Creating Performance Objectives

One of the most challenging aspects of training is quantifying results. The reason it’s challenging stems from the fact that learning can be difficult to measure. In the workplace, however, it’s critical to measure results to determine whether required information has been absorbed and skills have been acquired—not to mention gauging whether the investment was justified.

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To make sure they can effectively measure the impact of training, good workplace training program developers create learning objectives using a specific format that ensures results can be assessed.  Each measurable learning objective contains three parts:

  1. a performance statement;
  2. a conditions or constraints statement, and
  3. a standards statement.[1]

An example of a learning objective in this format would be:

By the end of the training program, all participants (1) will personally resolve customer complaints (without escalation), (2) using the complaint management framework and conflict management techniques provided, (3) 75% of the time. 

The first part of the objective defines what is to be done; the second part defines the circumstances or conditions under which it will be done as well as the tools, materials or equipment to be used; and the third part provides a specific and measurable standard against which performance will be measured.[2]  The order of the three parts is not important; their inclusion is. 

While this format has been designed for creating learning objectives, it’s also an excellent template for constructing overall performance objectives that provide clear guidance to employees about what they are expected to do, under what circumstances and constraints, and to what standard.

The Performance Statement

In writing the performance statement, it’s important to use action verbs that clearly describe the desired outcome.  In our example above, “resolve” means a solution has been found for the complaint. If we used the word “address” instead, the meaning is quite different as it’s possible to address a customer complaint without arriving at a satisfactory solution.

Some verbs that might be used in defining measurable performance statements include: complete, conduct, produce, explain, deliver, write, design, identify, operate, program, demonstrate, outline, generate, select, close, classify, input, summarize, calculate, etc.

Verbs that don’t support effective performance measurement include:  know, understand, remember, address, appreciate, consider, grasp, comprehend, recall, be aware of, perceive, ascertain, value, etc.

The Conditions Statement

This part of the objective includes any constraints or conditions under which the employee is expected to perform the required action. Conditions might include the location or time a particular activity will take place; specific tools, technologies or equipment to be used; whether the action is conducted individually or as part of a team; any limitations or constraints that apply to the activity (e.g. no overtime, within budget); and any policies, procedures or regulations  that must be followed. The more clearly conditions are defined; the easier it is for employees to understand what’s expected of them.

The Standards Statement

The standards statement tells employees what performance level they have to achieve to “meet expectations.” It also clearly indicates (to both employees and managers), the standard they have to surpass to “exceed expectations” with respect to performance evaluation. This statement will typically be expressed in terms of a deadline, period of time, frequency within a period of time, percentage achieved, or compliance with a particular procedure or set of rules. 

Measuring outcomes is one of the most challenges aspects of training and development. Measuring performance can be one of the most challenging aspects of managing a team. Using this simple format to define measurable performance objectives provides employees with clarity of expectations –one of the most basic workplace needs and a factor cited as one of the most important in employee engagement and job satisfaction.


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[1] Institute of Professional Management


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