Measuring Impact In Facilitation

The world of training, learning and development has made measurement an essential ingredient. And yet the world of facilitation is still some way behind. So isn’t it time we used some of the good practice in training. To steal with pride and apply what works to the profession of facilitation.

“Hang on a minute”, I hear you say. “Training is definitely NOT facilitation. After all, one focuses on content while the other is on process”.

Yes that’s true….and….there is a vast areas of overlap and measuring impact is one of them.

The Kirkpatrick Four Levels

Donald Kirkpatrick first published the 4 levels model in 1959. At the time, he was Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin. He updated the framework over the following three decades but always with the 4 levels in place. 

The drive for using this model, came from a dissatisfaction with using workshop ‘happy sheets’ as a way of measuring the impact of training. The need for a more holistic approach emerged. This has resulted in the widespread adoption of the Kirkpatrick levels.

The four levels are Reaction, Learning, Behaviour and Results.

Level 1: Reaction

Trainers want to make sure that participants feel that the learning was good. That they walk away from training feeling it was valuable. It also helps trainers to identify improvement areas in future programs.

Facilitators can also gain insights by asking participants some level 1 questions. Although the focus is on the process of the facilitated event rather than content.

Here are some level 1 questions that we find useful in our practice.

  • What was the level of participation and engagement?
  • On a scale of 1 – 100 how would you rate the experience?
  • What could we have done to improve your rating?
  • What could you have done?
  • What did you appreciate?
Level 2: Learning

This level has less overlap between training and facilitation. This is because the focus in training is to determine what content can be recalled. It measures what participants can actually do as a result of the training. So in many ways it is very content driven.

Likewise, facilitators can glean some useful insights into what can be recalled afterwards. For example:

  • To what extent were the intended outcomes achieved?
  • What commitments were made by you, by others, by the group?
  • Reflecting back on the workshop, how confident are you that real change will take place.
  • What were the top three new insights the group created or actions that were decided on?
  • What signs of progress have you noticed since the workshop/event?
Level 3: Behaviour

This level helps understand what has actually happened as a result of training. Here there is huge overlap with the world of facilitation. One thing that brings training and facilitation together is that they both have the ambition of bringing about change. 

Levels 1 and 2 focus on measuring how participants felt at the end of the event and what they can recall. Level three measures what has actually happened as a result. The measure is concerned with what has happened at an individual and group level.

Here we start to get an impression of the facilitation impact. For those eager to enter the IAF Facilitation Impact Awards, take note: level 3 and level 4 measures will be key.

Here are the data or observations that will give useful insights into level 3.

  • To what extent have the promises and commitments been implemented?
  • What signs of progress have you noticed? What behaviours have shifted.
  • What is happening now as a result of the event?
  • To what extent is the group ready to reconvene and explore ‘what next’?
Level 4: Results

At this level, we analyse the final results and effects of the facilitated event. These are the outcomes that your client has decided are good for the organisation.  These will, in an ideal world, show a good return on investment (ROI).

Level 4 measurement is most time consuming. The biggest challenge will be to identify which outcomes or final results are linked your facilitation. And to come up with a way the group can continue to tracking these.

One important distinction to make here is between an enabler and a result. Examples of enablers include

  • Creation of a new strategy
  • Improvement in ownership and engagement in the organisation.

Whilst they might be important, they enable something else to take place. They are causal. If we ask the question “What do these make possible?” then we determine other possible measures which are results. For example these might include:

  • Increased speed to market with new concepts
  • Reduction in waste or quality issues
How Can I Use This In My Facilitation Practice?

One of the easiest ways to apply this model is to use it in contracting with your client. Remember to begin with level 4 and work backwards though. Begin with the end in mind. Here are some sample questions you can use when contracting before as assignment:

  • Level 4: How would you know that the groups work had been a success, what would you notice in the organisation? What else?
  • Level 3: What behaviour or mindset shift do you expect as an outcome of this work? What else?
  • Level 2: Imagine you bumped into one of the groups sometime after the event, what would you like to hear them them to say to you? What would be their focus? What else?
  • Level 1: How do you want participants to be leaving the room? How would they be feeling? What else?

And why not offer to help the client carry out the impact review at a later stage. There is no better way to show credibility and value in the power of facilitation.