The First-Time Trainer’s Guide To Evaluating Training Effectiveness

The First-Time Trainer’s Guide To Evaluating Training Effectiveness
Summary: Training is important. You know this because your company invests in it, and your team asks for it. What you don’t know is whether your training is having the intended impact. There’s only one way to find out: training evaluation. And it’s easier than you think!

The Why, What And How Of Evaluating Training Effectiveness

In 2018, US training expenditure reached $87.6 billion [1], and an average of 46.7 training hours per employee. Plus, over 90% of high performers say that working for a company where learning opportunities are provided is important to them [2]. It’s hard to deny that training is a priority for both companies and their employees when the numbers speak as loudly as these do.

And honestly, you feel the same way. Because you know that upskilling your team makes them happy, and helps them perform better. Or, at least, it should. But you’re new to all this, and sometimes you wonder whether your team has learned the right knowledge and skills from training, or whether they’ve learned anything at all!

Could it be time to evaluate your employee training program?

Reasons You Should Evaluate Training Effectiveness

You already know that companies across the globe are investing heavily in employee Learning and Development. In fact, your employer is doing the same. Which is why you need to use your training budget and use it wisely. But how do you know when you’ve spent it well?

You’ll know! Because when training is effective, it achieves a number of positive benefits for employees. They feel satisfied because they’re growing and improving. They feel capable because they have the knowledge and skills to perform well in their jobs. And they feel empowered because they have the competencies to contribute to company success.

Of course, this has desirable outcomes for the company, too. Because effective training leads to business benefits, like improved performance, engagement, and staff retention. It’s a win-win situation.

But customer demands and technologies will keep changing, which means that your training goals and delivery will evolve, too. So, to ensure that your training efforts continue to pay off, you need to know which parts of your training are achieving their objectives, and what needs improvement.

In other words, evaluating training effectiveness needs to become the final step in your training cycle. Let’s look at the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for measuring training effectiveness.

The Training KPIs You Should Be Evaluating

KPIs? As in plural? You thought that evaluating training effectiveness was as simple as asking: “Can employees do now what they couldn’t do before training?” And you’re not wrong. But there are other dimensions of training success.

Perhaps the best way to understand these dimensions is through the use of an age-old training evaluation model developed by Professor Kirkpatrick in the 1950s. The Kirkpatrick Evaluation Model breaks evaluation down to the following 4 levels.

The first level is called Reaction, and it’s focused on learner perceptions of the training experience. These KPIs are most often measured by use of a self-report training feedback form for employees. Then comes the learning level, where you measure the improvement in employees’ knowledge and skills. On the third level, you’ll be evaluating training effectiveness to measure the behavior and attitude changes of employees on the job. Finally, it’s time for the results: measure the extent to which your business goals were achieved. For example, has productivity increased? Are customers more satisfied?

While this model is a helpful framework, there are some performance indicators that don’t fit into the four levels above. You should also consider whether or not training was delivered on time and within budget. Or whether the training satisfied regulatory and legal requirements.

How To Evaluate Training Effectiveness

Now that you know why you’re evaluating training effectiveness, and what performance indicators you’ll be using, it’s time to walk through the practical steps of evaluation.

1. Define Your Training KPIs

Before you evaluate training success, you need to define what success means. So, before you start planning courses for your team, decide what they need to learn, how quickly they need to learn it, and how they will use their new skills and knowledge on the job.

Use measurable, realistic and time-bound KPIs. For example, if you’re a Sales Manager, you might want your team to be able to list all the features of a new product by the end of a course, as measured by their performance in an online quiz.

2. Evaluate Performance Before Training

Evaluation before training? Absolutely! A pre-training evaluation lets you know which areas of learning should be prioritized. You can measure skills, knowledge, attitudes or behaviors before training begins.

For example, if your team scores particularly low on written communication, you can ensure that all team members complete that module of the course and receive detailed feedback on the module assessment.

More than this, though, this type of evaluation creates a baseline to measure improvement against. Your pre-training evaluation can be in the form of a self-report survey, manager or peer reviews, competency assessments, quizzes, or any combination of these.

3. Evaluate During Training

While the pre- and post-training evaluations are important, evaluating training effectiveness during training can be helpful, too. For example, measure learner engagement on discussion forums and attendance at webinars to identify participation issues, and resolve them before training is finished.

Likewise, monitoring module completion rates and assessment submissions can help you spot problems with training activities, like too much content or assessments that are too difficult. You can then swoop in and correct these problems before the next module.

4. Evaluate After Training

Now comes the most exciting part! Because the post-training evaluation survey is a big revelation about whether or not learning has taken place.

Use a combination of self-report surveys, observation, competency assessments and quizzes to measure performance against the various KPIs described under Kirkpatrick’s levels of evaluation. Then, compare these measurements to the pre-training evaluation scores.

Where performance has improved, keep up the good work! Where the improvement is too small, or there isn’t any improvement at all, find ways to adapt training for a better outcome. Here, insights from the training feedback form for trainees could shed a lot of light. With this feedback, you know just what to do to improve the learning experience next time around.


You don’t have to be a training guru to deliver a successful course. Armed with a mindset of continuous improvement, and the tips from this article, you’re ready to start evaluating and improving your training effectiveness.


[1] 2018 Training Industry Report (

[2] Ceridian's Pulse of Talent Report Reveals What High Performing Employees Value Most at Work

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