How do you know?

Crucial to any effort at improving performance is knowing whether the effort worked. Alas, all too often organizations use what my friend John Howe calls hallway evaluations:

“Where were you yesterday?”
“Oh, I was in the Widget Appreciation training.”
“How was it?”
“Pretty good.”

Will Thalheimer offers a fair-assessment quick-audit tool (the link is to his post; the post links to a one-page PDF) that refers to Kirkpatrick’s four levels of evaluation.

My informal summary of Kirkpatrick:

  • Level 1: Did they like it? This is the reaction-sheet, smiles-test evaluation. On a scale of 1 to 5, what did you think of the course? The materials? The instructor? The doughnuts?
  • Level 2: Did they learn it? The evaluation seeks to measure a change in learning — e.g., compares a pretest to a posttest.
  • Level 3: Do they use it? When the learners return to the job, do they apply the skills and knowledge learned in training?
  • Level 4: Does it work? When people do apply the skills and knowledge on the job, does the organization realize the intended benefits?