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Ask a Trainer: Who Is Responsible for Level 3 Evaluation?

Tuesday, June 30, 2020
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In this week’s Ask a Trainer guest post, Jim Kirkpatrick offers advice on working with managers to evaluate learning and performance.

Dear Jim,

I’m a training manager struggling with how to transition from Level 2 evaluation to Level 3 evaluation. I’ve seen plenty of research showing that most trainers only do Level 1 and Level 2 evaluation, so at least I’m in good company. But I’m still frustrated that I can’t make the leap to Level 3. I think the issue is that my organization assumes I’ll handle anything related to training evaluation, but in reality, managers need to take the lead on Level 3 evaluation. Almost none of the managers I work with see it that way, and I’m getting frustrated. Is there anything I can do to hold managers accountable to implement Level 3 evaluation? I would also appreciate a gut-check on who should be accountable for the change in performance that we try to measure in Level 3. Is it the learner or the manager?


The first thing you need to do as a trainer is earn the right to be heard by managers. You do this by listening to managers when they explain their employees’ performance issues, and then talking about these issues with the managers.

Training alone is not going to get the job done. When the employees get back to their jobs, they suffer from human nature—everybody does, including me—which means I don’t really do the things I should do and instead I do the things that I feel like doing. Without some accountability—such as coaching, mentoring, touch-bases, and team meetings—I, along with 90 percent of my colleagues, will slip back to what I was doing before. We need to convince managers that partnering with us on learning and performance is going to maximize their employees’ performance.

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The more we can get managers involved, the more their employees are going to do what they need to do while feeling enabled and loyal and proud of themselves. You need to convince managers that to defeat human nature, we have to stack the deck against it, which means offering employees every opportunity to do the job well, feel good, and contribute.

When it comes to accountability between the management and learner, there should be an equal partnership. Just as we want learners to be actively involved in their learning instead of being passive recipients in the classroom, we also want them to be actively involved in their performance. This means that when they’re stuck with something, they need to take responsibility to reach out to a peer, or a community of practice, or a help desk. At the same time, management needs to reach out to see how employees are doing and, if they’re struggling, figure out how to get them unstuck. It’s absolutely 50–50, but the talent development professional also needs to be involved.



Learn more about Level 3 evaluation from Jim Kirkpatrick on the ATD Accidental Trainer podcast. His episode will air on July 1, 2020.

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If you have a question for Ask a Trainer, send it to [email protected]. You can find answers to previous questions by visiting the Ask a Trainer hub. Tim will be back next week to tackle a new question.



We welcome your comments and engagement on these posts. All posts are reviewed to ensure appropriateness based on ATD’s requirements for postings in our online communities.

Please note: Content shared in this column is provided by the author and may not reflect the perspectives of ATD.

About the Author

James Kirkpatrick is a thought leader and change driver in training evaluation and the creator of the New World Kirkpatrick Model. Using his 15 years of experience in the corporate world, including eight years as a corporate training manager, he trains and consults for corporate, government, military, and humanitarian organizations around the world. He is passionate about assisting learning professionals in redefining themselves as strategic business partners to become a viable force in the workplace. His latest book, co-authored with Wendy Kirkpatrick, is Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Training Evaluation (ATD Press).

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Partnerships are so important. It is critical to establish a plan with your stakeholders at the start of the project so everyone knows their responsibilities and will be accountable to their roles after training is completed.
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