Management Training Evaluation
Kurt Kraiger
  • LAST REVIEWED: 10 February 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 February 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0100


Training evaluation is the systematic collection of data to better manage training programs and training systems. To be effective, evaluation should answer two questions: How did I do? How can I do better? Note that the form of the question and the necessary data vary by stakeholder role (e.g., learner, trainer, training manager, field supervisor). The evaluation literature recognizes two broad forms of evaluation that overlap with these questions: summative and formative. Summative evaluation addresses the question of whether training “worked”—did trainees master the knowledge and skills covered in training, did training result in improved performance back on the job? Summative evaluation tends to be primarily quantitative and conducted after training. Formative evaluation is typically done during training and is more qualitative. Formative evaluation will often focus on the design and delivery of training and is oriented to improving the quality of the learning experience and the learning outcomes for participants. However, rather than thinking of two “types” of evaluation, it is more instructive that all evaluation should address each question from the perspective of all stakeholders. It is also interesting to note that training evaluation was rarely discussed and likely rarely done prior to about 1950. Most industrial training was done on the job by the trainer, and training continued until the trainee could perform effectively; hence the need to evaluate that training was nil. However, as organizations grew in complexity and became more hierarchical, immediate supervisors became less knowledgeable about work tasks, and thus less capable of training subordinates to proficiency; with the emergence of training professionals in the 1940s and 1950s came the recognition of new methods. Through much of the 1960s and 1970s, the development of Training Evaluation Models and methods was guided by training practitioners. However, since the late 1980s, training researchers have advanced new taxonomies of training outcomes, new models for training evaluation, and new ways of linking training evaluation results to organizational planning and decision making. Throughout this article, “taxonomy” will be used to refer to the classification of a set of variables (i.e., different ways in which learning in training can be measured). “Model” will be used to refer to an approach for measuring training outcomes (i.e., a method for deciding which outcomes are the most important to measure for a particular training program). Note that a particular source can include both a taxonomy (a classification of learning outcomes) and a model (an approach to choosing and implementing learning outcomes).

General Overview

The topic of training evaluation can be subdivided into the areas of evaluation models, training outcomes, evaluation design, and statistical analysis. While each topic area deserves a deep dive, an evaluation novice would be best suited by broader treatments that tie the topic areas together. A good starting point is either chapters in Ford 2021 or Saks and Haccoun 2018. Both works thoroughly discuss all aspects of training evaluation and link evaluation to facilitating employee learning. Ford provides examples that are more United States based, Saks and Haccoun provide examples with Canadian companies. Cascio and Aguinis 2014 can be read either as an overview or as a foundational article with regard to topics on research design. Salas, et al. 2003 provides an overview of evaluation methodology that is well supported by research but stated more in terms of principles and best practices.

  • Cascio, W. F., and H. Aguinis. Applied psychology in human resource management. 7th ed. Harlow, UK: Pearson Education, 2014.

    This is a graduate-level textbook on human resource management, not training. However, two chapters are devoted to training, and one to training evaluation. The evaluation chapter focuses more on research design, but has a very thorough section on measuring the financial impact of training.

  • Ford, J. K. Learning in organizations: An evidence-based approach. New York and Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2021.

    The author recognizes that training occurs to promote learning, and he thus discusses training practices—including evaluation—from the perspective of what best promotes and maintains learning. The single chapter on evaluation maintains this learning foundation and emphasizes questions of research design and making inferences from training results.

  • Saks, A. M., and R. Haccoun. Managing performance through training and development. 8th ed. Toronto: Nelson Canada, 2018.

    This is perhaps the most comprehensive (and deep) overview of training evaluation models and methods. It is appropriate for both undergraduates and graduate students. The authors devote one chapter to Training Evaluation, and a second to the “Costs and Benefits of Training Programs,” which is simply a more detailed analysis of training evaluation.

  • Salas, E., L. M. Milham, and C. A. Bowers. “Training evaluation in the military: Misconceptions, opportunities, and challenges.” Military Psychology 15 (2003): 3–16.

    DOI: 10.1207/S15327876MP1501_01

    This is an easy read, geared more for practitioners that provides a high-level overview of evaluation myths (e.g., “training evaluation is not needed; we know that it works”) as well a straightforward overview of what to assess and how to design effective evaluations.

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