For many organisations, the early work by Donald Kirkpatrick in 1959 is still hugely influential in shaping their approach to the evaluation of training. Kirkpatrick suggested evaluating training at four levels, reactions, learning, behaviour, and finally results. The 'happy sheets' in common use after training courses today have their origins in this work.
In our White Paper on Evaluating Training, we begin by summarising the early work on evaluation of training, and Alliger's more recent review of over 30 studies on training and the transfer of learning going back over 40 years.
We go on to review the recent psychological literature on the factors that affect the transfer of learning from training courses back to the workplace. We suggest that much evaluation of training, with its focus on elements surrounding the content and delivery of training courses, largely misses the point of why organisations train people in the first place. It argues that if the purpose of training is to maximise transfer of learning back to the workplace, any effective evaluation should take into account the evidence surrounding the factors which effect transfer of learning.
After pointing to the rather weak relationships between elements of training courses that are traditionally evaluated and the transfer of learning, the paper points to studies that provide overwhelming evidence that the climate, or culture of an organisation is much more important in determining whether trainees will transfer their learning back to the workplace than any measure of what they have actually learned on a training course. The paper concludes by considering the effect of self–efficacy, and shows that people who believe they will be able to do something in a particular situation are almost 30% more likely to do it (or at least attempt it) than people who don’t hold such beliefs.
On a more practical level, we offer ten practical recommendations for evaluating training drawn from the psychological literature reviewed in the White Paper. Some of these are somewhat counter–intuitive, but are likely to save both time and money in carrying out an effective evaluation of training.
The slideshow below offers a brief summary of these recommendations.