Going Beyond Learning Objectives: Setting Application and Impact Objectives for Training Programs


The foundation for formal learning within an organization typically is based on learning objectives that guide curriculum development and a basic level of assessment—or “show us what you learned.” Indeed, most organizations seem to assume that if employees learn new skills and acquire knowledge, the benefits to the organization will naturally follow—no need to look into things further. But what if there are barriers to implementing the training? What if employees are simply too busy to adapt their workflow to include new skills? What if after an organization spends significant budget dollars on training, performance-related measurements do not show improvement?

For organizations that strive to provide continuous employee learning, relying solely on learning objectives and their assessment is not enough. Executives want to know that the investment made in training programs is having an impact on important business measurements such as improved customer service ratings, reduced production errors, increased productivity, and product innovation. To show that training is fully aligned with and having an impact on such measurements, organizations must have clear objectives for the implementation and impact of training.

Let’s review why setting learning objectives is a good start to the training assessment process, and then move on to examples of clearly stated application and impact objectives.

Learning Objectives Set Expectations for Employees

Clear and well-defined learning objectives communicated to employees before a training program help fulfill the following strategic goals:

  1. Set expectations for the level of information and knowledge that employees are expected to acquire.
  2. Align the meeting with the organization’s business goals.
  3. Provide a focus for the team responsible for developing the training content.

Next, let’s look at an example of potential learning objectives for a soft-skills training program for a technology company.

After the training program, learners will be able to demonstrate the following:

  • List three reasons why soft skills are as important as technical skills (or hard skills).
  • Describe how soft skills contribute to technical innovation.
  • Describe the positive effects that soft skills have on teamwork and collaboration.
  • Describe a process for resolving conflicts with team members.
  • List three ways enhanced soft skills can contribute to customer satisfaction.
  • List three ways enhanced soft skills can contribute to improved leadership ratings.
  • Describe how soft skills provide an organization with a competitive advantage.

Now, let’s look at an example of a post-training questionnaire that is intended to assess participants’ learning. Naturally, the questionnaire should be designed to closely align with the stated learning objectives.

  • As a result of the training, I feel confident that I can be a more effective team member within my workgroup. Please circle a number that best reflects your response.
    5 = Strongly Agree, 4 = Agree, 3 = Neutral, 2 = Disagree, 1 = Strongly Disagree
  • Identify two or three things you learned that demonstrate how soft skills can contribute to organizational success. (Open-ended)
  • Describe the five steps in the conflict resolution process you learned about. (Open-ended)
  • Identify three ways soft skills are critical to innovation. (Open-ended)
  • List three ways that enhanced soft skills can help improve organizational culture and employee satisfaction. (Open-ended)
  • List three ways that enhanced soft skills can help improve customer satisfaction. (Open-ended)

Taking Measurement to the Next Level: Application and Impact Objectives

When an organization decides it must go to a level of assessment beyond setting learning objectives, it will establish clearly stated application and impact objectives for its training programs. In our soft-skills example, the company could decide to measure the application of learning, which indicates behavioral changes made after the training—changes that resulted from the training’s content. This level of measurement requires additional questionnaires to be sent out at designated intervals after the training, after employees return to work, and once the behavioral changes have had a chance to take hold. Application and impact assessment allow the company to assess the positive effects that the training had on important business measures such as employee satisfaction, teamwork, communications, and innovation. The following are examples of measurable application and implementation objectives.

Application Objectives That Provide Employees with Clear Expectations of What to Do

  1. Within the first month after the training, participants will create a cross-functional team or teams to discuss ways to improve collaboration.
  2. Within six months, trainees will complete an anonymous survey to assess how the training is having an impact on their workgroup and department.
  3. After six months, employees who participated in the initial soft-skills training will complete reinforcement training relevant to their department and job function.
  4. At the end of one year, employees will rate the workplace culture as it relates to an environment that encourages brainstorming and generating new ideas.

Impact Objectives That Provide Employees with Clear Expectations of the Effect the Training Should Have on Business Measurements

  1. Within one year, the company will see employee satisfaction scores increase by 20%.
  2. Annual ratings of leadership by employees will have improved by at least 15%.
  3. Internal employee turnover will decrease by 25%.
  4. Within one year, the company will see customer satisfaction scores improve by 20%.
  5. Within one year, the company will see a 20% increase in product innovation proposals.

Training assessment at these more advanced levels provides the organization with a clear sense of what to measure and when. Once these objectives are carefully crafted, they guide designers and developers during the creation of the training program. And perhaps most importantly, when employees understand the expected outcomes of the training in terms of business measurements, they are more likely to be engaged with the training and the application of skills they acquire.

“If you don’t start with a business measure, it’s difficult to have business impact. Programs need to start with why—why we are doing this—and that’s often a specific business need. That makes the business connection to the impact objective in the beginning, which in turn keeps the participant focused on that objective.” —Jack Phillips, Ph.D., Chairman, ROI Institute

The Tombolo Institute delivers a wide breadth of outstanding, competency-based employee training solutions designed to enhance organizational performance. From needs assessment to curriculum design and delivery, our subject matter experts will work directly with your leadership to ensure program success. Learn more.