By Paul Boston

I often think back to the time when I was new to the world of training and development, coming from a professional business world where I was responsible for multimillion dollar budgets and profit and loss. Leading teams and assisting clients around the clock was just normal. It was a very fast-paced and challenging way to launch one’s professional career; however, what I learned during those formative years allowed me to bring meaningful and measurable training results to my clients.

Once I made the full transition into the training and development profession, I started to receive some strange looks when I asked questions about how we were measuring the “real” impact our training solutions were having on our clients’ business. Sure, I studied and used the four levels of evaluation, and like most people in our profession often struggled to get past level 2. However, I knew that the clients who required training for their teams had to see a performance change and some type of impact on their business.

I often hear my business associates outside the training and development profession say: “We don’t care about whether people liked or disliked the training program, or what someone’s grade was. We just want to know how the training program will help solve the challenges within our business.” It sounds so simple when they phrase it like this.

These comments remind me about a time when I was conducting a training session for a team of account executives and the VP walked into the training room and said: “You better listen to what Paul will be teaching you, because after today you cannot come to me with your questions.” I could not believe what he just said! It certainly was the “stick” approach to motivating an audience. A few weeks after the training, I received a call from the VP personally thanking me for the training I provided, as his account executives were now performing at a higher level. That was my level 3 and 4 measurement–all from one phone conversation with the VP.

I have learned over the years in training and in business that when we invest time, money, and resources into any type of training program, the evaluation must address the business challenges and goals. It is that simple, but far too often training programs are developed and implemented and we are left trying to fit a measurement model somewhere into the training program.

Let us take a quick look at the four levels of evaluation:

Level 1: Reaction
This is sometimes referred to as the happy test. It serves as a great way to get a sense of what the audience thought and felt about the training. It is a useful source of information for the team that created the learning program and delivered it, but most clients do not really care about this metric.

Level 2: Knowledge
This evaluation measures the actual understanding of the training materials, which is important especially if the training is part of an accreditation program. Again, most businesses do not care about this metric either, because it does not show business value.

Level 3: Behavior Change
Now we are starting to move toward actually creating a measurement that can show business value. This level of measurement is more useful to your project sponsors and helps them develop a sound business case to justify their need for a training program and the financial investment.

Level 4: Results
What was it you were trying to solve with training? This is the real return on investment or value; it is what really matters to the people who brought you on board to develop and deliver a training program to help them solve a challenge.

Back in 1959 Donald Kirkpatrick gave us a great model to measure the impact of training. He clearly outlined the different metrics to look for. However, it is a guide and not necessarily a linear one to follow in our modern business world. There is an increasing demand to show the business partners and project sponsors the real value of training, and it is up to us when working with them to be creative and strategic in the way we use measurement models for evaluating the real value of training.

BostonP120About the Author
Paul Boston is the president of Actus Performance Inc., a high-performance development firm. With an undergraduate degree in consumer behavior, Paul started his professional career working in the fast pace and demanding world of marketing and advertising with Fortune 500 companies and organizations around the globe. At the same, Paul started racing at the elite level of triathlons and qualified four times for the World Triathlon Championships and started to discover performance similarities between his athletic and professional career. It was then Paul went back to school to study adult training and development, specializing in workplace performance skills. As an organizational high-performance development specialist, Paul works with clients helping them to understand the fundamental performance values, attitudes, and skills people, teams, and organizations need in our ever-changing modern day work world. For more information, please visit