The use of the acronym SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-bound) is a good guideline for writing training objectives—a key step in the instructional design process. The SMART formula has been around for many years, yet some trainers still agonize over writing objective statements. Here are some tips on writing objective statements effectively and easily:
1. Ensure that training objectives align with organizational objectives.
If there is a disconnect between training department objectives and the stated objectives of the organization, it will be difficult to gain management buy-in for a program, and for that matter, the training department in general. If, on the other hand, the training department and organizational objectives are aligned, top-down management support is guaranteed. An example of alignment might be:
- Organizational Objective: Decrease OSHA claims by 5%.
- Training Department Objective: Deliver workplace safety training.
2. The objective statement must address a clear need.
If a training needs analysis identifies a clear need for training, and that need translates into an objective, you’ve got a strong case for management and participant buy-in. The need identified simply has to be addressed in clearly stated marketing material and benefit statements.
3. One task equals one objective.
Tasks represent activities that offer value to the organization. For each task, create one objective statement. A simple objective for line management training might be “Give feedback.”
4. Make sure the accomplishment of your training objectives reflect the performance objectives in the workplace.
Assuming the need for proficiency is required upon leaving training, the standard of performance in the classroom would be the same standard required in the workplace. This makes the activities in the classroom relevant and, therefore, motivating to the learners.
5. The objective statement should be brief.
Shorter objectives are more readable and more understandable for the learner. Typically, an action verb and a noun, and sometimes a modifier, are all that is necessary to get the message across to the learner. An example might be “change a flat tire.”
Don’t be bashful! Once you have a solid objective statement, use it! It will probably be part of your course marketing materials, displayed prominently in the participants’ manuals, shown on a PowerPoint slide, appear in the leader’s guide, and called out in the trainer’s opening statement.
For more in depth content and practice of this important step in the instructional design process, check out our Instructional Design for New Designers workshop!