How to Measure the Impact of a Training on the Organization?

Today for sure there is no serious business organization that does not plan in its strategy to develop the knowledge and skills of their employees. We know that people are what makes up any organization and investment in their development is actually a key factor that allows us to build a competitive advantage, faster growth and progress in general. If so, the question is, why do a large part of business organizations cut its budget for education? Why have many organizations put training and development of employees into the background? The answer to this question is in the fact that it is very difficult to measure the impact of a training on the organization. In the absence of precise qualitative and quantitative indicators of what can be achieved by implementing a particular project of education, the organizations are reluctant to invest in this direction. This attitude is somehow justified because who would nowadays invest in something without knowing exactly what to achieve with this investment?

The first one who started to work on this topic was Donald L. Kirkpatrick back in 1959, who created a foundation on which we build our strategy of measuring the impact of a training on the organization today. The foundation is based on his famous model that covers four levels of measurement:

  • Level 1, Reaction – measures how participants react to specific education, what is their opinion after the training
  • Level 2, Knowledge – measures the degree of knowledge that the participants adopted, how they developed skills and what their position is after the training
  • Level 3, Behavior – measures how participants practice the acquired knowledge after returning to work, to what extent this knowledge affects the changes in behavior
  • Level 4 Results – measures the extent to which they achieve organizational results / goals that were planned with the implementation of the education

Later many others upgraded Kirkpatrick’s theory, the most famous being Jack Phillips, who added level 5 which refers to the return on investment (ROI-Return on Investment) whereas level 4 defined by Kirkpatrick refers to the return on expectation (ROE-Return on Expectation) which, by his definition, also includes the ROI.

Most organizations have in its strategy for staff development implemented a system of measurement, usually focusing on level 1 and 2. However, the most important performance indicators of education we are only getting on level 3 and 4. It can very easily happen that we have excellent measurement results on level 1 and 2, which means that the training was a good hit, the trainer was great, participants received a certain amount of new useful knowledge, however, if there is no change in the behavior of participants on the basis of new knowledge (as measured at level 3) the education effect you wanted to achieve is lost, which could very easily be seen in the measurement on level 4.

In order to be effective in monitoring qualitatively and quantitatively the entire process of implementation of development initiatives (education), we must set up a quality measurement system which will cover all phases relating to the period before, during and after the training. In this way we will now be in a position to respond and correct certain elements in the process, if we notice that we do not get the results that we have defined for each measurement level. With this approach we are equipped with adequate tools that help with timely response / correction so that we will almost certainly achieve its target, meaning achieving the expectations of education (ROE). The experience shows that the biggest challenge which the responsible departments in organizations (HR department) are faced refers to the performance of the previously described theoretical model in practice. There exists an arsenal of different tools such as analysis of needs, self-assessment, evaluation of 360, competence models, a variety of tests, questionnaires, action plans, etc. However, the challenge is to set up all these tools at the right place, sort them according to the development strategy, incorporate them to work harmoniously with each other in order to truly serve its purpose and give us useful indications. It is essential to get the right information from these analyzes in order to be able to present them to the other members of the organization (management, shareholders, managers of other departments …) to get an answer to the question asked at the beginning of this text – this is how to justify investment into much-needed education so we can undoubtedly achieve competitive advantages if well implemented. In our organization we dealt with this issue over many years and created a unique, practical, effective and easily applicable two-day training that enables organizations to create and establish a strategy for measuring the impact of any training at their organization.


Mario Buljan