Evaluating training for the intangibles

I can imagine a world 50 years ago when there were few ways to systematically evaluate training. At that time Kirkpatrick’s innovative 4 levels of evaluation was a godsend. But now it seems to have become the Kirkpatrick family mafia slightly updating the model while they also market and train the material.

Certainly they have benefited. Who else has? Training departments certainly have, because they have a bible of evaluation they can refer to in meetings. This is against criticisms against the basic flaws in the 4 levels scientific methodology. Thus, the 4 levels has become more of a cult of what ought to be done, and is often blindly accepted.

Why is this? My friend applied for a training job and asked about level 3 evaluations that the company does. The response was, “Well, we just do smile sheets, and that works for us.” With the training function not being the core of the business, management doesn’t pay much attention. Management takes for granted that the training is appropriate and works, perhaps because it is out of their field of expertise. If accountants were held to the same standards, a company might find itself in financial trouble.

The performance of the employees is the core function of the business. Apple realized this early and added effectiveness evaluation and maintenance evaluation to its MacIntosh training. Meanwhile John Edes suggests visual confirmation and social ownership as means to evaluate training. So there are other means outside of the 4 levels. I expect the next revolution in evaluation will come from outside academia, perhaps from the tech industry.

Of course Phillips has extended the 4 levels by adding ROI and Intangibles. With the high cost of finding and keeping employees and the importance of brand value, it seems that a higher focus on job satisfaction, work climate and organizational commitment would prove valuable.

Breaking from the industrial way of viewing employees to a more humanistic way has proven valuable to many organizations. Google is one of these examples. Their enculturation is a week-long and has low ROI by Kirkpatrick’s standards. But the intangibles have made the brand valuable and workers loyal. Evaluating training for the intangibles will be the next revolution, off the 4 levels chart, and deeper than a smile sheet.

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