Setting learning objectives is a crucial part of the design phase for any e-learning course. Learning objectives tell learners what they should be able to do (perform) at the end of the course. For learning designers, they present a roadmap of how the course should be designed.
But did you ever pause to think, how relevant these performance-based objectives are for the organization? How does one connect these objectives to the business goals and the organization? Making this connection is the key to make the training effective.
Regardless of the type of training, it is aimed at achieving the business goals of the organization. So obviously, the objectives of any training must be based on these goals, right? Although in theory we all acknowledge this basic fact, in reality we sometimes end up rolling out training solutions that are not closely aligned to business goals.
Think of those training programs which seemed to serve no purpose, except that they “seemed like a good idea” at that point. The fact is that aligning training to business goals requires deliberate thought and effort.
The process starts with first identifying the goals of the organization. Every business will have its own unique goals but regardless of the industry the organization is in, some goals common to all are – to sell more, be efficient, or stay compliant.
Every aspect of an employee’s performance is tied to these goals. And organizations train their employees so that they can work toward meeting these goals. Because at the end of the day, training should help employees perform better and bridge the gap between their current and expected performance, which in turn would help the organization deliver better business results.
So how do we ensure this? A training needs analysis helps you discover if employees have the right skills, knowledge, and abilities to do their jobs. It will help identify the gaps preventing employees from achieving the desired or optimal performance, and enable you to create performance-based objectives for your training program.
In other words, performance-based objectives, which cascade from the desired business goals, can be achieved only by the desired human performance. For instance, if the business goal is to improve efficiency by reducing production time, then the training should focus on helping employees to use machinery more effectively or manage their time efficiently.
Since these learning objectives play a significant role in training programs, they should be worded appropriately. The objective should be a statement in specific and measurable terms that describes what the learner will be able to do as a result of the training activity. Writing down the objectives in clear terms is the starting point when designing a training program.
Create an Effective Performance-based Objective
Performance-based objectives have to be framed carefully because they form the basis for deciding what content to keep and what you can leave out in the course. They determine the instructional design strategy that will be used and also determine the assessment questions in the course.
Dr. Robert Mager, a renowned expert on training and performance improvement, defined the following three characteristics of a performance-based learning objective:
- Performance: Describe what the learner is expected to be able to do (tangible performance)
- Condition: Situation or environment under which the performance is expected to occur (where the performance takes place)
- Criteria: The level of competence that must be reached or exceeded to succeed (passing grade/score)
These three together describe in specific and measurable terms what a learner will be able to do after the training activity.
Performance-based objectives, as we know are designed to achieve results that can be measured, so the desired outcomes have to be clearly defined and also how they can be assessed, observed, or measured.
Performance-based objectives are also useful to explain to learners how they will be able to apply what they have learned in the real world. For instance, after a sales training on negotiation skills, the salesperson should be able to work out a better deal with customers. These objectives should contain action words that indicate what the course will offer learners, so that they know what they will be able to do after completing the course.
Performance-based objectives of any training program should be linked to the business goals of the organization, if they have to be effective. The close relationship between training, business goals, and performance is established through well-crafted learning objectives. With effective training, employee performance improves which translates into the achievement of business goals. And all of this begins with your performance-based objectives.