Are You Intimidated by Kirkpatrick Levels 3 and 4?

April 27, 2016

Kirkpatrick Levels 3 and 4 have intimidated training professionals for decades. Some think they have cracked the code with a highly standardized 90-day post-training survey, but this is not adequate and could even be counterproductive. Others think that 360-degree surveys are the key, but this is not a complete solution either. 

The time for being intimidated is over. Getting to Kirkpatrick Levels 3 and 4 is not as difficult, time-consuming or expensive as many believe. Our first tip to conquer this challenge is to remember that the end is the beginning. 

At the beginning of any initiative or training program, start by considering the highest-level result your organization is charged with accomplishing. This could be profitable sales growth, saving lives or keeping the nation safe. Use this ultimate Level 4 Result as your target for any and all efforts in the initiative. If you cannot describe how the intended training would in some way positively impact your overall result or mission, you aren’t on the right track. 

Once you are clear on your highest-level result, think about the specific actions or behaviors your intended training audience should engage in to contribute to that result. Hint: often the reason that business managers contact training is because these behaviors are not currently happening. Make sure these behaviors can be observed and measured. For soft skills programs such as leadership development, this is particularly important.

An example of a good critical behavior for leadership development is, “Perform weekly touch bases with all direct reports.” The underlying assumption is that the training will provide a model and templates for an effective touch base. Note, however, that sometimes training is not needed. The intended training audience may know exactly what they need to do but not be willing to perform those actions for a number of reasons. In this case, another type of intervention would be more effective. 

When you start your needs analysis and program design with the end in mind, you are setting the stage to create and demonstrate the value of your program. Once Levels 3 and 4 are clear, you can move to writing the learning objectives and designing any required training. If you determine that training is not required, you can focus your attention on a different intervention to improve on-the-job performance. 

Are you looking for more tips like this to help you truly crack the code for evaluating Levels 3 and 4 for any program? Then attend my session at this year’s ATD ICE, “Cracking the Code for Kirkpatrick Levels 3 and 4.”

In this session, I will unravel the mystery, beginning by emphasizing the need to focus on the Level 4 organizational results that your training should ultimately support. From there, I will assist you in deciphering how to create and implement a strong Level 3 on-the-job application plan. Then, a real-world approach to tracking short-term outcomes and maximizing program results will be analyzed. Using the New World Kirkpatrick Model as a guide, you will come away with ideas that you can implement immediately, even with limited resources. This session will help you move from being viewed as a training provider to a true, strategic business partner. 

Join the Discussion

Are you intimidated by Kirkpatrick Levels 3 and 4? Unsure of what your Level 4 Results are? Let us know your thoughts. Here are some ways to join the conversation:

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Additional Resources:

Kirkpatrick Four Levels® Evaluation Certification Program – Bronze Level

Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Training Evaluation

Kirkpatrick Quick Tip Vol. 2 #4: Is Level 3 Enough?

Lesson #2: Even Confident Learners Need On-the-Job Support

What If You Didn’t Start with the End in Mind?

Test Your Knowledge of Training Evaluation Strategy

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