Training on Trial

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Why Read Training on Trial?

Compelling Evidence That Training Can Yield Bottom-Line Results

As you already know, training budgets are among the first to be cut when economic times get tough. Whether you’re one of the in-house survivors or a struggling consultant, you can no longer coast on lofty notions about continuous learning and employee development. You need to provide compelling evidence that training delivers bottom-line results.

“We do not have a choice but to defend ourselves,” attests Dr. James D. Kirkpatrick, one of the world’s most respected training and management consultants. In Training on Trial, Kirkpatrick and his co-counsel, Wendy Kayser Kirkpatrick, guide you through every critical step of making a case for the value of training—whether to your CFO or a potential client. Using a courtroom trial as a metaphor, the Kirkpatricks demonstrate how to refute the charge that training does not make a significant enough impact on business to justify its costs. To help you represent yourself to the jury—that is, whoever has the power to judge your relative value—the authors call on eminent industry expert Dr. Donald Kirkpatrick. Dr. Kirkpatrick’s famous Four Levels Evaluation Model has been adapted and applied to provide the foundation for your winning defense.

Steps to Leverage the Kirkpatrick Business Partnership Model

With Training on Trial in your corner, you’ll go beyond spouting training jargon to demonstrating the tactical and strategic business value of your training programs. While working towards creating irrefutable connections between all types of learning and performance, you’ll come to:

  • Build expertise and become genuinely involved in your company’s or client’s business.
  • Pledge to work together to positively impact a pressing business need or pivotal business opportunity.
  • Ask the jury their expectations and revise your own to be more realistic and mutually satisfying.
  • Develop a plan, targeting the key drivers of performance success after training has taken place.
  • Execute your initiative and deliver a stellar ROE (Return on Expectations).

Case Studies to Illustrate Key Principles

Throughout, you’ll find key action points and business partner tips. To add to the case, the Kirkpatricks spotlight star case studies from their practice, including Georgia-Pacific, Clarian Health, Farm Credit Canada, and the U.S. Department of Defense.


Judith Hale, Ph.D.,CPT – Hale Associates

“Training on Trial should be a required read for anyone in the business of buying, building and delivering training.”

Excerpt from the book

(From pp. 12-14)

Training Alone Is Not the Answer

The question trainers must ask themselves is: Are we guilty? Much of our training and consulting work during the last few years has had to do with creating value and (only) then demonstrating that value. We are afraid that, in a lot of instances, the training industry is indeed guilty of not bringing relative value to the business. On average, we spend little time and few resources preparing the participants (and their supervisors) prior to training, so as to maximize their learning during the training. We spend even less time reinforcing what the participants have learned so that the knowledge and skills will transfer to sustainable, on-the-job behaviors. Thus, we are guilty of not providing nearly as much value to the business as we could.

Business Partnership Tip: Carefully consider new training requests in terms of an overall business plan. What value to the business is the training intended to provide, and what pre- and post-training support are possible?

We are also guilty in another sense. When we do provide value to our internal and external customers, we don’t always do a good job of demonstrating that value. Wendy and Jim are frequently called upon to conduct impact studies for our clients. So, we ask our clients to identify two mission-critical programs or processes that we then evaluate in terms of ultimate value to the business, name the success factors in doing so, and make recommendations to improve and leverage the impact going forward. Many of the professionals with whom we work are quite capable of conducting and administering the same data review, holding the interviews, meeting with the focus groups, and conducting the surveys that we do, but either they don’t have the time or do not have enough credibility with their business partners for their results to be believed.

Four-level evaluation is designed to improve all types of programs (both formal and informal, and the processes), leverage learning through Level 3, and ultimately facilitate the development of a Chain of Evidence to demonstrate the value of the training.

A good friend and colleague of ours at a major Midwest U.S. manufacturer recently said to us: “Please caution your readers about something. Just because senior leaders are not asking for you to provide evidence that your worth exceeds your expenses, don’t be fooled into thinking that you are on solid ground. I have seen instances where these executives report a strong belief in training, development, ‘our people are our strongest asset,’ and so on. But when budget time comes and there are cuts to be made, they almost always start with training.”

We could not agree with that statement more! When Jim worked at First Indiana Bank as a training director, the boss was good about telling him what was expected of his department and him. Unfortunately, her expectations were typically described in terms of pleasing the internal customers more than in achieving favorable business results. We were able to meet those expectations for almost eight years. By the time Jim received his “summons” from Robert, the new CEO, it was too late to gather and present the evidence that would have found a decision in our favor. Instead, Robert went around to many of the bank’s neighborhood branches and gathered his own evidence. So the verdict for Jim’s team came back as “guilty” — not enough of the right kind of evidence to convince the executive to keep his whole team.

Additional information


James D. Kirkpatrick and Wendy Kayser Kirkpatrick






AMACOM (February 3, 2010)

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