How to set training goals, including tips and examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 14 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Employees are a company's most valuable asset, and training and development are essential for any organisation. By providing opportunities for continual learning and professional development, companies can keep employees interested in their work, reduce staff turnover and improve job satisfaction. By setting training goals, you help employees understand what the training is for, why it's happening and what the company is looking to achieve. In this article, we discuss the benefits of training and development, how to set training goals and provide some tips and examples of how to use them.

Related: How to find a good example of a training programme

What are training and development?

Training and development are investments companies make in their employees to ensure they understand their roles and can carry out their duties effectively. While a new hire requires initial training, existing employees can benefit from learning additional skills and knowledge that help them develop their careers. In turn, this allows them to advance within the company, reducing or even eliminating any requirement to hire externally for key positions.

By providing continual training and development, employers can benefit from an increased return on investment of their employees, improve growth and profits and enhance their reputation within their industry. Some other benefits for companies that invest in training and development are:

  • increased productivity

  • improved workplace culture

  • retention of top talent

  • enhanced job satisfaction

  • skilled and knowledgeable staff across the company

Related: What is training and development, and why is it important?

How to set training goals

Working out how to set training goals is essential when creating training programmes for employees. Training goals help to make training programmes more effective, increasing the chances of successfully training employees. They help to keep staff engaged, provide direction and objectives and achieve the long-term goals set out by the organisation. By having development goals in place, employers can identify training needs and measure the effectiveness of the training programme. By following these steps, you can learn how to set training goals:

Related: How to set goals for yourself (and why it's important)

1. Determine the purpose of the training

In this first stage, the employer determines what they want to achieve. There's a reason for the training, and the employer may benefit from undertaking a Training Needs Analysis (TNA) to ensure that both they and their employees understand what that reason is. Identifying the reason for the training allows you to decide the number of goals to be set, the type of goals and what the intended outcome for each objective is.

Related: How to train new employees (with instructions and examples)

2. Identify gaps in knowledge

Once you establish the reason for the training, you can then focus on the employees' knowledge gaps. It's important to understand what the current skills of the employees are and how they compare to company expectations. By analysing these gaps, you can identify the specific learning requirements and tackle these in training. You can categorise the objectives into three separate groups and ensure the training plan targets these. These categories are:

  • Skills: Do the employees have all the skills to do their job? If there are specific skills that employees aren't demonstrating, you can include these in the training.

  • Knowledge: Do the employees have all the necessary knowledge to perform their duties? This stage involves separating the essential information an employee requires from the extra knowledge that's helpful for them.

  • Motivation: Are the employees motivated enough to perform well? A lack of skills and knowledge can lead to demotivation to do a job well, so addressing the previous two points can lead to improved behaviour and attitude towards the work.

Related: How to identify skill gaps in the workplace (with tips)

3. Conduct consultations

Carrying out a consultation process in relation to training opportunities can be a good way to engage employees with the training. Asking employees what training and development they require to navigate a problem or obstacle allows them to be part of the process and actively contribute. Employees can make suggestions, such as the timing of the training and what style of learning they prefer. There are four different methods of learning:

  • Visual: Visual learners can retain information when you present it in a graphic depiction, including video and film, visual presentations, online training, graphs, diagrams and charts. This method allows learners to make their own notes which helps them retain the information.

  • Auditory: Auditory learners prefer to listen to information and can better retain knowledge when someone's speaking. This may be in a group setting with a trainer present to provide information that allows auditory learners to ask questions if there's something they don't understand.

  • Reading and writing: Reading and writing learners prefer information they can read at their own pace. This learning method focuses on the written word and allows these learners to take their own notes and refer to the text when necessary.

  • Kinesthetic: Kinesthetic learners take a hands-on, physical approach to learning, preferring to watch how to do a task before performing it themselves. They tend not to take notes as they retain information from the visual tools they use to do their job, and the knowledge and experience they gain help them identify better work processes.

4. Create and set SMART goals

SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals are an effective way to set, measure and succeed with employee objectives. They're a good way to keep track of progress and determine the effectiveness of the training. Follow these steps when using SMART goals:

  • Specific: The goal requires a clear definition, so the employees understand its requirements. There can be no vague direction or generalised language when setting a specific goal.

  • Measurable: Determining how to track and measure each goal allows you to see the progress made and is a source of motivation. Continually assessing the progress can help employees keep focus and meet deadlines.

  • Achievable: Goals are always realistic and achievable if they're to be successful. Setting unachievable goals can demoralise employees, but when you set attainable goals, you can identify potential opportunities for improvement.

  • Relevant: All goals are relevant to the overall objectives of the company. Keeping goals in line with the company objectives ensures that both employer and employee benefit from the training.

  • Time-bound: Each goal comes with a specific yet achievable timeline. This gives employees a focus and motivates them to successfully achieve their goals on time.

Related: How to write SMART goals in 6 steps (with tips and examples)

5. Assess regularly

Once the training goals are in place, track their progress regularly. This provides an opportunity to assess the effectiveness of each goal, decide what's working and make changes to the goals when necessary. Obtaining feedback through regular evaluations provides opportunities to review and revise the training until it's ideal for the organisational and individual requirements.

6. Follow up after training

Upon completing the training, it's necessary to follow up with the employees to check their progress and how effective the training has been. This may involve working closely with employees and evaluating what they've learned and whether they require any additional assistance or resources. This helps employees to get the most out of the training and apply what they learned to their roles.

Related: What is staff turnover? (And what it means for you)

Tips to remember when setting training goals

Here are a few tips to remember when setting training goals for employees:

  • Confirm all staff are aware of the reason for the training goal. Employees undertaking training without understanding why can be reluctant to engage in it. Employees who understand the reasons for training goals can gain the motivation to work towards objectives as they have a clear purpose to aim for.

  • Plan regular reviews. Make plans to check in with employees regularly to monitor the effectiveness of the training. This also helps to identify whether a goal is still achievable and realistic and allows for adjustments to the training without waiting for the employees' annual reviews.

  • Promote professional development. Goals share a dual purpose, business growth and professional development. Promote professional development by encouraging employees to attend workshops, online and in-person seminars and additional courses that enable them to grow and expand their skill set.

Related: How to write a professional development plan (with example)

Examples of training goals

There are many goals a company can set for its staff. Some of them are:

  • reducing documentation issue times to seven working days by the end of the year

  • increasing response times to online queries by 25% within three months

  • teaching all staff to learn how to use a new online booking system by the end of June

  • responding to social media requests and enquiries within 30 minutes of receiving a notification

  • acknowledging all customer complaints sent in writing within 24 hours of receipt

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