Setting Goals for Training

Last time I wrote about training being an application of communication, making the Intelligent Communication model an invaluable tool.  One aspect of that model is identifying and pursuing a goal for training. I suggested that the ultimate goal of training is not just passing on knowledge.  There are more important goals we must set our sights on. In this article, I want to continue considering setting goals in training.

Importance of Goals

When I am teaching Intelligent Communication skills, I often remind my students that if they do not set goals for their communication, they will certainly hit it.  If we aim at nothing, we will hit nothing. The same is true for training. We must understand our goals and develop our training specifically to achieve them.

The time and effort expended to train our people can be significant.  Therefore, conducting training that will not achieve important goals for the organization is a waste.  It wastes time and resources and also reduces the trust our people have in future training programs.

Knowledge, Behavior, Results

All trainers want to put on good training.  But is that goal? No, we want to pass on knowledge to our students.  This is certainly something that must occur if training is going to be successful.  But, is passing on knowledge our ultimate goal? Is all we want that our students will possess more information than they did before our training session?  Is there something more?

I believe there is more.  We want the knowledge we pass on during training to have an effect on our students.  We want to influence and change their behaviors, conforming them to the pattern we set forth in our training.  Therefore, we could say that changing behavior is our goal. But is it?

I would like to suggest we take one more step to arrive at our goal.  That step is results. We should aim that our training leads to specific results consistent with the goals of the organization.  For example, in a manufacturing environment, our training goals should be directed towards things like reduced safety incidents, improved quality, or increased reliability and productivity.

Goals and Objectives

All those potential goals suggested above are important.  We want to put on good training so that our students are able to learn what we intend to teach.  We must pass on knowledge for our training to be effective. We want that knowledge to impact behavior so that it is useful.  All three of these become interim objectives to our ultimate goal to achieve specific results.

Modeling Goals and Objectives

Let’s take a look at what this might look like in a model.  Let’s first look at our objectives and our goal by looking at the Kirkpatrick Model, developed by Dr. Donald Kirkpatrick several decades ago.  Kirkpatrick developed this model to provide a guide for training evaluation. As you see in the image below, the four levels are linked, like a chain running from Reaction through Results.  Effective training touches upon each of these levels, but it ends in results. This model provides a good guiding structure for both designing and evaluating training.

Intelligent Communication

We can also look at the goal process within my Intelligent Communication 3.0 model I referenced in my previous article.  The Intelligent Communication model includes a guideline component that can guide our developing and execution of training, just like it does for other forms of communication.  


A close up of the guideline (see below) resembles a football field.  We start with a general game plan, which is developed based on the basic interrogatives applied to our training situation:  who, what, when, where, why, and how. We need to take some time to answer these questions at the outside of developing our training.

Intelligent Communication 3.0

The rest of the guideline represents an offensive drive, where we communicate or train with a goal in mind.  In football, the goal is to move the football across the aptly named goal line.  Yet, teams rarely accomplish that goal with a single play. No, they run a number of plays designed to get first downs.  These first downs allow them to continue to move towards the goal line. Failing to make a first down ends the drive to the goal line.

Intelligent Communication: Guideline

We can look at training the same way.  Our ultimate goal is the specific results we want to achieve for our organization, e.g. safety, quality, reliability, and/or productivity.  This is our goal line. In route to that goal, however, we must achieve some first downs, which include good training, passing on necessary knowledge, and influencing desired behaviors.  Failure to achieve these first downs, like in football, will prevent us from successfully achieving our goal.

Carefully Select Goals and Objectives

So, as you plan your next training event, take the time to consider your goals and objectives.  Start with your own game plan, working through those basic interrogatives about your proposed training.  Then set your goal. What results are you ultimately trying to achieve by this training? Once you have your goal, you can consider your interim objectives: type of training to be conducted, knowledge to be taught, and desired behavior to create.  See if taking this time helps you better hit where you are aiming.

As you continue to train, remember to always be quick to hear.


Featured Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

1 thought on “Setting Goals for Training”

  1. This is such an important reminder for every trainer and organization, Randy. I especially loved your comparison to training and an end result to first downs and goals in football. That’s such a good way of looking at training. As a trainer, the starting point should always be about objectives and asking ourselves what someone should be able to know or do at the end of the training. That’s where true training success lies. I truly believe the best workplace training programs review how performance and productivity are impacted by training and not just how many people completed it or got a perfect score on a quiz at the end of the course. Training requires deliberate planning and objectives are a very important aspect to that process, so thank you for reminding all of us of that!

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