Powerful Tips & Tactics for Evaluating Training Effectiveness

tips for measuring training effectiveness

Training effectiveness is defined by AIHR as, “The impact of training on the trainee’s knowledge, skills, performance, and the company’s ROI.” 

It’s the overall goal of any training program. Training effort, budget, and time are wasted if your training doesn’t improve learners’ knowledge, skills and performance so that ROI is boosted. 

To assess your training effectiveness, then, you must be able to verify that your training:

  • Provided the knowledge your learners needed.
  • Presented the information in a way that they could assimilate easily.
  • Helped learners apply what they learned to actual work situations
  • Contributed other benefits, such as boosting employee satisfaction and improving KPIs such as ROI and net income.

These benchmarks apply to training at all levels of the organization. They allow your learning and development team to determine whether the training was truly worthwhile.

Why understanding and measuring training effectiveness is crucial

Essentially, understanding and measuring training effectiveness answers the “So what?” question regarding the efforts of the L&D team. It provides a means to verify that:

Your training filled the identified gaps in employee skills and/or knowledge.

Measuring training effectiveness provides benchmarks to verify that your training efforts hit the mark. If you measure the effectiveness of training, you have concrete answers when various stakeholders ask, for instance, if the training;

  • Decreased employee turnover. 
  • Reduced the number of errors in a certain department.
  • Lowered the production time per unit.
  • Raised awareness of potential safety hazards (or lowered the number of safety infringements.
  • Increased sales volume per salesperson.
  • Met any of a host of other possible training goals.

Your training was well-received by your workers and empowered them to do their jobs well.  

The post-pandemic workplace is much less about brick-and-mortar buildings, in-person meetings, scheduled work hours and cookie-cutter training modules than it is about employees working in an environment that provides adequate flexibility, satisfaction, pay, benefits, and job security. 

Additionally, according to a recent study by The Hartford, “59% of U.S. workers think it would be easy to find a new job.” Many employees are quite willing to consider leaving an unsatisfactory work environment; they’re convinced that finding a new job won’t be hard. 

Furthermore, training and development plays an increasingly important role in whether or not workers stay with their job. In a recent survey of more than 400 employees, 70% indicated that job-related training and development affected their decision to remain at their job. That percentage jumped to 87% among Millennials. 

In some sectors, learning and development is the single most important factor workers consider when they evaluate an employment opportunity–topping even salary and work flexibility concerns. Workers staying in the same field value opportunities to upskill. Those entering a new field need–and expect to receive–top-notch training that prepares them to do their jobs well. 

Combined, these factors mean that effective training increases employee competence and satisfaction and decreases employee turnover.

Factors in measuring training effectiveness

Accurately assessing learning effectiveness depends upon the level of training you’re evaluating, the training models you employ, and the evaluation methods you use.

Levels of training effectiveness

Training assessments for one-off courses will differ from those designed to assess the effectiveness of an entire learning path for an individual, or an overall training program for a company, since the scope and purpose vary among the levels. 

One-off courses 

Although one-off courses are no longer considered the “best practice” approach for most situations, they are still popular because they are comparatively easy to prepare and can be administered to large groups. 

The immediate effectiveness of one-off courses is also comparatively easy to measure via standard classroom evaluation metrics such as the number of learners who completed the course or the pass/fail rate among everyone who took the course. 

However, measuring the long-term effectiveness of one-off courses is difficult. This is especially true of hands-on tasks, since the typical classroom setting of one-off courses doesn’t permit much “doing.” Learners watch, listen and learn, but they aren’t evaluated on the job or given many opportunities to implement what they have learned. 

Learning paths

Learning paths are sequences of courses designed to teach a specific subject or skill. They offer the users some control over their learning experience. Some learning paths allow the learners to use a non-linear approach and complete the courses along a path they choose. Others follow a linear design so that every step in the process is learned in a specified order.

Although learning paths are not as easy to prepare and implement, they are more personalized, provide more opportunity to integrate hands-on, training-by-doing activities, and generally yield higher learner satisfaction scores. 

Another advantage of learning paths is the relative ease of assessing their short-term and long-term effectiveness. In the short-term, learners move along the path only after they successfully complete each step. Long-term effectiveness is indicated by evaluation metrics that fall within acceptable ranges. Examples include order fulfillment rates, sales generated by each member of the salesforce, and compliance rates. 

A robust learning and development platform that integrates with your LMS streamlines the development of effective and dynamic learning paths. Cognota offers in-depth planning guidelines, design features that include interactive storyboards and real-time feedback, and insights that allow you to assess your training effectiveness for the short and long term. Check it out for yourself by getting started for free or speak with sales to learn more about the solution.

Corporate training courses

Corporate training courses address areas that pertain to all employees in all sectors, business units, and teams throughout the company. They delineate corporate culture and address hot issues as they arise. They also explain corporate goals and objectives. 

Corporate training courses are effective when they help your company reach its business goals and spawn a corporate culture that reflects management’s core beliefs. Applicable evaluation metrics include ROI, customer acquisition and retention rates, and market share.

Models for evaluating learning effectiveness 

Several L&D models exist to help you determine how to evaluate training effectiveness. These training assessment models provide a framework that helps you objectively evaluate your L&D efforts.

The Kirkpatrick model is the tried-and-true, gold standard for training assessment. Developed over 60 years ago by Donald Kirpatrick as part of his Ph.D dissertation, the Kirkpatrick Model delineates 4 levels of training. The four levels answer the following questions:

  • Level 1–Reaction: Do learners find the training to be favorable, engaging and relevant?
  • Level 2–Learning: Through the training, do learners acquire the knowledge, skills, attitude, confidence and commitment that was expected? 
  • Level 3–Behavior: To what extent do learners apply the training to their jobs?
  • Level 4–Results: To what extent do desired outcomes occur as a result of the training itself and the associated support and accountability measures?

Dr. Kirkpatrick’s work was so influential and effective that it’s still widely used today. And, while there are recent training evaluation models, several of them build upon Kirkpatrick’s model. 

One of these is the Phillips ROI Model. As the name implies, the Phillips ROI Model stresses that ROI is a significant and reliable training performance indicator that needs to be included in any evaluation of training effectiveness. The Phillips Model uses Kirpatrick’s four levels but adds ROI as a fifth. The ROI level clearly delineates the monetary value of training as a whole, and provides a tangible way for L&D personnel to quantify the value and necessity of their efforts.    

Kaufman’s Model of Learning Evaluation is another spinoff from Kirkpatrick. Kaufman digresses from Kirkpatrick in three significant ways. First, he divides Kirkpatrick’s Level 1: Reaction into two parts: Input and Process. Input addresses the effectiveness of the instructional materials used in the training. The Process sub-level evaluates the delivery of the training. Was the material delivered in a way that learners found suitable and efficient? 

Kaufman also modifies levels two and three–which he calls Acquisition and Application– to assess the training from the micro (learner’s) level. These levels evaluate whether individuals acquired the learning, and then applied the learning on the job. 

Finally, Kaufman adds a fifth level–Societal Outcomes–to factor in “mega-level clients’” which encompassed the clientele of a business or society in general.  

An even newer model by Dr. Paul Leone builds on Kirkpatrick’s foundation, factors in the ROI component of the Phillips model, and adds one more level.  In his book, Measuring and Maximizing Training Impact Dr. Leone explains the necessity of including ROI (level 5) and business climate (level 6) when evaluating the effectiveness of any corporate training initiative. 

Like Phillips, Dr. Leone points out that calculating training ROI provides an objective means to answer the stakeholder who questions, “Are your training efforts worthwhile?” Adding Level 6–Business Climate–allows management to look outside the L&D team’s efforts and identify that certain external factors–such as managerial approval and corporate climate–greatly affect the effectiveness of training. 

Another model worth L&D’s consideration is the CIPP Evaluation Model. Developed in the 1960s by Daniel Stufflebeam and colleagues, the CIPP Model does not use the Kirkpatrick Model as a framework. Rather, the CIPP Model evaluates a program’s effectiveness by employing a decision-focused approach to consider the program’s Context, Input, Process and Product.

The CIPP Model uses systematically-gathered information to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a training program with regard to its goals (context), plans and resources (input), activities or components (process) and outcomes and objectives (product).

Methods to evaluate training effectiveness

Regardless of the model you rely upon to assess the effectiveness of your training, you will need to utilize specific methods to help you gather the information and use it to calculate pertinent evaluation metrics. 

Training evaluation/assessment forms

If you’ve attended any classroom training sessions, you’re probably quite familiar with training evaluation/assessment forms. Usually distributed right after the training is complete, these forms sometimes ask you to evaluate the quality and effectiveness of the training and the trainer. Sometimes these forms take the shape of quizzes designed to test how much knowledge you’re carrying with you as you leave the training room. 

While ubiquitous and valuable due to the amount and variety of information they provide, these forms are very subjective and indicative only of short-term learning. The training evaluation questions are often open to interpretation and hard to quantify. They don’t address retention or verify that the training will make any difference in actual work habits or attitudes. They are excellent first steps but need to be coupled with other assessment tools.

Personal, post-training interviews

Personal interviews offer the advantage of individual feedback that can be gathered at intervals after the training. The drawback is that learners can find personal interviews intimidating. In that case, they may tend to say what they think is expected of them rather than what is accurate.

Post-training observation

Post-training work observation is an excellent way to assess whether or not the training produced a certain behavior. If it can be done unobtrusively, it’s very accurate. Its limitations are that employees who know that they are being watched sometimes change their behavior to meet expectations. Additionally, observations have limited usefulness when training addresses attitudes or motivation rather than actions.  

Evaluation metrics

Which evaluation metrics best suit your company will depend upon the size, age, and stage of the organization as well as the goals for the training. Common training evaluation metrics include:  

  • Completion rate
  • Pass/fail rate
  • # of attempts to completion
  • Learner satisfaction
  • Learner engagement
  • Training ROI
  • Training cost per employee
  • Post-training employee performance

How to utilize training effectiveness insights 

Utilizing the insights you derive from your training assessments validates the effort you took to gather those insights. If they sit, undisturbed, in an unread report, then they’re as valuable to your L&D team and your company as the base runner stranded on 3rd-base after hitting a spectacular triple. The effort was remarkable, but the score didn’t change.

The best way for executives to utilize their training insights is to comprehend and incorporate the concept of LearnOps into their daily work lives. LearnOps allows executives to integrate the processes and activities under their control, access all relevant data, and provide answers for concerned stakeholders, whether they are employees, customers or board members.  Effective LearnOps also helps L&D deliver cost-effective, meaningful learning experiences suited to diverse learners working in every position throughout the company. 

Cognota makes evaluating your training effectiveness easy

Training effectiveness is the operational goal of L&D teams, and the best-case scenario for the learners they serve and the stakeholders to whom they answer.  

  • Benchmarks of effective training include useful knowledge, presented in a way learners can assimilate and apply to their jobs so that the company reaps the benefits of improved ROI and other KPIs. 
  • Understanding and measuring training effectiveness ensures that your training fills the gaps in employee skills and/or knowledge while providing the training that workers need to do their jobs well.
  • Factors in measuring training effectiveness include levels of training effectiveness, models that measure learning effectiveness, and methods used to gather the necessary information. 
  • Training is most effective when the insights gained from the training are applied throughout all levels of the company. 

Cognota’s LearnOps platform lets you bring all the workflows of your L&D team into one place, so that insights into the effectiveness of your operations and the impact of your learning interventions are available at the click of a button. Get started for free or speak with our sales team to learn more about Cognota’s LearnOps platform.

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