Let’s be honest. As busy professionals, sometimes evaluating current performance improvement initiatives and training programs take a back seat to future projects. We may send a post-survey to our participants after training for feedback. Often, that’s where it ends, especially if the results are favorable. But, regardless of how successful a training program appears on the surface, we need to dig deeper into both the qualitative and quantitative data by conducting several levels of evaluation.
As Learning and Development (L&D) professionals and managers—or anyone who conducts, designs, or develops and facilitates training—do you see evaluation as an invaluable tool to improve your program? Or do you find it intimidating because you don’t know much about it?
For clarity’s sake, let’s begin by defining what evaluation means. Evaluation is a process that critically examines a program or performance improvement initiative to determine its effectiveness in meeting program objectives and aligning with business goals.
By not conducting evaluations, we miss opportunities to demonstrate the added value the organization receives from our training programs and performance improvement initiatives. But through proper evaluation, we demonstrate that we are strategic business partners who support the organization in fulfilling their mission, vision, and business goals.
With my clients, I follow the new world Donald Kirkpatrick’s Four Level Evaluation Model to assess the effectiveness both our training and performance improvement initiatives.
After conducting training, our Learning and Development department immediately moves to complete level 1 of the Kirkpatrick’s model. Participants’ reactions and attitudes towards the training are measured by sending out a post-survey. Then, we conduct the remaining three levels of Kirkpatrick’s model to determine if the participants’ behavior has changed on the job and measure any quantifiable changes in the organization’s key performance measures.
We applied Kirkpatrick’s evaluation model after a recent Lunch and Learn. The event was held to give our Protection and Control (P&C) group the ability to develop as Subject Matter Experts by teaching them how to develop and facilitate a technical presentation to their group.
Level 1: After the Lunch and Learn a survey was sent to measure the participants’ reactions to training and to gather information on how to improve the Lunch and Learn. We also asked for suggestions for future training needs.
Level 2: Three weeks after the Lunch and Learn, a PowerPoint exercise was sent to the participants to test their knowledge on what they learned. They were asked to redesign a poorly designed PowerPoint based on a job aid and what they learned in class. We followed the exercise up with a Snack and Learn to allow them to share their redesign with their group and explain what they changed and why.
Level 3: We followed up with management 30 days later by conducting an interview to determine if employees have been applying what they’d learned in their upcoming technical presentations. L&D also provided support and resources as management continued to drive change within the department.
Level 4: The final level of the Kirkpatrick model of training evaluation is usually completed 3 to 6 months out. Gathering evaluation data at this level is a complex task which involves measuring the impact of training programs on the organizational level. It may not always be advisable or cost effective to evaluate short-term training programs such as a Lunch and Learn. However, evaluating long-term training programs and performance initiatives will benefit your organization by determining the Return on Investment (ROI) and identifying any quantifiable changes that have occurred in the organization.
Taking time out of busy schedules to conduct thorough evaluations is the truest way to measure the validity of training and performance initiatives. It is a vital step on any organization’s path to success. Effective performance initiatives and training programs can secure winning results for the L&D department and position them as strategic business partners within the organization.