Tips for measuring the effectiveness of your training and development programs

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How does your training program shape up to expectations of stakeholders within your organisation?

Measuring the effectiveness of training offered to staff within an organisation can help determine the impact training and development has on employee performance and allow you to discover the returns gained through different programs. 

What is training effectiveness and how do I measure it?

Training effectiveness is the quality of training and development programs provided to staff, measured by the training meeting its predetermined goals and objectives. A widely used method of training evaluation is the Kirkpatrick model, developed in the 1950s, which follows a quad-level approach to evaluating training programs.

The four levels of the Kirkpatrick model are:

1. Reaction – how did trainees respond to the training?

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for this level include completion rate, participation rate, and Net Promoter Score. This kind of data could be collected through open-ended qualitative questions, or by using questions with a scale method for quantitative data. For example:

If you could improve anything about this training, what would it be and why?

On a scale of 1-10, how valuable did you find this training?

2. Learning – what did trainees learn from the training?

KPIs for this stage could include any acquired skills or knowledge, and the transfer of training into daily work. Data for this stage can be collected through both pre- and post-training interviews with participants. Qualitative questioning could include questions like:

What did you learn from your training to help you perform at a higher level in your role? 

3. Behaviour – were trainees able to apply what they learned in practice?

KPIs for the behaviour level might focus on employee engagement and morale, and is usually measured through pre- and post-training observations and reviews. Data-collection questions could include:

How confident would you be teaching your acquired knowledge and skills to someone else?

4. Results – did the training meet expectations, and what was the return on expectations (ROE)?

At this stage, it is common to focus on KPIs like efficiency, productivity, employee retention, and customer satisfaction. Data collection is particularly effective when focusing on interviews and focus groups alongside quantitative surveys.

The Kirkpatrick model evaluates training and development programs based on two main categories – stakeholder expectations and training objectives. Using this model, training can be considered successful if it has met both the objectives and the expectations.

Other training evaluation methods

Another theory of learning evaluation is Kaufman’s Five Levels of Evaluation. Kaufman’s theory builds on the Kirkpatrick model, mirroring its four levels but adding a fifth centred around results for the customer and society, and splitting level 1 into ‘input’ and ‘process’.

Although the theory is split across 5 levels, it can be useful to think of the existence of 6 levels instead:

  1. Input
  2. Process
  3. Acquisition 
  4. Application
  5. Organisational results
  6. Societal/customer consequences


While Kaufman argues that his theory is more practical, the Kirkpatrick model is more efficient in practice in terms of time taken to complete successful analysis as it does not include a societal analysis.

Why is evaluating training programs important?

Measuring the success of training programs in the workplace helps to:

  • Understand if the training is beneficial to staff
  • See the impact on the business performance and determine ROI
  • Identify issues in the training process
  • Plan how to improve training programs in the future

How to measure effectiveness of training

Following a set evaluation method such as the Kirkpatrick model sets out a full path for measuring the effectiveness of your training and development program. You would begin by measuring the reactions of trainees, followed by what learning actually took place and any behavioural changes that transferred into the workplace. Finally, the overall results and impact of the training would be measured.

However, if you choose not to follow a specific model then here’s what you need to do to measure training effectiveness: 

1. Identification of training goals and expectations

Training needs to meet the expectations of stakeholders and the needs of the business, so the evaluation should measure against these pre-determined statements.

2. Measurement of participant reactions

As the first level of the Kirkpatrick model, measuring reactions will help you understand if the training was suitable for learning to take place.

3. Measurement of learning

Finding out what learning took place following the training.

4. Measurement of performance impact

Focusing on behavioural change will help you determine if the training had an effect on employees’ job performance.

5. Measurement of business impact

The financial return (ROI) and the return on expectations (ROE) are both important metrics to focus on.

Using each one of these evaluation strategies may not be necessary for each training program – you might only need to focus on one particular measurement! For a fully comprehensive evaluation, you might decide to evaluate at each stage.

Is ROE a better alternative to ROI?

For training and development teams, proving business value can be difficult. Return on Investment (ROI) generally focuses on the financial side of an investment, whereas Return on Expectations (ROE) goes further into assessing both the quantitative and qualitative effects of a training program.

ROE is expectation-oriented, which helps to better align training programs with holistic business goals.This unites leadership teams, wider stakeholders, and employees as one, making sure that all activities and efforts are supporting core business objectives aside from purely financial motivations.

Training evaluation should be a continuous process that creates a confident, supported workforce. Get in touch if you need help implementing a training plan, or delivering valuable learning and development programs to your employees.

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