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Setting effective L&D team goals. Six steps to achieve success in 2023

Monday 15 May 2023

Setting effective L&D team goals. Six steps to achieve success in 2023

Helen Marshall
Setting effective L&D team goals. Six steps to achieve success in 2023

Let’s set the scene. We can be certain that in 2023 the L&D landscape is uncertain. And whilst we know the core areas that will be top of mind for people this year, it’s now more important than ever to be able to prove impact and shout loudly about all the good stuff you’re doing (as well as the challenges you’re facing) as L&D teams. 

Whilst historically L&D functions have been the first to face cuts when times get hard, we’re seeing a definite shift in attitudes to re-focus on what really matters to help navigate a business through turbulent times - and that’s development, upskilling and talent mobility. People development is the key to business success. 

But how do you ensure that you’re aligning with your business objectives and really driving success this year?


🌟 Goals 🌟

We’ve all seen the memes of the person climbing a mountain looking ahead bereft at how far they have to go, only for the picture to zoom out and show how far they’ve come. It’s cheesy, but it’s true. Setting goals should help you to take incremental steps towards a larger goal. Sometimes, that’s taking the first steps, or reaching base camp. Other times, that’s summiting. 

One thing is for sure, goals are there to keep you on track. In order to set effective goals, consider the following six areas:

  • Alignment
  • Benchmarking
  • Prioritisation
  • Accountability
  • Measurement
  • Storytelling

There are many models and frameworks you can use to set goals: SMART, SMARTER, OKRs… the list goes on. What’s important here is that you recognise the overarching objective you’re working towards and are able to break it down into specific and measurable tasks. So whatever model you choose, keep that in mind.

So let’s take a look at the first, and arguably most important step, when it comes to setting effective goals as an L&D team: alignment.



It’s likely that L&D won’t feed into all your wider company objectives, but keep an open mind. Side note: If it’s not obvious what these objectives are there is a wider issue that needs to be addressed. But let’s presume that you do.

There will be certain areas of the business that are a direct focus for you, and targeting your strategy to solve essential business problems is a no-brainer. The focus for L&D teams is not just upskilling but driving business performance, too. L&D haven’t been great at continually aligning with the wider business, so there’s a real opportunity here when goal setting to ensure that you do this. A good place for anyone to start is with benchmarking.



Before you start setting goals, take a second to think about where you are today. If you haven’t already asked yourself the following questions:

  • What have I/we already achieved?
  • What data do I have to reflect the change?
  • Who else do I need to communicate that with?
  • How have business priorities changed recently?

Not only will this stand you in good stead to be able to benchmark yourself and your team in the future, you’ll also be able to really take stock of what worked and what didn’t. A great place to start when setting goals.

Combining your company objectives with a status-check will lead you neatly into brain dumping all the areas you could (note: not should) feed into this year. Which leads us on to…



We all know how tricky it is to keep all our plates spinning. The more plates you set off, the more challenging it is to keep on top of them all. So, it’s okay to dream big and we’d encourage you to do so because laying everything out in the open can really help you to hone in on what’s really important, but make sure you prioritise, too.

Priorities can be driven by people, the climate in which your business operates, and/or by time. And you have the wonderful task of figuring out what’s most important. It’s crucial to bear in mind that you won’t always get this right, but if you’re in tune with the business you’ll likely hit the nail on the head 9 times out of 10.

Once you’ve identified these priority areas, you need to think about how to hold yourself accountable.



If you haven’t listened to Brené Brown’s episode of Dare to Lead with Mike Erwin, author of Leadership is a relationship, then go and give it a listen. One of the seven core areas Mike’s book focuses on is accountability. Putting a positive spin on it (because conventionally being accountable has negative connotations of failure): it’s the carrying through of what you’ve said you will do and building trust as a result.

Holding yourself to account for driving your own success is paramount, and as part of goal setting is a non-negotiable. However the relationship is two ways, and if other people are invested in your goal, either as a stakeholder, a mentor, or a manager, you’ll be more motivated to succeed.

It’s at this point we remember that being able to bring people along on a journey enhances our relationships and makes us feel more human as a result. One way to do this effectively is to track your metrics. 



Gathering data is a journey. It sounds cliche, but it’s true. Data enables you to set realistic goals and adjust them along the way. It’s not just about the end goal in this instance, it’s how you make sure you’re on track and keeping true to your goal.

By consistently taking stock of what you’ve done, you’ll be able to communicate the impact of your work more accurately. This leads neatly into the final point:



Communication currently seems to be a core focus area and simultaneously a huge challenge for businesses, and it’s no different for L&D. Communicating value effectively is what will help you to achieve your goals, but also ensure that you’re still focused on the right things.

Storytelling doesn’t have to be grand; it can be incremental. Figure out what’s important to your audiences and stakeholders and let them know at the right times. This goes hand-in-hand with the measurement piece above.


Rounding it off

No matter where you are on your goal setting journey it’s important to take stock, check in, and keep an ear to the ground. This year driving real value comes from showcasing your impact on business-critical objectives, and explaining how that trickles down to an individual employee level.

Do these areas ring true for you? Where are you on your journey? I’d love to know.


Helen Marshall Helen Marshall

Chief Learning Officer at THRIVE 



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