A training completion typically denotes the end of a person’s learning experience regarding a particular subject or set of topics. Some people may suggest that it is the point at which the learning actually begins. Either way, organizations could be placing too much emphasis solely on training completions. This article discusses your impact on training completions: why they are important, how they can be inconclusive, and what you can do to make them more meaningful.

The importance of training completions

There are several reasons why organizations should continue to focus on training completions. First, completions indicate a) which employees took the training and b) when they did it. People often consider completions a pre-requisite to the evaluation process—you should know who actually attended the training before you can ask them what they thought of it. Supervisors benefit from knowing that they can hold their direct reports accountable for the information covered in the training. From the client’s perspective, completions essentially tie to the learner’s performance. If an employee is deficient in a particular area, client leadership can review completion reports as a first step in determining a potential knowledge or skill gap.

The incompleteness of training completions

Although training completions can certify attendance, they cannot attest to an employee’s performance on the job post-training. Since the data in a completion report can be inconclusive, there is no way for an organization to establish an effective plan of action for its employees based on the results. If you want the training completions to mean more to the client, then you should focus on the completeness of the training itself. Consider the following issues and related questions when developing your content:

  • Consumption: Will the learners experience everything intended for them to see?
  • Compliance: Will the learners agree with the information covered?
  • Comprehension: Will the learners understand the information covered?
  • Competence: Will the learners be able to perform the objectives covered?
  • Confidence: Will the learners perform those objectives with little or no difficulty?
  • Coaching: Will the learners need any later reinforcement?

Make the training as easy as PIE

Donald Kirkpatrick, well known for his ubiquitous training evaluation model, encouraged practitioners for years to make their training programs practical (meets the learners’ wants or needs), interactive (involves the learners’ input or actions) and enjoyable (delights the learners through various activities). As a result of implementing the PIE (practical, interactive, enjoyable) approach, the learners are more likely to:

  • Consume most (if not all) of the course content.
  • Comply with the information covered in the course.
  • Find the information easier to comprehend.
  • Be competent and feel confident about their job.

In addition, the learners may be less likely to need additional coaching (because they got the information the first time). You can then regard your training, having met all of the above criteria, as a complete piece of work.

Implications for eLearning

Earlier this year, four well-known thought leaders in the industry (Michael Allen, Julie Dirksen, Clark Quinn, and Will Thalheimer) co-authored the Serious eLearning Manifesto, which proclaimed their research-based beliefs regarding the future of eLearning. If we were to review the manifesto’s supporting principles and categorize them as being either practical, interactive, and enjoyable (where applicable), then we would have a list of best practices for applying the PIE approach to eLearning (see Table 1).

Table 1: Kirkpatrick’s PIE approach to eLearning, according to the Serious eLearning Manifesto

PIE Characteristic

Serious eLearning Manifesto—Supporting Principles


  • Tie learning to performance goals
  • Target improved performance
  • Provide realistic practice
  • Enlist authentic contexts
  • Adapt to learner needs
  • Aim for long-term impact
  • Use rich examples and counterexamples
  • Provide support for post-training follow-through
  • Use performance support
  • Respect learners


  • Provide guidance and feedback
  • Provide realistic consequences
  • Use interactivity to prompt deep engagement


  • Motivate meaningful involvement
  • Support performance preparation
  • Enable learners to learn from mistakes


Allen, M., J. Dirksen, C. Quinn, and W. Thalheimer. “The Serious eLearning Manifesto.” Elearningmanifesto.org. Retrieved 13 May 2014 from http://elearningmanifesto.org/read-the-manifesto/

Hayes, A. “An interview with Donald Kirkpatrick: The father of evaluation.” TrainingZone.co.uk. 2010. Retrieved 13 May 2014 from http://www.trainingzone.co.uk/topic/training-cycle/interview-donald-kirkpatrick-father-evaluation

Kirkpatrick, D., and J. Kirkpatrick, Implementing the Four Levels: A Practical Guide for Effective Evaluation of Training Programs. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2007.

Kirkpatrick, D., and J. Kirkpatrick, Evaluating Training Programs: The Four Levels, third edition. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2006.