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Home > Consultation and Training > Trieschman Center for Consultation & Training > Workforce Development Initiative


2001 Finding Better Ways Conference Presentation Recap

Performance-Based Training Programs: Providing Effective Training for Job Performance

Cassandra McKay
Jane Addams College of Social Work
University of Illinois, Chicago

Training is a growing industry within the field of human services, but what is the real benefit of training for organizations? Training programs are an unnecessary expense for agencies if they do not achieve desired outcomes. More importantly, training events can be harmful to agency survival if they do not render results in service delivery improvement and immediately contribute to the achievement of client outcomes. Since training activities take staff away from activities that may otherwise contribute to these client outcomes, how does the training professional convey the benefits of educational initiatives to agency management? Two of the primary goals of agency training programs are improved job performance and increased retention of skilled workers. To effectively address these goals, training programs must be systematically designed, implemented, and evaluated. This paper provides the framework to construct a performance based training program, by using the five steps of the ADDIE model; Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation.


Often, the training department of a human service agency is confined/limited to one or two persons who must juggle the demands of staff training needs and the agency's bottom line for service criteria. The analysis phase is the most important phase of a training program, in that it clarifies the issues to be addressed through training. Training is the process of giving employees knowledge/skills for tasks on their current job. The only way the trainer will know which tasks need to be learned is to take the time to analyze the issue. An efficient form of analysis is through collaboration with other personnel to clarify what are training needs versus non-training needs. One purpose of analysis is to determine what organizational needs can best be addressed through training and what needs are best addressed using other mechanisms. For example, some obstacles that prevent higher performance are due to management challenges, or the organization's culture, which may not support a change in performance. Analysis may entail proactively reviewing changes in agency policy that will affect standards of performance, and then identifying what training will be needed to effectively implement the policy changes (Austin, Brannon & Pecora, 1984). The trainer may also poll staff or other subject matter experts (SMEs) to better understand what they actually do and to identify the skills needed to improve performance.


After the initial analysis, the standards by which training objectives are measured must be established. The trainer's proactive analysis of what knowledge and skills are required to implement the new agency policies will undoubtedly be most valued during this phase. Training objectives should be complimentary to program/organization objectives. For human service organizations these objectives are measured by the achievement of desired client outcomes. Therefore, collaboration is key. Training departments need to work very closely with practitioners, supervisors, program directors, and CQI/Quality Assurance staff to design training programs that are feasible, given the job responsibilities of training participants, and effective in teaching the necessary knowledge and skills. However, this is not enough. Performance-based training departments must also share accountability for training participants' application of knowledge and skills for the achievement of client outcomes.


The development stage of training is not merely the gathering of training materials. The materials chosen must compliment the training objectives. Standards that were developed in the design phase, as well as feedback gleaned from subject matter experts, will assist in developing relevant training materials. A training program for veteran caseworkers will be very different from one that targets those who are new to the field. Training materials must reflect that distinction.


In many cases, "accidental" trainers are spotted by a member of the organization as having a certain comfort level presenting in front of people, and are recruited for a small training department. The implementation of a training program does include the actual presentation. Yet, a variety of other factors affect successful implementation. The structure of the training, including such issues as size, diversity of members, time, day and location, all play a major role in the success of objectives being achieved. How has the training been marketed internally? Adult learning theory states that adults must feel an intrinsic motivation to learning in order for training programs to be effective. How the participants are included in understanding the value of the training program may make or break the desired outcomes for the training.


Begin with the end in mind. Even though evaluation is the last phase, it must be considered first when developing standards of performance by which training objectives will be measured. One must know what the trainees know prior to the training and how, if at all, this condition has changed at the conclusion of a training program. According to Kilpatrick (1998) there are four possible levels of evaluation: Level I-Reaction Evaluation, Level II- Learning Evaluation, Level III- Behavior Evaluation, and Level IV- Results Evaluation. Levels III and IV are the most important types of evaluation for performance based training departments. Level III evaluations assess on-the-job application of acquired knowledge and skills. Level IV assesses whether client outcomes are enhanced as a result of the knowledge and skills acquired and applied. Most training programs simply rely on the "smile sheets" of Level I, where the participants talk about how cold the room was or if they enjoyed the continental breakfast. Yet, if a trainer wants to convey the benefits of educational initiatives to management, evaluations must assess acquired skills, skill application on the job, and the achievement of client outcomes.


In the current state of human services, where less is often considered more (less time to complete services, less money to provide for care), cost effectiveness is the name of the game. Training programs must adhere to tighter budgets but render higher results. To become more cost effective to organizations, training programs must: (1) conduct a proactive analysis of the organization and the external climate, (2) collaboratively design standards of performance with organizational management and staff, (3) adhere to an adult learning model in developing relevant and appropriate resources, (4) communicate the value and significance of training within the organization, and (5) promote and routinely evaluate the training program's capacity to ensure relevant skill acquisition for employee job application.


Austin, M., Brannon, D., & Pecora, P. (1984). Managing staff development programs in human service agencies. Chicago: Nelson-Hall.

Carr, C. (1992). Smart training: The manager's guide to training for improved performance. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Human Resource Development Institute. (June, 2000). Chicago: Chicago-land Chapter--American Society for Training and Development.

Kilpatrick, D. (1998). Evaluating training programs: The four levels. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Contact Information

Cassandra McKay, MSSW, LCSW
Clinical Assistant Professor
University of Illinois- Chicago
Jane Addams College of Social Work (M/C 309)
1040 W. Harrison St. Chicago, IL 60607-7134
Phone: 312.355.2280
Fax: 312.413.8555

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