Originally published March 19, 2019
Innovative training and development initiatives no longer teach employees “what to know”. They teach staff new strategies and behaviours to help them achieve business goals. Creating such initiatives comes from writing accurate and measurable learning objectives.
Precise Learning Objectives Teach Strategies to Achieve Goals
The first step in creating effective learning objectives requires some critical thinking. Consider how employees can achieve the business goal and be realistic about what your course can teach and evaluate. Consider the following business goal, and the proposed learning objective to help achieve it:
Business Goal: Increase sales of product X by 20% by end of Q3 2019.
Initial Learning Objective: After taking this course, the sales team will be able to sell more of product X.
First, what does ‘more’ mean in this context? This is a relative term, so it doesn’t specifically tell us as L&D professionals, or the learners taking the course, what to work towards to achieve the business goal. Also, when the employee finishes this eLearning course, can you tell if their new knowledge will really enable them to sell more of product X? In this case, it is impossible to determine.
Basing course content around this vague learning objective puts the sales team at risk of missing the target in the business goal.
Instead of vague learning objectives, focus on the specific strategies employees can learn in the course, like historically effective, proven sales tactics. It is easier to equip employees with tried-and-true strategies they can incorporate into their existing workflow than information that’s vaguely connected to their job. A more accurate learning objective for this course would be:
Better Learning Objective: Sales staff will list the steps of our company’s patented Holy Grail Sales Strategy by December 2019.
This objective includes an action word, ‘list’. It also defines a specific strategy the employees will learn, and the time frame they need to learn it in. The company’s ‘Holy Grail’ strategy has historically resulted in higher sales for the company, meaning the learning objective teaches a specific action proven to support a business goal.
Reflect on the Purpose of the Learning Event to Write Meaningful Learning Objectives
Now assume a company’s business goal is the following:
Business Goal: Increase company score on yearly customer service satisfaction survey by 13% from 2018 to 2019.
The first learning objective proposed by your colleague for this course is:
Learning Objective: Learners will know our Customer Service Standards by November 2019.
Think about the purpose of the course. What actions do you want employees to be able to do after they’ve completed your training, and how do these actions result in achieving the business goal? Instead, consider the following two learning objectives:
Better Learning Objective 1: By the end of this course, learners will be able to explain each step of the company’s Customer Service Standard.
Better Learning Objective 2: Learners will be able to select the correct Customer Service Standard step to resolve a fictional customer service scenario.
By explaining each step of the Customer Service Standards, employees are reinforcing their memory by recalling the standards in their own words. When employees select the correct step to respond to a scenario, they are applying their newly acquired customer service knowledge to a situation they may come across in real life. If the employee uses these strategies with clients, they will likely increase customer satisfaction and help achieve the organization’s business goal.
Using Brightspace Data to Evaluate Achievement of Business Goals
By assessing learning objective achievement, you can see how your company is tracking towards reaching the aligned business goal.
For example, let’s return to one of the learning objectives:
Learning Objective: Learners will be able to select the correct Customer Service Standard step to resolve a fictional customer service scenario in this one-hour course.
In Brightspace, you can associate this Learning Objective with quiz questions. If employees can correctly answer the associated quiz questions, they can likely use these strategies to solve customer service issues in real life. You can view this data in Brightspace for your entire company.
For more information about what data is available on Brightspace, check out this article on Brightspace’s Performance Plus Tool and why analytics matter. Learn a little bit more about data-driven decision making in our post on how to get started with data.
Tying it all Together
When using accurate and meaningful learning objectives that align with business goals, learning becomes more relevant and action-oriented. Creating courses with these types of learning objectives means learners will link the importance of learning to the overall goals of their team, business unit, and company.