Didn’t Start Your Program With the End in Mind? Here’s Help

A team of office workers sitting at a conference room table having a discussion.
November 2, 2023

Felicia received a request to design a new leadership development program earlier in the year. She enthusiastically produced a variety of in-person and online content and rolled it out to the first cohort. Nearing the end of the year, she was asked for a progress report, and she froze. What am I supposed to report at this point, she wondered? 

In the world of training and development, many workplace learning professionals with the best of intentions embark on designing, developing, and delivering training programs without a clear vision of what is expected as a result of the program. 

Does this story sound all too familiar? Don’t worry, we are here to help!

Nearly every goal-setting philosophy begins with a clear vision of the desired end result. While this principle is quite simple and easy to understand, despite best intentions, it doesn’t always occur. Let’s start with a systematic way to design and evaluate your key programs, even if they are already in progress. 

First, we will define the three major reasons to evaluate training programs:

  1. To improve the program
  2. To maximize transfer of learning to behavior and subsequent organizational results
  3. To demonstrate the value of training to the organization

Your goal is to create and demonstrate the value of the program to the organization. If you do not have a clear idea of the organizational metrics your goal is supposed to improve, ask your stakeholders. If they aren’t available, think through what your program could reasonably contribute to based on your knowledge of company priorities. 

For example, Felicia’s leadership development program may have been requested because there has been high turnover in management or there are known retirement dates on the horizon for key executives. Or the company may be growing and adding positions so seasoned employees can step up to management and executive positions. In this case, the goal of this program might be to increase leadership retention, positively influence employee satisfaction, and in the future, support a higher sales volume or productivity. 

Identifying these high-level outcomes are what your leadership will want to hear about. But even the best training program doesn’t lead straight to results. The most important part of any program is the on-the-job application. Once you have some clarity on the program goals, think about what your program participants need to do on the job after training to bring about the desired results. 

Let’s check back in with Felicia. In her leadership development program, she will want to research the things new leaders should be doing on the job to support the program goals. For example, if one of the goals is increasing employee satisfaction, a key component of that is a direct report’s relationship with their supervisor. Define exactly what a leader should do to foster that relationship, such as conducting one-on-one meetings with each direct report weekly and documenting specific goals. 

We would also recommend to Felicia that she spearhead a team to brainstorm how to support the new leaders in their roles, and how to track that they are performing the actions requested of them. This can include things like coaching, self-monitoring, reminders, and a dashboard. 

Once these important items are in place, then you can think about evaluating the quality of the training program itself. This data is primarily for you. Stakeholders may want to see a high-level overview, but they are more interested in how your training is improving workplace performance and organizational results. 

If you do not have these things in place, don’t worry! It’s never too late to add elements to your program to track progress and maximize its success. If you’re looking for the easy button, get Kirkpatrick certified. You can also pick up a copy of our latest book and check out our library of free resources

Please reach out if we can help!

About the authors, Dr. Jim Kirkpatrick and Wendy Kayser Kirkpatrick 

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