In my last post, I ended with saying Training and Learning departments, just as any other business unit, needs to be accountable for effective and efficient delivery of its services as any business unit. The Kirkpatrick Framework provides us a rational process determining the value of training. However as the ASTD reported, most training evaluations start initiatives with Level 1 (meaning, Level 4 (impact) is rarely used). In the end, it’s only the last level that really matters (performance impact) and that is the level that is pursued
I think the reason that L&D departments focus on Level 1 and Level so often is because the lower levels of evaluation are quite useful within the training function (they provide information back to us as learning professionals). However, outside of training/development they fall flat. Quite simply put, business leaders don’t care about smile sheets or that our participants scored an average of 85% on their learning assessment. For the most part, the business units’ main concern is the IMPACT — did the resources spent on the learning process contribute to the overall health and prosperity of the enterprise? Ultimately, we as training professional have to learning the “language of business” and use it when speaking to business leaders within the organization.
As Jim Kirkpatrick says”we as training professionals should not focus on irrefutable proof but” build a chain of evidence, compelling proof that the training has value by evaluating training in as many of the levels as it makes sense”. Check out Kirkpatrick Four Levels: A Fresh Look After 50 Years presented by Jim Kirkpatrick, PhD and Wendy Kayser Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick discuss why we need to reverse Kirkpatrick, meaning start with Level 4. In this way, the framework becomes a “backwards planning” tool by starting with the end in mind. Ultimately, using the four levels in reverse during the planning phase eliminates two common problems found with many initiatives: never getting to levels 3 and 4 and a focus on learning objectives instead of strategic goals
It is definitely an must-read and you can see that the model definitely is aligned more with business goals (starting with with the end in mind). As Don Kirkpatrick wrote in 1993,
“Trainers must begin with desired results and then determine what behavior is needed to accomplish them. Then trainers must determine the attitudes, knowledge, and skills that are necessary to bring about the desired behavior(s). The final challenge is to present the training program in a way that enables the participants not only to learn what they need to know but also to react favorably to the program.”
I found it interesting the Jim Kirkpatrick states “it is unfortunate that the message above has been missed by many learning professionals. For decades, practitioners have attempted to apply the four levels after a program has been developed and delivered. It is difficult, if not impossible, to create significant training value that way.” I’m sorry I don’t agree with this statement. The blame is not entirely on learning professionals. The Kirkpatrick dynasty also shares some blame in this fundamental fallacy being continued so long. If someone was using my product wrong, I would no it and rectify the problem (but I digress…). All in all, this revamped method, in my opinion, no longer treats learning as an event (training is no longer the ONLY factor in success), but rather sees learning and performance as a process. In fact, it shows how closely Kirkpatrick’s evolved model fits in with other models, such as Cathy Moore’s Action Mapping and Brinkerhoff’s Success Case method (discussed more in my next post)