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Increasing Audience Return on Investment (ROI)

Neil Dempster will wow your audience!The primary reason an organization provides training to its employees is to increase the skills and workforce knowledge necessary to achieve better results. Although training costs can be significant in any business, most companies are prepared to incur these costs because of the anticipated return on investment (ROI) that will offset the investment. But how do you know if the training intervention was successful and provided a good ROI?


The only way to truly know is to evaluate!


An evaluation will:

  • help you to determine how your organization has benefited from the training and whether the investment was worthwhile,
  • provide the ability to track staff development to determine organizational bench-strength,
  • identify training gaps and future training needs, and
  • ensure training interventions are timely and relevant.


The challenge for many organizations is not whether training should be evaluated—the challenge is how.

Kirkpatrick's Learning Outcomes Evaluation

The most commonly used evaluation method (for good reasons!) is the four level model developed by Donald Kirkpatrick, PhD. According to this model, evaluations should always be done sequentially with information from each prior level serving as a base for the next level's evaluation. Each successive level represents a more precise measure of the effectiveness of the training program, however, this precision comes with a price—each level requires a more rigorous and time-consuming analysis. Although not intended to replace professional training or consulting on how to implement Kirkpatrick's model, here is a brief description of each of the four levels:

Level 1 Evaluation: Reaction

Evaluation at this level measures how participants in a training program react to the content, delivery, and appropriateness of the training. This evaluation typically takes place at the conclusion of the training program and is commonly referred to as the "smile-sheet" or "happy-sheet" because it attempts to determine learner perceptions. Information gathered from this evaluation can provide valuable feedback for the facilitator (e.g., delivery improvement ideas) and curriculum developers (e.g., the relevance of the material to the workplace). In addition, learner reactions directly impact level 2 evaluation (learning) because although a positive reaction does not guarantee learning took place, a negative reaction typically results in poor learning outcomes.

Level 2 Evaluation: Learning

Level 2 evaluation moves the focus away from participant satisfaction (level 1) and, instead, measures increases in skill and knowledge, and changes in attitude. To assess the amount of learning that has occurred as a direct result of a training program, a pre-test (skill or knowledge test conducted before the training occurs) is compared with a post-test to determine the amount of learning that has taken place. Measurement at this level is more difficult and time-consuming than level one because it requires a separate survey to be administered. The assessment can be a team assessment or a self-assessment.

Level 3 Evaluation: Transfer (Behavior Change)

This level measures the transformation that has occurred in learner behavior as a direct result of the training program. The evaluation focuses on whether the newly acquired skills, knowledge, or attitude are being used in the learner's everyday work environment. Because a level 3 evaluation is measuring behavior change, this survey is typically completed by someone in a position to observe the actual change (e.g., the learner's manager). Measuring at this level is difficult because there may be many other confounding influencers occurring simultaneously (i.e., changes in task assignment or reporting structure). Evaluation timing (proximity to training event), frequency (how often to evaluate), and evaluation methodology (e.g., multiple regression) are all important considerations at this level.

Level 4 Evaluation: Results

Level four evaluation attempts to assess training in terms of business results—in essence, the training program's effectiveness in improving the bottom-line (e.g., increased production, fewer errors, decreased costs, increased efficiency, improved moral, reduced frequency of accidents, increased sales). Although results are the primary reason organizations invest in training, this level of evaluation is done infrequently, in large part because of the cost and complexity, and because it is difficult to link results directly with training. Although collecting, organizing and analyzing level four information can be difficult, time-consuming and more costly than the other three levels, the resulting information is invaluable when viewed in the full context of its value to the organization.

Choose Clearview Performance Systems for leadership and management training programs.
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