OpX Insights

Training Effectiveness

written By Mike Leigh

Almost every organization invests time and money to train its employees and leaders.  According to the Association of Training Development, US organizations spent $164B on employee learning and development in 2012.  Unfortunately, much of it was wasted.

Think about the last time you attended a training class or seminar.  Was it helpful?  Did you learn some great ideas to help your performance?  Probably yes, but did you actually put those new ideas into practice?

Fundamentally, the purpose of training is to improve performance.  But to improve performance, behaviors must change.  Many training programs are not effective because they do not result in new behaviors, and training without behavior change is simply entertainment.

Dr. Donald Kirkpatrick, a pioneer in the training and development industry, developed a four-level model for evaluating training effectiveness.  The four levels are:

  1. Reaction – Was the training well-received by the trainees?  Did they enjoy it?
  1. Learning – Did the participants gain knowledge from the training?
  1. Behavior – Did participants change their behavior as a result of the training?
  1. Results – Were there positive outcomes for the employee or business?

Most training programs are never evaluated past Level 2.  These programs are either ineffective, or they are not adequately designed to measure subsequent behavior change.  There are certainly situations, however, in which Levels 1 and 2 are sufficient for evaluating training effectiveness.  Onboarding training for new employees is one example.  But measurable performance improvement requires an investment in effective employee development.

The problem in most organizations is that training is considered a cost, instead of an investment, and the cheapest option is often selected, sometimes resulting in a waste of valuable resources. Instead, training and development investment in an enterprise's employees should be spent with value and ROI in mind, similar to other development projects. It should produce behavior changes and improved performance that can be measured. Only then can value and ROI be determined.