Designing Milestones

It’s graduation season. While kids are tossing caps in the air and determining their next steps, I am reflecting on why and how we celebrate milestones in the first place.

Classically, milestones are something we set out to achieve, but I think they a bit more than that. Milestones often come with levels of achievement either by completing something in a timely manner or at a high level of proficiency. These milestones come with extra accreditation like “with honors” or awards for completing something early. This accreditation doesn’t diminish the milestone for anyone else, they are simply there for additional recognition.

Training programs, too, can be designed with milestones, and there are several ways to execute this in the learning and development world. Let’s take a look at a few ways to incorporate milestones into your next training program.


Basic leaderboard can be a great way instill a small amount of friendly competition amongst training peers. My favorite leaderboards involve some sort of graduation to a new level that indicates the progress that is applicable to the topic at hand. Examples may be superheroes, types of animals (tigers, lion, grizzly bear, Phoenix, dragon…), or minerals(Copper, Silver, Gold, Dimond).

Progress Indicators

Some training programming requires spaced learning to acquire all of the skills necessary to gain a new skill. In these programs, it may be helpful to regularly check in with the learner’s progress by assessing knowledge and allowing them to graduate to the next level when they show adequate progress. In these programs, regular pre-tests are helpful as progress indicators that allow you to place learners in the right learning track each time they enter the classroom. This is especially helpful in eLearning or a Microlearning environment. Pre-test and then place learners based on assesment each time them enter the classroom.


I am using a gross overgeneralization with the term here, but gamifying your milestones in a general way lends itself to the human competitive nature of wanting to win. When you go beyond learning outcomes and ask your learners to win a Relay Race, virtual or live, it changes the flavor in the room. People, no matter how old, like a game. They pretend they don’t, they resist, but wait until you say “Three, two, one, go!”. It is rare that you have arm-crossed grumps when that electricity happen.

Do you build milestones into your training programs? How do you do it? We would love to hear how others are making this happen. Let’s keep this conversation going in the comments below!

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