The Complete Guide to the Kirkpatrick Model of Evaluation

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 4, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Any time a company delivers a training program, it's vital to understand its effectiveness. Using Kirkpatrick's Four-Level Training Evaluation Model can help organizations analyze the effectiveness of training programs. Understanding the various levels of this model can help companies determine how well employees learn and improve their learning.

In this article, we discuss the Kirkpatrick Model, explore the four levels of the model and how to implement them effectively, and discover the benefits and implementations of the model in corporate training evaluations.

What is the Kirkpatrick Model?

The Kirkpatrick Model is a method companies use to analyze and evaluate the results of educational and training programs. This model considers any formal and informal training style to determine aptitude according to four criteria levels. Organizations can implement the model before, throughout, and following the training to see the value of training.

The model shows that evaluation starts with level one and proceeds through levels two, three, and four when time and resources are available. The organization can use the data from all previous levels as a foundation when analyzing the following levels.

Companies can use the model to evaluate various areas, including product and program launches, onboarding, leadership development, security, safety, and succession planning. As a result of sharing the data between levels, each subsequent level shows a more accurate measurement of the training course's usefulness. The model also helps create actionable information to make necessary changes to the training until the company finds the ideal results.

Related: Understanding the Importance of Training Employees

The 4 levels of training evaluation

The following is an in-depth explanation of the Kirkpatrick Model's four levels:

1. Reaction

Reaction data shows the participant's reactions to the training. It refers to how engaging, satisfying, and relevant they find the training experience. The aim of this level is straightforward, as it helps to evaluate how participants react to the training. Corporate trainers can ask questions that evaluate the participant's thoughts.

These questions can identify if the participants are enjoying the experience and if they believe the program is useful for their job. Their responses are vital to determine if the participants are going to continue investing themselves in learning at the next level.

Companies conduct a reaction evaluation by administering a quick survey at the end of the training. If the training is in-person, the instructor can hand out a questionnaire, interview the participants, or send an e-mail follow-up with an online survey. If the training is online, the company can build a survey directly into the learning platform. These surveys cover a broad range of questions that focus on the training time, materials, and subject.

2. Learning

Learning data gauges the information a participant learns based on whether they gain the training's knowledge, attitude, skills, commitment, and confidence. Companies can evaluate the learning level through formal and informal methods. They can also assess the training through pre- and post-learning assessments to identify comprehension and accuracy. Assessment methods include interview-style evaluations or exams. The company defines a straightforward scoring process before the training to reduce inconsistencies.

3. Behaviour

Behaviour data is high-value evaluation information that helps companies improve their training programs. The data measures whether the training participants experience any impact from the learning and if they can apply what they learn from the program. For the majority of companies, this level provides the most honest evaluation of the program's usefulness. Testing during this level can be a challenge because it's difficult to guess when the participants are going to use the information they learn from the program.

Since training aims to improve performance and produce measurable results for a company, on-the-job measurements are necessary to help determine if the training efforts are successful. Companies can review performance metrics, conduct performance reviews, and directly observe employees to determine if there are any improvements. The participants and training managers can regularly assess their progress at this level, and the company can establish processes to encourage group success.

Related: Behaviour in the Workplace for Successful Employees

4. Results

Results data is the most valuable data in the four-level model because it measures how the training contributes to the company's success. If the training program contributes to measurable results, then the value is clear. If not, the company might be better without the training. Companies can use common key performance indicators such as return on investments, the number of sales, and customer satisfaction ratings to measure business outcomes. Companies that devote the necessary amount of time and energy to their results data can decide whether the training budget is working.

A way to generate valuable data at this level is with control groups. The company can gather two groups with multiple common factors and place one group in the training program. They can then analyze the data to see how each group compares. The company can then use the information to make any necessary improvements to the training.

How to use the four-level model

A successful training program depends on the four levels of evaluation. The most recent approach to using the four-level model is by employing it in reverse order, beginning with the fourth level and finishing with the first level. The following are the details of how trainers can determine the effectiveness of the company's training program:

1. Start with the results

It's important for a company to identify what results they want to see when implementing a new training program. They can start by developing a plan to achieve these results. The results the company identifies can align with a specific business goal, such as sales growth or employee retention.

Related: Tips for Training New Employees Effectively (With FAQ)

2. Identify behaviour

When a company identifies the result they want, the next step is to identify behaviours that can influence that result. For example, if the company intends to increase client retention, they can work to discover which behaviours they believe can contribute to increasing that retention. Maybe the management believes employees can make some small, thoughtful gestures to show their appreciation to the clients. Another behaviour the company can implement is providing product training to clients, so they can get value from the product.

3. Create a training initiative

During this step, companies can identify resources and training to help change the behaviour that can influence the outcome they desire. This is when a company can ask what they want their employees to take away from the training program. The company can choose a strategy when they can identify why they're choosing that strategy.

4. Measure reaction

The last step of the training evaluation is determining how the company measures the training response. Testing is the easiest way to do this, but companies can also use data collection methods, such as interviews or surveys. The end goal of this step is to ensure that anyone taking part in the training finds it relevant, enjoys it, and feels confident when the training is over.

Benefits of the four-level evaluation

The four-level evaluation model is easy for companies to understand and presents a valuable way to consider the impact of their training programs at various levels. Companies can use each level of evaluation to determine if the training answers a fundamental requirement.

Each level is vital because they have diagnostic checkpoints for the previous level, which enables analysis of any issues the level identifies. For example, if the training participants didn't learn during level two, their reactions that the company gathers during level one may reveal learning barriers that the company can address in future training programs.

The evaluation framework can also validate training programs as a vital business tool. Training is an option that companies can use to improve employee performance. Practical evaluation can help the company justify any costs the training incurs. When there's a tight budget, frequently, training is the first program the company sacrifices.

Thorough and quantitative analysis can help make management keep the training program. The proper feedback from an evaluation can also help improve the training's design. Training programs require regular updating and improvements to provide value and increase benefits.

Related: 8 Job Training Methods to Improve Employee Productivity

Limitations of the four-level evaluation

Training professionals believe the simplicity of the four-level evaluation offers no guidance in measuring the levels and their concepts. This makes it difficult for users to translate the different initiatives of the model. The model's simplicity also doesn't consider the various individual, organizational, design, and delivery factors.

Factors such as organizational learning values and cultures can support the company's workplace for behavioural change and skill acquisition. The suitability of equipment, tools, and supplies can influence the process and outcomes of training. These factors can affect the effectiveness of the training before, during, and after the program.

The model also assumes that positive reactions to the training lead to greater learning, increasing the likelihood of better transfer of information and generating favourable results for the company. On a fundamental level, there are issues with the model's content. Training professionals add a fifth level to help address the organization's requirement to measure the training's ROI.

The model overlooks how learning and development work as a business support function. Corporate trainers who attempt to apply the model to their training may spend time and energy determining the training's impact, where there's only an indirect impact.

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