How to Identify Good Business Goals for Learning Programs

Last week we set out the BALDDIE model of instructional design. And the first step in the model is defining the business goal that your learning program will be designed to address. This is a vital step, as targeting the wrong business goal (or no goal at all) will mean the rest of your design will be working toward the wrong target.

Follow the rules

You should apply these four rules when identifying your business goal.

Let’s explore each of these rules in more detail.

1) It’s a business goal, not a learning team goal.

The business goal should be just that, a business goal. It’s not an L&D goal. It’s not something related to LMS uptake or completion rates for a course. This means that you’re probably not going to create the business goal.

Rather, it most likely will be something already defined by the business and based around the needs and challenges of the business at that point in time.

That’s not to say L&D shouldn’t be involved in defining business goals. We have a role to play in helping the business articulate what’s needed and determining to what extent training can be a useful tool in reaching those goals.

And remember, there may be other departments also working toward the same goal or related goals in their own ways, as it’s unlikely that any business problem will be solved with training alone.

So, by identifying the business goal and any other efforts working toward accomplishing the same or similar goals, you’re also helping ensure synergy and efficiency across teams.

2) Focus on 1 business goal, not 20.

From increasing sales and making customers happier to improving employee retention and bringing world peace, it can be tempting to think that your learning solution is going to solve every problem facing the business.

The resulting training will likely provide multiple benefits, but in order to design a truly effective training program, you need to design a program that targets a single business goal. Skillful pool players might be able to sink multiple balls in one shot, but I know I need to focus on just one or risk not sinking any.

In the (hopefully) rare instance when you need to address multiple business goals, consider tackling each of these in separately designed learning programs.

These programs can share assets, delivery approaches, and themes—and can even be merged later in the design process. But for the initial stages, treat them separately until you have identified the business, performance, and learning goals required for each program.

3) Be specific, not too high level.

The business goal needs to be as SMART as possible (i.e., specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time-based), which will enable you to design a training program that helps reach that goal.

For example, most businesses can identify with a goal to “increase sales,” but it’s hard to design a training program for a general goal that lacks specific details or metrics.

So if you’re presented with the goal of increasing sales, start by asking why sales aren’t currently at the desired level. If you choose a goal that is detailed enough, you’ll be able to identify what specifically about increasing sales you need to tackle. Consider the following:

  • Is it to do with time to competency of salespeople?
  • Is there a lack of sales for a particular product line or category?
  • Are sales slower at particular times of year? Or are salespeople not taking enough advantage of the times when products are in high demand?
  • Is there a stage in the sales cycle where deals tend to get stuck?

(TIP: These kinds of questions can be applied to other general business goals to make them more specific.)

The goal should also be specific in terms of a quantifiable target that shows if the goal has been met and what progress there is against the goal target. For instance, if you want to increase customer satisfaction levels following delivery of a particular customer service interaction, consider questions like:

  • What are the current satisfaction levels and where should they be?
  • What about timeframes? Is the training expected to have an immediate effect, or will it take time? If so, what does that timeline look like?
  • Across the whole population of service ratings, are you seeing improvements in satisfaction in specific areas or inquiry types?

4) Link your goal to a measurable KPI.

Finally, identify a measurable KPI that’s associated with the business goal so you can monitor progress toward your target and provide a way of measuring success. Having a learning KPI also helps you create a clear plan for meeting the goal.

After all, it’s easy to say your course will lead to happier customers in a general, ethereal sense. But if you want to target a 5-point increase in year-on-year average NPS score, you must understand how the training will lead to change and the intended results.

Ideally the business goal itself relates to a measurable number, but not everything is readily quantifiable (at least in the short term). For example, perhaps your goal is to improve the longevity and reliability of your products to maintain your organization’s reputation for years to come.

In this scenario, you’ll probably want to measure the effectiveness of your training in contributing to that goal. So try focusing on a related short-term KPI that shows an appropriate early indicator of success, such as QA (i.e., quality assurance) success rates.

Regardless of the scenario, you should make evidence-based decisions when selecting an appropriate KPI measure wherever possible.

Up Next: Good performance goals are super important.

Identifying performance goals is arguably both the hardest and most important part of instructional design. In our next post, we’ll explain why and equip you with three strategies for success. Subscribe to Watershed Insights so you don’t miss out!

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