Training expert Bob Pike conducted a revealing interview with Donald Kirkpatrick, the man who created the model for “Training Evaluation” and for years ran ASTD.

If you know Kirkpatrick, skip this paragraph, but if you don’t, here in a nutshell is why he’s been such a key player in training over the past half century. In the 1950s he coined the term “Training Evaluation” in his Ph.D. thesis. He saw that companies were doing all sorts of training but had no model for figuring out whether it was working or not. So he came up with a remarkably simple model that examined four “levels”:

Level 1: Reaction — How did the person who attended the training event react to it?
Level 2: Learning — What concepts and skills did the person actually learn?
Level 3: Behavior — Did the training result in behavioral changes that are now being applied on the job?
Level 4: Results — Did the person achieve better results because of the training?

Level 3 gets short shrift
In his interview with Bob Pike, Kirkpatrick pointed out that companies most often neglect Level 3, Behavior. It’s not uncommon for employees to attend training and fill out evaluations saying they were “very satisfied” with the training (Level 1), then return to work and excitedly tell their bosses what they learned (Level 2), but then fail to transfer any of that learning into behaviors that affect performance (Level 3). Kirkpatrick said that if you get Level 3 right, “results take care of themselves.” He added that he saw this failure at Level 3 repeatedly during his career, even at large companies that should have known better.

Kirkpatrick was echoing what I keep hearing from other experts who research “training transfer” and “learning retention.” Knowledge retention is all about managerial follow up. What’s most interesting, and perplexing, is why it doesn’t happen. What could possibly cause a smart, experienced manager to believe that he or she could train people — then provide no follow up — and expect them to retain what they learned?

That’s the subject of my next post. Stay tuned.

Click here if you’d like to listen to the interview with Donald Kirkatrick

Stephen Meyer
CEO/Director of Learning and Development
Rapid Learning Institute

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