Training Objectives: How to Set SMART Goals for Employee Learning

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. SMART goals have been a tried-and-true method for goal setting across industries since the early 1980s. They were developed after research showed that individuals often struggled to maintain the motivation necessary for goal follow-through.                         

Psychologically speaking, SMART goals help to build resilience because achieving goals boosts confidence, self-assurance, and satisfaction, which can encourage positive leadership and improve employee morale.

This article explores the key factors behind why SMART goals work. Read on to learn how to incorporate this framework into your employee learning programs, so that you may empower your employees to be their best selves. 

Man writing the SMART goal setting acronym on a clear board.

How to Set SMART Training Objectives          

Not all training objectives are created equal. To ensure that your training is results-oriented and produces measurable outcomes, it’s essential to set SMART training objectives. Read on to learn how.


What are the concrete objectives you’d like to accomplish with your training program? Starting with this step will help you focus on what you’re setting out to achieve. For example, you may be developing a program to train employees on a new company software. In that instance, your specific goal might be employee retention. To measure how well the information is retained, you’ll then need to define a precise metric, such as employee engagement levels during the training.                                                                   

If you’re aiming to invest in soft skills training for your employees, start by defining which soft skill(s) you’ll target. If you decide to train employees on communication, for example, be as specific as possible. Is there a particular problem you’re looking to address? Maybe your employees are failing to communicate well in emails, or your managers are struggling to clearly explain their performance expectations.    

Also, make sure to define your targeted audience. Is this training intended for veteran employees, or for new hires? What outcomes do you expect, and how can you get specific with your strategy to ensure you match expectations? A useful tool for this step is mind mapping, the process of identifying a specific goal and breaking it down into small pieces.


Evaluate the ROI of your training program. What do you intend to measure and how? Measuring training outcomes can be difficult, and you’ll often have to rely on qualitative data, like survey results. However, LMS tools can make gathering hard quantitative data easier. LMS tools assist in measuring things like completion rates, providing learning exercises and quizzes that gather information, and analyzing time and effort spent on learning materials. Knowing how much time and energy employees put into your workplace learning will give you impact data you can use to calculate a hard number for your ROI.

Not only does this type of evaluation help you determine whether or not your original goals were met, but it can also help you strategize and plan for future training endeavors.

Make Objectives ACHIEVABLE

While planning how to accomplish your workplace learning and development goals, ask yourself—are these training goals realistic? Have you set enough time for employees to absorb the information? Are you using the tools available to you to improve information retention? You may find you need to learn more about the employees before you can determine if your goals are actually achievable.

A great way to consider whether your goals are achievable is to brainstorm what success will look like and communicate this clearly to everyone involved, from planners to learners. Aligning everyone to the same mindset is a powerful tactic.


It’s happened to all of us: you get excited about the tasks and objectives before you, and before you know it, your project has run away from you and become something else. This is why SMART goals are so crucial—they help us stay focused.

Ask yourself: Do these training goals align with my company’s goals? If this training is meant to help improve workplace culture and productivity, why did we feel a need to improve it in the first place? Consider how you can tailor information to revolve around your company’s goals and objectives while narrowing in on specifics that will benefit your employees in their roles.


While this one sounds like a no-brainer, it’s actually easy to overlook. Set deadlines every step of the way while you plan your training.

Some questions to keep in mind:    

  • When does all planning need to be complete for this training?
  • When will the training launch or begin?
  • When do you need the training completed?
  • How long will it take to evaluate results?
  • Will you set a deadline for participant feedback?

Why Are Training Objectives Important?

Simply put, training objectives help keep you organized. Experts estimate that in any given year. $87.6 billion dollars are wasted in corporate training programs.

This includes training costs associated with:

  • Outside products and services
  • Training expenditures like food, facilities, equipment, and travel    
  • Training payroll

Furthermore, and more challenging to measure, the costs associated with poor retention can be astronomical. You may find that without a carefully planned and strategized goal-setting stage, your hard work creating a training program could ultimately wind up wasted if your audience doesn’t remember what they learned in the following weeks and months.      

Taking time to set relevant goals and dividing them into manageable chunks will help avoid misspent time and money.      

Time to Set SMARTER Goals

Visit our resources page for more information on how to develop effective online trainings. We’ve compiled a range of free and useful eBooks and whitepapers to help you navigate the entire eLearning process. Also, KnowledgeCity offers a full course, “Setting Organizational Goals,” which provides an in-depth look at how to break up large-scale organization objectives into smaller, more manageable tasks. 

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