In an excerpt from The Power of Positive Thinking, the author has a conversation with a man about his goal of changing his life direction. A snippet of that conversation goes like this. “You want to go somewhere from where you are, but you don’t know where you want to go. You don’t know what you can do or what you would like to do. The author then talks about the failure of many goals being the lack of objectives and offers these words of wisdom, “no objective leads to no end.”
What can we learn from this story? Lack of achieving goals is linked to inefficient objectives or not having them in the first place. Whether you are applying this principle to personal or business goals, this is still a vital lesson.
So let’s apply this strategy to training and educating employees. While most companies have a learning management system (LMS) in place, spending on average $1,273 per employee, many fail to deliver on their programs’ goals. Although there are several articles as to why employee training programs fail, little point to lack of training objectives for the reason of this failing. So let’s take a look at training objectives as they apply to a company’s LMS.
What are training objectives?
Companies know they need an LMS that helps their employees grow and learn. Where companies often fail is not adding training objectives to achieve their goals of these programs. Simply put training objectives are the measurable steps needed to achieve the overall training program goal.
Why are training objectives needed?
The next question you may be asking is are training goals really necessary? Isn’t a simple goal in mind enough? The simple answer is no. Training objectives are more important than the overall goal because just like in The Power of Positive Thinking example, objectives provide a roadmap for achieving your goal. Plus, it enables all parties involved to be on the same page. Stakeholders, employees, managers, facilitators, etc. will understand how the training program is supposed to run and what the expected results will be if they know what the objectives are from the beginning. Below are some other training objective advantages worth mentioning.
Pros of training objectives:
- Saves time and money. Companies may think objectives are an unnecessary planning step that wastes time. But in actuality, objectives save time and money. Writing down your training objectives ahead of implementation will give your goal structure. Plus, it will further define what your goal is and prove you have created the correct one for your LMS.
- Helps to design training materials. When you know what the objectives are, you can define what materials are needed for your employees. For example, do you need a blended learning environment? Will your training materials be assigned by department, individual or level at the company? What features does your LMS need to have?
- Gives administrators training roadmap. These objectives will help your program administrators implement the training. When they know why they are teaching the courses or lessons, it will strengthen their ability to deliver these in an effective way.
- Let employees know what they will be learning. Sharing your objectives with your employees will let them know why you think your LMS is important. You want motivated employees who take training seriously and think their time away from their job is being well spent.
- Helps with analysis. Once your training program is rolled out, you can check each objective against your goal. Did you achieve all your training objectives with your LMS? If not, what tweaks can you make? This also offers a great opportunity to ask employees and facilitators their thoughts on if program objectives were met.
How to write training objectives
Now that we’ve talked about the reasons for creating training objectives, let’s discuss what makes a great training objective over just an average one. Educational theorist Robert Mager created a framework of three main components to learning objectives. This framework is a great way to structure each of your objectives to make sure they are clear, specific, and measurable.
Components of good training objectives
What are you hoping employees take away from your LMS? What will they ultimately learn? Your objectives should measure employee performance during the training process. You want to prove that if employees follow the training outlined for them, they will benefit in a specific way.
How will the employees learn? What materials will they be given and in what timeframe? Learning objectives should contain specific details of the training program. Think about where your training will be offered, what employees are eligible for which learning materials, and what the deadlines are for completing certain programs.
How will you measure your learning objectives? How will you know you accomplished what you set out to do? Make sure all your objectives either have a time, number or method for checking it was successful. Without this measurable component, it will be hard to judge if your objectives were all met.
Crafting training objectives that work
Before you sit down to write out your training objectives, take a look at your LMS goal. Does it reflect your vision of how you want your training program to run? Does it speak to the intended result of a well-run program? If not, rewrite it in this fashion and make sure it serves as an umbrella for all your learning objectives.
Now let’s discuss the steps to write specific learning objectives that answer how your goal will be accomplished.
- Number of learning objectives dependent on audiences.
Some suggest a number like six as being a good number of learning objectives to aim for. Really, you could have three or even 12 learning objectives. What’s more important is keeping in mind your various audiences. Write learning objectives for each audience. For example, you are a publicly-held company who employs both full-time and global contractors. So you would need to write learning objectives geared toward:
- Full-time employees
- Team Leads
- Levels of learners
If your training program is geared toward all levels of employees than a person just starting out their career will need different training than a seasoned employee. With this in mind, craft learning objectives based on varying degrees of curriculum and material needed per employee level.
To help facilitate this process, consult Bloom’s Taxonomy. Bloom’s philosophy was started in the 1950s by Dr. Benjamin Bloom to promote higher forms of thinking in the education field. But today, this philosophy has further been adapted and is being used in several industries. One of these areas is in corporate training.
Bloom identified six levels of learning that students go through in school. These same six principals can easily be applied to corporate employees as well. The six steps are:
Step 1 Knowledge: When employees are just starting out, they need to learn the basics. A good way to teach new employees is by giving them a concept and then asking them at the end of the lesson to repeat what was taught. At this stage, lessons just need to be taught by a facilitator and then repeated back by an employee. A good example of this would be to give a lesson followed by a multiple choice test.
Step 2 Comprehension: Once an employer learns how to do something then they need to translate these concepts into their own words. Using your LMS, structure test questions to gage that employees truly comprehend what was learned. Maybe this is asking employees in an essay question or in a class discussion what they understood the lesson to be.
Step 3 Application: After an employee digests what they have learned, it’s time to apply it in real life. This step is a lot like learning something in a college textbook and then applying what’s learned in an internship. Think about how you would test an employee at this stage. Maybe it’s having employees think of real-life scenarios where they would apply this new knowledge. Or creating online games within your LMS where employees are given situations and then they need to figure out how to react.
Step 4 Analysis: In this step, facilitators start to shift lessons from teaching to listening. Employees are given situations where they must apply the lesson learned. Not a lot of detail is presented. Employees must take a situation and walk through how to solve it on their own. Since more is asked of employees at this level, this is a great opportunity to introduce group discussions and forums. This allows employees to share best practices with each other.
Step 5 Evaluation: A great way to judge if employees have mastered a learning program is to let them teach others at lower levels. Using your LMS can become a social platform for work-related knowledge sharing. It can also be a great way to create a mentorship program.
Step 6 Creation: The final step takes the employee full circle. Think management level where employees are tasked with creating lessons and materials for training. This is a great opportunity to have these employees review the LMS reports. They have the knowledge to see what’s working and what’s not. And more importantly, what can be done better.
3. Should be measurable.
After considering different employee learning levels, shift your focus to create learning objectives that can be evaluated. In order to accomplish this, all objectives must be measurable. Include a timeframe or a way to check that they were obtained when evaluating your LMS effectiveness.
4. Use action verbs.
Another way to make learning objectives measurable is to use action verbs when writing them. Use words like: identify, translate, test, and rank. Versus words like capable of, appreciate, be aware of, and know.
5. Analyze your objective.
Once you have finished drafting your objective statements, ask yourself these questions:
- Did I communicate my objectives effectively to my intended audiences?
- What is my framework for how my employees will learn?
- Did I convey what tools my employees will use to learn?
- Did I provide my employees a way to measure their own progress?
- Do my facilitators understand their role and what they need to accomplish?
Success story using learning objectives
When you put your learning objectives into action, it will be easy to see if they are successful or not. Take Dollar Shave Club for example. Their LMS goal was “to create a training program for employees that embraced the philosophy of providing exceptional service through knowledge and education.” The company outlines several tactics they put into place like a blended learning environment, giving a consistent training message, and teaching all employees about their target audience. Plus, their objectives speak to onboarding employees and also the continued education throughout an employee’s life at Dollar Shave Club.
Dollar Shave Club’s clear training objectives translate into happy employees and a company that keeps growing. Their Glassdoor ratings are high with 80 percent of employees saying they would recommend the company to a friend and about the same number approving of the CEO.
Plus, one employee touts the training program even over the free perks! This employee says, “Which is really the coolest thing about DSC – we are encouraged to learn and grow in our field – and are given resources to do so. Sure, there [sic] the rad perks like parties and lunches and outings and a great benefits package and this that and the other – but what I love most is how I really feel inspired to learn more and be a better engineer.”
Learning objective takeaway
We’ve talked a lot about why you need to create learning objectives and what you need to consider once you write them. However, if you’d like more, download a worksheet on creating learning objectives that truly deliver. In this guide, we’ll walk you through each step of writing comprehensive and measurable learning objectives. This can be a complex process so we’ll break down each component to simplify it. Learning objectives can mean the success or failure of your LMS! That’s why it’s important to take the time and do it right the first time.