Changing Culture and Behaviors to Improve Training Effectiveness Lunch & Learn Recap

The Southwest Virginia Alliance for Manufacturing held a Lunch & Learn, hosted by General Dynamics Mission Systems in Marion, Virginia, entitled, “Changing Culture and Behaviors to Improve Training Effectiveness”. The training was led by Mike Leigh, President of OpX Solutions, a performance improvement company in Roanoke. Mr. Leigh used to work for GE and before that was a Navy Officer. He has a Computer Engineering degree and a Master’s Degree in Human Resources. Here is what we learned:

When budgets are tight training tends to get cut because the return on investment isn’t always immediate. However, training is important and necessary. The primary reason for training is to improve performance of an organization through safety, customer service, or profit. Training might also be offered as regulatory, a reward, or as on-boarding/employee orientation. Discretionary training dollars are cut when training effectiveness cannot be demonstrated. Training budgets are an investment, not an expense, and must be thought of in that way.

Mr. Leigh offered two case studies to support training:

  • Company A was a profitable, growing company and felt they benefited greatly from the training, however they did not continue with it.
  • Company B was a stagnant company, but had measurable results and invested more in training.


Dr. Donald Kirkpatrick developed a model in the 1950’s for training effectiveness and it became popular after his book was published in 1994. Dr. Kirkpatrick discussed 4 Levels of Training Education:

Level 1 – Reaction

Measures how your trainees reacted to the training.

  • Did participants like it?
  • Did participants consider it relevant?

Methods of evaluation:

  • Feedback forms/surveys
  • Verbal reaction
  • Easy to obtain

Level 2 – Learning. Most trainings stop at this level, but it is hard to show value.

Measures increase in knowledge

  • Did participants learn what was intended?
  • Did participants experience what was intended?

Methods of evaluation:

  • Before and after assessments and tests
  • Relatively simple, but more investment needed

Level 3 – Behavioral Application

Extent to which trainees applied the learning and changed their behavior

  • Did employees put learning into effect on the job?
  • Was behavior change sustained?

Methods of evaluation:

  • Observations over time
  • Some assessments
  • Important, but harder to do

Level 4 – Impact/Results/ROI

  • Effect on the organization from the improved performance of trainees
  • Typically business metrics/KPIs

Methods of evaluation:

  • Often many of these are already in place
  • Challenge is to link to training input
  • Hard to link changes to training and not to other metrics
  • Try to accurately measure other factors and variables

ROI is the next level and questions if the training was worth the investment. Most training is done in the first two levels. The challenge is: it is hard to show value at these levels.

There are criteria to evaluate training at higher levels:

  • Life cycle of training
  • When training is linked to strategic goals
  • If there is executive interest
  • High cost programs
  • High visibility through organization
  • Sizeable target audience

In order to have a behavior change, two things are required: 1. Trainee must be willing to change behavior. 2. Organizational culture must support the change. Organizational culture is the behavior of humans within an organization. It matters because the assumptions and beliefs of employees drive behavior. The collective behavior of employees determines results.

The Success Formula explains

  • Results come from
  • Behavior which comes from
  • Attitudes or habits of thought that comes from
  • Conditioning that comes from
  • Spaced Repetition which is the more we are exposed to something over time or the more we practice something.

Spaced repetition leads to conditioning which leads to attitude. For an organization this occurs through repetitive communications and actions by leaders. Then behaviors change and that equals results.


To create effective training:

  • Start with goals and objectives
    • Reality based training solutions
    • SMART
  • Get buy-in from leadership
    • Does the organizational culture support it?
    • Observations from supervisors & leaders
  • Create a plan to evaluate the training
    • Level 3 and 4 where possible
    • Considerations: program cost, visibility, life cycle, target size
  • Incorporate attitude change into methods



Important Notes:

The information above serves as a recap of the presentation provided by Mike Leigh with OpX Solutions, but was not written by Mike Leigh. All information and quotes were sourced from the presentation provided.

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