If you want it done, measure it. If you want it done right, evaluate it. But what types of measurement and evaluation are the most effective? When does a learning function stop going through the motions and start showing true value as a business partner that can help to achieve strategic goals?
A new study commissioned by the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) answers these questions by showing how companies use information gathered from learning evaluations. It also identifies which techniques are most strongly linked to successful evaluation and, more generally, better market performance.
The study found that, in most cases, using Kirkpatrick/Phillips (K/P) levels is associated with greater success in the area of learning metrics. Simply put, if respondents said their organizations used a given K/P level of evaluation, they were more likely to give their organizations a higher score in terms of learning evaluation success. The exception to this rule is when organizations only measure Level 1 (reactions of participants). Level 3 (evaluation of behavior) and Level 4 (evaluation of results) were seen to be the most valuable.
This study also looked at specific practices. It found, for example, that firms using evaluation to gauge whether employees are learning what is required or to calculate learning’s effects on business outcomes are far more likely to view their evaluation efforts as successful and to have better market performance. Other important actions include making sure learning positively influences employee behavior and demonstrating the value of learning to others in the organization. The most valuable use of evaluation, however, is to improve overall business results. Companies that say they do this to a high extent tend to see results, as this action was the most positively correlated to market performance.
The key findings suggest that today’s organizations do not need to settle for learning evaluations that are done as more of a ritual than as a business-improvement strategy. Good evaluation techniques are available, and they can be used to make the whole organization stronger.