Magazine article The Catalyst

Measuring Training Impact

Magazine article The Catalyst

Measuring Training Impact

Article excerpt

In the world of training and development, the subject of measuring return on investment (ROI) is discussed frequently. It seems that everyone is searching for the perfect measurement system to increase organizational capabilities and link them with the business strategy. Human resource practitioners, OD consultants, training managers and senior managers realize that the training and development activities should eventually show a ROI and improve the bottom line. Otherwise, why even bother to have a training and development process?

Reasons for Measuring Training and Development Activities

Why should organizations measure the progress of their training and development curriculums? Here are a few reasons:

* To make sure the curriculum is taking the organization in the right direction.

* To determine whether the actions being taken or behavior changes resulting from the training align with the business case or the reasons for the change.

* To justify the costs of the training and development curriculum that was chosen to enhance change initiatives.

* To provide base-line measurements that can identify favorable or unfavorable trends with respect to the training curriculum and the organization's goals and objectives.

* Measurement information can help management identify gaps and give them the tools to decide whether to stay the course or change direction.

Levels of Evaluation

There has been considerable attention devoted to the levels of measuring training and development processes. The most noted model is Donald L. Kirkpatrick's four levels of evaluation. This model was developed in 1959 and since then, we have realized significant progress in our understanding of evaluation. For example, Jack Phillips has built upon Kirkpatrick's model by adding a fifth level that focuses specifically on ROI. Also, recent research by Kurt Kraiger and his colleagues (1993) has greatly enhanced our understanding of learning outcomes.

Level 1: Reactions and Planned Action

Question: How did participants respond to the training?

Reaction measures, also known as "smile sheets," are the most commonly used form of evaluation. Reaction measures assess how participants responded to the training class, event, or materials. Warr and Bruce (1995) describe three kinds of reactions that are measured:

* Enjoyment of training (emotional reaction"I found this training program to be enjoyable."

* Usefulness of training (perceived value) -"What level of value does the training content have for your job?"

* Difficulty of training-"I found the issues taught in training difficult to understand."

The typical measurement instruments used for this level are participant questionnaires and/or verbal feedback. This information is usually collected immediately after the training is completed. Reaction measures are usually fairly brief, but can go into great depth about any of the issues described above.

Level 2: Learning

Question: To what extent did participants experience changes in attitudes, skills, or motivations as a result of the training?

Learning can be defined and assessed in many ways. For example, we could measure participants' ability to answer questions about the training content or their ability to demonstrate newly acquired skills. Kurt Kraiger and his colleagues (1993) identified three types of learning that might result from training:

* Cognitive Outcomes-Usually assessed by multiple choice questions, open-ended responses, listing of facts, or similar methods. Knowledge checks such as these are very similar to tests used in schools to assign grades. Measures of cognitive outcomes can be assessed immediately after training or later to assess knowledge retention over time.

* Skill-Based Outcomes-These outcomes are typically measured by requiring that participants demonstrate their new skills in the training environment. …

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