Cordell speaks with Chris Kirchner about ways to build motivation and buy-in. Chris discusses the five-level framework about the theory of behavior change. He has over 20 years of experience in end-to-end development, management and evaluation of corporate projects. You can connect with Chris on LinkedIn here.
Announcer: Welcome to “Training Unleashed,” the show that will help you design and deliver training that’s off the chain and will make a difference. Now here’s your host, Cordell Riley.
Cordell: Hi, appreciate the audience joining us and it’s my pleasure to welcome Chris Kirchner to the session. Chris is a senior consultant with the ROI Institute here in Charlotte. Chris, welcome.
Chris: Hi, Cordell, thank you. Excited to be here.
Cordell: Glad to have you, my friend, glad to have you. So, Chris, why don’t you tell the group a little bit about yourself and your company just so they get a better perspective of you and the organization.
Chris: Sure. So the ROI Institute was founded in the ’70s and is an organization that provides consulting, education and services around the performance evaluation of any program, project, or initiative most widely adopted and embraced and known by the talent and development in HR sector.
Cordell: Okay, okay. Chris, you mentioned that, and as I was looking at your company website, I see that you guys are partnered or have an affiliation with ATD. Can you expound and talk a little bit about what you’re doing with that group? And obviously everybody knows that ATD is…you know, it used to be ASTD but the group has made a change from, you know, ASTD to ATD. But talk a little bit about your relationship with them.
Chris: Sure. So very much integrated with some of their programs. We actually facilitate and provide educational materials, have collaborated and co-authored books with ATD, and there’s a long-standing relationship there. And, again, ATD is actually, when it was ASTD, was one of the first organizations to publish Jack Philips’ methodology and that’s how it essentially got its launch into the training and development group and since has been embraced worldwide.
Cordell: Okay. Good deal, good deal. Chris, one other thing I’d love for you to talk a little bit about is I was reading up on yourself and your company, I saw in your background that you have, like, 17, 20 years experience in developing marketing initiatives as it relates to experiential learning and training development programs. What’s that about? Can you expound upon that some?
Chris: Sure. So started a non-profit, actually, and it was cause-related marketing, and we essentially were doing a variety of programs and campaigns working with sponsors that ultimately either had some type of sphere of influence, a large employee base, they may have had a large vendor base. And the goal there was, one, first and foremost, to raise funds for the charity, but the way it was a value for our sponsors is we were providing programs that could engage, motivate, and potentially even educate their customer base, their employee base, or their vendor base.
And from there actually moved into Lowe’s Home Improvement, worked there for a couple of years re-launching their How-To Clinic. So that was a point of sale program, again, educating their customer base and building the skills and the capabilities to do home improvement projects. And so it was kind of an interesting take on marketing focused on education and then ultimately driving sales of product and enabling their customers to initiate various projects. And then before coming to the ROI Institute I was heading a technology B2B organization. And similar there, aligned with a market organization, but we were selling large infrastructure, enterprise-class technology solutions.
Cordell: The majority of our audience has spent a lot of time focused on building great trainings, stuff that’s [inaudible 00:03:41] that’s gonna really move the needles, objectives, and all of that, but maybe not so much time focused on the marketing aspect, getting the word out, getting people excited about it. Do you have any take or perspective on that aspect of it?
Chris: Yeah, so for those that are familiar with the ROI methodology, we have the five-level framework that was built on and extended upon what Don Kirkpatrick did back in the ’50s, and it’s that theory of behavior change. And so what’s relevant to trainers as they’re developing their content and their instructional design is to think about their audience and that would be our level one so that reaction and motivation and buy-in. And buy-in is really the key. Often we focus on reaction and we think of a simple satisfaction type survey or the smile sheets, as sometimes they’re called, but what’s really happening there when we look at this framework of this logic of behavior of change is we wanna see motivation and buy-in, and often that is in the pre-communication of what’s in it for me? Why am I attending this program? How is it gonna benefit me and my role or ultimately the department and the organization? And so that’s important. That’s something that trainers should think more about and if it’s not their skill set engage those that can help with that pre-communication and building that buy-in and motivation.
Cordell: So maybe it’s the marketing department inside of my group to get some ideas, maybe it’s talking to, you know, obviously the clients that I’m looking to serve and understanding that group better, but your point is it needs to be part of the overarching plan. If you don’t have that expertise, talk to some other people that can help you come up with creative ways. And I heard you talk about communications over and over again. Make sure that you’re communicating the right way.
Chris: Absolutely. And using the right channels to distribute that message, and sometimes that’s not from the trainer. Maybe it’s engaging the manager or the participants that will be participating in that program. Let them be your champion. Let them be the ones that are helping build that buy-in and motivation. Well, we have to prompt them. They’re not engaged at that point until we make the request and the ask.
Cordell: So how do I prompt them, Chris? Is it the engage and the ask? Is that the way to prompt them or is there some other things that you’re thinking of here when you say engage them?
Chris: Yeah, so I mean, I think it varies situation to situation. Some managers may be hearing of the training program after the fact. It’s already been developed and in the stages of rolling out. Where you can involve them early on in that process is beneficial but it doesn’t always happen that way. So if they’ve not been engaged in the development of this that’s the opportunity before you roll it out to the participants to have that conversation. You know, sit down with them. Maybe it’s through a one-on-one face-to-face meeting. It might be through a web presentation if there are multiple clients at the manger level and making sure they’re aware of the value of the program, the intent of the program, how it’s aligned to the business, and then, you know, asking for their support to build the motivation and the buy-in and the engagement from the participants that they manage.
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Cordell: So, Chris, you’ve been around training for quite some time, kinda went through your background there. So what are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the training and development landscape over the last, you know, 15, 20 years or so?
Chris: Great question. And of course it’s where we work, but what I’m seeing and what is consistent in the various publications for this industry, what we’re seeing in different conferences, and just feedback from those clients that we work with is accountability. And so it’s about moving from the simple satisfaction surveys to really understanding how our program is driving value, driving impact and contributing back to the organization. And I think that’s the challenge for many training professionals now is to get their head around how do I credibly evaluate that? And then more importantly, we teach that evaluation has no value unless you’re using those findings to drive change, which is typically in the form of improvements. So you might be eliminating inefficiencies in a program or inefficient programs and/or building on successes that are there, but you don’t know where to start unless you’ve done some formal evaluation.
Cordell: You know, everything I read it talks about trends in training. It talks about aligning training with business, not just training for the sake of training, and measuring the ROI, to your point, that accountability, which is clearly in your wheelhouse. And I know you talked about, you know, levels of evaluation and how you go about doing that. Chris, talk some about that process and how does a group go about measuring accountability, measuring the return on investment? So how does a group go about doing that?
Chris: Yeah, so we have the ROI methodology and it’s a 10-step, systematic process for planning the objectives of the program and making sure they’re aligned with the business, and it follows that 5-level framework. And many of the audience, I’m sure, are familiar with Kirkpatrick’s model of behavior change, which is to say that for behavior to change or level three behavior change in application there has to be a knowledge transfer, which is skill and information at level two, and then buy-in and motivation and reaction at level one. What Jack Philips did in the ’70s when he was working with Lockheed Martin, he was in an HR and training group and his executive came to him and said, “We need to prove the value of this program. Can we determine what the ROI is?” And at the time there was no information out there for a process to evaluate kind of human capital and those human resources.
So he turned to the only thing that was published and that was Kirkpatrick’s model of behavior change and essentially overlaid the cost-benefit analysis to that and said, “If there’s a change in an environment or a change in behavior in context of a business setting there’s an impact to the organization or a consequence of that.” So that’s what we call level four. And ultimately we can monetize the value of that change or impact and then compare it to the cost of the program to calculate an ROI. Now, ROI is not a new term. It’s been around. We can trace it back through 300 years and the Harvard Business Review, I believe it was in the ’20s, defined it as, “The key metric that was accepted in business practice for determining the value of an investment.”
And so ROI is not a new term but what we have to do is talk the same language as the business and use a similar metric. So we get there by defining the objectives of our program, making sure that those are aligned to business impact measures, consequence that are of value to the organization. Typically we’re thinking about things that help us make more money, save more money, or avoid costs, right? Those are the things that are important to a business. So when we align our program with clear objectives using that five-level framework that have value to the organization at level four, you know, productivity, quality, time, things of this nature, then we can collect data as we roll out our program, and this is our data collection phase. Then we collect information about their motivation, buy-in and reaction, about what skills and information have been acquired and that’s through pre-imposed testing, things of that nature, and very common in the training and development field now.
But the second phase of that is then collecting data at a time where we think we can see a reasonable change of the participants’ behavior. So let’s say we’re providing them new sales skills, you know, the five steps to closing a deal. That might be the training that we’re doing. So we have to think through what’s the reasonable amount of time it would take for…now they’ve acquired the knowledge but they’re routinely using the skills. So they’re applying that, the level three, back in their work environment on some routine and regular and effective basis. So we can collect data there too often through observations, surveys, feedback from managers and other peers are some of those sources.
And then the second question is so if that behavior is changing, they’re using these five skills, how is that affecting sales? Are we closing deals faster? Are we building a larger pipeline? Are we able to make bigger sales? And so that’s that impact data that we’re ultimately trying to get to and that’s level four. And once we have that, and in sales it’s an easy conversion because that’s a standard value and you know what the value of a sale is, and that’s typically the profit margin. So we look at the margin profit that was attributable to the program. So we wanna make sure we’ve isolated the effects of our program from other potential influences. There may have been market changes, marketing campaigns, you know, other things that would contribute to the overall sales increase, but some portion of that we wanna attribute to our program. We use an isolation technique, something like a control group. We also can use trend line analysis and various techniques that we’ve outlined. We now know…so 60% of that million dollars in margin is attributable to our program and our training. We compare that to the cost and we can easily calculate the ROI.
So ultimately, what we have to do though is once we’ve done the evaluation, I mentioned this earlier, we have to present and report those findings in a way that stakeholders can take action with it. So that’s, again, where we’re creating value through our evaluation is to make recommendations. Here are the key findings. This is what we know our program was successful at. Some of our areas maybe of inefficiency that we can either improve upon or eliminate, were costs in line with the value that was driven to the organization? Take all of that into consideration and make recommendations for improvements moving forward. And that in a nutshell is the process, but it’s very defined. We have 10 steps.
We have the five-level framework, as I mentioned, produces six types of data. That’s sixth data that I haven’t mentioned yet are intangible benefits. So those are other benefits that we may not be able to reasonably or credibly convert to monetary value but they’re still benefits of the program so we wanna report those. And then we have the 12 guiding principles and those are our standards and operating procedures of how we maintain consistency in the way an evaluation is done using this methodology. So, Cordell, if you were doing an evaluation of a training program and I were isolated but doing the same evaluation of the same program, we should come up with the exact same results, and that’s guiding principles and standards that help that happen.
Cordell: Good deal, good deal. Chris, sounds like a great program and a great process. You know, one thing I’ve learned early on is to not assume anything, and again, we have a lot of great training professionals on here. I wanna just take you back for one second if you wouldn’t mind just going back a little bit. Can you talk about Kirkpatrick? And most people probably know Kirkpatrick but most people probably heard four steps to evaluations from Kirkpatrick. You’ve mentioned five. So can you just kinda quickly go through steps one through four, five just so people kinda get that framework here?
Chris: Sure. So if you think of this kind of building vertically. On level one, or the base level, that’s our reaction, satisfaction, motivation and buy-in. It’s also sometimes referred to as intent. So it’s that motivation. We intend to use the material or information that we will be learning. So level one: reaction, satisfaction, buy-in, motivation. Level two is all about skills and knowledge, and this is where our training and development field really plays heavily in instructional design, content development. So we wanna make sure that we are also evaluating how effective were the materials, the facilitator, and a variety of other things that go into that knowledge transfer? So that’s level two.
Level three is in the application and behavior change. So what are the participants being asked to do as a result of this program, project, or initiative? So it’s the behavior that we expect to see as a result of their participation. Level four then is what’s the consequence or the impact of that behavior change, typically in terms of business metrics? So we’re looking for improved quality, reduced time, more output, you know, more widgets, more sales, whatever it may be, but what are the business metrics and the consequences of the behavior change from the participants based on the knowledge that they had and their motivation to do so? And then ultimately, we calculate the value of that level four impact compared to the cost, and that’s what we call level five ROI.
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Cordell: So, Chris, you’ve talked about a very detailed process that you guys have at the ROI Institute and I’m sure that, you know, somebody’s getting ready to start a new training program or something and they want to make sure they’re evaluating the right way, they can certainly reach out to you and you can help them with it. But if I was getting ready to, you know…I’m on this session today and I’ve heard Chris talk about this, and yeah, I wanna make sure that I’m starting with great objectives, I’m asking the right questions, and that I’m measuring on the back end. What simple thing would you encourage or counsel people on this call to just think about these before you get ready to just jump into your next training program? Again, I’m sure they can call you and you can help them with it, but what tips would you just share with the audience here?
Chris: So I think it’s important to understand that what’s driving the interest of executives to be looking at training programs and HR programs and other initiatives from that perspective of ROI. So when we think about the traditional investment…so ROI is more commonly applied to things like capital investments: equipment, technology, sometimes buildings, things of that nature. But we are now seeing a significant increase in the proportionate amount of expenses that an organization has in human capital development. So what we’re seeing now is approximately 15% of their overall expenses are capital expenses but 85% are falling in that human capital. Hiring of staff, developing of staff, benefits, and so on that kind of fall in that soft data category of sort of human element and human capital. But because that’s a larger portion of expenses there’s now more emphasis on how are we making sure we’re driving value with those investments?
So the ultimate question or tip that I would leave with the audience today is to be proactive, even if they’re not being asked at this point to drive or measure the value of their programs in terms of ROI or impact, be sure to ask the question what’s accountability and the expectation? How are we measuring success? And that will give a good insight to the person that’s responsible for the program of what are their executives expecting? And sometimes there’s an assumption that that evaluation or some evaluation approach is being done and at the time that it’s realized that it’s not, it’s too late, and that’s when we’re in a reactionary situation that is not comfortable or fun to be in because now at that point they’re questioning the value and sometimes at that point they start looking at cutting cost. So we wanna be perceived as an investment. Investments are allocated. Costs are cut. And so ask the question, how are we measuring success?
Cordell: That’s a great tip, Chris, and it’s certainly if you do that, I mean, to your point, it’s definitely moving training from what is thought of in the past as just a cost center, it’s gonna cost us money, as opposing to this is a real, key, integral part of our business to kind of help us move forward. So great information. Great information. So Chris, I’ve certainly learned a lot from this session. I found it very helpful and very informative. I’m sure our audience has.
Chris: Thank you.
Cordell: Our audience, thank you for joining us. Please come back for others. Thank you. Take care. Have a great day.
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