Evaluating Training

Detterman (1993) reported that 90% of training was not transferred to the job, for three reasons:
  1. Training occurs outside the normal context of work and is therefore difficult to transfer.
  2. “Sheep-dip” training leads to stress, as skills have to be developed intermittently and abruptly.  
  3. The process is almost solely top-down, where senior personnel must identify what needs to be done and how.
These issues must be addressed in the design of the training


Negotiation programmes are notoriously difficult to evaluate.   The Harvard Programme on Negotiation (which is probably the best documented negotiation study) suggests that the best way of evaluating a negotiator’s competence is to study their behaviour.   Do they follow the process that they have been trained in?

When you try to measure negotiation improvement, it ends up being largely anecdotal.  It is impossible to recreate exactly the same negotiation scenario twice and measure the outcome before and after training.

Kirkpatrick’s model of training evaluation is the most widely used – but most organisations don’t get past level 1. (We have paraphrased Kirkpatrick’s descriptions)

Level 1 – Reaction

Evaluation at this level measures how participants react to training. In a long-term programme, it is obviously important that the programme is received and spoken about positively in the organisation.

In reality, it is usually a measure of how well the trainer kept the delegates entertained and engaged. Although a positive reaction does not guarantee learning, a negative reaction almost certainly reduces its possibility.

Level 2 Evaluation – Retention

This measures how much people retain of what they have been taught. We measure this in two ways: the first is that we continually test retention all through the programme and the second is that we observe behaviour afterwards. Where these programmes have been particularly effective with our other clients, they have kept them alive by constant refreshers, materials around the office and inclusion in team member development plans.

Level 3 Evaluation – Behaviour

This level measures whether the learners are changing anything as a result of the training or coaching. We follow all training up with one to one coaching which enables us to assess this. We use a behavioural framework that we have developed which clearly allows us to identify potential improvement areas for negotiators.  Although this is not perfect, it certainly gives a broad view of their success.

We shadow the team in their negotiations and evaluate them against the framework, to ensure they are following the process and coach them accordingly. Additionally, we have a database of scoring from a number of other retailers which we could use to benchmark the Sonae negotiators on “no name” basis.

Many organisations don’t bother with this – but a study by Xerox suggests that without coaching – or at least follow up – the behavioural change is likely to be very limited. 

Level 4 Evaluation- Return on Investment

Level four evaluation attempts to assess training in terms of business results. Determining results in financial terms is difficult to measure, is hard to link directly with training and remains largely anecdotal.

The reality is that most negotiation consultancies ask participants to quantify details of post training financial successes – but in truth it is virtually impossible to attribute financial success specifically to the training. There is of course value in focusing the buying team on the fact that the company has an expectation that supplier meetings are likely to deliver some commercial benefit!

The most effective organisations we have worked with have a formal “Buy for Less” programme at a category level which focusses on where saving and profit improvement is expected at a supplier level – and we would recommend including this methodology in the training.