The Phillips Model and How to Use It for Evaluating Employee Learning

Designing Digitally


The Phillips Model for evaluating employee learning

If you're in the business of…well, any business, really…your strongest method of gauging success is by looking at your Return on Investment (ROI). In other words, your bottom line should be a good indicator of whether your company is growing, at a stand-still, or on a downward slope. The same principles apply when discussing learning evaluation.

Let's say you've hired a vendor to design and develop a bespoke learning platform for your employees. They've done their job well and have delivered a great application that fits in with your business objectives, employee learning needs, and growth strategy. Still, implementing the learning platform into your Learning and Development (L&D) department is only half the battle. You'll need to have a plan in place for evaluating the performance of your employee training program.

There are quite a few learning evaluation models out there such as the Kirkpatrick model, the Anderson model, and the Brinkerhoff model, to name a few. In this article, we'll focus on the Phillips ROI Methodology, which is an extension of the Kirkpatrick model. To the four steps outlined by Donald Kirkpatrick, Jack Phillips adds a fifth: ROI. The idea behind this fifth step is that you can calculate your training program ROI.

The History Bit

Professor Emeritus Donald Kirkpatrick wrote his dissertation in 1959 about the four levels of evaluating a training course. Kirkpatrick describes this method in his book published in 1994 entitled Evaluating Training Programs. He proposes that there are four levels of evaluating a training course:

1. Reaction- compared to evaluating customer satisfaction, evaluating trainee reactions to the course is crucial in determining the value the course brings to employee work-life.

2. Learning- gauging whether learning objectives have been achieved

3. Behavior- evaluating whether the training has had an impact on employee on-the-job behavior

4. Results- measuring whether the training had a direct impact on the company's overall growth

At this stage in the process, you'll have a lot of metrics to play with and will be more apt at reworking the training course to better cater to company/employee needs. This is where Jack Phillips comes in and adds the extra step. Phillips suggests that an efficient training program must come with an unfolding chain of impact.

Read also: 10 Strategies for Measuring Learning ROI

What is the Kirkpatrick-Phillips Evaluation Model?

As mentioned, the Phillips model is an upgrade to the Kirkpatrick model. The training evaluation creator advocates that any training course must allow for a chain of impact that starts at Level 1 and ends with ROI.

Your employee training course evaluation proceeds by measuring:

  • Employee reaction to the training (Level 1)

  • Skills and knowledge acquired (Level 2)

  • On-the-job application (Level 3)

  • The impact on the business (Level 4)

  • And ends with return on investment of business results versus training costs.

Phillips expanded his method to include the key technique of Isolation. He suggests it is necessary for a business to separate the impact of the training from other elements that might influence the bottom line. His model looks at incorporating 10 "Isolation" techniques to help you measure the real impact your training course has on your overall business development. A competitive environment, interest rate changes, and employee bonus schemes are three of the metrics a business owner can track to gain insight into the overall efficiency of their L&D efforts.

Read also: Using Kirkpatrick Model to Evaluate Employee Training

The Process of Evaluating ROI

Aside from ultimately converting the training course impact into its monetary equivalent, which can then be used to gauge ROI, Phillips' model also serves to:

  • Enhance the efficiency of the training program

  • Discover whether the program is meeting objectives

  • Determine the program's strengths and weaknesses

  • Create a cost/benefit analysis of training versus investment

  • Support other training efforts within the company

  • Gauge program usefulness for intended learner audience

  • Alleviate stress involved in investment decisions

  • Help with assigning the appropriate project funding


It should be obvious that implementing a training evaluation model will be highly beneficial for most companies looking to grow. Learning evaluations help you figure out how efficient the training course is, what needs to change to increase knowledge retention and efficient on-the-job application, and how this investment affects your ROI. An evaluation model will also serve to pinpoint the level of productivity and satisfaction your employees get out of their job.

One thing is clear, using the Phillips evaluation model will help increase your bottom line. So, get studying or reach out to Designing Digitally for help, if needed. Although the rules of learning evaluations may seem clear, it could be difficult to implement without the help of a professional team.