According to the Association for Talent Development (ATD), $164.2 billion dollars were spent on learning and development in 2012. These figures are up from 2011, with companies spending an average of $1,195 on each employee it trains. For most companies, their employees are their most valuable asset, so investing in good training just makes sense.

But how can you make sure that you’re getting the most out of the money and time you’re spending on employee onboarding?

Why is it important to evaluate training?

Unfortunately, trainings are often given and quickly forgotten by both the trainers and trainees. Their impact is rarely measured or looked for. This makes it impossible for companies to know if they are even getting a return on the time and money spent on trainings.

By not making an effort to follow up on the results of a training, companies are blindly administering trainings without any real data about what is working for their trainees and what isn’t. This would be unthinkable in any other aspect of a business, but it has become the norm for many companies when training employees.

The Kirkpatrick Method

Fortunately, there are tools out there to help companies measure the effectiveness of their trainings.  One of the most tried and true methods of training evaluation is the Kirkpatrick Model, developed by Dr. Don Kirkpatrick in the 1950s. This model has been used to evaluate the effectiveness of trainings for nearly 75 years, and scholars today continue to build upon it in the New World Kirkpatrick Model.

This model consists of four levels: reaction, learning, behavior, and results. Each level has questions to help trainers evaluate the effectiveness of the training. Not only do trainees need to react positively to the training, but they need to demonstrate that they’ve learned the material by changing their behavior and producing results. Most often these results come in the form of reaching targeted outcomes, whether that be higher customer satisfaction or fewer accidents on the job.

You can use this model to evaluate the effectiveness of your training and getting the information you need is as easy as following up. In a study by Harry J. Martin at Cleveland State University, Martin identifies several follow-up techniques that can be implemented in the workplace—action plans, performance assessment, and peer meetings are the three that we’re going to talk about today.

Action plans

Before you even begin a training program, you should know what results you want to see. Try to avoid making abstract goals like, “new employees will become integrated in the office.” Yes, that’s certainly something that all employers hope will happen, but it’s hard to quantify.

Instead, set goals like “new employees demonstrate proficiency in office technologies,” or, “by implementing the selling techniques in this training, trainees will increase their sales.” Because these objectives are more specific, it’s easier to say whether or not your trainings have been successful.

When designing and giving a training, keep these objectives at the forefront of your mind. Be sure to communicate to your trainees exactly what you hope they will be able to do more successfully after completing the training.

Action plans are a good way to involve trainees in this process of turning a training into measurable results. Martin defines action plans as “written documents completed by trainees… that specify how the trainee expects to implement learned skills.” Ask your trainees to write down specific things that they can do to reach the objectives of the training. They should do this during the training or immediately afterwards. Then, have trainees keep that list so that they can reference it. You may even refer to it when following up on the training later to see if trainees are working towards those behaviors.

Performance assessment

Performance assessments are critical when it comes to implementing new trainings. These assessments don’t need to be an exercise in intimidation. Just the act of following up on how the training was received is all it takes to gently remind trainees of the goals they’ve made.

Let trainees know what you see that they’re doing right and point out any areas where they might be able to improve. According to Martin, “learner motivation is often increased through greater understanding of expectations for change and feedback on performance.” While the act of sitting down with your trainees to review their progress may seem tedious, but it will pay dividends.

Peer meetings

Another follow-up method that’s a bit more casual but just as effective as a performance assessment, is peer meetings. These meetings are typically led by a supervisor. Their purpose is to get several trainees together to talk about what trainees have done to implement the training in their performance at work.

Allow trainees to take turns talking about how they’re applying their new skills from the training. These meetings will hopefully facilitate more understanding about how to put the training into practice for those trainees who might be struggling.

Trainers should also take this opportunity to hear what roadblocks trainees have encountered. This kind of feedback is helpful for developing a more effective training or knowing how to adjust training objectives.


Using each one of these follow-up techniques will empower trainers and trainees. Not only do these follow-up techniques encourage trainees to continue developing good habits, but they help trainers refine their training process.

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