Training Programs

Using the Kirkpatrick Model to Evaluate Training: Part Two

Using the Kirkpatrick Model to Evaluate Training image

This is part two of our Kirkpatrick Model series, by Hannah Brenner, in which we explore how to measure the results of training evaluation and how to deal with pushback. If you haven’t yet, check out part one here.

Aligning Training with Strategic Goals

In the four years I spent teaching, one thing stayed consistent every year – when you walked into my classroom there was a giant sign: BIG GOAL = 80% Mastery.

My students knew from day one, this is what we were working towards. In fact, to pass the class (by state standards) there was no other option but to make it. Naturally, there were benchmarks, units, and other ways to break up the learning, but we never lost sight that no matter the lesson, we were working towards our 80% mastery.

As training professionals, we also need to keep our eye on that BIG GOAL. But many times we forget to focus on, or even set it. So, what is the goal?

I hear all the time from clients that their goal is to have 80% of people take training or to meet 100% compliance.

But is that really the goal? Think about what you are trying to accomplish with training. Look at your company’s mission statement or strategic initiatives. These are the real goals; they are your purpose and what you should be working towards with every program you create. Once you figure this out, you can start planning how to get there.

This is where the backwards planning of evaluation comes in. We start with Level 4: Results.

Kirkpatrick Partners defines this as “the degree to which targeted outcomes occur as a result of the training and the support and accountability package.”

To me, this is a complicated way to say we keep working, evaluating, supporting, and reevaluating training until we accomplish the big goal. To do that, we need to create a defined path.

Leading Indicators

When you go on a road trip, you don’t get in your car, start driving and hope you get there.

Back in the day, you had a map (now GPS) and planned your route, rest stops and how far you wanted to go each day. The same needs to be true for your training program. These are your leading indicators, the signs that let you know you are on track to reaching your goal.

Having these leading indicators could be the difference between success and failure of the training program. First, leading indicators help insure you are on track. If you aren’t meeting them, you know changes need to be made; you can adjust course as necessary. Without them, you could continue down the wrong path and (to stick with my road trip analogy) end up in Milwaukee instead of Memphis.

Next, hitting these marks gives you tangible results to report back to managers, senior leaders, and other key stakeholders. You can continuously provide them with information proving your program is having an impact and the dollars spent were well worth it.

Finally, meeting your leading indicators continues to encourage your learners. Think of those mile markers on your trip – they motivate you and give you reassurance that you are closer to your destination. The same is true for your employees. Seeing how they improved speed to market, increased sales or decreased errors is a great motivator for them to keep up the work/behaviors from training.

How to Handle Pushback

I will admit, putting all of this together before you even start planning your training program is a lot of work.

And there are a million and one excuses as to why it’s not done. I’m sure some of them are going through your mind now. But I would challenge you to consider some of these excuses and how you can combat them. Below are the most common I hear.

How would you answer my questions for each of these excuses?

Excuse 1: There’s no time

  • If this goal is truly important, how much of my time should it be worth?
  • How much time have you wasted on ineffective programs in the past?
  • How could putting in the time now simplify your tasks in the future?
  • How much time will employees save if the training is successful?

Excuse 2: This training isn’t worth evaluating

  • Then why are you doing it?
  • How is this aligned to the mission or strategic goals? Why isn’t it?
  • What would make this worth evaluating?
  • How will you know if it’s successful?

Excuse 3: I have no support from leaders/managers

  • What are your above and bottom line indicators (how this will save or make the company money)?
  • How is this aligned with their goals?
  • How have you explained the WIIFM factor to them?
  • Why are they not supporting you?
  • How can you change their minds?

Excuse 4: I don’t know how to do this/where to start

  • What research have you done?
  • What have you tried before?
  • What’s worked before? What hasn’t?
  • Have you worked with your client success team on this? Why not?

At the end of the day, the benefits of putting your program together the right way will far outweigh the excuses in your mind. Tying your training to business objectives and evaluating those level four results provides value to the entire organization and real results that drive success.

If you are a BizLibrary client, enlist the help of your Client Success Consultant. Together, you can determine how this fits into the big picture of the organization and decide what internal and external factors will indicate you are on track. Then, you can begin identifying the behaviors needed to produce those results… which is next to come in this series on training evaluation.

Read more: Using the Kirkpatrick Model to Evaluate Training: Part Three

For more information on leading indicators, examples, and proper timing – please visit the Kirkpatrick Partners website at or check out the book Four Levels of Training Evaluation.

Combat those excuses by arming yourself with techniques to improve every aspect of your employee training program! View our webinar with Training Industry on Measuring the Impact of Employee Soft Skills Training.

Hannah Brenner is a Client Success Consultant with BizLibrary. She discusses training strategies and works with her clients to constantly improve their training program and see a positive return on investment.