Psychology Workforce Training Evaluation
Traci Sitzmann, Andrew Vancini, Shoshana Schwartz, Jayme Ratcliff, Gisella Bassani, Mohamad Saleh, Mary Lee Stansifer, Ersin Dincelli, Kwabena Kesse
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 May 2024
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0325


In 1959, Donald Kirkpatrick addressed the American Society of Training and Development, where he proposed a four-level model for training evaluation—reactions, learning, behavior, and results. The levels offer a practical solution for evaluating training effectiveness, providing guidance on measuring multiple metrics and ensuring that evaluation efforts contribute to business. However, Kirkpatrick’s framework has been criticized for being atheoretical, and the model’s assumptions have been disproven repeatedly over the past twenty-five years. Yet Kirkpatrick’s framework is still the most frequently cited approach for evaluating training and continues to impact research and practice. To advance the field beyond Kirkpatrick’s framework, researchers such as the authors of Sitzmann and Weinhardt 2019 (in “Approaching Evaluation from a Multilevel Perspective: A Comprehensive Analysis of the Indicators of Training Effectiveness,” cited under Attrition from Training) have proposed a more comprehensive training evaluation framework. Capturing a breadth of effectiveness indicators is essential to understanding the reasons behind ineffective training and to optimize its impact. However, it is improbable that any evaluation endeavor will encompass all possible metrics. According to Kraiger 2002 (in Decision-Based Evaluation, cited under Training Reputation), the initial step in any evaluation effort is to question the purpose of the evaluation. For instance, is the aim to determine which employees have achieved task proficiency, identify changes in learners, assess the overall organizational benefits of training, pinpoint areas for training improvement, or achieve another objective? Once the purpose is established, the training evaluation should begin by addressing the specific construct that aligns directly with that objective. For example, if the goal is to determine which employees have achieved task proficiency by the end of the training, learning assessments should be conducted to compare post-training skill levels. However, if the purpose is to understand why employees are not proficient in trained skills by the end of the course, learning should be measured over time to identify when the learning deficiency occurred. After evaluating a single outcome, this framework can be used to determine if other benefits have also been derived from the training. In the following sections, we review the indicators of training effectiveness. We first focus on training utilization, attrition from training, and training reputation. Next, we review affective outcomes: satisfaction, self-efficacy, and motivation. Subsequently, we turn to additional outcomes of training: learning, human capital, training transfer, organizational and team performance, and financial impact.

Training Utilization

The American Society of Training and Development 2013 claims evaluation theory has largely overlooked the significance of training utilization despite its influence on the cost-effectiveness of training, as indicated by the number of training hours utilized. It is essential to remember that training utilization applies solely to voluntary training, where the training utilization rate should approach 100 percent. The American Society of Training and Development 2013 further states that the overall enrollment rate has an impact on the cost per learning hour, making it viable to develop new or costly training materials only if employees make use of the learning opportunities provided. Hurtz and Williams 2009 finds that when organizations ensure that employees are aware of learning opportunities and provide employees with resources that promote learning, the overall enrollment rate will increase. However, Schmidt and DeShon 2007 proposes that employees often face challenges in translating their training goals into actionable steps due to conflicting work demands and personal time constraints. Sitzmann and Johnson 2012 investigates that notion, observing that interventions such as creating implementation intentions for enrolling in training and devising a plan to complete the training can significantly improve training utilization.

  • American Society of Training and Development. 2013. State of the industry report. Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press.

    Four hundred seventy-five organizations reported on their continued development. Highlights key findings such as increased investment in employee training, growing use of technology for learning delivery, and the emergence of informal learning approaches.

  • Hurtz, G. M., and K. J. Williams. 2009. Attitudinal and motivational antecedents of participation in voluntary employee development activities. Journal of Applied Psychology 94.3: 635–653.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0014580

    Investigates the attitudinal and motivational factors that influence employees’ participation in voluntary employee development activities. By examining various psychological constructs such as perceived benefits, self-efficacy, intrinsic motivation, and perceived organizational support, the research identifies key antecedents that drive employees’ willingness to engage in voluntary development initiatives. Findings contribute to a better understanding of employee development engagement.

  • Schmidt, A. M., and R. P. DeShon. 2007. What to do? The effects of discrepancies, incentives, and time on dynamic goal prioritization. Journal of Applied Psychology 92.4: 928–941.

    DOI: 10.1037/0021-9010.92.4.928

    Examines the effects of discrepancies, incentives, and time on dynamic goal prioritization. Investigates how individuals make decisions when faced with conflicting goals, varying incentives, and time constraints. Explores the factors that influence goal prioritization and sheds light on the cognitive processes involved in decision-making under complex goal situations.

  • Sitzmann, T., and S. K. Johnson. 2012. The best laid plans: Examining the conditions under which a planning intervention improves learning and reduces attrition. Journal of Applied Psychology 97.5: 967.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0027977

    Examines the effectiveness of a planning intervention in improving learning outcomes and reducing attrition. Explores the conditions under which the planning intervention is most effective, considering factors such as individual characteristics, task complexity, and goal commitment. Findings provide insights into the circumstances in which planning interventions can be successfully utilized to enhance learning and retention.

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