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Does your training have the impact of a flea assaulting a rhino? Read on.


Billions of dollars are spent globally on learning and development each year. Despite this, companies often find it surprisingly difficult to quantify whether their training has *actually had any effect.*

It’s a familiar scenario. Your employees file off to an off-site training session. They watch a series of PowerPoint presentations delivered by an enthusiastic facilitator and take part in some workshops. They fill in a few forms and worksheets.

And they forget about it the next day.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone: as many as three-quarters of managers surveyed by Harvard Business Review pre-pandemic were dissatisfied with their company’s learning and development.

How can we change this unhappy situation? One way is to turn to the Kirkpatrick Model for help, which evaluates the results of training and learning programmes:

Basically, Kirkpatrick gives us an insight into several valuable things:

  • how individuals reacted to the training programme
  • what – if anything – they learnt because of it
  • how behaviour changed at work following the training
  • results for the organisation (lower spending or improved product quality, for instance)

The model is useful because it outlines how training benefits the business, moving from feedback from individual attendees right through to organisational performance. On the way, it helps you understand what new skills employees have learnt and how their behaviour in the workplace has changed. If you can assess all four levels covered by Kirkpatrick, it’s a great benchmark for whether training has been effective.

But what more could you be doing to go beyond this? Here are five methods you can also use to make training more beneficial:

1. Reverse engineering.

L&D often starts with the thought, ‘it’s high time we did some training’, or ‘we have a budget for L&D for this year we need to use up’. Resist this temptation. Start with the business goal instead and work backwards, reverse engineering your programme based on the outcome you want.

This effectively puts Kirkpatrick’s final assessment level – organisational performance – as the number one priority. And it makes it much more likely you’ll have the impact you want on the business.

2. Involving all programme stakeholders.

Your programme should be designed with input from the people who are going to do it (users), and the people who are expecting results from it (the people who run the company). If you get this right from the start and involve all the stakeholders, the chances of a) your programme addressing real needs among employees, and b) delivering the desired return on investment, are greatly increased.

3. Connecting learning to business KPIs.

If you can connect your training to hard measures of business success such as increased revenues or improved profit margins, so much the better. This also helps overcome the perception that L&D is somehow fluffy or insubstantial and not related to genuine business outcomes.

4. Using metrics that measure improvement continuously.

We measure what we treasure. Think of your training programme as being like an elite athlete that has every aspect of his or her performance – resting heart rate, VO2 max, cardio recovery time – measured as they prepare for an event. It’s not just ultimate race performance the trainer is concerned about – it’s measuring the impact of the training, all the time.

Decide on the indicators that show your training is working and assess them regularly: customer satisfaction scores, employee engagement, volumes of sales calls, presentations to clients, proposals sent out, etc. Then you’ll have a much better idea if you’re on track to achieve your overall goals.

5. Using behavioural science to drive behavioural change.

A good L&D programme should be the enabler for long-lasting change among employees’ behaviour leading to better outcomes for the business. We need to both design memorable learning that encourages behavioural change – at SBC we use tools like spacing effects, gamification and storytelling to achieve this – and reinforce that behaviour long after the training has been completed.

We need to not only evaluate behavioural change as per Kirkpatrick, but also have an insight into the methods that will create it. That’s how to design learning and development programmes that have a genuine impact.

Want to know more?

Get in touch to find out how we can help you use the latest insights from behavioural science to develop learning and development programmes.
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