Supporting Employees Learning Through Goal-Setting

In a previous blog, we presented strategies that L&D professionals can incorporate to support self-regulated learning. Self-regulated learning, a key focus, involves three phases: forethought, performance control, and self-reflection. L&D professionals can foster self-regulated learning by encouraging goal-setting, managing expectations, supporting help-seeking, and creating opportunities for intentional reflection throughout the training journey. In this article, we’ll focus on how L&D professionals can support the goal-setting element of self-regulated learning.

When building e-learning programs, L&D professionals need to be able to design instruction for a wide range of employees with varying learning needs; however, the instruction they design does not have to be generic or bland. There are many opportunities to provide learners with a personalized learning experience that supports their learning goals and growth in their respective roles within an organization. Instructional content should meet learners where they are when they need it, and the first step to doing so is often a needs assessment that can help your organization identify their learning goals and objectives.

Goal-setting provides a clear roadmap, guiding learners toward specific objectives and milestones. A set of well-defined goals can enhance motivation and focus and serve as measurable benchmarks that allow learners and instructors to track progress, identify areas for improvement, and celebrate achievements. This creates a personalized experience that supports learners’ longitudinal success and individual learning path.

Goals can serve as performance anchors to guide conversations about learning and performance over an extended period. So, don’t wait until annual performance evaluations to set goals for learners within your organization. Integrating goal-setting into learning paths can provide employees and their supervisors with more consistent opportunities to discuss short-term and long-term goals, while collaboratively identifying learning experiences.

Regardless of the modalities being used for employee training, L&D professionals can integrate opportunities for learners to revisit and reflect upon their goals, in the following ways:

  1. Break down goals into manageable tasks. Most learning goals will not be achieved immediately. Breaking down larger goals into smaller manageable tasks helps to keep learners on track for success. This also makes the learning experience less overwhelming and helps the learner visualize how their goals fit into their personalized learning path. Similar to chunking instructional content into different segments, breaking down goals helps learners visualize how to approach goals that may take some time to achieve.
  2. Create opportunities for positive reinforcement. There are a variety of ways L&D professionals can embrace motivational design throughout their content. Incorporating positive reinforcement encourages learners as they progress through their learning path. L&D professionals can provide positive feedback as learners complete e-learning modules. Designing digital badges, and certificates of completion, and incorporating a progress bar in a learning management system creates a positive environment and motivates learners to continue working on achieving compartmentalized tasks associated with the attainment of an overarching goal.
  3. Encourage reflective practice. Providing opportunities to pause and engage in reflective practice helps learners appreciate the progress they’re making toward attaining their goals. It also provides a means for them to think about the practicalities of what they’re learning and how they can integrate new skills into their everyday practices. When learners can see the value and application to real-world tasks, their motivation continues to increase.
  4. Allow for flexibility. It is important to recognize that goals may shift over time. Allowing opportunities to adjust learning goals throughout a learning journey can help ensure training is relevant to the learners’ needs and roles within an organization.
  5. Celebrate accomplishments. L&D professionals can support learners’ paths to success by celebrating milestones throughout the learning journey. This helps to foster a positive learning experience and supports learners’ motivation to continue persevering to accomplish their goals.

Goal-setting is an essential part of the self-regulated learning process and is a key to helping employees achieve success. However, for goal-setting to be most beneficial to the learning process, learners must become comfortable with goal-setting. That’s why L&D professionals should focus on establishing consistent methods for goal-setting. By providing frequent opportunities for goal-setting and reflective practice, you can support employee growth and more effectively reach and measure your overall organizational learning goals.