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Transferring Learning to Behavior

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In this indispensable companion to the classic book Evaluating Training Programs—The Four Levels, Don and Jim Kirkpatrick offer detailed guidance for putting any or all of the Four Levels into practice. In addition, they show how to decide what to evaluate, how to get managers to support the evaluation process, and how to use the Four Levels to construct a compelling chain of evidence demonstrating the contribution of training to the bottom line.

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12 Chapters

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1. The Four Levels in the 21st Century


Chapter 1

The Four Levels in the

21st Century

In 1954, at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, I (Don) completed my PhD dissertation entitled “Evaluating a Human Relations

Training Program for Supervisors.” Based on the dissertation, I wrote a series of four articles for the T&D of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD): “Evaluating Reaction,” “Evaluating

Learning,” “Evaluating Behavior,” and “Evaluating Results.”

At that time, training professionals were struggling with the word

“evaluation.” There was no common language and no easy way to communicate what “evaluation” meant and how to accomplish it.

Trainers began to accept my four levels and passed the word to others.

Soon, it came to be called the “Kirkpatrick Model.” The concepts, principles, and techniques were communicated from one professional to another as trainers began to apply one or more of the levels.

In 1993, a training friend, Jane Holcomb, told me that trainers were talking about the four levels but couldn’t find the articles that had been written in 1959. She said, “Write a book!” So I decided to do it.


2. The Challenge: Transferring Learning to Behavior


Chapter 2

The Challenge: Transferring

Learning to Behavior

I (Jim) began working for First Indiana Bank in 1997 after several years as a management and career consultant. My boss is Marni McKinney,

Chairman of First Indiana Bank and CEO of First Indiana Corporation. When I first started, she told me, “Jim, when you plan and conduct training, please make sure that participants find it worthwhile and want to come back for more.”

In 1998 she asked me, “How do you think our training is going? I surely hope people are not only enjoying it, but are learning something!” And in 2000 she said, “You know, our people are spending a lot of time in training. I would really like to know if they are able to apply what they are learning.”

Two years ago (2002), she said, “As you know, we have great responsibility to our shareholders to meet our financial goals for 2003 and beyond. I need to be able to see how training is impacting the bottom line. I don’t want people spending a lot of time away from their jobs in activities that are not directly contributing to positive results.”


3. Strategy and Leadership



Foundations for Success

nies are driven by tradition and budget. The practice of trying to be all things to all people is very tempting and pervasive. In response to this, decision-makers are jumping at impressive vendor and consultant packages that promise higher sales, better customer or employee retention, executional excellence, or faster turn-around times.


Since I have broached the topic of vendors and consultants, I would like to offer some words of advice. I have worked for and with a number of professional consultants, and have been around enough to have seen the spectrum. Let’s start with the downside. Watch out for overpromise, under-deliver. This is how that scenario typically unveils. A

firm somehow gets your attention—either from a mailing, phone call, website, e-mail, or personal contact—inquiring about your training needs. You agree to meet with them (“but I only have an hour”) and they show-and-tell you with an impressive presentation of what their products or services can do to enhance your training effectiveness. If you are impressed enough and find their offerings potentially beneficial, you set up another meeting with higher-ranking participants from both sides. So far, so good. To make a long story short, you agree to make the investment and begin the implementation process. There are several considerations you would have been wise to discuss before making that decision.


4. Culture and Systems



Foundations for Success

strategic change is a powerful way to increase productivity. Are you that kind of organization? If you are, you have the golf ball sitting up nicely on the tee, ready to help facilitate the transfer of learning to behavior. As a matter of fact, you can skip the rest of this section and just move on to the next. If, however, your organization can stand to improve in this area, read on.

TQM Flashback!

I believe there were several leaders and other participants on the TQ Council who were eager learners and embraced change as an ally, not an enemy. They (we) didn’t, however,

find the means to achieve critical mass with this issue.

Many leaders in the bank were convinced that the courses they were on were the right ones and that there was no real need for change. One vivid example was the reluctance of several leaders to solicit scientifically gathered customer feedback. “Oh, we already know our customers like the back of our hand. Why do we need to spend money for some outside firm to tell us what we already know?”


5. Success at Levels 1 and 2


Success at Levels 1 and 2


results were puzzling to me. After a couple of years she stopped going

fishing. She gave her fishing pole away. She didn’t even want to come along with me when I went.

Well, being a husband who was fully devoted to his wife’s pleasure, I suggested that we try golf. After all, what could possibly be not to like about golf? Again, I was the consummate teacher. I bought her some golf clubs at a flea market, cleaned the dirt off them, and took her to a nice big field where the first lesson began. I showed her how to position her feet, how to grip the club, and taught her about eagles, birdies, and pars.

We went to a golf driving range where she got to hit a bucket of balls, with me as her constant, caring tutor. I showed her the “right way” to do it and was sure that the only reason she wasn’t smiling was because she was concentrating so hard. The day finally came when we went to the golf course for the first time. As the morning progressed, I faithfully stayed at her side, helping her with every shot. I applauded what she did well, and counseled her when she didn’t. I thought that everything was going smoothly and that we had found a sport that we could truly share together. I was wrong. On the next to last hole, I helped her line up her feet a bit so her putt would go straight. To my great surprise, she backed away from the ball, looked me straight in the eye, and said, “Jim. I know you are a gifted teacher. But if you give me one more word of advice, I am going to quit and never play again!” I am only human, and on the next


6. Support




work and professionally challenged and encouraged, I would be in danger of going to seed—just going through the motions without really caring. Actually, I would probably leave the organization if that were the case.”


Many managers underestimate the force and impact of support. Support is a rather generic word, so let’s look at its many faces. Support can come in the shape of formal and informal recognition. We formally recognize our top performers through nomination-based programs such as “Player of the Quarter” and “Best of the Best.” We also have a “Star

Night,” which is a big, year-end celebration for our top sales and service associates. Recognition, of course, can also be informal. A culture that encourages not only manager-to-employee but also employee-toemployee recognition almost always increases productivity and morale. Support can also be expressed by just showing an interest in one another. When I come back from a workshop and one of our managers asks, “Hey, what did you learn that you can teach us?”, it gives me the feeling that who I am and what I know is valued. Another good way that support is manifested is through incentives. Linking critical jobspecific behaviors and results with incentives is an important example of support.


7. Accountability




In the introduction to Part Three, I talked about the three groups of managers who took the Balanced Scorecard course. Marilyn Jones, representing the Reachers group, saw the wisdom and benefit of the course and immediately applied it to her job. Charlie Muggins, distinguished member of the Responders group, developed and implemented his BSC with some consistent support. Nancy Jenkins, a Resister, needed something more. I don’t want you to think that people always fall into one category. I, for one, tend to switch groups depending on the issue and circumstances. In the case of the malingering piano, I was obviously a Resister. This chapter is about the force of accountability and how, as trainers and managers, we need to utilize those methods to bring this about in ourselves and others.


It all starts here for two reasons. First, we must model what we expect from others. If we don’t follow through on what we say we will do and perform in the new ways to which we have committed, we can surely not expect others to do so. Second, holding ourselves accountable for new behaviors will produce the positive results we are looking for.


8. The Glue to Hold It All Together


Chapter 8

The Glue to Hold It All Together

My favorite way to fish is to put on chest waders, waterproof nylon overalls, and walk in cold streams and fish for trout. It is great fun unless they leak. I also like to fish out of my fiberglass canoe. It is also great fun unless it leaks or overturns. The year 2004 has been hard for

fishing up to this point because I have suffered from ice cold water on my legs (leaky waders) and soggy shoes (leaky canoe). Fortunately, someone invented glue that can fix both. I just came in the house from

fixing my waders and now I have this wonder-glue sitting in front of me as I write. This is not just ordinary white glue. This is special glue—so special that it comes in two separate tubes that must be mixed together. One tube is purple and says “Part A—Resin.” The other comes in a red tube and says “Part B—Catalyst.” The resin is apparently the foundation of the glue. The catalyst serves as the chemical accelerant and the stimulus that causes the resin to become glue. The directions, which incidentally I read, say that the two parts must be mixed together in equal parts or it won’t work. And the last thing I want is to go out fishing and suffer through more leakage.


9. Manufacturing Organizations


Manufacturing Organizations


solution from a performance improvement perspective, rather than training solution perspective.

Preliminary Background and Research

The TFS conducted three main activities:

• A group of four associates spent eighteen months researching top-performing dealerships. In some cases they spent a full day observing and interviewing all job functions in Toyota sales departments. They observed and interviewed Dealer Principals,

General Managers, Financial Services Managers, and Sales


Important Note: All dealerships are franchises, which means that managers can choose whether or not participate in any improvement program.

• Researchers mystery-shopped public auto retailers that were just coming onto the market and advertised a new of way of doing business.

• A major American captive automobile financing corporation allowed the researchers to visit their training facility for three days.

During that time, they were allowed to speak to the facilitators and directors of training. They also observed actual training sessions, which were conducted in a unique learning environment.


10. Service Organizations



Best Practices Case Studies

• Turn-key recruitment assignments

• Customized recruitment solutions to suit clients’ specific needs

Apart from providing end-to-end recruitment solutions to organisations, NIVL has core expertise and offers a broad range of HR services and solutions in areas such as competency-based people management applications, rewards management and compensation surveys, performance management systems, and employee surveys.

NIVL’s Campus Solutions range of services includes services and solutions covering to the gamut of placement, employability skills assessment, and workplace readiness training activities for academic and professional institutions.

The IT solutions wing of NIVL offers workable, robust, and technically superior IT solutions and consulting services using a variety of technologies and platforms. The range of services and solutions includes:

Internet and intranet solutions

E-commerce and m-commerce

Corporate communication and multimedia services

Software solutions


11. Taking Action


Taking Action


5. Put these first four steps together into an action plan. Get input from others. Do a good job of preparing it in the form of a business plan. Present it to senior executives, gain their enthusiastic approval (one hopes), and get to it.


We thought it might be helpful to include the top ten mistakes leaders make when trying to transfer learning to behavior. Watch out for them as you develop and implement your action plan.

Number 10: Not linking and aligning incentives to desired behavior and subsequent results.

Number 9: Trying to do too much and not focusing efforts on mission critical behavior.

Number 8: Having the wrong kind of leaders, or the right kind in the wrong positions.

Number 7: Not providing adequate technology and system support.

Number 6: Not providing a balance of accountability and support.

Number 5: Not providing clear direction—vision, strategy, and expectations.

Number 4: Promoting a culture of employees who are discouraged from learning.

Number 3: Not developing action plans from a business consulting approach.



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