The Next Big Thing in Learning is Already Here!

Posted by Bryan Robb - November 13, 2019


I just got back from an extensive week at the eLearning Guild's DevLearn 2019 conference. This is my first time attending and I have to say I was thoroughly impressed. Of course, as a Learning and Development vendor, we showed-up with our new booth digs, boxes of swag, our booth team and even a couple of presenters all in tow (shameless plug).

The answer you've been looking for may be under your nose...

For someone who lives and breathes L&D, most of the presentations were as expected, as far as solutions go. Microlearning, gamification, social learning, collaboration, mentoring & coaching, and meaningful rewards were all common and expected themes in the topic headlines.

However, as I darted between presentations, there seemed to be an underlying theme in the business stories that were being told. Regardless of the business need or the actual implemented solution, the one common thread is that the internal selling of training is hard and often the missing piece of the puzzle is: Data.

Let’s face it, training budgets are difficult to come by. Furthermore, training is an afterthought for a lot of corporate initiatives. This means that L&D teams are often stretched thin and always tending to the latest fire. Can you relate? How do we flip that around? What if the answer is in the data that’s already under your nose?

Where to Find the Data

Chances are there's already a system in place that measures the business aspect for any training that you intend to create. Want a training impacting sales? Start with your sales system's records. Employee engagement? Your HRIS system has information about employee retention and turnover. Safety? Your asset protection team has stacks of data for you to comb through.

So, the next time someone approaches you about completing a training, before you start asking about learning objectives and creative treatment, ask them about the metrics they are trying to move.


What to Do with the Data Once You Find It

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the data saying about the business situation that you are currently in?
  • What metrics are you trying to move?
  • How are your learning objectives in alignment with the data?
  • How are your SMEs prioritizing their review of the content based on all of this information?

The data is a compass guiding you through the design process; let the data make decisions for you. It can also be the silver bullet to gaining the attention of your C-Suite budget holders. Everyone is competing for those same dollars. There are two ways to make money in most businesses - increase revenue and cut expenses. And while training can certainly contribute to both, it is often the latter that is overlooked.

For the most part, you are competing with departments that are working to increase revenue; a tempting piece of candy for the C-Suites. However, everyone knows that a penny saved is a penny earned. So, ask yourself what is the projected ROI (Return on Investment) on the training you're developing? When L&D shows up with those numbers at-the-ready, you become the polished heads-up penny that the C’s want to pocket.


Your Team, Data Fluent

If you’re saying to yourself, “I’m in Training. I don’t know anything about data analysis and informatics,” or, “I am busy enough as it is; do I really need one more thing to learn on my plate?”, you are not alone. In her presentation, The Importance of Increasing Data Fluency within L&D, Emily Ricco of HubSpot talks about how she transformed her L&D team from ‘delivering training’ to ‘measuring training and delivering results.’ When she first surveyed her team, she found that a large portion of her team knew nothing about Data Fluency and Analytics. To fix this, she focused on answering the following questions:

  • Does your L&D team understand the metrics you are trying to move?
  • Do your trainers understand the metrics?
  • Does your team have the skills to understand how to analyze the data?

Her solution included getting her team some basic training (imagine that!) on Data Fluency, statistics, and, you guessed it, Excel.

Excel is the powerful data tool that ALL of us have installed on our laptops. Most of us use about 10% of its power. Pivot Tables and Pivot Charts sit there in the Ribbon bar available to all of us, but few understand how these tools can help us quickly and easily understand the meaning hidden in the data. Furthermore, they are a little less than intuitive when you start using them. However, they let you play with the data in real-time; reports that used to take hours to compile are available via drag and drop once your team understands a few fundamentals on how they work.

Jump start your team’s Data Fluency and Analytic skills with some deep dives into Excel.


Learning Data

Your LMS (Learning Management System) and/or LRS (Learning Record Store) may be collecting a lot more data than you see available in the canned reports. How can you use this data to evolve your training offering?

  • Does your LMS support custom reports?
  • How can you get at the data that is important to you and your organization?
  • What metrics in learning can you tie to business initiatives?
  • What metrics in the learning can we use to identify training future training opportunities? What about future training efficiencies? Are there things you are currently training on that you once needed but are not needed anymore?

In our experience selling our LMS, reporting capability is the number one question that we get pre-sale. However, in practice, we find that many of those who were so concerned about the reporting, are not using the data they have at their fingertips other than simple completion and exception reporting. Conversely, we’ve found that those who really dive in and consume the data are able to evolve their training organization in profound ways.

How is NOT looking at the training data impacting your organization? How could really understanding the data elevate your business?


Start with the End in Mind

It may seem a little odd to end here, but I place this point here to indeed, make my point. How often is reporting on a training initiative postponed until the end of the project? Maybe the excuse is “We don’t know yet” or “We’ll find out along the way.” This leads to either NOT tracking the right data or tracking so much data that will never end up being used. The former leads to rework and missed data opportunities, while the latter leads to an overwhelming amount of data and noise. Neither help your team create the streamlined reporting that you need.

When you are starting a new project, make sure you understand the reports that you want to deliver and metrics you want to entertain before you begin. This will make design decisions not only easier, but obvious.



How are you using data in your L&D initiatives? What are your success stories? Where are you stuck? Let us know in the comments below.

Topics: training and development, corporate training trends

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