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Blog - How to get a return on your investment in learning and development by Tracy Powley

How to get a return on your investment in learning and development by Tracy Powley

Posted by Tracy Powley 30/05/14

GrowthDon Kirkpatrick creator of the 4 levels of training evaluation model passed away earlier this month. He was one of the first people to offer some kind of structured way to measure the impact of learning interventions, urging organisations to look beyond the development session itself and the ubiquitous “happy sheets.” 

He made a huge contribution to the world of learning and development and we thought this offered a timely reminder of what practical steps you can take to measure the impact of your development interventions, using Kirkpatrick’s levels.


1. Reaction of the learner:  what they thought and how they felt about the training. Mainly measured through...
• verbal responses
• evaluation forms – often called “happy sheets”. These have a limited value as they only measure the immediate response.

2. Learning:  the increase in knowledge and capability as a result of the training and development. There are a number of simple things you can do to measure this, both before and after the development session.

• Identify learning objectives prior to the development. This may be through surveying a sample of your workforce, or through some assessment (eg 360’s for coaching programmes) It should, at its most basic, be asking participants to identify their learning objectives. Line managers have a responsibility here to discuss learning objectives with their team members, as they will be key in supporting and tracking their ongoing development
• Action Plans. Ensure participants complete specific action plans from the sessions they are taking part in. This will give participants and line managers a way of evaluating learning against the pre-course objectives.
• Evaluation forms: These are often better used a few weeks or months after the development. They then give a better insight into how the learning is being used and what changes are happening as a result. These will also measure the behavioural changes at level 3.

3. Behaviour: the extent of behaviour and capability improvement.

• Use post-development evaluation (see above) to capture how the learning is helping delegates to improve performance over time.
• Observation from line managers, colleagues and clients is vital in assessing change here. Questionnaires can be structured around the specific objectives for the development sessions to see how far these have been addressed. Focus groups are also a good way of gathering feedback and examples of change. 

4. Results:  business impact resulting from participants’ improved performance.

Your organisation will need to identify and track business objectives in areas where you would like to see improvement, for example...
• reduction in staff turnover
• execution of development plans
• performance against revenue, growth and profitability measures
• improvement in morale/ engagement ratings

One key point to highlight is that while Kirkpatrick’s model is most often applied to training sessions, we should measure the impact of any learning intervention (for example coaching and mentoring programmes, secondments, role exchanges etc) – and his model can be applied to all these.

We leave you with a quote from Mr Kirkpatrick “Unless training gets used on the job, it is really worthless”

To discuss how we help you ensure learning is actually used and you get a return on your investment, call us on 01903 732 782 or email and have a look at our approach to working with you


Tracy Powley
Tracy Powley

Stella Chandler and I founded Focal Point on a shared belief that a training course run in isolation doesn't work. We passionately believe there must be support both before and after the training or coaching session itself for it to make a difference. When I am not facilitating sessions with clients or looking at ways to grow the Focal Point business, you will find me in a calming yoga class...

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