Evaluating a training program typically focuses on whether the learning objectives were met and if the participants enjoyed the program. However, assessing only those aspects is not sufficient because the ultimate success of a training is how effectively the participants are able to apply what they learned to their job functions.
It is also very important to evaluate the effectiveness of the training program in regards to time, cost, and resources. Even if a program met the objectives, was enjoyable, and help participants perform job functions, there may be better ways to get those same results. Therefore, it is essential to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the entire training program to ensure its effectiveness.
Determining the Effectiveness of a Training Program
To determine the effectiveness of a training program, an evaluation needs to be conducted. There are five steps to the training evaluation process:
Step 1: Identify the Purposes
Step 2: Select Evaluation Method
Step 3: Design evaluation tools
Step 4: Collect Data
Step 5: Analyze and Report Results
Step 1: Identify the Purpose
The first step in the evaluation process is to identify the purpose of the evaluation. You are essentially answering the question; “Why do we want to evaluate training program?” The answer will affect the types of data you collect and the data collection methods you select.
evaluations can focus on a variety of areas such as participants, processes, resources, activities, and outcomes. Some examples of the reasons for evaluating training programs include the following:
- To determine if the learning objectives were met.
- To assess whether the program objectives solved a business problem.
- To assess whether the participants benefited from the program.
- To determine if the knowledge and skills learned in the training were put into practice on the job.
- To assess the impacts of the training programs to the business areas.
- To identify the strengths and weaknesses of the training program.
- To assess whether the training program was worth the time and resources.
- To decide who should participate in future programs.
- To find ways to improve future programs.
The Kirkpatrick's model
The Kirkpatrick's model can help you determine at which level you want to assess the training. The Kirkpatrick's model evaluates the effectiveness of the training at four different levels with each level building on the previous level(s). All four levels of evaluation have their own elements, significance, benefits, and challenges.
The four levels of evaluation are:
About the Levels
Level 1: Reaction – To what degree did the participants react favorably to the training
Level 2: Learning – To what degree did the participants acquire the intended knowledge, skills, and/or attitudes based on their participation in a training
Level 3: Behavior – To what degree did the participants apply what they learned during training to his/her job
Level 4: Results – To what degree did the targeted objectives/outcomes occur as a result of the training.
Step 2: Select Evaluation Method
After the purpose is identified, select an evaluation method. The evaluation method is how you are going about collecting the data.
Training Evaluation methods and tools include:
- Focus groups
Questionnaires are a set of questions delivered to individuals for obtaining useful statistical information on a particular topic.
Interviews are a data collection method aimed at gathering both facts and opinions by asking open-ended questions where the respondent can answer the questions in as much detail as her or she wishes to.
Focus groups are a facilitated discussion with a group of individuals who share similar characteristics or common interests intended to collect information or obtain opinions on a specific issue.
Observation is a method of gathering data by watching an individual's behavior in their natural setting.
There is no single best method for collecting data, and sometimes you may utilize more than one method. Your choice of methods will be influenced by time, resources, and level of depth needed.
Step 3: Design Evaluation Tools
Designing the evaluation tools is a very important part of evaluation planning. An ineffective design can cause confusion to the recipients, which in turn can skew the data obtained.
When designing your evaluation tool, you need to consider how the information will be used and what the best methods for collecting feedback are. You will need to choose a design that is simple, but will allow you to obtain the necessary information to help you assess a link between the training and the outcomes. Creating an effective design will allow you to collect high quality and relevant data. Without good data, it's impossible to accurately evaluate any link between training and outcomes.
When designing the tool consider the following:
- Length of time needed to complete – if too long the recipients may be apprehensive to participate.
- Order of questions – if items seem to be out of order, the participant may become confused and give inaccurate answers.
- Providing clear direction – if the participant misinterprets the question, the data will be skewed.
Step 4: Collect Data
After the evaluation tool has been designed, it is time to collect the data. The key factors when collecting data are:
- Who will organize and collect the data?
- From what groups will the data be collected?
- When will it be collected?
- How will it be collected?
The answers to these questions will vary depending on the purpose of the evaluation as well as the business environment and company.
Step 5: Analyze Data and Report Results
The final step in the evaluation process is to analyze the data and report the findings.
There are many ways to analyze data, but the analysis should be as simple as possible and limited to what is necessary to draw the required conclusions from the data.
Before writing an evaluation report, consider your target audience. Some people may just want an overview of the key findings, while others may want detailed information because they are making crucial decisions about the training programs. Determine what kind of information will be relevant and useful to your target audience.
After you determine what you will include in the evaluation report, develop an outline.
- Executive Summary
- Evaluation Method
- Results / Findings
- Conclusions and Recommendation
Charts, graphs, and diagrams are helpful tools when presenting results as it gives a pictorial representation.