How To Write Learning Objectives For Employee Training: A Practical Guide For Beginners
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How To Write Successful Learning Objectives

Learning objectives describe the learning outcomes of a training course. It sounds like a straightforward task—and it is. That’s where the challenge lies. You only have a couple of sentences to sum up the learning outcomes of your course in a way that resonates with employees.

But why should you care about learning objectives? Can a few words really make a difference? Well, yes. Developing learning objectives plays an important role in training and ultimately contributes to the success of your company.

Sometimes employees fail to see the point of training. Clear learning objectives are the best way to communicate to employees the tangible benefits of your course and get them on board wholeheartedly.

Even if you don’t have much experience writing learning objectives, fear not. Here’s how to write learning objectives for employee training, first-timers’ edition:

 1. Align The Learning Objectives With Your Business Goals

You create online training to improve employee performance. So, your first step should be to align your training goals with your business objectives. Thinking about your future goals is a great start: What do you expect your company to have achieved in the next X months (remember to set a specific number, there)?

Then, go back to your staff and think about how their training will help your organization achieve its goals. Once you’re done, revisit the company goals and make sure that they’re all still consistent with your training objectives.

2. Keep Them Short And Simple

Remember to keep your learning objectives short and to the point. One or two sentences will do. Meanwhile, try to be as specific as possible. There’s no need to go into detail about the learning material, just focus on the learning outcomes. Use simple language and don’t make exaggerated statements. Otherwise, your learning objectives will end up sounding like sales pitches.

It helps to write learning objectives following a fixed format. This format should include a timeframe (but not necessarily a deadline), an audience, a measurable action verb that describes the learning outcome, and any details necessary to complete the description.

Learning objectives for eLearning should look like this: “By the end of the training (time frame), Project Managers (audience) will be able to delegate (action verb) tasks more efficiently (details).”

3. Be Specific

Learning objectives should address a specific pain point, not generic learning goals. Employees like to know what to expect from training. Ideally, it should be something relevant to their needs.

You want to increase sales, for example. Your first instinct might tell you that your learning objective is to improve sales skills. But that’s more of a learning goal than a learning objective. In this instance, to improve sales skills, you need to improve several individual skills. It could be product knowledge or a set of soft skills. How do you figure out what your employees need? Do you dare to take a lucky guess?

The key to identifying knowledge gaps and writing meaningful learning objectives is a Training Needs Analysis. Take the time to carry out eLearning assessments or on-the-job observations. It’s the only way to find out where you need to focus your training.

Afterward, your learning objectives will sound more like: “After this sales training course, sales employees will be able to pinpoint the differences between our new line of products and our competitors’.” That’s a lot more specific and meaningful than “improve sales skills,” right?

4. Be Realistic

Aiming high generally works well in life. But when it comes to training, it’s best to set realistic learning objectives.

The results of your Training Needs Analysis will help you gauge the knowledge level of your employees. You can then adjust your learning objectives accordingly, which, in turn, will help you express them more clearly. Try to find the sweet spot between challenging and discouraging employees. You also need to be careful about the amount of information you introduce in a course.

It’s hard to tell whether your training objectives are reasonable if you don’t have much experience in L&D. A reliable way to figure it out is to create eLearning assessments on an LMS like TalentLMS. If you notice high failure rates, you need to rethink your training plan and set new learning objectives. You can also monitor learner behavior through LMS reporting tools. Are they going through the sessions quickly and still manage to pass the quizzes? Then you may have set the bar too low.

5. Use Bloom’s Taxonomy

Bloom’s Taxonomy was first developed in 1956 by the American educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom. It’s a classification of learning goals based on the cognitive processes involved. Each learning goal corresponds to a different level of learning. L&D professionals often use this taxonomy as a guideline for writing learning objectives.

Let’s see the 6 learning goals of Bloom’s Taxonomy, and some action verbs for each one (this is not an exhaustive list). You’ll also find examples of training objectives and goals using these verbs.

  1. Remembering: recognize, recall, retrieve, list, name, define, match. Remembering requires the learner to retrieve previously acquired knowledge. An example, “At the end of safety training, warehouse employees will be able to list the 5 most common safety hazards in a warehouse.”
  2. Understanding: interpret, identify, classify, explain, outline. Now the learner needs to have understood the information well enough to explain it to others. During IT security training, for instance, employees learn to “identify common security threats.”
  3. Applying: organize, plan, implement, execute, solve. At this level, learners use the information to move from theory to practice. For example, “By the end of this time management course, remote workers will be able to organize their workload more efficiently.”
  4. Analyzing: categorize, classify, simplify, list, distinguish, compare. The learner can break information down into its components and identify the relationship among those. For example, a health information technician can “categorize patient data” after successful software training.
  5. Evaluating: choose, compare, measure, determine, disprove, prioritize, interpret. At this level, learners can make judgments and form decisions based on the knowledge acquired. A Project Manager can learn to “prioritize their tasks” and a QA tester to “accurately determine the quality of a product.”
  6. Creating: develop, design, improve, adapt, solve, modify, perform. Learners can create something new, combining the previously acquired knowledge. Like a sales manager can “develop a strategic sales plan,” or HR employees can “solve workplace conflict.”

6. Choose The Right Verb

Objectives for development and learning should motivate employees to join training by clearly pointing out the learning outcomes. The verb that you use to describe your learning objectives will determine how clear your message is.

As a rule of thumb, avoid generic verbs like learn, understand, be aware of, etc. Prefer action verbs instead. They are more specific and measurable. Use Bloom’s Taxonomy to find the verb that corresponds to your desired learning outcomes.

Let’s see an example of this:

  1. “Employees will understand waste management procedures.”
  2. “Employees will be able to apply waste management procedures.”

These two sentences are trying to do the same thing, yet only the second one communicates the message effectively.

That’s because “understand” is generic, it’s not measurable, and it leaves room for further questions. Yes, employees will know. What are they supposed to do with that knowledge?

“Apply,” on the other hand, is specific. It explains that employees will be able to take action. It’s measurable, too. You can create a simulation to test whether they can indeed apply waste management procedures.

Conclusion

You’d think that quality training courses speak for themselves, but that’s not the case. You can throw in all the latest technologies you want. But unless employees can see how this training is beneficial, they still won’t hop on the training wagon on the right foot. Specific and measurable learning objectives should be part of your training plan. Dust up your writing skills and create learning objectives that will help you set a clear learning path and intrigue employees!

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