The history of ASTD, which is celebrating its 70th year in 2013, includes the publication of Donald L. Kirkpatrick's four levels of evaluation in two 1950s issues of T+D. Throughout the history of ASTD, measurement and evaluation have played a key role in proving learning's significance in organizations.
We've come a long way since Kirkpatrick's four levels debuted. "Evaluation in terms of results is [preceding] at a slow pace. In a few attempts, researchers have tried to segregate factors other than training that might have had an effect. In most cases, before-and-after measures have been attributed directly to training even though other factors might have been influential," Kirkpatrick wrote in the February 1959 issue of T+D. "Eventually, we may be able to measure human relations training in terms of dollars or cents. But at the present time, our research techniques are not adequate."
Since the 1950s, we have witnessed the evolution of measurement and evaluation. From the addition of Jack Phillips's fifth level to big data analytics and the need to link learning to business goals and strategy, measurement and evaluation is a crucial step in all learning initiatives. "The writing is on the wall for the entire training industry: create and demonstrate business and mission value at Level 4 or risk becoming a nonfactor," wrote James and Wendy Kirkpatrick in the September 2012 issue of T+D.
What metrics do you use to measure intangibles? What ROI metrics matter to your executives? All evaluations must provide more than just evidence of contribution. They must provide proof of a program's connection to improvement in business measures. The training industry has come a long way in the past 60 years, and its value has become evident in many ways. Let's keep it that way!