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Training Evaluation Mistake #7: Confusing Ability with Performance

Level 2 knowledge, skill, ability and competence – these are all valuable assets that typically require an investment of time, money and resources to obtain. They do not, however, ensure Level 3 on-the-job performance pay-off. Are you sure of the difference between the two?

60% of you selected the correct response (false) to the related question in the Training Evaluation Strategy quiz:

An example of a question that could be used to measure Level 3 after training is: I can apply the principles that I learned in training.

In program evaluation plans, we often see confusion about what constitutes Level 2 Learning and what constitutes Level 3 Behavior. Level 2 is the knowledge, skill or attitude required to do something. Level 3 is the performance of the skill on the job, in the course of real work. So Level 2 is being able to do something; Level 3 is actually doing it.

The critical difference between Level 2 and Level 3 is the difference between making an investment and obtaining the outputs. At Level 2, there is investment in the knowledge and skill of the training participant. This investment is realized if and when the learner applies that knowledge or those new skills on the job.

Define the Desired On-the-Job Performance

When creating your training plans, make sure you are clear on exactly what you want people to do on the job after training. Often, organizations have competencies and then fail to specify exactly how they should be used.

Define just a few critical behaviors you expect to see performed on the job as a result of what was invested in the training program. If you have trouble identifying behaviors, then question if the training is really needed, or if it is properly designed.

Link Learning to Performance

Create a series of questions that will link what is learned in training to the desired on-the-job performance.

Here’s an example for a leadership team communication program:

I understand the importance of fostering good team communication. (Level 2 knowledge)

I can demonstrate how to conduct a weekly team meeting. (Level 2 skill)

I hold a team meeting every week. (Level 3 behavior)

Join the Conversation

We welcome your questions and comments on this series, or any training evaluation related topic.

Here are some ways to join the conversation:

Additional resources:

Previous tips in this series

Kirkpatrick Four Levels® Evaluation Certification Program

Kirkpatrick Four Levels® Evaluation Certificate Program

Transferring Learning to Behavior

Getting to Kirkpatrick Levels 3 and 4 (recorded webinar)


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Wednesday, May 29, 2013 1:41 PM
In my experience (I've been there), beginners typically create evaluations in reaction to a failure (avoidance behavior). Example: 1) put together a training program to avoid making mistake ‘X’ that results in poor quality gadgets and a corrective action; and/or 2) document commitment to quality by tracking this training. Measuring the success of such an endeavor, including demonstration of desired behaviors, is typically lacking. I think it requires time and expertise and participation of business units throughout the organization as well as processes that support these efforts to move from level 2 to level 3 and beyond.

It seems the ‘beyond’ is what scares most organizations. In my opinion, moving from level 2 to level 3 is the most difficult transition. Once you get there, it is easier to connect the dots to beyond.

Organizations with established performance management programs understand the difference between level 2 and level 3 in terms of the bottom line. These organizations are serious about growth and quickly learn to connect the dots between learning and output. These dots are key performance indicators, behaviors that impact the bottom line today AND tomorrow.

If an organization has no desire to grow, then the status quo is fine – no need for a performance management program. If, however, an organization wishes to grow, they need a strong, well-defined, and culture-centric performance management program, a road map, and a vision. Like any road map, you have to know where you want to go (vision) before you can find out how to get there. A good road map guides the organization forward one step at a time at a tempo that allows the people and the processes to assimilate the necessary cultural keys that leads to recognition of the value of the desired behaviors in terms of individual growth. That's a start, I think.
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