Applying Business Principles to Your ESL Learning Goals by Setting SMART Objectives

Setting business goals when learning English

Diligent and meticulous planning in Business is a key component of every success story.

All Businesses, large and small, work towards achieving a goal, or a set of goals. Most goals tend to be quite broad and some are linked to ‘missions’.

To achieve goals, Businesses must set out a clear approach for its employees. This approach is commonly called a ‘strategy’.

How can a business achieve its strategy?

Careful planning is critical for all Businesses looking to successfully deliver upon a strategy and is intrinsically linked to objectives. An objective is simply a set of steps that help measure progress towards a strategy.

Business objectives are achieved using tactics.

Tactics are the tools used to achieve objectives to successfully meet a strategy.

Confused yet? Are you asking yourself what this all has to do with learning Business English? Hang on in there.

Let’s look at a fictional Business example together.

Business X Goal/Mission

Business X had a goal to help supply schools located in underdeveloped markets with used products to promote digital learning & online education for children by 2020 (this would be a wonderful goal wouldn’t it!).

To achieve this goal (or mission), Business X would need to create a strategy...

Business X Strategy

To build global consumer marketing programmes that persuade consumers to give up old handsets, laptops and tablets to underdeveloped markets when upgrading, or disposing of old technology.

Work with underdeveloped market governments to deploy in-country e-learning infrastructures and develop Wifi facilities and classroom technology by 2020. 

To achieve these strategies, Business X would need to define a set of measurable objectives...

Business X Objectives

(1) Identify and assign 1% of current global operating budgets by June 2018 to fund marketing proposition.

(2) Re-organise EMEA supply chain & I.T. resources for product distribution and support of learning technology by Q4 2018.

(3) Deploy in-market e-learning infrastructure and technology tools for UAT testing in Q2 2019.    

When setting objectives in business a useful approach is to adopt SMART objectives.

In this case, SMART stands for:






Take a closer look at the three objectives again. Do you think these are vague or specific?

Let’s take the first example, but remove some of the lexis from the objective and compare it side by side with the original:

“Identify and assign 1% of current global operating budgets by June 2018 to fund marketing proposition.”


“Identify and assign global operating budgets to fund marketing proposition.”

Can you see the difference?

The original objective is much more SPECIFIC than the example with some of the lexis removed.

When we compare this objective against SMART is it MEASURABLE?

Yes. Business X will either assign 1% of their current global budget or they won't.

Is the objective ACHIEVABLE? There are of course a number of assumptions within our example around these examples being ACHIEVABLE and REALISTIC, but for the purpose of this Blog article we can see the general link between these objectives and the principles of SMART.

Finally, is it TIMED? Yes it is, by June 2018.

Hopefully this brief example has helped you see just how beneficial (and easy) it is to apply a SMART approach when planning out your objectives.

If you are you thinking of learning Business English, consider how much time you have set aside to create a plan for your learning objectives. In my experience as a Business English teacher, this particular area of long term lesson planning is often overlooked by many students. 

Before I meet prospective students online I evaluate their application questionnaire, looking for opportunities to identify learning goals. The data within these questionnaires help me understand what motivation the prospective student has for studying and as a teaching practitioner, I start to prepare a list of SMART objectives to discuss with my students.

By adopting a SMART objective setting process to support your online English study you will greatly increase your chances of achieving your long-term learning goals.

If you are interested in learning Business English online start thinking about your goals, strategy and learning objectives before you embark on your learning journey.

Get these crucial thoughts down on paper and start developing your SMART learning objectives.

Trust me, your online Business English teacher will be incredibly grateful!

You can read more about setting SMART objectives in this excellent article over at the Mindtools website here.

Check out the video below for further help on setting SMART objectives.