Richard WolinTraining Success: How Do You Know?

By Richard Wolin, Director of Training Services and MMTC Northern Michigan Region

How do you assess the effectiveness of a training program? This is a question our office takes very seriously. Our aim is to deliver value to our clients in the classroom, in their workplace, and most importantly, after we leave. Let’s look at an example of how we try to design our programs to deliver the maximum impact.

A number of weeks ago, I attended the graduation celebration for our NMC Lean Champion candidates. The individuals presented their final projects and learning experiences as part of the celebration event. Each person spoke about their Lean Champion experience in different terms: a few discussed what it meant to them personally, others presented specific projects they had completed, and still others talked about the impact of the projects on their organizations.

The audience was a mix of business owners, executives, managers, and front-line operators. I wondered about their view as observers. Given the wide range of experiences presented, did they think the program was successful?

It is probably true that people who participate in training would like it to be fun and entertaining but also expect to learn something. Many attendees would expect to be able to apply their new knowledge and skills to something they are trying to improve. Furthermore, if an employer or organization is paying for the training, chances are they want the learner to bring back and apply the new skills to the workplace with the ultimate goal of improving the organization.

In his 1975 book, Evaluating Training Programs, Donald Kirkpatrick outlined his “Four Levels of Training Evaluation.” This is a model NMC Training Services uses to develop training and coaching programs. Below is a summary of the four levels with my observations of the Lean Champion presentations:

  • Level 1: “Reaction.” This is how participants feel about the learning experience. Is the training and trainer enjoyable, the location comfortable, materials clear, etc.?
    • A number of the Lean Champion candidates indicated that holding class onsite at participating companies and being able to “practice” where the work is actually done added a lot of value. They also enjoyed the engaging and challenging approach of the trainer and the hands-on format of the training process.
  • Level 2: “Learning.” This refers to providing evidence of learning in the training. In other words, is the learner able to show or demonstrate they understand the content during class?
    • A number of the Lean Champion candidates presented evidence of their understanding and application of the new skills. Completed A3 planning tools, current and future state value stream maps, kanban card replenishment systems, and workplace organization (5S) action plans provided clear evidence that learning had occurred in the classroom.
  • Level 3: “Behavior.” This refers to whether or not the skills have transferred from the classroom to the workplace. Is there evidence that the skills and knowledge are being applied?
    • Champion presentations included before and after photos from their organizations including workspaces that had been organized and labeled, visual management boards, kanban card replenishment systems, rearranged work cells, etc.
  • Level 4: “Results.” This refers to evidence that changes in the workplace are having an impact on the organization. What outcome metrics have changed in the workplace?
    • The Lean Champion participants included the following examples:
      • Reduced setup time which turned an unprofitable product into a profitable one
      • A dramatic increase in on-time shipping
      • Shop utilization rate went up from 50% to 95%

As the presentations wrapped up, it was clear our Lean Champion Certification training had an impact on both people and organizations. It was not just that the learners enjoyed it, but the new knowledge was really making a difference in how they viewed their work and how their organizations were functioning.

Next time someone asks you if the training you attended was good, hopefully you will look at that question a little bit differently; I know I do.

Richard Wolin, Director of Training Services
MMTC-North Region at Northwestern Michigan College
1701 East Front Street; Traverse City, MI 49686
(231) 995-2003

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