Any time you create a program, it’s necessary to measure the results. Even the incredibly informal “Let’s do it and see what happens.” approach considers evaluation. But the measurement and evaluation portion of any program needs to be well thought out. Measure the wrong thing and the program can look like a failure (when it’s not) or vice versa.

HR Programs, programs, training, training programs, program, learning

I’ve always been a fan of the Kirkpatrick model. It was created by Dr. Don Kirkpatrick in the 1950s and presents four levels for training evaluation: reaction, learning, behavior, and results.

  1. Reaction refers to the degree that participants found the program favorable.
  2. Learning is the extent to which participants acquired the intended information.
  3. Behavior is the degree that participants apply what they’ve learned.
  4. Results is the extent that the learning impacts the organization.

One of the key aspects of the model is that there’s an inverse relationship between the degree of difficulty to collect the data and the usefulness of the data. For example, Level 1 – Reaction is the easiest evaluation to conduct but it also provides the least amount of data. On the other hand, Level 4 – Results is the most difficult to conduct and the most valuable in terms of connecting learning to the business.

Kirkpatrick Training Evaluation, Kirkpatrick Model, ATD, HR programsI’ve been thinking about the Kirkpatrick model lately. The Association for Talent Development (ATD) shared with me a new book on the model, “Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Training Evaluation.”

In the book, the authors suggest thinking of the model in reverse form – Results, Behavior, Learning, and Reaction – when designing. This could make a lot of sense for a couple of reasons:

  • The organization can decide how much or how little they want to invest in results metrics. Let’s face it, some HR programs we run because we need to for compliance, etc.
  • The organization can determine the expectations for the program. Not the objectives – that’s the content. But the expectations. HR programs often have more than one desired outcome.

But the reason that I used HR Programs in this post title versus training, was because I wonder if we can use the principles of the Kirkpatrick model on programs in general. The book does an excellent job of providing sample evaluations and explaining how to make data based decisions. I kept reading and asking myself, “Hmmm, I wonder if this would apply to other programs?” for example, an employee suggestion program.

  • How much do employees and managers like the current employee suggestion program? (reaction)
  • Is the organization learning anything (about customers or employees) by using a suggestion program? (learning)
  • Have we applied what we’ve learned from suggestions to the way we do business? (behavior)
  • Has the organization benefitted (financially or otherwise) from the suggestion program? (results)

Any time we create a program, we have to measure results. But the measurement and evaluation part doesn’t always have to be complicated. We can use the tools we know to ask the right questions. If you’re not familiar with the Kirkpatrick model, I’d suggest picking up a copy of the book. It’s a classic theory that you will want to use to evaluate the success of your training programs…and maybe a few other things.

Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby after speaking to the AFA Leaders Conference in Kansas City, MO