Employees are the foundation and the strength of any company. As such, they should be treated with care. Training your employees properly is one of your responsibilities to the company; if employees aren’t well-trained or are working unproductively, your business is losing money. To prevent this, it’s essential to train your employees regularly and make sure they’re doing their best work.
In this article, we’ll teach you more about the importance of training goals. In addition to showing you some examples, we’ll go into detail about the difference they make to employees and companies alike as well as the different types of training styles and regimens used today.
Why Training Goals?
The reasons why training goals should be established are relatively clear. We even mentioned some of these goals above. However, some reasons are less obvious, but no less beneficial to the employees or the company. Some of these benefits are:
- Keeping employee engagement high
- Easy monitoring of employees’ status and progress with benchmarks
- New standards for employees to work towards
- A clear objective for employees to aim for
- Keeps the business running smoothly and efficiently
When an employee doesn’t have a goal to work towards, whether it’s a goal to improve themselves or an aim to improve the company, the work of that employee is spread out over a great many things that could all be enhanced. Instead of focusing on one area that could benefit themselves or the business, they remain directionless and almost lost.
When an employee has training goals in place to help them improve, however, they know exactly what the business needs to grow and excel. Furthermore, they know exactly what they need to do to help the company (and themselves) grow and excel. How can an employee expect to deliver results when they were never informed of what they were supposed to deliver?
Training goals are meant, at their core, to address an existing problem within a business or company. If the issue is employees slacking off at work, management and discipline may be the problem area. If employees aren’t doing the correct work, communication might be the problem, or they may not be competent enough in what they’re being asked to do.
Training goals come in many different types for many different needs, too. Most of these fall into one of these four categories:
- Social: to develop communication-related skills, such as greater teamworking abilities or better leadership potential
- Affective: to gain the ability to influence and lead other employees, especially towards change
- Psychomotor: to learn physical techniques and skills, such as operating different types of machinery, safely and efficiently
- Cognitive: to gather information and knowledge to do a job better or more efficiently
However, before any training goals can be set, it’s essential to find out what kinds of training goals your business and employees need. There are several ways to figure this out, such as the one we describe below.
Training Needs Analysis
The first step to determining what sort of training your employees need is to conduct a TRA, or a Training Needs Analysis. A Training Needs Analysis helps to identify where your employees are lacking, where they are excelling, and what kinds of development might benefit them and the company most.
In addition to the above, TNA can help accomplish the following things for your company and your employees:
- Helps to identify whether training is the correct method to solve your business’ problems
- Helps isolate the cost/value ratio of implementing proper training and whether it’s worth it for the company
- Helps to pinpoint more specific objectives and goals for your employee training regimens
- Helps to avoid training for the sake of it
- Eliminates money lost from unhelpful training regimens
TNAs accomplish much more than just that short list of things, but the rest of their functions follow the above. In essence, their purpose is to evaluate and reform the training practices of a business, in addition to determining whether or not such methods will be necessary.
A TNA consists of several steps that should be followed in a particular order. The first step, of course, involves identifying where the problem areas in employee training are. To do this, the company should ask, “What needs to be done that is currently not being done? Where do changes need to be made?”
The next step is to isolate which parts of the business – i.e., which groups of employees – need the most help, or which group can benefit most from the help. Which employee team or floor can provide the most profit and stability to the business by going through reformed training? Multiple groups can be selected, too, if necessary.
Step three involves looking to the employees themselves. What do your employees think about their training? Do they think it’s enough? Do they think it’s too much or too little? Commonly, questionnaires, surveys, and flyers are used to collect employee feedback. Employees should also be observed directly, and existing training documents should be collected for review, too.
After employee and document collection has been done, it’s time to review all that you’ve collected. What does it tell you? Use the information you’ve compiled to create a “game plan” of sorts for what to do next. Once you have that game plan, use it to give feedback to the employees and any other related parties in the company.
One more thing: if the cost of implementing new training goals for your business outweighs the potential profit, consider sending your employees to conferences and events that will promote cross-business learning, mingling, and experience. Even if you cannot afford your own updated training regimen, there are other options out there if you’re willing to get a bit creative in your search.
Providing feedback is the most crucial step of the TNA that we mentioned above. Like we’ve mentioned, if employees don’t know what they’re working towards or what they should be working on, their results will be inefficient. Even with a perfect employee training regimen, if a worker doesn’t know why or what they’re doing the work for, their skills may not end up being applied anyway.
This is where employee feedback comes in, and not only the feedback itself but also explaining why the feedback is essential. The most important part of the feedback itself is that it be honest and actionable. If an employee cannot act on the feedback you’re giving them, it serves no real purpose. In the same way, if your feedback is too dialed-down with niceties, employees may feel that it isn’t important.
Unfortunately, people don’t like giving the cold, hard truth to their employees – or anyone, really. To stand in front of someone and tell them all the things they’re doing wrong is difficult. However, if you only remain concerned with being “nice” to employees, your feedback will either become distorted in the process, or it will not be conveyed with the importance that it should.
Meaningful feedback is important, regardless of whether or not it’s easy. It’s essential to create a workplace where open, honest feedback is freely given and received. Employees should feel comfortable with receiving polite constructive criticism, and managers, bosses, and owners should be able to provide this feedback without fear of their employees taking it personally.
An excellent way to do this is to include this in the training regimen itself. If your employees currently aren’t good at giving and receiving constructive feedback, why not teach it to them, since you were planning to train them anyway? Create a workplace where feedback is encouraged so that it can be freely given and received for the benefit of all.
Make sure to take your employees’ feedback into account here, too. What is it that your employees want from future training programs? If they’ve listed anything reasonable, don’t be afraid to include it, too. Of course, it needs to line up with the higher goals of the business, as well as what’s reasonable (and financially responsible) to include in the training regimen itself, but as long as it fulfills those things, you should make every effort to include it.
SMART Training Goals
The SMART goal system is a system that has been referenced again and again concerning business goals, and employee training goals are no different. Any training goals you set should be SMART, but really, whenever you can successfully implement the SMART goal system, you should. It’s an excellent system that helps a business (or a person) set better goals, regardless of the reason.
The SMART acronym stands for the following:
- Specific: the goal should be clearly defined, not vague
- Measurable: the goal should be quantifiable by some sort of value besides time
- Achievable: the goal needs to be realistic and attainable within the time allotted
- Relevant: the goals should be aligned with the greater interests of the business at all times
- Time-Bound: the goal needs to have a set deadline to be completed by
The purpose of the SMART system is to make people think about all aspects of a goal before setting it. While the TNA will help you identify where your goals need to be set, the SMART system will help you with how.
Following the steps outlined above when building your employee training goals will help you set goals that are easier for your employees to understand and achieve. For example, consider the following two goals:
- Increase customer satisfaction
- Increase customer satisfaction by 15% by the end of the quarter by reducing employee errors
Which of the above objectives would be easier to implement, monitor, understand, and achieve? The second goal gives employees something specific to work on in reducing employee error and something to strive for in increasing customer satisfaction. They also have a percentage to use to monitor their progress, as well as a deadline to motivate them to work quickly.
We started this article off by saying that employees are the foundation of any company. Without them, the company could not exist. As such, everything the business does circles back down to the employees at the end of the day. Keep your employees in mind when setting your training goals, both for skills that they desire and skills that they need, and remember the following:
- Training should benefit both the employee and the organization as much as possible
- Training programs should offer options for participants who learn in different ways
- New training should enrich the individual and encourage the development of helpful skills
- A culture of learning should always be maintained
If you can offer a training regimen that supplements skills that the employee desires in addition to skills that the business needs, the employee will be all the more motivated to attend, pay attention, and learn during said training. If the training is dull, which some inevitably are, the employee is more likely to tune it out or zone out if the information does not benefit them in some way.
Picking topics and skills that are interesting to your employees is one way to do this. For example, which of these sounds more appealing: a training segment called “Fostering Communication in the Workplace,” or one called “How to Communicate Effectively at Work and Maximize Your Employability” instead?
The title of the second segment suggests that the skills the employees will learn will apply to future jobs, if necessary. This might pique the interest of more employees than the former segment might. While many employees might be interested in communicating better in the workplace, if it doesn’t provide any clear benefit to them and it isn’t required, interest is likely to be low.
An alternative option to mandating employees to attend these functions is offering rewards for when they do. For a conference or event, often an expenses-paid vacation is enough of a temptation to have employees attending in droves. However, for something less glamorous and closer to home, offering a raffle that you’re entered into once for each training segment you attend might be a good motivator.
Learning Goals and Performance Goals
We’ve already mentioned SMART goals and personal goals, but there are other types of goals to be aware of, too. Mainly, you should know the difference between learning goals and performance goals and the effects that each has on your organization. We touched on this a bit above in the personal goals section, but in this case, it’s a bit different.
Learning goals are what an employee wants to learn and improve in order to do better in their chosen workplace. They’re similar to personal goals but different in that they’re always related to a work-focused desire. Performance goals, on the other hand, are what an employee needs to learn or master in order to do well at work.
Performance goals often only concern what an employee needs to know with immediacy. For example, if an employee is given a new duty at work, they should know how to handle and excel at that duty, and sometimes training is necessary to achieve that.
However, an employee also might have personal learning goals to understand and master new software that might make them more desirable for a promotion or help them fulfill their duties more efficiently. That would be a learning goal rather than a performance goal.
However, learning goals usually involve more of a distance model. Learning goals are acquired outside of the necessary performance goals needed to do well, and they may not pay off for some time. However, these learning goals do provide some benefits over performance goals, such as the following:
- Learning goals increase the potential delivery of your employees in the future since they’ll be enhancing their overall skills and knowledge
- Learning goals may not provide any profitability increase in the short term, but they will in the long run
- Learning goals give employees a sense of personal empowerment, motivating them to keep working towards challenging objectives
- Learning goals are kept by the employee for life once they’re achieved, increasing their overall employability and allowing access to greater performance objectives
If you can, you should make time and opportunities for employees to pursue these learning goals whenever possible, especially if they benefit the company. And since bettering your employees is always of benefit to your company, there’s no reason not to pursue these learning goals!
Despite the attractiveness of learning goals, performance goals are no less important. However, performance goals virtually disappear after they’re achieved, unless they involved an achievement in and of themselves; an employee doesn’t always learn a new skill in the process of pursuing a performance goal.
When it comes to setting training goals, it’s important to remember that training goals and objectives are two different things. Many assume they’re the same, but there are important distinctions between them that are worth looking into. While a goal is what you want to accomplish in the end, objectives involve how you will get there. Take another look at this example that we mentioned earlier in this article:
- Increase customer satisfaction by 15% by the end of the quarter by reducing employee errors
The very end of that bullet, by reducing employee errors, is actually an objective to completing that goal. Imagine that you’re looking at a road map, for example. If the training goal is your destination, the related objectives are the many roads on the map that could potentially get you there.
Training objectives can come in many forms and functions, and they all relate back to accomplishing your goal. Different objectives can be helpful and relevant to a business or corporation at different points in time as the company grows and changes.
For example, reducing employee errors will no longer be a suitable method of increasing customer satisfaction once the minimum number of employee errors has been reached. The company will need to find another way to increase customer satisfaction, such as by providing more frequent discounts or sales.
Impact-oriented training objectives are those set with a specific end result in mind. These end results can be something like increasing customer satisfaction like we said above, or they can be broader, such as with providing better profit margins to the company. Several more examples of these impact-oriented training objectives are:
- Lowered costs to the business, such as lower employee turnover and improved employee efficiency
- Shortened time frames in which a product or service goes from creation to profit
- Skill training that could work to improve the effectiveness of the business as a whole
Goals for employee training should always relate back to the goals of the company, as we’ve mentioned, and being ready to create your goals based on those needs right from the get-go is an excellent way to make sure everything lines up.
Sometimes, though, the needs of the business can get lost in revisions, talks, conferences, and other things, so it’s essential to maintain this relation all the while. These goals are also very dependent on what the business in question needs most. Sometimes, it can be multiple things at once!
Training goals don’t just stop when an employee graduates from your training programs. While setting up the programs correctly will help a lot with employee retention and efficiency moving forward, it’s essential to make sure that your employees are putting their new skills and knowledge to use properly, too. This is called reinforcement.
As a business owner, you should be using all the resources available to you to keep tabs on your employees’ performances to make sure that they’re up-to-date with their skills, knowledge, and training. Furthermore, if they are not performing as they should be, they may need to go through additional training, be given a special talking-to, or even removed from employment if the situation becomes dire.
Measurement goes right alongside reinforcement. In order to make sure your employees are performing well, they should be compared to other employees, both within your company and without. There should always be a “perfect” standard that your employees should be compared to, but they shouldn’t be expected to reach quite that high.
Evaluation pairs well with measurement and reinforcement, too. Some skills are challenging to test, like newly-gained knowledge or intelligence. Other things, however, like leadership or communication skills, are easy to test by putting employees into a team environment or by having them fulfill certain challenges or tasks.
Knowledge and other research material that employees are expected to learn, such as specific academic concepts or ideas, can be tested by written assessments or exams, if necessary. In any business-related situation, it’s better to test actionable knowledge that employees have obtained, as exams are not always a proper measurement of a person’s ability, and the ability to properly execute an action when the time comes is the most important anyway.
There should also be several “ideal” benchmarks that employees should always be striving towards. These benchmarks should be from peers or rival companies that have workers with different strengths than yours. It may even be helpful to have a “graph” of sorts that employees can use to track who they’re doing better than!
Consider these common areas where employees might need extra reinforcement and policing to perform up to expectations:
- Do they have enough knowledge to do the job they’ve been assigned properly?
- Do they have the skills and know-how to fulfill the roles they’re expected to fill?
- Do they have enough motivation to complete their jobs well and on-time, either through personal connections to the work or outside deadlines and other motivators?
- Do they have enough time and support to find success?
- Are their enough communication channels for them to ask questions and receive directions when they’re unsure?
All of the above gaps can be reinforced with proper training goals, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be maintained. As we mentioned, watching your employees over time and holding them to a certain standard is just as important as setting good training goals in the first place.
Without its employees, a business cannot exist. As such, the employees in a company, like the cogs in a machine, need to be well-maintained and oiled generously. Keeping the employees in tip-top shape will help keep the business as a whole running smoothly and efficiently.
Setting training goals for your employees is one of the best ways to keep them competent and efficient within their field. In most situations, employees will do what they’re expected to do to the best of their ability, but if they’re not given proper directions on what to do, they will be unable to do their best work, regardless of how much time, effort, and expertise they throw at the task.
This is why setting training goals is so important! Employees within a company need to communicate effectively so that everyone knows what to do, and everyone needs a certain amount of expertise with their work in order to do an effective job. As long as you set out to follow the tips we’ve provided in this article, you’ll be well on your way to setting ideal training goals for your employees.