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  • Writer's pictureTon Bongers

Measuring Training Effectiveness

By Eshna Verma

When you plan training and development for your organization, you expect to gain improved skills and productivity, greater retention rates, and an improved brand. After you deliver any type of corporate training, you must ask these questions:

  1. How effective was the training in helping learners gain relevant knowledge and skills?

  2. Were the learners able to apply what they learned to improve their performance at work?

  3. What other benefits did the training program achieve?

The answers to these questions help you determine whether the training was worth your organization’s investment and answering these questions requires measuring the outcomes.

Why Measure Training Effectiveness?

Statistics prove that companies across the globe invest heavily in employee training and development. According to Training Industry magazine, employee training and education spends in the United States alone are growing incrementally by 14% every year. In addition to enhancing knowledge and skills, measuring training effectiveness has proven to be an important tool to boost employee engagement and retention. Results and measurements of past training also act as critical indicators while planning future workshops.

Organizations should ensure that employees can demonstrate a positive impact of training through improved productivity and overall skill development. With the growing focus on continual learning and development, businesses are keen on identifying reliable metrics and methods to measure the effectiveness and the ROI of such employee training initiatives. After all, you would not want to deliver training that does not provide expected results.

Evaluating Training Effectiveness

Post-training quizzes, one-to-one discussions, employee surveys, participant case studies, and official certification exams are some ways to measure training effectiveness. The more data you collect on measurable outcomes, the easier it will be to quantify your company’s return on investment. Before training begins, it is helpful to plan what factors you will be measuring and how you will collect these data. Fortunately, some proven methodologies for measuring training effectiveness already exist.

The Kirkpatrick Evaluation Model

During the 1950s, the University of Wisconsin Professor Donald Kirkpatrick developed the Kirkpatrick Evaluation Model for evaluating training. With a simple, 4-level approach, this is one of the most successful models that help you measure the effectiveness of customized corporate training programs. Here are the four levels of measurement and the key indicators to look for at each level.

Level 1 - Reaction This level measures how learners have reacted to the training, the relevance and usefulness of the training. Use surveys, questionnaires or talk to learners before and after the course to collect their feedback on the learning experience.

Topics to cover during your discussion:

  • Was the course content relevant and easy to follow?

  • Ask questions about the learnings and key takeaways.

  • Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the program.

  • Understand if the training was able to accommodate the learner’s pace and learning style.

At the end of Level 1, you should have a good understanding of how well the training was received and determine any gaps in the training content.

Level 2 - Learning Measure the knowledge and skills gained by learners as a result of the training. To measure this level, you can use a combination of metrics such as:

  • Test scores during and after the training

  • Evaluation of applied learning projects

  • Influence on performance KPIs

  • Course completion and certification

  • Supervisor report and feedback

At this stage of evaluation, you will be able to determine if the training is meeting its set objectives, what are the specific skills that can be developed with this training, and the scope for improvements in content and method of delivery.

Level 3 - Behavior Understand how the training has impacted the learner’s performance and attitude at work. Evaluate how the training has influenced the learner’s performance and delivery at work by using a combination of these methods:

  • Self-assessment questionnaires

  • Informal feedback from peers and managers

  • Focus groups

  • On-the-job observation

  • Actual job performance key performance indicators (KPIs)

  • Customer surveys, comments, or complaints

Topics to cover in your assessment include:

  • How has learning been implemented at work?

  • Are the learners confident to share their new skills and knowledge with their peers?

Level 4 - Results Measure the tangible results of the training such as reduced cost, improved quality, faster project completion, increased productivity, employee retention, better marketing leads, increased sales, and higher morale. Key metrics to measure are:

  • Improved business results

  • Increased productivity and quality of work

  • Employee retention

  • Higher morale

  • Customer satisfaction index

How Much Measurement Makes Sense? Implementing all levels of the Kirkpatrick model can be an expensive and time-consuming process. You don’t have to measure everything. Measure only what it takes to substantiate a confident decision about the value returned on the training.

Leslie Allan suggests adding levels as follows, according to the type of training and your goals:

  • Level 1 (Reaction) for all programs

  • Level 2 (Learning) for “hard-skills” programs

  • Level 3 (Behavior) for strategic programs

  • Level 4 (Results) for programs costing over $50,000

Conclusion Training is all about improving individual and group performances and in turn influencing the overall performance of your business. It is important to evaluate the effectiveness of the training and ensure that the original learning goals were achieved.

Also, I realize that many benefits of training are not measurable. Factors like job satisfaction, the enjoyment of learning, and helping employees understand that they are valued assets worthy of development may seem intangible—and can be very powerful. Finally, measuring training isn’t helpful unless you utilize what you have learned to improve the training, find a better provider, or even decide to discontinue the program. However, remember that training cannot be a one-time event; it’s important to define and support continuous learning paths—this enables your employees to stay relevant in a transforming digital landscape.

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