Does Your Training Prepare Participants for Performance?: The Importance of Communication During Training Programs


by Jim and Wendy Kirkpatrick

This article provides fast and inexpensive ways to cross the bridge from Kirkpatrick Levels 1 and 2 to reach Levels 3 and 4.

A few years back, Jim Kirkpatrick was working with a client that had won a number of industry awards for their training programs. One of their showcase programs was their new hire onboarding program. They were especially pleased with their Level 1 survey results. “We consistently average 4.8 on a 5 point scale! To be honest, we don’t think we need to consider any changes to that program,” they said.

Jim suggested that they add one question to their evaluation form: “I know what is expected of me as a result of attending this training.”

They added the question, and to their dismay, most participants responded that they disagreed or strongly disagreed. After participating in a week of comprehensive training, few graduates had any idea what they were supposed to do with what they had learned when they started work the following Monday.

Despite this program receiving high marks in general Level 1 territory, the new evidence from the question Jim had recommended suggested that the program was not fulfilling its ultimate goal. Providing a comfortable atmosphere, well-organized course materials and a likeable facilitator means little if the training participants do not understand what is expected of them and how they will be applying their learnings on the job.

How clear do you make on-the-job performance expectations during your training programs? Here are some practical things you can do during training to prepare participants for on-the-job implementation.

  1. Introduce all job aids during training, and have participants practice using them during classroom activities.
  2. Do occasional pulse checks during training. Pull up a chair and ask, “How do you think you might use this information on the job?”
  3. Provide post-program follow-up to training participants, and describe to them all of the post-program follow-up they will receive after training so they are watching for it.
  4. Near the end of the program, conduct a discussion of participant confidence and commitment to apply what they learned on the job. Allow plenty of time for objections to surface; allow participants to respond to each other’s concerns.

Keep in mind that the purpose of training is to prepare the participants to perform effectively on the job. Staying focused on this goal will maximize training effectiveness with the minimum possible resources employed.


Author Biographies ...

Dr. Jim Kirkpatrick is the Senior Consultant for Kirkpatrick Partners, a company founded by his wife, Wendy Kirkpatrick, who serves as the President.

Jim is a thought leader in training evaluation and the creator of the New World Kirkpatrick Model.

Using his 15 years of experience in the corporate world, including eight years as a training manager, Jim trains and consults for corporate, government, military and humanitarian organizations around the world.

Jim delivers lively keynote addresses and conducts workshops on topics including maximizing business results, creating powerful training and evaluation strategies, building and leveraging business partnerships and increasing the transfer of learning to on-the-job behaviors.

Wendy is a global driving force of the use and implementation of the Kirkpatrick Model. Her results orientation stems from over two decades of business experience in retailing, marketing and training. She has held positions as a buyer, product manager, process manager and training manager, which leveraged her ability to organize complex, multifaceted projects and yield rapid results.

Jim and Wendy have written three books, including Training on Trial, and have also served as the subject matter experts for the United States Office of Personnel Management’s Training Evaluation Field Guide: Demonstrating the Value of Training at Every Level.

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