As learning and development (L&D) professionals, data is at the heart of everything we do. Used judiciously, it can give us key insights into how to plan for the future, drive projects, position our company and assess performance with ever-greater accuracy.
Data opens up a world of new opportunities, but beware: Coming to grips with huge amounts of complex data is a tricky business. It’s vital to choose the right data to focus on. A dashboard crammed with too much data can dilute or even bury the information that really matters.
L&D teams should continuously monitor data and take performance indicators directly from it. But what should we be analyzing? How can we select and sort the right kinds of data to create useful training dashboards that enable us to make better decisions?
Choose the Right Comparative Data for Your Dashboard
We live in a golden age of data. It’s so plentiful that you can measure almost anything you want to. It’s also relatively easy to build a dashboard that will present that data, but because there’s so much of it, choosing the right data is critical to success. Good data is precise, exhaustive, relevant to company goals and up to date. Simply put, it doesn’t matter how accurate your data is if it isn’t relevant to your needs.
When choosing and analyzing data, it’s important to take into account the company’s maturity. The more mature a company is, the more of its learning is mixed up in the workflow and, therefore, is more difficult to extract and measure as data. Basic statistics like completion rate may not give you a full picture of the learning happening in the organization, so if you’re at a more mature company, you may need to measure more subtle kinds of data.
Another tip is that when it comes to training, comparing yourself with other companies can be a losing game.
You don’t need to be in first place; you need to be in the right place. Dashboards can help you understand how well your learners understand what training is available, how much they know about it and what they think about it. Choosing the right data for your organization to focus on is key to using data efficiently. With too much data on your dashboard, the important stuff can become lost in the noise. Data that’s meaningful for one organization may not be meaningful to another.
Define your analysis criteria. When looking at several companies, choose your filters carefully. Just because you can compare everything doesn’t mean that you should. But there is one thing that you must do: Be clear about the “who,” “what,” and “how.”
When looking at several companies, choose your filters carefully. Just because you can compare everything doesn’t mean that you should. But there is one thing that you must do: Be clear about the “who,” “what,” and “how.”
Similar organizations in terms of:
- Company size
- Digital experience
- International footprint
- Learning culture
- Skill set
- Average age of employees
- Quantitative data (e.g., completion rate)
- Qualitative data (e.g., satisfaction rate)
- Financial data (e.g., hourly costs, impact on production)
- Formats (e.g., blended)
Figure 1. Be sure to define your analysis criteria carefully.
This graph compares one company (A) with its competitors (B, C and D). Company A has a fairly high hourly training cost, a low learner retention rate, an average learner satisfaction level and a relatively low activity level. You can use this initial comparative study to benchmark your company (or department) in relation to others; however, it’s important to remember that no two organizations are the same. A company with little experience with L&D should have different expectations than a company with a decade or more of experience.
Expert tip: Use at least three different filters for a three-dimensional view, tailored to your business.
Additionally, as a company matures, it learns to use short-term data to shape long-term plans.
When you choose the kind of data you’re going to measure and analyze, that data should be logically related to the long-term goals you hope to reach. A company focused on improving long-range sales growth, for instance, might choose to measure different short-term data than a company focused on transforming company culture (for an example, read about Alstom’s training initiative to instill corporate values). The key is analyzing real-time learner data while staying focused on producing viable and measurable learning outcomes.
Use an Action Plan to Guide How You Work
Now that you have a macro-vision, think about your ideal position. Where in the graph would you like to be? What changes do you want to make in your company? Based on your analyses and experience, you can plot how you might reach that ideal position and draft an action plan to do so.
Expert tip: Context matters! A young company shouldn’t compare itself to a mature company, and vice versa. A company that has just started out won’t be able to achieve meaningful results as quickly as a company with 15 years of experience using a learning experience platform (LXP).
Figure 2.Outline steps towards your objective.
The company depicted above has implemented a two-year action plan (including one analysis every six months) based on four goals:
- Improve learner satisfaction (color changes from orange to green).
- Increase the number of active learners (the size of the balloon increases).
- Increase learner retention (the balloon moves to the right).
- Decrease the average hourly cost of training (the balloon drops down the Y-axis).
When plotting hypothetical scenarios to help draft an action plan, proceed with caution; misinterpreting data can lead you down a dead-end street. To stay on track, consider four key areas:
Is the training accessible to a particular group? Consider technical or functional improvements, such as single sign-on (SSO) links.
Have your team members been fully informed about the training platform? Optimize your platform ergonomically, and communicate internally, especially with managers. Consider using your home page and integrating the message into your systems and intranet.
Are learners motivated enough to complete the course? Make the training system attractive using learner marketing techniques. For example, ask company leaders to champion the project, demonstrate cultural relevance or link it to an event.
To what extent do your learners recommend content and training pathways to their peers? Do they feel that the training was useful? Pay particular attention to the teaching quality and expertise by measuring satisfaction score or loyalty rates, and confirm by collecting feedback through methods like end-of-course surveys and on-the-spot questionnaires.
Your plan should cover all the ways you wish to improve performance. Treat each goal separately, or tackle them at once, if one will affect the others.
To conclude, you need a dashboard to manage your training environment, but it won’t have all the answers if you don’t include the right data. Choosing the right data based on your challenges and goals is the first step to analyzing and applying that data in a methodical way. Choosing the right data for your dashboard will help you position yourself and make your training more impactful.
Finally, because employees work at their own pace and use their own preferred methods, it is vital to measure more than the basics (e.g., completion rate). Tie other business data (e.g., job performance, service delivery, individual career development and length of employee service) to your L&D results to gain a real sense of progress toward your company’s learning goals.