August 15, 2019

How to best measure the benefits of training evaluation: The Kirkpatrick Model

Donald Kirkpatrick was a firm believer of starting at the end. Creator of the internationally recognised Kirkpatrick training evaluation model, he said it is essential that L&D knows what it wants training to achieve before embarking on the design and delivery process.

Starting with the desired end result is one of the core principles of Kirkpatrick life’s work and his seminal book Evaluating Training Programs, published in 1994. It’s also a principle that a lot of modern-day L&D influencers adhere to, such as the analysis and research organisation Towards Maturity, and its focus on outcomes-driven L&D practice.

In essence, with Kirkpatrick, the evaluation process has to start before you have even begun the training. You have to know what you want to achieve, where you are now and the steps in between. After all, if you don’t truly understand what you are working towards and what you want the training to achieve, you are unlikely to achieve it. Nor can you properly assess and measure progress and key KPIs if you didn’t establish the starting point.

Identifying and communicating the training goals and terms at the outset also means that all the stakeholders – L&D, the learner, line managers, the business – know what to expect and what to work towards. Everyone knows the end goals and the required steps to get there.

Also central to the Kirkpatrick model are the four levels of training evaluation: reaction, learning, behaviour and results. Let’s talk about those:

Level 1: Reaction

This level is all about what the learner thinks and feels about the training. Do they think the training is useful? Effective? Focusing on the right areas? Typically, learners are given a questionnaire to complete, with a set of questions about their perception of the training. 

Level 2: Learning

This level is an assessment of what has or hasn’t been learnt as a result of the training. It takes place in the course of the training, most commonly by some kind of test, and covers skills, knowledge and attitudes.

Level 3: Behaviour

This part of the evaluation process usually takes place after the training has been completed because it’s to do with behaviour change. It often takes place three to six months after the training and is often observational. Are the new skills being applied effectively? Has there been a change in attitude? Has the knowledge been transferred? And so on.

Level 4: Results

This last level focuses on the training results, when all the information is gathered together. What happened as a result of the training? Were the KPIs met? Were the end goals achieved? And so on.

Measuring the effectiveness of training through models such as Kirkpatrick enables L&D to establish how successful training is, what’s working and what isn’t. It is so vital that L&D knows if training interventions are achieving the desired results, through proper evaluation and data collection.

And when you have that evaluation data you have clear, evidence-based results to feed back to your business stakeholders. If you can show that a particular training intervention has achieved its KPIs and is helping the business to achieve its KPIs as a result, that will stand you in good stead for negotiating future training interventions. That’s good for L&D and good for your business. 

DPG are the exclusive providers of the Kirkpatrick Certification in the UK. By offering both Open and In-house programmes you can effectively bridge the gap between Learning and Development and Business Performance. To book on or for more information click HERE.

Please note that the HR qualifications that appear on this page will be replaced in 2021. For more information on this change please read the CIPD’s announcement here.