The reason for training is to empower employees to perform tasks better. Employees’ actions directly affect the company’s revenue, culture and future. To use training to help them perform those actions more effectively, it’s important first to establish good learning goals.

Those goals must focus on performance — for example, “to reduce accidents at work by 90% over the next six months through an educational safety program” or, “After this course, customer support representatives will be able to solve 100% of warranty requests without escalation.”

Here are four tips that can help you identify performance goals within the scope of your learning program.

1. Diagnose First

Setting performance goals requires a clear understanding of how learners are currently performing and aligning goals with their actual needs. Every journey starts with defining the departure point, and performance goal-setting starts with a needs analysis that shows which skills are subpar or lacking.

Once it’s clear there’s a gap, it’s time to investigate its possible causes. For example, a high number of workplace accidents can indicate the need for compliance training because employees are not aware of the safety requirements, new employees aren’t successfully onboarded, or changes to regulations or the work environment require retraining. Only after you have identified the needs can you set learning goals effectively. Then, you can develop training that address the gaps between current and ideal levels of performance.

Importantly, not all issues require training; an analysis may show that you can address some needs in other ways.

2. Prioritize Communication

Performance goals are action-oriented. Correct wording can help you prevent miscommunication and ensure that instructors and learners are on the same page. Letting learners know from the beginning what the training goals are can boost engagement, and indicating the desired performance level can help learners evaluate their own progress.

3. Make It Tangible

If your goal is compliance, then regulations may determine your desired performance levels. In the absence of established metrics, you’ll have to determine how to evaluate post-training performance.

“To improve customer satisfaction in the future” is an example of vague phrasing that does not enable measurement. How much improvement are you talking about?

Clearer phrasing for the same goal is, “to solve customer queries 50% faster by training staff on the new support process.” Using this phrasing will make it easier to track performance.

4. Align With Business Goals

For training to be effective, it needs to align with the company’s bigger picture. Each learning goal should be aligned with a short-term or a long-term business goal. Apart from fixing underperformance, when training is aligned with business needs, it can help reinforce organizational values and culture and unite employees in a shared vision.

If your employees’ performance needs to improve, it will help if learners are on the same page and have a clear picture of what they should aim for. That’s why a critical part of the learning program design process is to set effective goals, and it should be part of your learning management from day one.

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