5 practical examples: How to formulate SMART learning objectives

In this article we explain how to formulate SMART learning objectives through five practical examples. Learn about actionable strategies for effective skill development.

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We’ve all been there at some point in time – we’ve needed to set goals or targets, but didn’t know where or how to begin. The key to success is formulating your learning objectives clearly and concisely. The SMART method is ideal for this purpose.

What are SMART learning objectives? Copied

The SMART method turns mere intentions into clear, concise objectives. And the best news is that it’s not at all difficult to do. SMART is an acronym for the five aspects of setting goals properly. Here they are!


You have to give specific answers to questions such as What do I want to achieve? When will I do this? Why do I want to achieve this? Once you’ve answered these questions for yourself, things will start to become a little bit more tangible. Doing so creates a dot on the horizon on which you can focus.


This means that you have to record or keep track of metrics or other data so that you can tell how you’re progressing and when you’ve reached your objective.


Unrealistic goals are demotivating and ultimately result in dissatisfaction or even burnout. Are the steps required to achieve your goal feasible? Do you have the right skills, knowledge, and means to achieve your objective? If you can answer with a ‘Yes’, then your goal is both realistic and feasible.


This means that not only you, but also your organization support you in this endeavor. Perhaps you think achieving a certain professional or personal goal will provide added value, but do your managers and/or co-workers believe its relevant?


Try to set a start and end date for your goal. If your objective is a long-term one, you might want to split it into shorter, bite-sized chunks and create a series of milestones towards your final goal. This will help keep you motivated.


But what are the benefits of the SMART method? Copied

The biggest benefit of SMART is that it provides a framework within which you can be more systematic and methodical about planning and achieving your goal.

What’s more, the SMART method is ideally suited to virtually any type of goal setting, be it professional or personal.


How to formulate SMART goals Copied

Now we know what SMART stands for and what its benefits are, how do you go about formulating your SMART objectives?

  1. Start by dividing and conquering. Write down exactly what you want to achieve, why you want this so badly, and who else might be involved along the way.
  2. Set a quality measure for your efforts. SMART is based on there being a system, method, or procedure in place to determine how far you are towards achieving your goal at any given moment. If possible, benchmark your current situation so you can better track your progress.
  3. Create support. It’s easier to achieve a goal if you’re being supported in your endeavor. If it’s a personal learning objective, then you need only count on yourself, but managers who set goals for their departments need support from the rest of the organization in order to succeed.
  4. Don’t set the bar too high. A learning objective that exceeds your current skills or your organization’s financial means is doomed to fail.
  5. Make sure you have a clear timeline. When will we be starting? And by when do we want to have achieved our objective?

smart method

Examples of SMART learning objectives Copied

So much for the theory. But now it’s time to take a closer look at a few practical SMART examples.

Example #1: Sales

As a B2B salesperson, you’re constantly looking for new clients. Suppose you want to pull in five new accounts over the next six months. Here’s how to set SMART goals.

  • Specific: You set a clearly defined number of new accounts you want to pull in.
  • Measurable: Past data will allow you work out exactly how many presentations, pitches, and warm prospects you need in order to achieve this.
  • Achievable: You know this is achievable, because over the same period last year you pulled in four new accounts. Since then, your company, network, and reach have grown.
  • Relevant: Management and the rest of your sales team support you in your endeavor and believe it makes a relevant and meaningful contribution to the organization as a whole.
  • Time-bound: You measure your progress every two weeks and adjust your continuity planning, staffing levels, and budget accordingly. The goal should be achieved within six months.

Example #2: Online marketing

Social media are becoming an increasingly important source of traffic for the modern-day marketer. Your company has set a target to boost SEO traffic significantly over the next six months. You can formulate this objective in SMART terms.

  • Specific: You decide to aim for a percentage increase of, say, 10%. Challenging, certainly, but definitely achievable and lucrative in terms of additional leads.
  • Measurable: Using analytics, you can determine at any time of day whether your efforts are paying off.
  • Achievable: Previous results and market research show that 10% is an achievable target. What’s more, you know that creating more organic traffic is a surefire way to greater commercial success.
  • Relevant: You’ve discussed your plan to generate 10% more SEO traffic with all the parties involved throughout your organization. This is not only relevant, but supported.
  • Time-bound: The additional SEO traffic should be generated within six months.

Example #3: Writing a book

Having written countless articles and blog posts, you’ve caught the bug and now want to write a book – a live-long dream of yours. Such a goal requires discipline and planning. Using the SMART method, you can make the process considerably easier.

  • Specific: You opt for a non-fiction book and select a clearly defined subject and theme. Doing so provides clearer focus.
  • Measurable: You decide how many pages you want to write within a given period of time. For example, this might be five to ten pages a week or a chapter a month.
  • Achievable: First you concentrate fully on creating your manuscript. Only then do you look for a publisher or investigate options to self-publish.
  • Relevant: You focus on writing a book that is relevant and authoritative within your field of work.
  • Time-bound: You set a deadline of a year from now.

Example #4: Photography

You’re a talented photographer who’s already made serious headway within your field. But you want to become more commercially minded and sell more stock photos and prints. SMART can help here, too.

  • Specific: You want to increase annual turnover by $5,000.
  • Measurable: You track your monthly turnover figures to determine whether you’re on track.
  • Achievable: You’ve already been quite productive and built up an impressive portfolio. What’s more, you earned over $2,000 extra from photography last year compared to the year before that.
  • Relevant: Stock photo agencies and clients you’ve worked with in the past continue to use more and more of your material each year.
  • Time-bound: You want to generate this additional turnover within a year.

Example #5: Market share

Your company wants to increase its market share to achieve more sustainable growth. Using the SMART method, you can formulate this clearly and concisely.

  • Specific: You set a target of 10% growth and select the product lines and regions with which you aim to achieve this greater market share.
  • Measurable: You track your progress at regular intervals based on the number of new customers and growth in both existing and new markets.
  • Achievable: Last year, your market share grew by 8%. Ten percent is, therefore, certainly achievable.
  • Relevant: Management, sales, marketing, and finance departments see it as a worthy goal and highly relevant to future success.
  • Time-bound: You set a deadline of a year from now.


Make your learning objectives visible Copied

Formulating and visualizing your SMART learning objectives is much easier if you have the right tools to help you. AG5’s software helps people keep track of their main goals in the form of a skills matrix.

You can store information about all your employees’ skills, competences, and qualifications – the basis for all your SMART learning objectives – in a central, cloud-based system.

Download our free sample templates or schedule a demo to find out how our software can help you manage and visualize your skills and competences more quickly and easily, while making your learning objectives much, much SMARTer!

Use AG5 to identify skill gaps

Say goodbye to Excel matrices. Start using AG5’s plug and play skill matrix software.

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Original version | December 29, 2020

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Use AG5 to identify skill gaps

Say goodbye to Excel matrices. Start using AG5’s plug and play skill matrix software.

Get a demo now

ISO27001 certified     Free trial available