Maximizing the Impact of All Your Training Efforts in 2020

You’re working hard to deliver training that is as good as you can make it—now make sure your clients (internal and external) view that training as a solution, not just an activity.

I’d like to share with you the three things I personally have done to create add value and make a difference in all of my training for more than 50 years. These are three things you must do in order to ensure your training delivers the results both you and your clients want. It doesn’t matter who you are or what your “experience level” is. It doesn’t matter what content you teach or whether you deliver your own programs or buy them off the shelf. It doesn’t matter what you currently are doing to achieve results. And it doesn’t cost you a thing.

Answer just one question and then we’ll dive in:

How do you currently measure your results?

Is it smile sheets or do you actually pre- and post-test? Do you track what’s learned back on the job or do you use metrics to demonstrate measurable value to your stakeholders in dollars and sense? Regardless of your current measures, what do you want your results to be? Increase smile sheet ratings, improve test scores, or go to another level entirely?

Do you want straight 10s on your evaluations? Do you want all participants to score 90 percentplus on the post-test? Do you want to see results when you use Kirkpatrick Level 3 (it gets used) and Level 4 (it makes a measurable difference to the organization) results?

Figure it out in your own mind. Verbalize it. Write it down.

Now, I can’t tell you how much, but I can tell you how.

The question is simple:

“What does it take to grow the impact of my training and performance efforts and have my clients recognize that what I do for them is an investment—not a cost?”


In examining my own training and performance consulting business—and in studying the successes of hundreds of my colleagues and clients—I’ve discovered that there are three simple keys to increasing the impact of any training or performance intervention:

Key #1: Make sure you have the right solution. You need to carefully examine performance problems that come your way. When performance is the question, training is your sixth answer. Do you have the ability to walk your clients (either internal or external) through a three-step process—I call this my Performance Solutions Cube—so that both you and they are convinced before one penny is invested or one minute is wasted that you have a workable solution that will solve the problem and get results?

There are few parts of an organization that cannot improve performance. Your job is to help them find the right solution—and then help them implement it. Your focus needs to be on results, not activities.

You want your training and performance improvement efforts to reach as many people as possible and as deeply into the organization as possible.

Key #2: Increase participation whenever you can. You need more involvement in all of your training programs. In 451 BC, a protégé of Confucius said, “What I hear, I forget. What I see, I remember. But what I do, I understand.” More than 2,000 years later, this is still the most succinct formula for improving performance I’ve ever heard.

Why is this important?

In simple terms, just because I’ve said it, doesn’t mean you’ve learned it. Our training and performance improvement efforts must be focused on people doing things differently. To do that, they must both remember and understand.

But without involvement and participation, that can’t happen. However, increasing involvement and participation in the classroom will not automatically increase the results you’re looking for. We also must increase involvement before and after training. This participation includes not only the learner, but also the manager or supervisor who sends him or her. Why? Because only when the manager sees the value will the participant have the support needed to practice the skills and apply the knowledge once he or she is back on the job. Only when the manager sees the value will he or she properly prepare a participant to attend training so the learner is fully engaged. This means the manager now sees training as an investment, not a cost.

Growing the number of attendees in your programs will not automatically bring results. You must have a system in place that involves more managers in implementing transfer of training action plans.

Key #3: Have a “pain conversation.” In other words, help your clients (internal or external) quantify, in both time and money, the cost of living with the current situation. You’re working hard to deliver training that is as good as you can make it—now make sure the training is viewed as a solution, not just an activity.

One of the first things a trainer learns is Kirkpatrick’s 4 Levels of Evaluation:

Level 1: Did they like it? Measured through end-of-course evaluations, often called “smile sheets.”

Level 2: Did they learn it? Measured through careful pre- and post-course testing.

Level 3: Did they use it? Measured by postcourse on-the-job observation and participant and manager interviews.

Level 4: Did it make a difference to the organization? Measured by changes in metrics agreed to before implementing the performance solution.

Which of these do you currently use? How well do you use them? For more than 25 years, I’ve been telling people that we need to turn Kirkpatrick upside down. Why? Because currently 90 percent of all organizations use Level 1 evaluation, and less than 5 percent use Level 4.

Yet the real value of any training or performance solution lies in Level 4. For too long, we’ve been told it is too expensive, too difficult to measure, etc. I think there’s another reason. We’re scared. We’re afraid that if we measure it, we’ll find our training adds no value and makes no difference. So we avoid it.

I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to avoid it. It is possible to measure, and it is not all that difficult. If you are following our guidelines, you’ll demonstrate over and over again that what you’re doing is making a difference—a huge difference!

But it takes two things to measure at Level 4:

  1. Having a “pain conversation” before any intervention takes place.
  2. Digging deep enough to have your client understand the real cost of continuing to live with the problem.

Why is this important? Because training is a process, not an event—and that process must involve and deeply engage each person in order to maximize results.


Decision-makers routinely will approve $20,000 for a training program. Just as routinely, they will invest 10 times that amount for a solution that offers a 5-to-1 return on investment!

I have seen this happen repeatedly with my clients. Clients will call ready to spend money on training, but after a pain conversation, they will invest 10 or 20 times the amount because we have helped identify a performance problem or series of problems; identified solutions; identified metrics that quantified the real cost of allowing the performance problem to remain; and then supported implementation of solutions that yielded real, measurable Level 4 results.

How much would you pay for a solution that cut a $1.4 million annual loss in hard dollars to less than $300,000? And when your client (either internal or external) sees that kind of result, are you viewed as a mere provider? Or are you moving up the scale to becoming a trusted advisor?

I want to be a trusted advisor, not a mere provider— don’t you?

If you’d like my Performance Solutions Cube job aid, send an e-mail to with “Cube Gift” in the subject line, and share with me what you’ve gained from this particular column.

As always, until next time, add value and make a difference—because that’s what it all comes down to!

Bob Pike, CSP, CPLP FELLOW, CPAE Speakers Hall of Fame, is known as the “trainer’s trainer.” He is the author of more than 30 books, including “Creative Training Techniques Handbook” and his newest book, “The Expert’s Guide to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) to Training.” You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook using bobpikectt.