Developing goals and metrics for training program

Failure to plan is planning to fail. The plan you create for a training program must start with the end in mind – what are the objectives and goals? What are the expected results?

For many organizations, we find that developing goals and metrics for training can be very challenging. Understanding which metrics (also referred to as key performance indicators, or KPIs) to track can be especially difficult, since it may vary based on where your training program is currently at.

For more on training KPIs, check out this infographic that breaks them down by how developed your L&D program is:

So let’s get to it – here are 10 steps to help identify training objectives, create goals, and track metrics for your program:

1. Identify the Why

First, you’ll need to understand why the program, partnership, or resources were purchased to begin with. This is especially important if you weren’t involved in the buying process or are new to the organization or program.

Why is the training program in place today?

Here’s a little secret — the answer is not “because we have to provide training.” There is a logical reason, a decision that someone made, a plan in place as to why training is being offered.

Goals and objectives describe how your organization will look one or more years from today. When written with input from managers and employees who will be involved in accomplishing them, your business goals have a greater chance of being reached.

Achievable training objectives are formed with respect to the results of any industry research you’ve conducted, customer feedback you’ve received, or changing regulations that your organization is subject to. Your goals ideally don’t conflict with each other, but do align with your organization’s mission and motivate people to focus and work together.

2. Agree to Prioritize Goal Setting

The next step is to agree that developing goals is an important and necessary component of a training program. Seems pretty basic, but many companies move forward with training and don’t prioritize setting goals for the program.

Here are five reasons that goals are important:

  1. Goals propel you forward.
  2. Goals transform insurmountable mountains into walkable hills. Proper goal setting can help break larger, intimidating aspirations into smaller, more achievable stepping stones.
  3. Goals help us to believe in the mission. Setting goals for yourself is a way to fuel your ambition.
  4. Goals hold you accountable for failure (and this is the reason people don’t make them)!
  5. Goals tell us what you truly want.

3. Align Training to Business Needs

So, in that perspective – what do you truly want for your program? What does your organization want?

Business alignment is not unique to program management or leadership buy-in. It’s the cornerstone of creating appropriate goals and metrics for a successful training program.

4. Use the Visualization Technique

What the mind can’t visualize, the mind can’t achieve. Thoughts are things, so the more time you spend describing and visualizing your objectives, the better your chances will be of actually reaching them.

“Begin with the end in mind” is one of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the bestselling book by Stephen Covey. This technique has been found to be very effective in sports, but also applies to business. Visualization of success is what can advance you through the milestones necessary to achieve targets.

5. Start SMART

A classic mistake that I see over and over, and that I’ve made many times myself, is to be overzealous and try to change too many things at one time. I prefer the approach of setting one goal at a time. Then as you get that goal under control, slowly add more goals into the mix. Getting started is the most important thing.

You have probably heard of SMART goals. But do you always apply the rule? The simple fact is that for goals to be powerful, they should be designed to be SMART. There are many variations of what SMART stands for, but the essence is this:

Specific – Your objective must be clear and well defined. Vague or generalized goals are unhelpful because they don’t provide sufficient direction. Remember, you need goals to show you the way. Make it as easy as you can to get where you want to go by defining precisely where you want to end up.

Measurable – Include precise amounts, dates, and statistics in your goals so you can measure your degree of success. Without a way to measure your success, you miss out on the celebration that comes with knowing you have achieved something.

Attainable – Make sure that it’s possible to achieve the goals you set. If you set a goal that you have no hope of achieving, you will only demoralize yourself and erode your confidence.

Relevant – Goals should be relevant and aligned with the direction of the business. By keeping goals aligned, you’ll develop the focus you need to get ahead. Set widely scattered and inconsistent goals, and you’ll just waste time.

Time-Bound – Your goals must have a deadline. When you are working on a deadline, your sense of urgency increases and achievement will come that much quicker.

6. Achieve Small Wins With Milestones

Goals define where you’re going and milestones let you know if you’re actually getting there.

Goals and milestones complement each other like bread and butter. Having one without the other will render one ineffective. A goal acts as a source of inspiration and a sense of objective that is shared by the whole team. Each member will have an idea of what needs to be done to achieve that goal.

Milestones are actions and achievements necessary to make progress toward goals. They’re moves that need to be made to win the game, and they help you determine if you’re on the right track to reaching your goals.

Aiming for a goal set a year from now requires occasionally reassessing strategies between the present and that desired future; things such as competition, the economy, or customer demand can change.

As milestones are reached, those tasked with achieving a goal can see progress, assess new complications or opportunities that have emerged, and adjust plans and procedures before moving forward.

With milestones in place to ensure you are working steadily toward the attainment of the goal, you’ll also want to have processes in place to ensure you can actually attain them. This is another important part of the plan for your training program!

7. Measure Progress Consistently

Reaching your goals will be next to impossible if you don’t have a system to track and analyze them. Find a way to track your results daily or weekly.

By tracking and analyzing, you can also help to ensure that your plan is working in your favor. It will help keep your targets visible and in front of you. It will answer questions like: What are you doing daily that’s helping you to move closer to your goals? Are you moving further away?

Set up a system for tracking and analyzing progress toward your goals. You simply can’t achieve high-level or long-term goals without consistently determining if your efforts are paying off.

8. Accept the Need for Agility

We can set a plan to achieve our business objectives, act on that plan, and track progress, but if we’re not getting the results we’re after, then it’s necessary to adjust plans.

If you can see that you’re not headed in the right direction, don’t let the ship hit the rocks – make the decision to take the helm and change course.

9. Make Training Goals Visible  

One of the most important chapters in any goal setting book would be about sharing. About making your goals visible. Making them public, verifiable, open.

Here’s how to make goals visible:

1. Accountability – Sharing goals with others helps to hold you accountable. Because you know people are watching, you will hold yourself more accountable, and so will they!

2. Clarity – Every time you tell the world about some of your goals, you modify them. You take something from a discussion, something else from another one… until out of this ping-pong game of sharing your plans back and forth, your goal will emerge in a new form. Most of the time, this form will be a much clearer one.

3. Progress Measurement – Progress measurement is not about being accountable, but more about metrics. As you get closer to your goal, you’ll want to measure how long you have until you reach it. That information can be precious in many contexts. For instance, you may want to set up a new goal or evaluate the resources you’ve already used. Sharing your goals will make progress measurement easier. Sometimes you may even deliberately use your peers as guides or supervisors.

4. Connection – Sharing your goals with like-minded people may help you grow your social circle. Goals aside, the mere fact that you take the time to share something, to give details, to bring updates, and keep in touch with other people; all these tiny actions will create a connection.

10. Celebrate!

Ideally, everyone in your business is working toward the same goals. The more technically detailed milestones can usually be delegated to the proper individuals or teams with the expertise to achieve them.

Here’s how to positively reinforce your team’s work toward achieving goals:

  • Notice what your team’s successes have been and how you have all contributed to them.
  • Share your observations with the team.
  • Give others the gift of listening to them. Acknowledge and show appreciation for their individual successes.
  • Think about how your team can consolidate and build on successes, then use these ideas to make your new goals!

Creating a training program can be a lot of work. Having clear goals and metrics will not only help you to identify what success looks like, but ensure the right program is in place.

At BizLibrary, each of our clients have dedicated Client Success Consultants who help to formulate, develop, and ensure progress is achieved towards the organization’s targets. This is one of the reasons growing organizations choose us as their partner for online employee learning – learn more about our solutions for building successful training programs here. 

To be successful, training programs need to be based on data – not assumptions or the status quo. Our ebook on the Kirkpatrick Model will help you uncover data that can transform your L&D program: