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Kirkpatrick’s Four Key Measures of Training Effectiveness

Kirkpatrick's Four Key Measures of Training Effectiveness

If you deliver training for your team or your organization (formally or informally), then you probably know how important it is to measure its effectiveness. After all, you don’t want to spend time or money on training that doesn’t provide a good return. This is where Kirkpatrick’s Four-Level Training Evaluation Model can help you objectively analyze the effectiveness and impact of your training, so that you can improve it in the future.

In this brief article, we’ll look at each of the Kirkpatrick four levels, and we’ll examine how you can apply the model to evaluate training. We’ll also look at some of the situations where the model may not be quite as useful.

Step 1: Reaction to the Learning – How well did the learners like the learning process?

This initial step measures participants view of the training or the extent to which they respond positively (or not) to the learning event. Many formal training programs ask this with the so-called post course “happy sheet” to gain input – this step is therefore the most common measurement but often the only one taken in many cases, missing out of the greater richness provided by Kirkpatrick other 3 steps.

Step 2: Learning – What did people actually learn? (or the extent to which the learners gain real knowledge and skills)

This step evaluates what new facts or information, new techniques, method, approaches, skills or knowledge have participants learned as a result of the training? This is less frequently assessed and requires both before and after evaluation to gauge what has been learned. This can be done directly by way of participant testing or indirectly by way of manager or peer review.

Step 3: Behavior change – (What changes in job performance resulted from the learning process? (or what new capability exists to perform the newly learned skills while on the job)

The most common purpose of training is to change the way things are done; to become more efficient, effective, disciplined and/or responsive for example. All these mean that participant behavior needs to change as a result of the training. It doesn’t matter what people have learned, it is what they put into effect that counts. This step is therefore about the measurement of the training’s effectiveness in transferring the learning to the workplace in terms of the participant’s demonstrated new behaviors.

This level is rarely measured (and needs to be ongoing of course). Participant behavior can revert, be maintained or continue to change as a result of training well after the training program is completed.

Step 4: Results – What are the tangible results of the learning process in terms of reduced cost, improved quality, increased production, efficiency, etc.?

The ultimate goal of training is to achieve tangible results, for the individual, the team and the organization as a whole.  In this case, tangible means that things are measured to be better than they were before in terms of lower cost, better quality, additional speed or efficiency, greater effectiveness etc.

Despite its importance and the fact that it is the purpose of the training, this step is the least measured level of all in most organizations. There are many reasons why this is the case, including:

  • Because it is difficult to isolate the training effect from all the other influences on results
  • It can be costly to measure
  • It takes effort to find the appropriate measurements to take
  • It needs to be ongoing

Kirkpatrick simply suggests that the best approach to all training (or coaching for that matter) is to consider how we are going to tackle all four of the above steps before we design and deliver the training/coaching event. This will give us not only better outcomes for participants but ensure that the organization improves its overall return on the training investment. Although Kirkpatrick’s model is now over 50 years old, it is hard to argue with his conclusion even in the modern training world.

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About John Radclyffe

John Radclyffe, Founder and Managing Director of WorldGAMES in Australia, is a rare breed of facilitator, trainer and consultant who has in-depth and hands-on experience in a broad range of skills; training, financial, marketing, new business development and business management among them.

View all posts by John Radclyffe →

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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