This article places emphasis on measuring the value of training, or training evaluation, in terms of its contribution to business goals. It introduces Impact of Learning (IOL) as a simple, three-step process that organizations can follow to evaluate employee development programs. IOL equips chief learning officers (CLOs) with a mechanism for providing evidence of a training program’s success by demonstrating the value of learning rather than measuring its return on investment (ROI), or the financial benefits of learning.
Training Evaluation is a Systematic Process
According to Phillips (1997), “Evaluation is a systematic process to determine the worth, value, or meaning of an activity or process.” (p. 36). Crucial to the evaluation strategy is the determination of what to evaluate. Exactly what should be evaluated depends on the type of training program, the organization, and the purpose of the evaluation.
One thing is certain; adult learners are a credible source from which evaluation of training stems. Their reactions to training are solicited, they are tested, and they are even observed to determine the merit of a given training program. IOL is a three-step process that organizations can follow to evaluate employee development programs. Insight, Individual, and Impact comprise the three basic steps to the IOL process. Naughton (2008) suggests an insight map be created to visualize what needs to happen and how and when success will be measured. The second part of the process is to listen to statements of the learners as they provide feedback on the alignment of the training with the goals of the organization. Thirdly, an impact statement is made as soon as learning outcomes can be seen in the organization. The impact statement should include at least two cases that demonstrate the impact of learning and refer back to the original insight map.
IOL promises connection to business objectives while producing quicker and more persuasive evaluation results that lie within the credibility of the learners themselves. This connection is important to determine whether or not the learning intervention is strategically aligned with organizational goals before training is implemented.
Kirkpatrick and Phillips Models of Evaluation
When taking a comprehensive look at the Kirkpatrick model and the Phillips model for purposes of comparison to the IOL model, the Kirkpatrick and Phillips models mimic a check and balance system. If the learners did not learn (Level 2), reactions to the training compiled at Level 1 (Reaction) reveal the barriers responsible for the lack of learning. If the learners did not apply the knowledge and skills (Level 3), the knowledge and skills may not have transferred to begin with (Level 2). The difficulty and related cost of conducting an evaluation based on the models of Kirkpatrick and Phillips increases as evaluation at each level increases.
The Difficulty of Measuring ROI
Phillips (1997) and Naughton (2008) are in agreement that most organizations view the process of measuring ROI as requiring too many resources. It is perceived as difficult, time-consuming, labor intensive, and expensive. Nevertheless, if the worth of the CLO and the training function are to be demonstrated, some process must be utilized to establish the value of learning at the corporate level. Evaluation determines the worth, value, or meaning of a training program, and whether or not and to what degree evaluation is performed determines the worth, value, or meaning of the CLO. CLOs would be jeopardizing their value to an organization if they are not equipped to provide the heads of an organization with evidence of a training program’s success. The IOL model factors out time and cost as barriers to measuring ROI , and the CLO is left with a means of justifying his/her existence while simultaneously determining the merit of the training function.
The IOL model offers CLOs a win-win situation. Organizations are provided with the data they need, and CLOs spend less time and resources providing the data, all while the CLO has justified his/her existence. Additionally, placing value on the learners creates a climate of self-esteem, and the more the learners are involved in the training program, the more likely its implementation is a success.
Naughton, J. (2008). IOL: Determining the impact of learning. Retrieved July 29, 2010 from http://www.clomedia.com/includes/printcontent.php?aid=2343
Phillips, J. J. (1997). Handbook of training evaluation and measurement methods (3rd ed.). Houston: Gulf Publishing Company.
By Shirley J. Caruso, M. A. Human Resource Development