Tools to Measure Training Effectiveness

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton once aptly stated that the new world of the 21st century requires that “every adult American must be able to keep on learning for a lifetime.” For the business organization charged with training that workforce, effective development depends on identifying the desired results for the individual and organization as a whole.

Training Objectives
The effectiveness of a training can only be measured when there are clearly defined training objectives in place. If these are in place, evaluation can show whether the training objectives were met as they relate to desired performance improvements — by comparing the clearly defined needs against expected results or outcomes.

Publicize Objectives
Trainees should be made aware of the training objective from the beginning of the training. Training objectives should be SMART objectives: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-limited. The SMART objectives should be communicated to participants in any advance materials provided. Advise participants to keep their objectives in mind during the training. Additionally, managers should be made aware of training objectives so that they are aware of what their staff should bring back from the training program.

Debriefing Session
Allow a time for training to be applied and practiced. For example, a training objective may be to teach procedural skills to an administrator whose success can be measured within a month of the training’s end by how efficiently the procedure is then administered within the organization. After a realistic time frame for evaluating performance improvements, the debriefing session may involve completion of questionnaires, participation in feedback meetings or through statistical audits.

Formal Training Evaluation Models
There are more-formal training evaluation models that can used to assess the training effectiveness. For example, in 1959, University of Wisconsin Professor Donald Kirkpatrick published his Four-Level Training Evaluation Model. Subsequently updated by Kirkpatrick, the four levels evaluated are 1) reaction, 2) learning, 3) behavior and 4) results. Level 1, the reaction assessment, evaluates how participants generally feel about the value of the training experience. At level 2, the learning level, the increase in the participants’ knowledge is measured. The participants’ application of the information through changed behavior is assessed at level 3. The results, level 4, evaluate organizational outcomes or bottom-line results gained from the training.

The Simple Survey
Surveys provided to participants after a training are generally designed to assess the performance of the trainer as well as whether the participants believe that the learning experience will be useful in their current work. Anonymous evaluations, such as through an online survey procedure, can help participants be more honest in giving their opinion. If training is provided by an outside agency, capture participants’ assessments through a survey within a short time frame after they return.

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