The SMART framework provides clear guidelines for impactful employee training. SMART, which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-framed (there are a few variations on this as well), can help you create a training program geared toward employee success.
Aside from being a useful acronym, SMART incorporates essential principles for Training Managers to follow as they design corporate training programs. Using the SMART framework can help you ensure that important areas of employee training aren’t neglected. For example, if training is too generic or theoretical, without any way to measure results, it’s difficult to assess its effectiveness. Here are some recommendations on applying each element of SMART into your training.
Specific is a good place to start, as it ensures that you’ve clearly defined the desired outcome. What do you want to achieve from your employee training program? This can depend on several factors, starting with the roles and responsibilities of your employees. What tasks are employees responsible for carrying out? If they are new hires, you’ll want training courses to prepare them for their primary duties. If they are existing employees, you’ll want courses geared toward enhancing their skill set. Go beyond the handbook description of job responsibilities and observe areas where you see the need for more focused training.
Additionally, consider industry and legal requirements to ensure that your employees and your organization are complying with any licensing or regulatory standards. Certain types of training are mandatory in industries such as healthcare, finance, and others. For example, in the healthcare industry, medical practices must conduct OSHA and HIPAA training annually. While it’s mandatory to document training, practices have some leeway for how to do this. Even in the case of mandatory training, you usually have some leeway when it comes to implementation and the method of delivery.
Effective training requires measurable results. How can you ensure that employees are truly learning and absorbing the information? The simplest way is through tests or skill assessments delivered through learning management software. If certifications or exams are mandatory, you know exactly what to measure. However, even if there aren’t formal requirements in this regard, creating assessment can help you to quantify results.
Role-playing and performing tasks is another way to measure training effectiveness. While not always quantifiable in the manner of an exam, role-play can allow supervisors to observe a trainee’s progress. To take this a step further, peer-to-peer training, where one trainee teaches another, can also demonstrate and cultivate mastery. In any training environment, it’s crucial to find ways to measure progress and identify areas where employees need additional training.
The “A” in SMART has several variations, all worth considering when devising a training program. A goal is only meaningful if it’s achievable. Keeping this in mind helps you avoid training programs that are overly ambitious and lofty. It’s nice to have high expectations for your employees; At the same time, when you set objectives that are out of reach or unattainable for a large percentage of trainees, there are some adverse consequences. It’s discouraging for those who are unable to meet these standards. Just as significantly, if training is overwhelming, it diminishes the effectiveness of even the essentials. If you have several levels of training, what’s attainable for one level isn’t necessarily so for another.
It’s also important to have agreed-upon objectives for training. Discussing and re-assessing training with your peers allows you to develop a consensus, which is likely to change over time based on observed results. However, the more feedback you elicit from organization leaders, the more likely it is that your training will reflect your company’s most urgent needs.
One of the most important qualities of good training is that it’s realistic based on historic performance and relative to the desired outcomes. The current abilities of the employees and the scope of the training provide clues to how realistic training goals are. It’s probably not realistic, for example, to expect non-technically trained employees such as sales representatives to master a sophisticated software application during a two-hour training session.
Impactful training is also relevant in a way that prepares employees for the real world tasks responsibilities that await them. This is why simulation and role-play are effective training tools. For example, one of the best ways to train employees who provide technical support to customers, whether in person, online, or by phone, is to simulate such interactions in training.
Time is a crucial factor with any training. Make sure that material covered in training is appropriate relative to your timeline and the outcomes you’ve set. If you want employees to absorb the information thoroughly, it’s crucial to set a realistic timeline. If employees are training while on the job, you have to consider the amount of time they can realistically study, attend sessions, or watch videos while working a 40 hour week.
You need a good balance when deciding what to include in each training program. On the one hand, it’s obviously beneficial to include as much information as possible. The more knowledge and capabilities your employees have, the better. On the other hand, you don’t want to dilute the effectiveness of training by cramming in too much at one time.
How to Apply SMART Training Goals
Including all of the SMART principles into your training ensures that employees get the most realistic and comprehensive instruction possible. To recap, here are some of the best ways to apply SMART training goals:
- Identify the most urgent goals and desired outcome of the training.
- Make sure results are measurable. An advanced online Learning Management System (LMS) makes it simple to deliver assessments, compliance training, and certificates.
- Use role-playing scenarios and peer-to-peer training when appropriate to make training relevant and realistic.
- Make sure training goals are attainable within your allotted time frame.
- To make your training even “smarter,” constantly review effectiveness and areas that need improving. Based on results, you might need to add, omit, or alter certain modules or sessions.
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