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Setting Training Targets

Submitted by  on June 28th, 2012

Donald Kirkpatrick Four Levels Training ModelI’ve been an advocate for Donald Kirkpatrick’s Four Level evaluation model for evaluating the effectiveness of training programs for many years. Donald recently retired and it’s great to see his model is as popular as it ever was.

People new to the model sometimes ask what targets they should set at each level for their training course. What percent of satisfied training participants should they aim for? What is an acceptable pass rate on the end of course test? How much should participants be using their new skills and knowledge back on the job? What amount of improvement in business results is good?

These are great questions and require a lot of serious thought. In answering them, talk with other training professionals to find out how they go about setting objectives at each level. Sharing your stories and experiences is immensely valuable. I encourage you to join HR and training forums and jump into the discussions. A good place to start is the Learning and Development Metrics group on

Sharing notes and stories is great. However, don’t be lulled into thinking that what works best for one course in one organization necessarily is best for your course. In the end, there isn’t one right answer for all organizations. Let me illustrate.

Level 1 – Reaction: Different trainers will include different questions on their participant feedback questionnaires. So, don’t try to compare apples with oranges in terms of scores. Secondly, student cohorts vary immensely. Teaching low motivation vocational students, for example, is very different to teaching high motivation engineering post-graduates. Setting a target of 90% may be appropriate for the latter group, but not the former.

Level 2 – Learning: What is a satisfactory test score will depend to a large extent on the degree of difficulty of the training participant assessments and the criticality of the tasks/roles taught. So, a 50% pass rate may be acceptable for communication skills training but isn’t recommended if you are teaching people how to resuscitate burn victims.

Level 3 – Behavior: Work environments and cultures vary widely from organization to organization. Think of where you are coming from. If your last survey revealed that 30% of the skills taught were transferred to actual application on the job, then it may be overly optimistic to reach for 80% transfer for your next course. However, this is not unreasonable if your last course yielded 70% transfer.

Level 4 – Results: The degree of impact your training course may generate will depend on what other factors will influence the business results. Your impact will also depend on where your organization is at currently. Are there some quick wins to be had? If your product line defect rate is currently 40%, then it may be prudent to aim your quality improvement course at reducing the defect rate to 5% if there are some quick fixes. However, if you have already picked all of the low hanging fruit and your defect rate is 1%, then 0.9% may be a reasonable target.

So, when setting your training course targets, first examine the place you are standing in and what lies around you. You will then be in a much better position to decide to where you need to jump next.

What training evaluation challenges have you experienced? What did you learn along the way? Please share your pains and your gains here so that we can all learn together.

Training Evaluation Toolkit

For a complete step-by-step guide and resource kit for helping you evaluate the effectiveness of your training programs, Leslie Allan’s popular Training Evaluation Toolkit is excellent value. With this toolkit, you will be able to plan your evaluation exercise, collect all relevant data, isolate non-training factors and then analyze and report the results convincingly to your key stakeholders. The toolkit is packaged with a full set of reusable and customizable Microsoft Word forms and Excel calculation worksheets for all of your measurement and reporting needs. Find out more about Leslie’s Training Evaluation Toolkit and download the free introductory chapter today.

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