An American training guru has some useful tips on how to get the best from development budgets, says Rebecca Howard
We've all been there - you go on a training course for a couple of days, and when you get back to the office someone asks what you have learned. Strangely, despite all those role-play exercises and group discussions, your mind goes blank. You can't actually put your finger on anything you have actually retained.
Donald Kirkpatrick is widely regarded as the training and development guru who has something very practical to say about this all too common problem. Kirkpatrick is a US academic and author of the classic Evaluating Training Programs: The Four Levels, first published way back in 1975.
Kirkpatrick’s methodology is very useful on training and development programmes because it enables you to make sure your training is effective and produces learning that people can go straight back to their workplaces and put into action.
The key to Kirkpatrick's approach is to consider what you want to get out of the training. The four levels in his training evaluation model correspond to the kinds of outcomes sought by the trainee:
Level 1 -Reaction – did you enjoy the training?
Level 2 -Learning – did you remember what you learnt?
Level 3 -Behaviour – can you use the training in your day-to-day work?
Level 4 -Results – will your organisation see greater results when trainings applied
The approach works because it helps you to pick the right training with your goals in mind. For example, if you need to learn as much as possible about contract law, you would probably aim for Level 2 which focuses on knowledge retention.
But if you wanted to negotiate greater savings for your business you might choose training focused on Level 4 which would apply the learning to real-life projects.
Most of us want to know how training can help us get better results in our job, so aspiring to Level 4 is a good goal. Talk to your manager or peers about your personal development needs and always review the training after you have finished it to think about how you can benefit your organisation and your own career by using the knowledge and techniques you have learned.
So the nub of what Kirkpatrick says is: it's the results that count. If you're spending money on training and development you want to know that it will make a real difference. This sounds obvious, but like many pearls of wisdom, it's surprising how useful it can be.
"Kirkpatrick’s methodology is very useful on training and development programmes because it enables you to make sure your training is effective and produces learning that people can go straight back to their workplaces and put into action."