How to create a training goal in 2 quick steps

A measurable business goal is a great way to focus your training and show how your work helps your organization — that’s why it’s the first step in action mapping.

Unfortunately, most clients don’t have a clear goal, so here’s a quick formula that can help you connect what they want with what’s good for the organization.

1. Choose your numbers

Identify a measure that the organization is already using that your project could help improve. Once you have that, decide how much you’ll improve it and by when.

Some examples:

  • “We need sales training” — Sales will increase 5% by Q3
  • “We need diversity training” — Employee retention will increase 8% by 2015
  • “We need training on conflict management” — Grievances will decrease by 10% in two years

Obviously, the best measure will depend on the organization and its current strategies.

2. Identify in general terms what people will do

Your goal from step 1 could be enough, but it can help to add a second layer and mention in general terms what your audience will do differently.

Some examples:

  • “We need sales training” — Sales will increase 5% by Q3 as all sales people use the 5-step Customer Courtship Model
  • “We need diversity training” — Employee retention will increase 8% by 2015 as all employees better manage diversity
  • “We need training on conflict management” — Grievances will decrease by 10% in two years as team leaders better manage conflict on their teams

Formula to create a measurable business goal for training

By making goals like this, we’re not promising that our project alone will be responsible for the change in numbers. However, we’re making clear that our project is directly tied to an important measure that affects the performance of the organization and we’re serious about designing a solution that works.

When you involve the client and subject matter expert in setting this goal, you also start to turn their attention away from knowledge and toward changes in behavior. This can help loosen their obsession with information and save your audience from another ineffective information dump. It also makes it easier to suggest more agile solutions than training.

Claim your place in an Australian workshop — time is running out

Learn how to set these kinds of goals and design lean, powerful elearning in a full-day workshop. Seats are strictly limited to 30 so we can get deep into applying what you’re learning to one of your projects. These will be hands-on workshops. Thanks to the E-learning Network of Australasia for organizing the events!

Melbourne, Nov. 26: Act quickly to sign up for Tuesday’s full-day workshop on elearning design. Sign up here!

Sydney, Nov. 29: There are still some places available in Friday’s session. Claim your spot!

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My First Workout-Workplace Workshop — Performance-Focused Smile Sheets

Enrollments are open for my first Workout-Workplace Workshop on the World Wide Web (w6).

Fittingly, it will cover the most significant improvement in smile-sheet design in a generation–The Performance-Focused Smile Sheet.

Click for details…

Five Biggest Mistakes in Onboarding: What the Research Says…

This article first appeared in my Newsletter in the October 2013 issue. You can sign up for my newsletter by clicking here.


Onboarding is ubiquitous. Every organization does it. Some do it with great fanfare. Some make a substantial investment. Some just let supervisors get their new hires up to speed. Unfortunately, most organizations make critical mistakes in onboarding—mistakes that increase turnover, raise costs, weaken employee loyalty, and lower productivity.

Fortunately, recent research highlights onboarding best practices. If organizations would just use the wisdom from the research, they’d save themselves money, time, and resources—and employees in those companies would have to deal with many fewer headaches.

Key Outcomes

Recent reviews of the research suggest that there four key outcomes that enable onboarding success:

  1. New hires have to quickly and effectively learn their new job role.
  2. New hires have to feel a sense of self-efficacy in doing their job.
  3. New hires have to learn the organizational culture.
  4. New hires have to gain acceptance and feel accepted by their coworkers.

Enabling Factors

Recent research suggests that the following factors are helpful in ensuring onboarding success:


What New Hires Can Do

  1. Be proactive in learning and networking
  2. Be open to new ways of thinking and acting
  3. Be active in seeking information and getting feedback
  4. Be active in building relationships

What the Organization Can Do

  1. Ensure that managers take a very active and effective role
  2. Provide formal orientations that go beyond information dissemination
  3. Provide realistic previews of the organization and the job
  4. Proactively enable new hires to connect with long-tenured employees


Five Biggest Mistakes
(In Reverse Order of Importance)

5—Providing an Information Dump during Orientation

The research shows that employee orientations can facilitate onboarding. However, too many organizations think their orientations should just cram tons of information down the throats of employees. Even worse are orientations that have employees sit and listen to presentation after presentation. Oh the horror. New employees are excited to get going. Putting them into the prison of listening—even to great content—is a rudeness that shouldn’t be tolerated. The best orientations help build relationships. They get employees involved. They prepare new hires for how to learn and grow and network on their own. They help new hires learn the organization culture—both the good and the bad. They share the organization’s vision, passions, and its strategic concerns.

4—Thinking that Training is Sufficient

Training can be essential to help get new employees competent in their new roles, but it is NEVER sufficient on its own. Training should be supported by prompting mechanisms (like job aids), structures and support for learning on the job, reinforcement and follow-through, and coaching to provide feedback, set goals, and lend emotional support.

3—Forgetting the Human Side of Onboarding

New hires are human beings, and, just like the rest of us, they too are influenced by the dynamics of social interaction. They don’t just learn to do a job. They also learn to love and trust a company, a work unit, or a group of coworkers—or they don’t. In return, new hires are either trusted and respected by their coworkers or they’re not.  The research is very clear about this. One of the keys to successful onboarding is the strength of the relationships that are built in the first year of a person’s tenure. The stronger the bonds, the more likely it is that a person will stay and bring value to the organization.

2—Considering Onboarding as Something that Can Be Done Quickly

Some companies offer a one week orientation and then cut loose their new hires to sink or swim. Enlightened companies, on the other hand, realize that onboarding is like relationship-building—it takes time. It takes time to really learn one’s job well. It takes time to integrate into the organizational culture. It takes time to connect with people. Realistic estimates suggest that onboarding can take 6 months, 12 months, or even 18 months to fully integrate a person into a new organization.

1—Not Preparing Supervisors

Supervisors are the single most important leverage point for onboarding success. You’ve probably heard it said that people don’t quit their companies, they quit their supervisors. Well, the flip side can also be said. People don’t join a company, they join a supervisor and his/her workgroup. Unfortunately, most supervisors just have no idea about the importance of onboarding and how to do it correctly. Where best practices give supervisors training and an onboarding checklist, too many supervisors just wing it. The real tragedy is that the investment in onboarding training and a checklist for supervisors is quite small in the greater scheme of things.

Final Thoughts on Onboarding

As a workplace learning-and-performance consultant, when I’ve been called in to advise companies on their onboarding programs, I often see incredibly dedicated professionals who are passionate about welcoming new people into their organizations. Unfortunately, too many times, I see organizations that have the wrong mental models about what makes onboarding successful. It’s a shame that our old mental models keep us from effectiveness—when the research on onboarding now gives us sound prescriptions for making onboarding successful.

4 ideas you should steal from interactive fiction

Here are a few fun stories from the wild world of interactive fiction. Try them out to see cool techniques you can steal for your training scenarios.

1. Put the backstory in links.

The most realistic scenarios are rich in detail, but lots of detail can mean lots of text on the screen. One way to lighten the load is to put the backstory in optional links.

In Remembered, by Chris Klimas, you explore links to learn more about the history of the characters. The more backstory you read, the richer your experience.

This technique could be used to add depth to the typical management scenario. For example, here’s a scene from a (fake) scenario.

Earlier today, Noah emailed you to ask for a 10-minute meeting. Now he’s arrived for the meeting and looks flustered.

“It’s Brian,” he says. “He’s always been a procrastinator, but now it’s affecting my ability to meet my deadlines. He was supposed to give me Phase 1 three days ago and and when I ask about it, he only says, ‘I just need another day.’”

What do you do?

When you click “Noah,” you see this:

Noah transferred to your department 3 months ago, citing personality differences in his previous department. He’s reliable and does solid work.

He can look impatient in meetings, glancing often at his watch, and when someone offers a new idea, he’s likely to point out problems with it. He seems committed to meeting the unit’s goals and has proposed changes that improved efficiency. He’s the team lead for the project.

The link about Brian, a quiet man, points out that he recently asked to be moved away from a noisy coworker and has been looking tired.

This isn’t Dostoevsky, but the bits of backstory add more dimension to what could have been a generic management scenario with shallow, thought-free options. You get realistic details that make the decision more nuanced, but without feeling like you’re slogging through a novel.

2. Build the entire story on the screen.

Putting the backstory in links lightens the load, but it can make the story feel fragmented. Another approach is to build the entire narrative on one screen.

Cover of a playIn The Play by Deirdra Kiai, you need to manage the egos and poor preparation of actors in a play. The result of each decision is added to the narrative on the screen rather than bringing you to another “slide.”

Bonus: As you play, keep an eye on the list of cast members on the right. It doubles as a record of their emotional states and your ability to manage them.

Having the final story appear all on one screen makes it far easier for the player to review it. This approach could be useful for longer scenarios about negotiation, difficult conversations, leadership, and other complex issues.

See the attribution box on the left of the story for a link to the tool used to create it.

3. Reconsider your belief that text is bad.

Did you suffer from the lack of images in the above two stories? Probably not.

Many scenarios that we create in training-land don’t really require visuals. Instead of spending an hour searching for non-awful stock photos of people talking on the phone, we could spend that hour making the story stronger.

4. Don’t leave the homestead.

The fake-translated-Russian story Small Child in Woods has an important lesson for us all.

A note about tools
“Remembered” and “Small Child in Woods” were created with Twine, a free tool that I explored in this post. You might also want to check out BranchTrack, a slick tool that makes it easy to build branching scenarios and doesn’t suffer the technical glitches that can plague Twine on corporate PCs.

Scenario design online course open for registration

Become a scenario design master with “Scenario design: In-depth and hands-on,” my new online course. Registration is open for sessions that start in January.

Australia workshops!

  • Nov. 13, Sydney: Training design master class for training managers at the Learning@Work conference
  • Nov. 22, Melbourne: Breakfast session on training ROI at ConVerge
  • Nov. 26, Melbourne: Elearning Design for Business Results one-day workshop for ElNet
  • Nov. 29, Sydney: Elearning Design for Business Results one-day workshop for ElNet

Get your free 23-page ebook: Training Designer’s Guide to Saving the World