Applying Path-Goal Theory to Corporate Training

Applying Path-Goal Theory to Corporate Training

Path-goal theory was developed by Robert House. It is a system of leadership that emphasizes the setting and achieving of goals. Leaders must clarify the paths to goals and remove obstacles to performance for employees. They also must provide the information, support, and other resources, like training, so employees can complete the tasks, projects, and work needed to achieve their goals. Leaders use a path-goal approach because it's designed to increase employee motivation, empower team members, and boost productivity.

House’s theory advocates servant leadership. I’ve seen Ken Blanchard speak on this topic at multiple industry events. He’s also written multiple books on the topic. The driving idea behind servant leadership is that leaders work for their people. Their job is to help them win. Achieve their goals. This aligns perfectly with trainers.

Here's a look at the theory's four chief formats and how you can apply them to your corporate training program:


Leaders who use the achievement approach set high goals or standards for their employees to meet. It is also known as the goal-setting theory. For this approach to be successful, leaders must demonstrate confidence in their team's ability to overcome challenges. When it comes to employee training programs, set the bar high. Create a list of courses to be completed and set a timeframe for completion. Tie these courses to a higher goal or specific project or priority. Make sure you express that this is an achievable goal, even if it has a tight deadline.


The directive approach outlines specific goals for now and into the future. It is task oriented. The leader is more hands-on and provides strict guidelines on goals and performance standards. In a training application, this may involve more classroom training and one-to-one coaching rather than freestyle self-directed learning. Bigger training goals will be broken out into smaller steps with milestones along the way. The directive approach will also leverage rewards for achievement and disciplinary action non-compliance


When you use participative path-goal theory, include your team with goal setting and you offer your employees a way to interact with the training program. Encourage them to comment on videos, add favorites, share courses, and make notes. A modern LMS will offer social learning technology. This will allow your learners the freedom to connect and follow their co-workers. The activity feed of informal peer network will encourage friendly competition and self-directed learning


In this approach, the leader is friendly towards their team and displays a personal interest for their concerns. This style is the same as people-oriented leadership. Training naturally falls into the realm of support. Trainers are genuinely concerned about the needs of learners and want to help them with all of their development goals. Opening up the full training library for self-directed learning makes it easy for employees to find the courses they need in the moment of need.

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