Setting Workplace Targets

Beginning with the end in mind by setting clear and measurable targets allows organizations to ascertain the success of the program.


Beginning with the End in Mind

Whether your organization is designing a training program in-house or purchasing an off-the-shelf solution, successful training programs begin with setting targets in the workplace. As a training program designer, your very first task is to identify the outcomes that your training program will serve to achieve. The outcomes that you will need to focus on depend on whether the training need arose from an individual employee's learning opportunity or from a more general change initiative or improvement program. In this Expert View, we will deal with needs arising from a wider change or improvement initiative.

The very first question you need to ask is, "What is the end benefit to my organization, department or team of this program?" This benefit may be, for example, a reduced number of defects shipped, increased proportion of new products in range, reduced time to delivery, reduced waste or improved employee retention. Note that the target you aim for may apply to a local team, department, business unit, geographical region or the entire organization. At the outset, be clear on the scope of your program.

Beginning with the end in mind is a key aspect of tying learning to workplace application. Training and learning is of little use if employees do not change their behaviors back on the job. This focus on outcomes also forms an integral part of our PRACTICE Approach™ to creating high impact training.

Defining the organization, department or team targets up front will give you and your organization significant benefits. Putting outcomes center stage will enable you to:

  1. measure objectively the success of the change or improvement program
  2. focus employee efforts on what is important, and
  3. design or select the most appropriate training solution for your needs

In this Expert View, we will look closely at the first benefit that comes from beginning with the end in mind.

Creating Workplace Targets

Think for a moment about how you can you define your goals in a way that enables your program's success to be measured objectively? For a start, your goals will need to be meaningful and useful. We recommend here that you adopt the well-known SMART principle in constructing objectives. Using the SMART criteria, you will create goals that are Specific, Measurable, Ambitious, Realistic and Time specified. Introduce the SMART principle as you work with your stakeholders in designing your program.

Specifying measurable and meaningful goals is no easy task and to do it well is time consuming, but well worth the effort. Without specific and measurable goals, it will not be possible to determine objectively whether your program was successful. The latter part of our guide and toolkit, From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance, is devoted to measuring the impact of your training program on your organization. If you do not agree and set measurable goals with stakeholders up front, then it will be all the more difficult, if not impossible, to evaluate objectively what value your program brought to your organization.

So, with this purpose in mind, do not set vague or indeterminate goals. For example, do not set a goal of improving product quality. Instead, set a target of reducing defect rates on Machine A by 10% before end of financial year. When articulating the organization, department or team goals, questions you need to ask with your stakeholders are:

  • What are we really trying to achieve?
  • What data are already available that may serve as indicators of goal achievement?
  • Who will be responsible for collecting and reporting the data?

We advise keeping the number of targets to a minimum, otherwise you may suffer from paralysis by analysis. For large change or improvement programs, use a mix of leading (process) and lagging (outcome) indicators. In one company, machine breakdowns caused customer deliveries to be late. In this case, managers chose the leading indicator "machine downtime". For a lagging indicator, they selected "number of late deliveries". Outcome indicators are called "lagging" indicators because the outcome "lags" the cause that preceded them.

As you work with your stakeholders to define your organization's targets, it may help to think through the five domains of modern organizations. These are financial, customer, process, employee, information systems and supplier. Your organization's targets may reside in one or more of these five domains. To help you frame your organization's objectives, below are some examples of well-constructed objectives from each of these domains.


  • Decrease group operating costs as a percentage of total revenue by 3% by 30 June 2014
  • Increase average monthly revenue per store by 10% by 1 January 2015


  • Improve median customer satisfaction score to 4 on Customer Care survey by end of financial year
  • Improve customer retention for Redline product by 10% by end of quarter


  • Increase throughput on Line A to 500 per hour by 20 June 2015
  • Reduce loan application processing time to three days by end of financial year


  • Increase proportion of internal promotions to supervisory positions to 30% by 31 December 2016
  • Reduce employee turnover for all employees to 10% by 31 March 2016

Information Systems

  • Improve customer data accuracy to 99.5% by end of financial year
  • Allow external and internal applicants to apply online for all open positions by 30 September 2016


  • Improve average batch yields to 99% from second tier suppliers by 31 March 2015
  • Increase inventory turns ratio at Yonglea warehouse to five by end of 2016

This method of setting targets is usually labeled a "balanced scorecard" approach because it gives equal importance to all six aspects of an organization. For each dimension, ask your stakeholders whether their desired future state has impacts for that organizational aspect. Work through each dimension in turn, taking your time to reflect consciously and deeply on what it is you all want from the program. For more on this "balanced scorecard" view of organizational performance measures, refer to our guide, From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance.

Gaining Other Benefits

Once you and your key stakeholders have decided on the targets you want to achieve with this training program, spend time capitalizing on the second benefit mentioned above. This benefit comes from being able to focus employee efforts on what is important. Get them on board with the objectives by communicating the targets through all levels of your organization and in multiple formats.

You are also now in a position to enjoy the third benefit stated earlier. Whether you are designing your training program using in-house instructional designers or you are selecting an off-the-shelf or bespoke solution, you can now better match the solution to your organization's exact needs.

You are in this privileged position because you are able to translate your organization's objectives into employee behaviors (what they will actually do on the job). And from there, you can articulate what it is your participants will need to learn to be truly proficient in their workplace. Being able to write effective learning objectives is another powerful instrument in your training tools armory.

Expert View Author: AIMM MAITD

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Find out more about setting workplace targets and improving the impact of your training programs. Check out Leslie Allan's practical resource kit packed with ideas, tools and templates for implementing effective learning. Download the free Introductory Chapter and start using Leslie's comprehensive training guide and toolkit today.

From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance

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From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance

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