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Measure the Success of Your HR Programs

Posted by Sharlyn Lauby | Apr 6, 2017 1:03:17 PM

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Any time you create a program, it’s necessary to measure the results. Even the incredibly informal “Let’s do it and see what happens” approach considers evaluation. But the measurement and evaluation portion of any program needs to be well thought out. Measure the wrong thing and the program can look like a failure (when it’s not) or vice versa.

I’ve always been a fan of the Kirkpatrick Model. Created by Dr. Don Kirkpatrick in the 1950s, this model presents four levels for training evaluation: reaction, learning, behavior, and results.

  1. Reaction refers to the degree that participants found the program favorable.

  2. Learning is the extent to which participants acquired the intended information.

  3. Behavior is the degree that participants apply what they’ve learned.

  4. Results is the extent that the learning impacts the organization.

One of the key aspects of the model is that there’s an inverse relationship between the degree of difficulty to collect the data and the usefulness of the data. For example, Level 1–Reaction–is the easiest evaluation to conduct, but it also provides the least amount of data. On the other hand, Level 4–Results–is the most difficult to conduct, but also the most valuable in terms of connecting learning to the business.

I've been thinking about the Kirkpatrick Model lately. The Association for Talent Development (ATD) recently shared with me Kirkpatrick's Four Levels of Training Evaluation, a new book on the model. The authors suggest thinking of the model in reverse form–Results, Behavior, Learning, and Reaction–when designing. This could make a lot of sense for a couple of reasons:

  • The organization can decide how much or how little they want to invest in results metrics. Let’s face it, we run some HR programs simply because we need to for compliance, etc.

  • The organization can determine the expectations for the program. Not the objectives–that’s the content–but the expectations. HR programs often have more than one desired outcome.

But the reason that I used HR "programs" in the title of this article versus "training" is because I wonder if we can use the principles of the Kirkpatrick Model on programs in general. The book does an excellent job of providing sample evaluations and explaining how to make data-based decisions. I kept reading and asking myself, "Hmmm, I wonder if this would apply to other programs?" For example, an employee suggestion program.

  • How much do employees and managers like the current employee suggestion program? (reaction)

  • Is the organization learning anything (about customers or employees) by using a suggestion program? (learning)

  • Have we applied what we’ve learned from suggestions to the way we do business? (behavior)

  • Has the organization benefitted (financially or otherwise) from the suggestion program? (results)

Any time we create a program, we have to measure results. But the measurement and evaluation part doesn’t always have to be complicated. We can use the tools we know to ask the right questions. If you’re not familiar with the Kirkpatrick Model, I’d suggest picking up a copy of Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Training Evaluation. It’s a classic theory that you will want to use to evaluate the success of your training programs...and maybe a few other things.

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Sharlyn Lauby is the author of HR Bartender (www.hrbartender.com), a friendly place to discuss workplace issues. When not tending bar, she is president of ITM Group, Inc., which specializes in training solutions to help clients retain and engage talent. She can be contacted on Twitter at @HRBartender.

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Topics: Human Resources

Written by Sharlyn Lauby

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