “one good idea.” They are looking for their investment to pay off in improvements in the organization. Those improvements only come from the actions and behaviors of the participants. Without that, the training is merely a form of entertainment. Now, there’s nothing wrong with entertainment, it might have value to reduce stress in the moment and reward the participants with time away from their work. The major conflict in evaluating training comes when the organization believes it’s putting resources toward improvement, and all they get is ideas, insights, or entertainment. Hoping it translates, rather than using a methodology which creates an environment for application and impact leads to disappointment. When doing training to make improvements, companies need a process that produces application that creates change and has a proven track record to do so.