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It’s no secret that employee training is becoming a bigger priority for more companies. Recent studies show that corporate learning investment is steadily increasing by about 14% year over year. That’s great, because without knowledgeable, skilled employees performing at the top of their game, productivity and growth are going to suffer.
However critical it is, training IS an investment—and every company wants the best return on that investment. As a professional trainer, so do you. Only by measuring your training’s effectiveness can you accurately demonstrate its positive impacts—such as boosting engagement, retention and performance outcomes. Moreover, measurement will allow you to identify what works and what doesn’t, helping you build better workshops in the future. In short, measurement is the key to ensuring your training pays off—today and tomorrow. So where do you start?
The Four Levels of Training Evaluation
To determine what metrics and methods you’ll use to measure your training outcomes, it helps to have a framework to build upon. Fortunately, one already exists—The Kirkpatrick Evaluation Model. Developed in the 1950s by University of Wisconsin Professor Donald Kirkpatrick, this simple four-tiered pyramid approach has been used for decades as a foundation for evaluating learning success. Let’s look at the four levels, from broad base to narrow peak:
First tier: Reaction
It may seem obvious, but if learners don’t like your training, they’re not going to get what they—and your company—need from it. So it’s important to start your evaluation process by assessing how participants are responding to your program. Is feedback positive or negative? Do they feel engaged? Is the pace okay? Does it fit their learning style? Is the content easy to follow?
Use post-training surveys, Q&A sessions or online questionnaires to solicit participants’ key takeaways and honest feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of your sessions. Until you assess how your training is received, you’ll never truly understand how to make it effective.
Second tier: Learning
The next step is to measure your training’s impact on employees’ actual knowledge, skills and performance. You can measure these metrics in a number of straightforward ways—such as tests before and after training, course completion certificates and supervisor reports.
When developing criteria for evaluations, be sure to create a clear set of objectives for participants to meet—and make sure they understand which key performance indicators will be used to demonstrate improvement.
Third tier: Behavior
Now it’s time to measure participants’ ability to apply what they’ve learned back on the job. Are new skills being utilized? Have attitudes changed for the better? Has performance improved?
Measuring outcomes here will require input from other parties—including supervisors and peers. So again, it’s essential that you clearly communicate and coordinate your objectives—along with the criteria for meeting them—with everyone involved.
Some useful metrics for evaluating performance include self-assessment questionnaires, peer reviews, customer surveys and supervisor observations.
Fourth tier: Results
Finally, to understand ROI fully, you’ll need to measure the tangible results of your training. Have costs been reduced? Has quality improved? Is productivity up? Is turnaround faster? Are sales and revenue increasing?
Obviously, your company should already have established systems for management and reporting when it comes to these performance indicators. So your job will be to establish correlations between training and specific business results. Other correlative metrics to measure over time might include employee retention, morale, customer satisfaction and the like.
Which metrics matter?
In the end, you can’t measure everything—and you shouldn’t try. Deciding which training metrics are necessary for determining ROI will largely depend on your unique business needs, employee audience, budget realities and management objectives. But make no mistake, measuring the effectiveness of your training today is essential to creating future programs that get results—the kind that boost engagement, retention, performance and your bottom line.
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