5 tips on setting realistic training objectives
Instructional Design

5 tips on setting realistic training objectives

Creating a training program involves going through a lot of detailed and specific information. While adhering to the step-by-step training and development process is an ideal scenario: unfortunately, this isn’t the case most of the time.

Setting realistic training objectives may be the most critical, yet the most overlooked phase of the entire training and development cycle. With the training team raring to go straight to designing slides and facilitating classes, there is always that tendency to rush through formulating realistic learning goals and objectives.

Knowing the importance of training objectives, creating them must, therefore, be taken with due diligence. And with that said, here are five tips that can help you create effective, realistic, and measurable objectives for employee training.

1. Make the purpose of the training clear

What is the training program supposed to address? Is it a performance gap? Is it a knowledge gap? Is it for learning a new skill that will make the workforce more competitive? Whatever the case may be, you need to make sure that the purpose of the training is clear.

Once this justification is evident, it will be easier to create training objectives that are bound to deliver expected outcomes. Always remember that training sessions do not just come out of thin air. There is always a reason why training needs to take place. The data gathering and analysis phase of the training cycle should be able to point these out.


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2. Define expected outcomes

Training outcomes are the measurable goals learners must achieve at the end of a session or program. In addition, these expected outcomes determine the success (or failure) of your training strategy. And at the end of the day, training is evaluated on whether or not these expected outcomes have been attained.

When writing down desired learning outcomes, always make sure that the outcome is phrased in such a way that leaves nothing to interpretation. Avoid using vague words like ‘understand’, ‘realize,’ and ‘learn.’ Make use of verbs that show observable measurable and observable action instead.

For example, verbs like ‘create,’ ‘demonstrate,’ ‘calculate,’ (depending on your intended outcomes), are the best ones to use.

3. Put conditions into great consideration

When formulating training objectives you must also take into consideration the circumstances in which the training will be executed. Parameters, resources, materials, and pre-requirements are some of these conditions that you might want to pay attention to.

In terms of parameters, materials, and resources, the venue and the availability of materials, for example, can greatly affect how the training will be delivered. Not only that, these elements might also be limiting factors when it comes to the learning experience.

Moreover, prerequisites also must be considered. There are some training programs that require learners to take some classes beforehand. There are also times when training classes require essential skills from their learners before they can attend a session.

These conditions, at first glance, might seem quite trivial. However, they can and will play a big part when designing and implementing the program. So, take these conditions and limitations in great regard when creating your training objectives.


4. Align training objectives with business goals

At the end of the day, results will always be the measure of any program’s success. Training objectives need to be grounded on observable outcomes. These outcomes, in turn, have to be based on certain criteria. Furthermore, these benchmarks are usually based on key performance indicators or skill levels based on scorecards or rubrics.

Objectives of employee training not based on any standard or business metric will just be a waste of time and resources. Always remember that the objective of training in an organization is to produce business results. An effective and relevant program will always have a positive effect on a certain aspect of a business’ performance.

So, make sure that all learning objectives will actually (and eventually) result in increased performance.

5. Write down your objectives using the SMART format

The SMART format has been the go-to standard when it comes to formulating any type of objective – training or otherwise. Creating measurable learning objectives can be summed up in five letters, and these are:

S – Specific
Desired training goals, first, need to be specific. And that meaning each expected output can be defined by the ‘who,’ ‘what,’ and ‘where (optional).’ Who will demonstrate what skill, and where? And don’t forget to only focus on one specific skill/knowledge for each objective.

M – Measurable
Secondly, learning outcomes also need to be measurable. This means that a person must be able to quantify and/or qualify the expected output from a learner. This second characteristic answers the question ‘How?” How was the skill demonstrated? Can the demonstrated skill be observed?

A – Attainable
Being attainable means that the training objectives are realistic given the set amount of time and resources. Is it actually be possible to attain the goals given the situation? Of course, you cannot expect learners to capably demonstrate a complex skill given just thirty minutes or an hour of training.

R – Relevant
Being relevant answers the ‘Why?’ question. Always remember WIIFM (“What’s in it for me?”). Learners need to know why they are in training and what they can get out of it. Can the skills or knowledge that they’re going to learn to help them perform better at work? Can the skills/knowledge taught at the training session be used in actual work scenarios?

T – Time-bound
The time-bound element answers the question, ‘When?’ There is a saying that a goal without a deadline is just a dream, and the same also applies to creating training objectives. For most training sessions, the deadline is usually at the end of the session. There are cases, however, that attaining set goals can take a few days to a week – sometimes even months!

But how do you create measurable objectives? Here are examples of vague learning objectives converted into SMART format:

Vague: “Learners will understand the SMART format.”
SMART: “At the end of the session (Time-bound, Attainable), supervisors will be able to create (Measurable), SMART goals (Specific) for their respective teams (Relevant).”

Vague: “Participants will learn how to operate the new system.”

SMART: “At the end of the session (Time-bound, Attainable), the participants will be able to process sales orders (Specific, Measurable) on the new CRM system (Relevant).”


The main purpose of training objectives is to tie the training program with actual business results. Establishing clear, realistic, and measurable training goals at the onset of the training process will play a big part in ensuring the success of a training program.

Having clear-cut objectives not only answers the intended audience’s “What’s in it for me? (WIIFM) question. These goals also link the training with the expected measurable outcomes. A lot actually depends on these objectives; so try to make them SMART in order to be realistic, relevant, and, most importantly, results-driven.

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