At the start of the year, organizational consultant Marc Rosenberg jokingly predicted that “the name “Kirkpatrick” will be mentioned 14,473,891 times in 2018.” As certified Kirkpatrick practitioners, we at StratX are here to add a few more mentions to that number. Read on to find out why this could be the right approach for your learning and development needs.
Proper impact measurement is a must
“On-the-job applicability” and “business impact” are the words on everyone’s lips when it comes to measuring the success of a learning & development (L&D) initiative. These interrelated terms refer to how effective a program is in not only equipping participants with new skills and knowledge, but also changing their behavior in the workplace and in turn bringing about beneficial effects for the company. Clearly, a L&D program can only be a worthwhile investment if it leads to tangible benefits to the organization.
L&D professionals understand the need to prove their program’s worth to business leaders, which is why many initiatives pay lip service to the golden standards of on-the-job applicability and business impact. In reality, connecting the dots between training and results remains a challenge for many. There are multiple reasons for this: full-fledged program evaluation can be complex, time-consuming and costly. While business leaders expect to see a return on L&D programs, investment in program evaluation is often an afterthought.
Fortunately, L&D professionals now have an arsenal of tools and techniques to help them demonstrate value to their company. The most well-known of these is the Kirkpatrick Model, which focuses on four distinct levels of program evaluation: Reaction, Learning, Behavior and Results. We like using this approach for several reasons.
Start with the end in mind
Firstly, the Kirkpatrick Model turns the typical approach to measurement and evaluation on its head. Rather than approaching evaluation as an afterthought, to be fretted over at the end of a program, the Kirkpatrick Model offers this less conventional piece of wisdom: “start with the end in mind”. In other words, program design needs to work backwards from the intended business results to the training, and not the other way around. L&D professionals must consider the following questions in order: what are the intended business results of the program? Which workplace behaviors will lead to these results? What kind of training program do we need to design in order to cement these behaviors in our employees? Approaching program design in this way allows L&D professionals to tailor the program precisely to their organization’s business objectives and gives them a roadmap on how to get there. If you wouldn’t start a car journey without knowing your destination and the way to get there, why do this with critical and costly training initiatives?
Be clear about what to measure
The second argument for using Kirkpatrick follows from the first. Once the target business results and behaviors have been identified, deciding what to measure during the evaluation phase becomes much clearer. For example, if the goal of a L&D initiative is to achieve marketing excellence, it follows that we should track measures such as sales results and customer satisfaction scores to ensure that we are on the way to reaching this goal. The Kirkpatrick approach recommends using a wide range of metrics to evaluate if a program is doing well: post-program surveys are complemented by financial indicators, HR data, customer ratings and so forth. Imagine being armed with all that important data when pressed to demonstrate the impact of your program!
Overcome organizational obstacles
Finally, we like Kirkpatrick because of its holistic yet realistic view of organizational change. A key aspect of the Kirkpatrick package is the “required drivers”, which refers to workplace processes that encourage key behaviors on the job—or sanction non-compliance, if you prefer using sticks to carrots. An obvious example of this is a performance-based bonus system, which provides monetary rewards to employees who display targeted behaviors to a satisfactory degree. The Kirkpatrick Model thus correctly places emphasis on aligning workplace systems and processes with training objectives. It is useless to teach critical behaviors during a L&D program if delegates lack support in applying them back on the job. Using the Kirkpatrick Model helps bring these organizational challenges to light and provides a means to overcome them.
These are just a few reasons why we use the Kirkpatrick Model at StratX, though there are many more. If you would like to chat with a Kirkpatrick certified consultant about your L&D needs, get in touch using the contact form.