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Your training provider just finished delivering their final instructor-led training session. You’re optimistic that your learners will implement their newfound knowledge, but there are still several unknowns.

How will you know if the training was effective? Will you receive a sufficient return on investment? How will training impact your organization in the long run?

Conducting training evaluation puts an end to the stress of not knowing if your training program was a success. With the right evaluation model, you can examine every layer of your program to assess its impact and inform decision-making for future training solutions. 

In this article, we’ll define training evaluation and why you should conduct it. We’ll guide you through the four steps of the Kirkpatrick Model for training evaluation.

Jump ahead to:

  • What is training evaluation?
  • What are the benefits of evaluating training programs?
  • How to evaluate training with Kirkpatrick’s four steps of evaluation
  • Want a training professional to build, conduct, and evaluate your training programs?
  • Training evaluation FAQs

What is training evaluation?

​​Training evaluation is the process of collecting and analyzing feedback on your training to assess its success and improve future training initiatives. It’s an important part of the overall training cycle, and helps you understand if your program achieves the outcomes you outlined in your needs assessment and training strategy.

Typically, you’ll include a training evaluation at the end of onboarding training, upskilling, international capacity building, when you’re implementing new technologies in your workflows, and compliance training. 

So, why should you conduct training analysis and how does it benefit your organization as a whole?

What are the benefits of evaluating training programs?

Evaluation plays a crucial role throughout the whole training process. As Dr. Jim Kirkpatrick, Senior Consultant for Kirkpatrick Partners and son of the Kirkpatrick Evaluation Model creator, Don Kirkpatrick, describes it: 

“Evaluation is not an afterthought to training, but rather is meant to be integrated into the entire learning and development process. If you wait until after a program is designed, developed, and delivered to consider what value it is supposed to provide to the organization and how you will evaluate it, there is little chance of the program having much value.”

Along with overall increased training value and a helping hand in identifying how to train employees, some of the main benefits of evaluation include:

  • Better decision-making for future initiatives: You can use the feedback you receive to inform future training decisions and prime your next program for success
  • Gauges training impact: A comprehensive training evaluation gives you valuable information on whether employees have learned new skills, are implementing them in the workplace, and if training impacts wider business objectives
  • Supports transparency and accountability: With evaluation, both your organization and training providers can hold themselves accountable by being transparent with initiative results. You’ll be able to see if your provider has created programs the right way, or if you’re working with a bad trainer.
  • Measures return on investment: Although frequently complicated, evaluation can provide decision makers (AKA you) with a better understanding of your ROI—a key measurement for success when investing in training.

In all truth, there are more benefits to training evaluation than there are items on your quarterly business goals. But how exactly do you evaluate training effectiveness?

How to evaluate training with Kirkpatrick’s four steps of evaluation

A training cycle is a lot like building a house. It begins with identifying what you’re looking to build—outlining requirements and objectives for training. Then, you find an architect (read: training provider) to create a blueprint strategy and decide on a training delivery method, and content. Once you’ve got your plan, you’re ready to start building—developing the training program curriculum and material. Finally, you can move into your new house: deliver the program.

It’s after training delivery that you’ll need to gather extensive knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. It’s only after you move into a new home that you’re fully able to understand its quirks and challenges, after all. 

Your training could need anything from a few minor changes to major renovations to be effective, but it’s only after you’ve designed, developed, and conducted the program that you’ll be able to evaluate it effectively.

Image depicts the training cycle. It starts with identifying training needs, moves on to designing the training, then moves to delivering the training, and concludes with evaluating the training.


But, effective evaluation is only effective if done right. That’s where the Kirkpatrick Model comes in.

In 1954, a graduate student named Donald Kirkpatrick created a comprehensive system for training evaluation for his Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Wisconsin. Today, Kirkpatrick’s four-step model is used all over the world for assessing training initiatives and gauging their impact.

The four levels of trainign evaluation: reaction, learning, behavior, and results.


Here’s how to use the Kirkpatrick Training Evaluation Model for measuring training effectiveness with your own initiatives.

1. Reaction: How do learners perceive training?

The reaction phase of Kirkpatrick’s four-step model entails learning about learners’ attitudes toward the training program. Specifically, you’re looking to assess if they found the program:

  • Engaging: did the training program manage to keep the learner’s attention?
  • Favorable: did learners like and enjoy the training?
  • Relevant: was the content in training relevant to employee development?

The reaction phase sets the foundation for understanding learner difficulties and problems that emerge throughout the process. It can be easy to solely fixate on learning outcomes from the outset of evaluation. However, the skills your learners acquire come later in the process. First, you’ll need to understand any issues tied to the training itself. For now, focus on gathering feedback on what learners thought about the training and delivery.

Conduct the reaction phase by handing out surveys to learners after class. Some questions for better understanding their immediate perceptions are:

  • How satisfied were you with the training sessions?
  • Did you find the information in the training program relevant or irrelevant to your needs for development? Why?
  • How engaging did you find your training instructor/program?
  • Were the training materials helpful and clear?

Bear in mind that the information you gather from the reaction stage will likely be limited, as learners might only provide surface impressions or will be eager to move on to other tasks after training. However, it’s an integral part of the process of identifying any root problems with your training program.

2. Comprehension: What have participants learned?

While training engagement is desirable, it’s only a means to an end: that of ensuring learners acquire the knowledge or skills you taught in the program. During the comprehension phase, your main aim is to understand if learners have acquired the necessary knowledge, skills, competencies, and confidence you set out to teach in the training program.

You can use both formal and informal methods to assess what employees have learned. A formal, structured approach would include both pre and post-training knowledge assessments in the form of either interviews or exams. You can then create a scoring scale to grade these assessments and compare them. Have employees scored better on questions after the assessment? By what margin? By calculating scores and identifying trends, you’ll have hard data to back up your training assessment conclusions. 

For a more informal method, you can hold feedback sessions with employees while asking them what they’ve learned and discussing how they can envision using methods in a real-world setting—that brings us to the third stage of Kirkpatrick’s model.

3. Application: Are learners applying the new knowledge/skills?

Learning skills and applying knowledge to an evaluation shows some promising progress. But the true test of skill acquisition is applying competencies in a real-world setting. Are employees able to apply the skills they learned from your program on the job? 

Before you observe behavior and how it changes, keep in mind that application can take roughly three to six months. A lack of behavioral change doesn’t necessarily imply an ineffective training program, either. It can also point to major issues appearing in the learner’s environment. 

For example, consider workplace training. Perhaps your company’s current workflows, environment, or culture does not facilitate or support the grounds for behavioral change. 

It’s only after a specified period that you can begin tracking behavioral changes in your learners. Methods to do this include recording observations, conducting interviews, or assigning projects where employees can apply their newfound knowledge.

4. Impact: How has training impacted your goals?

It’s finally time to measure the impact of your training on your goals as a whole. Start by revisiting the KPIs and performance metrics you outlined in your needs assessments. 

Perhaps you wanted to help the organization increase sales by teaching employees to apply a new sales technique. Maybe you wanted to increase customer satisfaction by equipping your customer care team with the latest resolution strategies. 

But don’t calculate sales and CSAT just yet. Impact is by far the longest stage in the Kirkpatrick model of evaluation. it will likely take between six and twelve months before you can measure KPIs and compare them to levels before training.

Want a training professional to build, conduct, and evaluate your training programs?

Evaluating training programs isn’t an afterthought—it’s a crucial part of building effective training programs. You need to be able to measure the success of your initiatives to understand what’s working and what isn’t.

Just like any phase of the training cycle, evaluation is best done with the help of an experienced professional. A training provider designs, develops, and evaluates custom courses tailored to your unique objectives, and has experience in ensuring you get the results you need.

Comprehensive Learning Solutions covers all your workplace learning needs, from needs assessment to custom course design and curriculum development. Get in touch with Comprehensive Learning Solutions to equip your employees with the skills, knowledge, and expertise they need to thrive and propel your business forward. 

Training evaluation FAQs

How do I evaluate the effectiveness of my employee training methods?

The New World Kirkpatrick Model is an effective method for training evaluation and assessing factors like employee engagement, skill acquisition, behavioral changes, and finally, business outcomes. While there are other employee training methods—the Kirkpatrick model is the most widely used.

How do I motivate employees to participate in training?

Motivating employees to participate in training starts with clearly communicating how the training will benefit employees. You can highlight the skills they’ll gain and the career opportunities training will open. Asking employees for input on the training type they prefer can also motivate them while making them feel heard and valued. 

How do I implement a successful training program?

Implementing a successful training program comes after working through the first two phases of a training cycle: analyzing training needs and designing the training program. By building your program around wider business objectives, and performance goals, you can ensure that the program is successful and effective.

Karen Feeley
Karen Feeley

CLS Founder and Experienced Instructional Designer

Karen Feeley is a seasoned professional with over 25 years of experience in workplace learning and development. She is a published author, trainer, instructional designer, editor, and project manager with a proven track record of success in the private, public, and non-profit sectors.

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