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Level Five Learning

Level Five Training Outcomes:

We Take Learning to a Whole New Level

For many decades, organizational learning has relied on the famous Kirkpatrick model to assess training performance. The highest level of training assessment – the so-called “fourth level” or “Kirkpatrick 4” – focuses on the evaluation of “results”.

In sales and manufacturing, measuring results may be possible.  For example, when you see a sudden marked increase in revenue in the near-term after training, you might attribute those results to the training intervention. (Or, you might not.) If you are in the business of manufacturing ball bearings and you deliver training on teamwork, work ethic, or even technical skills, you may see the number of usable ball bearings you manufacture on a daily basis increase — for a while.

For many other learning/training interventions, however, “results” can be quite difficult to quantify. This is often because learning is but one of a cloud of interventions which surround any employee or any team.

We believe that there is an even level higher of training success than “results.” It is a level other firms are not considering, let alone measuring. We call it Level Five — and it reflects a change in Competency.

Understanding Competencies

A competency is a combination of observable and measurable knowledge, skills, abilities and personal attributes that a role-based employee needs to carry out her or his work effectively. A competency is a sort of meta-skill – something which collects specific skills into a platform for success in life and work. Competencies contribute to enhanced employee performance and ultimately result in organizational success. Organizations desire competencies because they support the mission and strategic plans of the organization. Competencies stem from and sustain desirable organizational culture. They are key to closing skill gaps. They are the platform for how results are achieved in an organization.

It is a change in competency that will drive sustained results. Temporary changes in results may all be related to a sudden spark of motivation or momentary dedication to the job, all of which can dissipate if morale suffers.

An increase in competency, however, is sustained, and can be reliably tied to ongoing results.

Example: “We Want Better Customer Service”

As but one example of competencies as a platform for sustained results, let’s look at customer service.

When we ask some companies to define their competency model for customer service, they say, “well you know, improving customer service.” It is a circular proposition without clarity.

Struggling with the definition of what customer service means causes a huge problem. If you can’t define it, you can’t measure it and if you can’t measure it you can’t change it.

To deliver spectacular customer service, it is critical to understand that it results from a competency cluster (or competency domain) that is brought to the table by all members of a team. Each person contributes their knowledge, skills, experience, abilities and personal attributes – or competencies – which then combine with the competencies of others to create great customer service.

Here is the umbrella trait for Customer Service Excellence:

Organizations and people who are excellent at customer service anticipate and create responsive strategies to customer problems or concerns before they happen. (See David Snyder, How to Hire a Champion, Career Press.)

“Operationalizing” customer service excellence from a market research standpoint is much easier than hiring and developing the people who will actually carry the findings of the market research forward. (And according to numerous studies, this is the most important part.)

For example, smart companies that know they need to anticipate customer needs do a lot of data analysis, surveys, focus groups, etc. But finding people with the customer service excellence “DNA” who will take ownership of these efforts and breathe life into a customer service culture requires a knowledge of both hiring for the competencies associated with customer service, and then assessing a change  in level  of competency after training.

This is what our team specializes in — the competency-based training part of the people factor.

Level Five Outcomes: How Far Do You Take it?

On the road to changing behavior, every learning intervention aims to change at least one competency.  The surprise is that you can measure a change in competency! This begins by evaluating, as a benchmark, the competencies associated with high performers in every job or role.

For example, you might realize that your best group of employees who deliver customer service at the front desk of your hotel are particularly advanced in a few key competencies – commitment to customer excellence, trustworthiness, team building, commitment to personal excellence, strategic management, problem solving and social and emotional learning.

Interestingly, what most people associate as the most common goals of customer service training only scratch the surface of the lowest level stages of one or, if you are lucky, two competencies needed to deliver exceptional customer service.

The test lies is in the ability to score customer service advancement. Here is a possible model – a scale expressing general performance in customer service.


Negative. Is openly negative about the client and the job.


Confused. Is unclear about the job and expectations.


Self-focused. Focuses on self or product and not the client’s needs.


Baseline. Performs minimal service required.


Follows up. Is good at following up on issues that are important to the client.


Expectant. Not only follows up well but maintains clear expectations with clients and monitors client satisfaction. (One level higher.)


Owns. Not only follows up and monitors satisfaction but also takes personal responsibility and ownership for improving the organization’s level of customer service. (Yet another level higher on competency assessment.)


Our derived scale does not stop actually stop at a score of +3, but can continue to escalate to “trains others”, then “becomes a key resource for customer service knowledge and leadership”, and perhaps finally, “becomes the leader and strategist for all customer service skills and behaviors”.

Obviously, if you implement a learning initiative on customer service, you want to see that the participants move their needles in the initiative’s aftermath. In fairly short order, you want to see more scores of 2 or 3 — and mostly 3! If that happens, the “results” will stick and take care of themselves and will not be a “flash in the pan.” They become deeply ingrained competencies. They will express themselves and enrich your culture.

Get Started

Guiding Star and Snyder Inc. offer several assessment tools, including Culture Digs™ and Engagement View™, that can help you assess the state of competencies and culture in your organization. We’ll help you to identify what you must target in order to have the most successful training outcomes.

We can also provide tools to measure progress against your outcomes:

  • Pulse assessments
  • 360 review assessments
  • Trainee self-rated assessments
  • Manager-driven assessments of improved competency after training


All of this can help you create lasting change after your training programs, with a significant impact on the long term ROI.

For more information:

Todd Kasenberg, Guiding Star Communications and Consulting; (toll-free in North America) 1-866-603-2766 |

David Snyder, Snyder Inc; 919-878-0776  |