How to Use Drivers to Ensure Training Success

April 23, 2014

This article by Larry Bird, Section Manager for Engineering Training at Bruce Power, provides a brief introduction to drivers and reviews their place in the training world.

Kirkpatrick’s four levels of training evaluation are structured as a sequence of ways to evaluate training programs.

L1: Did they like it? (smile sheets)

L2: Did they learn it in the short term? (checkout)

L3: Did they change any behaviors?

L4: Was there sufficient return on expectations (previously referred to as “return on investment”)?

The Kirkpatrick Model stresses “starting with the end in mind,” essentially beginning with Level 4 and moving backwards in order to better establish the desired outcome before ever planning the training program, if indeed one is warranted at all. When an issue or business need is identified that requires the people involved to change their behavior, an analysis of the issue usually is conducted. This analysis will determine if there is a knowledge or skills gap that can be closed via training.

Whether or not training can help, there are other actions that should be implemented in order to sustain the changes in behavior. Performance support or other activities may be carried out, and many stakeholders can participate, including senior executives, managers, HR professionals, team members and co-workers. Performance support and other similar activities are called drivers, and the need for them was reinforced in a study conducted by Brinkerhoff (2005). 

In short, Brinkerhoff showed that if, in your efforts to change behaviors, 90% of the effort is in the delivery of training, then 70% of the people will try new skills and fail. However, if 50% of the effort is in the delivery, and 50% is in follow-up activities, then 85% of the people will sustain new behaviors. 

There will be times when training is not the best intervention to improve performance, and sustained behavior changes can be achieved without the expense. Sometimes performance improvements are more impacted by factors such as having a thorough understanding of the job site conditions and establishing proper procedures, i.e., drivers. In any case, training is the more expensive proposition. 

So what are these things that are not training but that can sustain behavioral changes and improve performance?  They are drivers, also known as reinforcers or enablers; they are the processes and systems that reinforce actions and monitor, encourage or reward performance of critical behaviors on the job. They are a shared responsibility of the training function, line managers and training graduates. Briefly, they are the things that are done after training, or instead of training, that reinforce the required behavior. If training is provided, drivers will reinforce the learning and create a support and accountability package to ensure that training graduates actually do what they learned how to do in training.

Drivers represent one of the biggest keys to success for any initiative, and success with drivers requires working directly with the managers and supervisors during the planning stage to get their ideas as to what drivers will work best and what those drivers will support. You will need their active participation for a large initiative to be successful; the more important the initiative, the greater the number of drivers that should be investigated. Planned and careful attention to drivers will ensure that the investment in them yields the anticipated returns. Explanations of drivers should be built directly into training programs. 

If factors that impede performance are removed, then performance will improve. Drivers can be used to remove these impediments after a training needs analysis identifies them. A typical analysis may include the following:

  • Do they know they need to do it?
  • Do they know how to do it?
  • Can they do it?
  • Will they do it?

Training can help with the second of these points (do they know how to do it?), while the others will require something different – perhaps a driver or two. 

For example, if an analysis determines that work flow interruptions are impeding performance, then the impediment may be removed by drivers that will address the interruptions by identifying them, eliminating them, controlling them, preventing them, monitoring them or mitigating them. 

Examples of Drivers

The following examples are meant to inspire your own creative thinking in establishing appropriate drivers for your organization.

Standards and Expectations

Ensure that clear standards and expectations have been communicated. Because it is easy to do this in a training setting, a training event can be set up to do just that, even when no training would otherwise be warranted. 

Supervisor monitoring

  • Provide antecedents and consequences (ref Aubrey Daniels)
  • Monitor for and counter barriers that arise (time, resources, job design, etc.)
  • Monitor for and resolve conflicting priorities
  • Monitor the work environment
  • Spot checks
  • Work review check sheet
  • Work review
  • Post-training briefings
  • Post-job briefings
  • Interviews


  • Ensure that feedback is timely, accurate, sufficiently frequent, understandable, focused on ‘controllable’ performance, specific, relevant and given by someone who matters
  • Observe training graduate performance on the job
  • Coaching 
  • Mentoring
  • Encouragement
  • Communications (clear expectations about the level and quality of performance, the reasons for the task/job, performance levels required, feedback on performance, etc.)
  • Incorporate positive reinforcement when you catch graduates doing things right
  • Peer audit
  • Peer-to-peer support and accountability
  • Employees share goals with each other and actively hold each other accountable for team-based performance goals
  • Positive interventions
  • Recognition
  • Reinforcement
  • 360-degree feedback
  • Conduct surveys

Training Related

  • On-the-job training
  • Post-training reminders
  • Follow-up sessions
  • Refresher training
  • Survey: please provide one specific example of how you are applying the learned principles in your work
  • Self-directed learning


  • Dashboard
  • Visual management board
  • Track compliance
  • Track non-compliance


  • Ensure that the consequences for performing well are positive
  • Eliminate the rewarding of undesired performance
  • Bonuses
  • Incentives for meeting goals
  • Integrate rewards and recognition for execution of critical behaviors
  • Pay for performance
  • Tribute points


  • Ensure that procedures and other work documents are usable, accurate, controlled and up to date
  • Ensure that job-site conditions and work flows are such that a qualified person could perform the task effectively
  • Ensure that adequate resources are available
  • Ensure that the time allotted, people, information, procedures, work documents, tools and support equipment are adequate
  • Ensure that either prior to or during the performance of the task, multiple or competing priorities are eliminated or taken into account
  • Ensure that support is available (Supervisor, Engineering, Operations, Maintenance, etc.)
  • Minimize distractions and interruptions
  • Ensure that the worker has enough authority
  • Ensure that work preparations and pre-job briefs are conducted commensurate with the risk of the activity
  • Ensure that goals, roles, and responsibilities for the task are discussed and understood before the work begins
  • Ensure that if a change has taken place since the last time the task was performed, the appropriate change management has occurred prior to task performance


  • Action planning
  • Action plans prepared during the course
  • Integrate new behaviors into performance reviews and annual task planning
  • Executive modeling
  • Role modeling
  • Visible management support
  • Job aids
  • Check sheets
  • Self-monitoring
  • Supervisors are available to encourage, answer questions or provide additional practice
  • Make the work exciting
  • Create commitment with a change-management plan and participant support groups

About the Author

Larry Bird is a Professional Engineer and a 1979 graduate in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Alberta. He is Kirkpatrick bronze level certified, and since May 2009, he has served as the Section Manager for Engineering Training at Bruce Power. Previously, Larry was licensed at the NRU research reactor in Chalk River and served as the System Engineer for the Reactor Regulating System at Bruce A. He has 12 years of experience as the Engineering Section Manager for Bruce Power.

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Additional Resources

Kirkpatrick Four Levels® Evaluation Certification Program – Bronze Level

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