Goal-Oriented Training Program Development

Steven Cesare, Ph.D.

A business owner from Mississippi called me the other day to discuss a new training program he wanted to develop and implement in his company to improve organizational productivity. When he asked for my thoughts, I simply said “What is the goal?” He replied “Improve productivity.” I responded, “That is not a goal; that is a sentence.” Without an empirical standard, goals do not exist: “Try hard,” “Lose weight,” and “Get better” are no different than “Improve productivity.” They are not goals.

With that point as pretext, I then introduced the Hierarchy of Needs, popularized by Robinson and Robinson (1995), to him as an illustration to reframe his orientation.


I explained that when considering a training program, always focus on the Business Needs first. That is to say, specify the desired empirical impact this training program will have on the company: increase sales by 15%, decrease job loss by 20%, improve gross margin by 4%, reduce overtime by 15%, or increase employee retention by 10%.

With the business goal and quantitative standard now defined, the next step is to identify those behaviors that the employees must perform (better) to achieve that goal. For example, improve the quality of contract sales proposals, put door hangers on each customer’s front door at the end of each visit, bring an enhancements proposal to every client walk-through, ensure every field employee gets safety trained in their first 90 days of employment, or return every client phone call before the end of the work day.

Now that the business goal and desired job behaviors are aligned, it is time to develop the training content that will initiate, foster, and improve those behaviors accordingly. Training is not an exercise in knowledge; it is the efficacious transfer of knowledge to the work environment. Knowledge without impact, is irrelevance. What the employee learns in the training course, must alter his/behavior in such a way that a business goal is attained. If that hierarchical relationship does not exist, don’t even think about developing a training program.

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Steve Cesare Ph.D.

Steve Cesare Ph.D.

has more than 25 years of Human Resources experience. Prior to joining The Harvest Group, Steve worked with Bemus Landscape, Jack in the Box, the County of San Diego, Citicorp, and NASA. Steve earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University, and has authored 34 human resources journal articles. As a member of The Harvest Group, Steve’s areas of expertise include: staffing, legal compliance, wage and hour issues, training, and employee safety.  Read Steve's full bio.