Training Solutions: Toward a New Era in Training Evaluation
January 6, 2014 by Bill Rosenthal

According to the Kirkpatrick Model, there are four levels of training evaluation:

Reaction – how the learners feel about the training
Learning – how much mastery the learners have achieved of the skills and knowledge at issue
Behavior – how well the learners applied the training back on the job
Results – how well the training achieved the business objectives it was supposed to address (i.e., the difference between training programs and training solutions).
Training EvaluationEach level is more costly to implement than the preceding one, and businesses tend to go as high as they feel they can afford. Most training solutions are never evaluated at level 4.

The late Donald Kirkpatrick showed brilliant insight in discerning these levels. As a provider of training solutions, Logical Operations does evaluations at levels 1 and 2. We will help a customer do them at levels three and four when the customer is in a position to do so. We find level 3 and 4 evaluations particularly exciting. We are committed to creating transformative experiences for learners, but we also know that from the standpoint of your business, whether the learners liked the training and whether they learned anything are not as relevant as whether they do their jobs better as a result of the training, which is still not as relevant as whether their changed performance benefits your business.

When the Kirkpatrick Model turned 50 years old in 2009, Kirkpatrick Partners issued a white paper updating the model by standing it on its head. (Note: the link is a PDF.) Now we’re talking training solutions.

This white paper came to the conclusion that the purpose of evaluation was to get to Level 4, since the whole point of training evaluation is to determine the effectiveness of your training solutions. The authors of the white paper suggested that training evaluation should measure ROE (return on expectations). And the way to do that is to incorporate expectations into the training plan. That is, as the first step in implementing a training plan, you determine what you intend to achieve for the organization and how you will measure it.

The measurements for Level 4 evaluation are things like employee retention, production, waste, sales, product quality, and customer satisfaction. So, even if we succeed in implementing training solutions by reversing the order of the evaluation levels, we are still stuck with the problem that those measurements are usually beyond the scope of those who do the training. But that situation could change. A November blog post at Chief Learning Officer by Josh Bersin discussed the “datafication” of learning. By datafication, Bersin means to apply the data perspective to human development, a process he calls talent analytics.

Fasten your seatbelts, because this idea could catch on and the process could happen quickly. Organizations everywhere are trying to open databases and eliminate silos, and it’s only a matter of time before big data techniques marry performance stats with business outcomes. When that happens, It could change a lot of things about organizational life, including responsibilities. Training will be one tool in a portfolio of tools to achieve those outcomes, and we will truly be in an age of training solutions.

Logical Operations is in the business of providing training solutions to our customers, so we keep a close watch on these kinds of developments. To tell the truth, we are eager to see this trend take hold, because we are eager for the accountability.