Design Learning with Measurement in Mind with the Kirkpatrick Model

Measuring learning & development is among one of the top reasons why leaders struggle to get stakeholder buy-in. As a business or HR leader, an understanding of the Kirkpatrick Model model can help you understand, and measure, if your learning efforts are working.

It is likely that we can all agree on one thing when it comes to business: what makes an organization prosperous and truly differentiates one company from the rest is not the service it offers or the product it sells; it’s the people within it.  

That simply means that if you invest in the quality of your team, you’ll be well on your way to outdoing the competition and putting your organization on the map. One sure-fire way to do this is through learning and development (L&D).  

However, L&D efforts are meaningless if the learnings are not retained in measurable ways. There are tons of L&D measurement tools out there, but there’s one that sticks out: the Kirkpatrick model. As a business or HR leader, an understanding of the Kirkpatrick measurement model can help you understand if your learning efforts are working. Below, we’ll tell you exactly how to design learning with measurement in mind. 

What is The Kirkpatrick Model?

True to its name, the Kirkpatrick model is the brainchild of Don Kirkpatrick. The famed L&D expert first created the Kirkpatrick model in 1959 with the aim of helping business leaders to objectively measure the effectiveness of training. However, it was not until 1998 that the Kirkpatrick model came into the limelight after it was revamped and published as a book—The Four Levels of Training Evaluation

To date, this measurement tool continues to revolutionize how business leaders gauge their learning and development strategies. 

The Four Levels of The Kirkpatrick Model Explained

The Kirkpatrick model is made up of four distinct levels: reaction, learning, behavior, and impact. While these stages have remained intact on a macro-level, a lot has changed since their inception. Below, we explain each level of the model from a detailed, new-world perspective.

Level 1: Reaction

The starting point for the Kirkpatrick model is to find out how your team members reacted to the learning and development experience. Did they love it? Or were they dissatisfied?

This level measures whether employees find the learning useful, engaging, and favorable to their work setting. You can investigate their reaction via a post-learning quiz or survey that prompts them to rate their overall L&D experience.

Level 2: Learning

The second Kirkpatrick level evaluates the actual learning that took place, both from a macro and micro standpoint. This is where you measure the learning and development of each team member based on whether they gained the intended knowledge, skills, confidence, and attitude.

To gauge the accuracy and effectiveness of the L&D process, ask your team members to take two tests or quizzes—before and after the exercise. And if you want to reduce measurement inconsistencies down the road, adopt a clear, well-defined scoring process well in advance.

Level 3: Behavior

Behavior is by far the most important stage of the Kirkpatrick model. This is where you gauge whether the learning experience genuinely impacted your team members and, if yes, which of the acquired skills can make it into the workplace.

The good news about measuring behavior is that it can give you a bird’s-eye view of your workplace, including issues that might peg back your team members’ productivity.

Level 4: Results

Measuring learning using the Kirkpatrick model wouldn’t be possible without the results stage. How else will you know if your expectations were met?

This Kirkpatrick stage focuses on measuring direct outcomes. Here’s where you gauge the learning against your company’s key business outcomes— the performance indicators that were set prior to the start of the L&D process. Common performance indicators include reduced absenteeism amongst staff members, improved ROI, higher employee morale, and better internal process quality.

Implementing the Kirkpatrick Model: 5 Best Practices for Designing Measurement-Focused Learning

Now that you’ve grasped the nuts and bolts of the Kirkpatrick model, let’s take a look at this measuring tool in action.

Design Learning with Measurement in Mind

The truth is that reverse-engineering measurement is a daunting prospect, one that can deplete your organization’s training resources significantly. So before executing the Kirkpatrick model, it’s important to first envision your idea of success and how you can measure it.

Nothing beats the disappointment of ending up with learning outcomes that are way off the mark. But once you nail this practice, the rest will come easy. 

Let Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) Guide Your Path

Without key performance indicators to inform learning measurement objectives, your Kirkpatrick model implementation will likely fall at the first hurdle. This is a risk you can’t afford to take, given the level of investment required to successfully measure learning.

That said, leaders must adopt well-expounded KPIs to better understand what needs to change within their organizations. These metrics range from individual competencies and skills to organizational capabilities to strategic business goals. 

No Objectives, No Results

Put your best foot forward by identifying the learning and development objectives that you need to address at the tail-end of the Kirkpatrick measurement model. A great way to do this is through concise, well-thought-out questions whose answers are measurable and actionable. The answers you get will act as the guiding objectives.

Examples of questions you can ask to inform your learning measurement objectives include those:

  • Based on Roles: How has a specific role (insert type of role here) changed over time? Are my team members doing enough to fulfill the said roles
  • Based on Individual Needs: How do my employees prefer to learn? What’s likely to stand in their way while applying the learning?
  • Based on Business Needs: What kind of strategic objectives will the learning support? Do my team members need to step up? Do they need to raise their capabilities a notch higher? Does it make sense to change the current workplace culture?


By laying down the objectives you want to achieve, you’ll be better placed to track your employees’ learning progress against them.

Settle for Learning Measurements that Bring in Real Value (Less is more)

Consider how you’ll implement the learning and development outcomes you’ll get from the Kirkpatrick model. Is it possible to act upon the measurement results, and do these actions have tangible business value? Take time to think about the issues you’re trying to solve with the model. The more specific you can be with your learning measurements; the more accurate the Kirkpatrick model’s results will be. This will likely lead to higher learning ROI in the long haul.

Keep Every Stakeholder in the Loop

It is one thing to design organizational learning with measurement in mind, but it’s a whole different story trying to convince organizational stakeholders that the Kirkpatrick model is worth a shot. Despite its many obvious benefits, some stakeholders might view it as a threat to their existing learning measurement tools.

As a business leader or HR partner, you must be willing and ready to educate your organization about the whys of measuring learning using the Kirkpatrick model. Partner with line managers and departmental heads to earn their commitment and ensure you’re all singing the same tune prior to its implementation.

Here at Sounding Board, we believe in the power of coaching in building outstanding, impactful business leaders and HR partners alike. Our coaches can help you make sure your learning efforts are effective tools that keep measurement in mind. Contact us or request a demo today to learn more about managing, scaling, and measuring for success.

Join Our Newsletter!

Newsletter Signup

Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on facebook

Request A Demo

We Develop The World's Most Impactful Leaders

From leading remote workforces, building productive teams, to improving diversity, equity, and inclusion, Sounding Board has virtual and scalable enterprise solutions that are urgently required to adapt to rapidly changing workplace environments.

Demo Request

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Play Video
Play Video
Play Video

Piyush Gupta

VP of Product and Technology
Piyush Gupta is VP of Product and Technology at Sounding Board and champions the voice of customers and users with deep empathy. Piyush envisions Sounding Board to be the first window of coaching experience for professionals and leaders worldwide. His approach is deeply rooted in proven scientific research, modeling human behaviors, and data-informed insights to deliver mindset shifts and desired business outcomes for organizations at scale. He believes that a world-class UX is key to drive simplicity that will lead to millions of professionals to access coaching for their development. Piyush co-invented the world’s first ‘landmark intelligent driving directions’ technology that led Google to redesign their routing algorithms for the Asian markets. For the next decade, he led two disruptive FinTech companies to the market leadership positions and delivered two award-winning products that serve more than 70 million users worldwide. His teams filed 20+ patents while he himself authored three patents. He is an active startup investor and advises selected AI-driven startups on business and product strategy. He is the recipient of the World Summit Award, one of the most prestigious international honors for product innovators. In addition, he is a James Swartz fellow, the most prestigious fellowship at Carnegie Mellon University funded by the founder of the iconic venture firm, Accel Partners. Piyush holds an MS in Software Management from Carnegie Mellon University.

Tommy Perkins

SVP OF SALES, PARTNERSHIP & CUSTOMER SUCCESS

Tommy is at his best helping clients think through complex challenges in order to create a positive impact on their organizations. He thrives when interacting with others whether helping his team succeed or working with clients to build long-term partnerships. He has extensive experience consulting with organizations on driving their employee experience, guiding organizations through change, and working to ensure organizations are moving the needle when it comes to their results.

Most recently, Tommy was a Client Services Leader overseeing some of GP’s most prized accounts on a global level. His responsibilities included overall client growth strategy, retention, and satisfaction. He represented all of GP Strategies’ major business lines including leadership, coaching, and engagement, digital transformation, outsourced services, and technology implementation solutions.

Before GP Strategies, Tommy spent several years with TTEC Digital (formerly rogenSI) where he led the sales team,  eventually becoming the regional Learning & Performance practice leader for North America. While managing the P&L and sales team he also led the largest global relationship for the firm (Deloitte Globally). During his time at TTEC, he focused on delivering blended learning solutions that incorporate technology and hands-on training. Before TTEC Digital, he spent several years dedicated to strength-based leadership disrupting the business landscape regarding performance management and employee engagement with thought leader Marcus Buckingham at The Marcus Buckingham Company / TMBC (now ADP).

Tommy has had the privilege of working with some of the most well-known global brands in professional services, retail, technology, and healthcare including Deloitte, Facebook, Microsoft, Bank of America, Novartis, Gap Inc., lululemon, and Intel. Several projects he led for Deloitte were Global GNPS, New Partner Pivot, NextGen Partner Program Deloitte China, Present to Win, the RPM project on performance management, and Unconscious Bias.

Tommy holds a BS in Health Sciences from Texas A&M University, and an MBA from Universidad del CEMA.

Learn How to Build Agile and Productive Leaders Now!

From leading remote workforces, building productive teams, to improving diversity, equity, and inclusion, Sounding Board has virtual and scalable enterprise solutions that are urgently required to adapt to rapidly changing workplace environments.

Demo Request

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

We respect your privacy! Your information will not be shared

Join our coaching team

Our expert coaches combine top notch coaching, business acumen and organizational savvy to truly become your leadership “Sounding Board”. Sounding Board coaches are all industry certified and strongly vetted going through a 3 step qualification process and receiving ongoing supervision and development.

Lori Mazan

Co-Founder & CCO Sounding Board, Inc.
Lori Mazan is the Co-Founder and Chief Coaching Officer of Sounding Board, the preeminent global leadership development enterprise platform changing the face of leadership development through innovative technology for leaders at all levels of an organization. Lori is a seasoned executive coach who has guided hundreds of corporate executives through 1:1 coaching focused on business outcomes and developing critical leadership skills. Client companies advanced by Lori’s expertise include Fortune titans such as Chevron and Sprint as well as high growth and public companies like Intellikine, and Tapjoy, plus 10XGenomics, which became a public company in 2019 while top executives worked with Lori and the Sounding Board team.
Lori has spent the last 25 years coaching C-Suite executives to leadership excellence. Many of those public and private company CEO’s expressed that they would have liked this caliber of coaching earlier in their careers. Inspired by these experiences, Lori joined with Christine to launch Sounding Board as a feedback-driven, cloud-based leadership coaching platform that could maintain best-in-class leadership coaching while lowering costs to make it affordable and scalable for leaders at every level of their careers.
Before founding Sounding Board, Lori received her Masters’ in Adult Educational Psychology/Counseling from the University of San Francisco and a Bachelors’ in Psychology from the University of Virginia. Lori is an educator and has spent over 10 years as a professor of social psychology and group dynamics while acting as the interim Dean of Students at Holy Names University, She is certified by the industry’s gold standard, the Coaches Training Institute, and is a founding member of the Genentech Preferred Network of Coaches. Sounding Board is one of <3% of sole female founded startups receiving venture funding. In 2019 Sounding Board was selected as 1 of 7 startups (out of 100+ applicants) as part of SAP’s HR tech cohort, a group that represents the rising stars of the next-gen HR ecosystem.

Christine Tao

Co-Founder & CEO Sounding Board, Inc.
Christine Tao is the co-founder & CEO at Sounding Board, a Silicon Valley startup redefining how organizations are developing their leaders. Her extraordinarily rapid career growth to executive management in the media, mobile and tech sectors of Silicon Valley became her inspiration for founding Sounding Board. As she began to manage larger teams and be responsible for growing revenues, it became clear that she needed a “sounding board” to coach her on the development of her leadership skills. That’s where her Sounding Board co-founder, Lori Mazan came on the scene. A seasoned executive coach focused on leadership development, Lori coached Christine on real-world leadership skills that had a direct impact on business outcomes. Based on her positive and impactful experience with leadership development, Christine was driven to make leadership development coaching accessible to people at all levels of the organization.
Christine advises several startups, is a budding angel investor and is also a Tory Burch Foundation Fellow, a foundation dedicated to investing in the success and sustainability of women entrepreneurs.
Prior to co-founding Sounding Board, Christine was a Senior Vice President of Developer Relations at Tapjoy, a venture-backed, leading mobile advertising & publishing network. She led the growth of Tapjoy’s publisher advertising business from 0 to over $100 million in revenues in less than 3 years. Prior to that she led e-commerce partnerships and strategy at YouTube. Christine holds an MBA in Marketing & Operations from Wharton and a BA in Business Administration from UC Berkeley.

Want to learn more about how Sounding Board can help your organization?

Simply fill out the form below and we will be in contact soon. If you are interested in becoming a Sounding Board Coach please visit our careers page.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.