People Development and Kirkpatrick’s 4 Levels of Learning

user requirement statement GMP PIC/s 13

People Development and Kirkpatrick’s 4 Levels of Learning

In a world where a company’s success is determined by the knowledge, attitude and work ethic of the staff within it, how do we ensure that the company can adapt, grow and succeed in this ever changing environment? If the aim is to have the staff share the company goals then they need to be developed to think broadly about their role and not just focus on the clock.

So when does the strategy for dealing with people development start – at recruitment, at induction or in an environment of change management? What are the best tools for measuring development?

Choose the Right Tools

One of the most widely used development tools is the Kirkpatrick 4 Levels of Learning Evaluation Model.

Using Kirkpatrick’s 4 levels can generate valuable information and provide a snapshot of staff perceptions.

The first level, Reaction, asks what the audience thought of the information session as a whole. The second level, Learning, reviews if the audience absorbed the key points of the message / training such as what has changed and why? The third level, Behaviour, looks at the change in audience behaviour after the training. The fourth level, Results, examines if the overall exercise was effective.

LevelMeasuring Method
1. ReactionMeasured by using feedback forms at the end of a training session and asking for comments on aspects they liked or didn’t like and rating them on a satisfaction scale.
2. LearningMeasured by performing assessments at the end of the training and determining the Pass / Fail outcome of a participant from the assessment.
3. BehaviourEvaluation is harder to determine at the training session and while some sense of the trainee’s intent to put the new knowledge into practice can be judged, the actual implementation can only be reviewed after a period of time. Measurements can be achieved through reviewing existing metrics or performing a follow-up review of the training.
4. ResultsEvaluation can also use existing metrics to gain insight, however there are several other impact situations to look at:
  • Was the training easy to implement immediately?
  • Was it relevant and effective in the specific area / department?
  • Was there an initial burst of enthusiasm that eventually fell back to the ‘group norms’?



Cultural ChangeEach level needs to be reviewed for effectiveness. The results of the assessments also need to be interpreted appropriately for the company. This is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

In a recent blog on ‘Cultural Change Methodology as a Competency’, several factors were listed in order to overcome resistance to change:

  • developing multiple communication strategies to ensure all stakeholders are reached
  • identifying everyone affected by the change and targeting your communication accordingly
  • understanding motivation and that it is different for everyone
  • empowering people and including them in the discussions on how the change can best be implemented and sustained.


All of these points lead to the question of how to break the ‘noise’ barrier that exists in communication – hearing does not mean listening. People react differently to different forms of communication eg. oral, visual, demonstrations. So we need to develop training that delivers the same message in various ways for the different identified user groups – the ‘audience’.

As lives may depend on the Pharma and Medical Device industries getting all of this right, it is important that ‘People Development’ strategies are planned, implemented, measured and assessed appropriately.

The Future….

While Kirkpatrick’s model has been around since the 1950s, it is still one of the most common management tools in use today as it deals with people. As we move further towards distance learning and e-learning, how many of Kirkpatrick’s principles and tools will remain in play? Where people, specifically trainers, are taken out of the training room, how can we best measure the effectiveness of training?

Should we still strive for feedback where there is no dispute with the facts of the training? Is the effectiveness of e-learning courses measured purely on high participant numbers and assessment attempts? Can organisations rely on these methods alone in a move to save costs?

Will face-to-face training be back? Is there a compromise between face-to-face training and e-learning? Facilitated e-learning training sessions require even more understanding of the benefits of both methods.

If organisations are to continue to effectively use Kirkpatrick’s techniques, they must develop their trainers, who effectively manage the interface between corporate goals and people priorities and help drive successful change.

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