Thanks to the rapid spread of sophisticated software and cloud computing over the past decade, businesses have a wealth of data at their fingertips to guide their most important decisions. And making well-informed, data-driven decisions is imperative as labor shortages, high inflation, supply chain bottlenecks and other challenges complicate the current business landscape.

Although valuable data is freely available to company decision makers, surprisingly few say their company is actually executing on an overall data strategy. Less than one-quarter surveyed by New Vantage Partners described their companies as and fewer than half said their company manages data as an asset.

Data is not just an asset — it is among the most valuable assets any company has. Using data to optimize operations and prepare for future contingencies can keep a company on the leading edge. Failing to do so means falling far behind. Data may be abundant today, but there is still a significant disconnect between raw information and actionable insights that can strategically inform a business. Fortunately, companies can take steps to use the information they already have to guide their decisions better and plan for the future.

Look to the Training Department

Every department of a company, from finance to compliance to human resources (HR), generates a wealth of data. But unfortunately, only some of this data is used when the C-suite steers the ship. Other information is deemed less relevant to the overall organization and often overlooked. Some of the most frequently undervalued and overlooked data reside in the training department. This information pertains to a company’s most valuable resource: its people. And as the country’s labor shortage continues, it’s a resource that grows more valuable by the day.

But information on personnel that sits in the training department is often viewed as information that is valuable only to that department. As a result, some company leaders believe — quite erroneously — that training data offers little benefit to the whole organization. The data in training departments shows the skill levels, knowledge and certifications of every employee at a company. If that data is not informing decisions at the highest level, it’s because this information is not being integrated with other departments, analyzed with advanced software and put to proper use.

Knowing your employees well is the key to keeping them. It is also the key to understanding whether your company is ready into tap a new market, develop a new product line or invest significantly in new technology. Training data is a gold mine, but few company leaders are mining it. Here are just a few ways that data that sits siloed in training departments can be used to inform the most important company decisions.

Skills Gap Forecasts: Training data offers company leadership a detailed picture of the skills that exist within the organization — including what skills are lacking. When a company considers making a significant move — for example, staking out a new market — leadership needs to know whether the company has the personnel it needs to be successful or whether they need to hire. Training departments have this information ready. Additionally, skills gap forecasts are critical as companies decide what roles to hire or scale back.

Investing in Talent: Companies are always looking for new talent to help keep the organization in a premier position. But there are times when training existing employees can be more beneficial instead of having to look outside the talent pool. However, without training data, company leaders may struggle to know whether or not they need to hire new people or upskill existing employees. Training departments keep information on adjacent skills — related skills and abilities — of every job description. With this information at hand, C-suite may find that they don’t need to wade into the talent wars or spend additional money. They can just upskill their existing workforce.

Workforce Pulse: This is an area where the training department — which is usually viewed as reactive — can become proactive. As opposed to showing where the skills gaps are within an organization, the “workforce pulse” offers a future roadmap for training and upskilling that can enable a company to reach ambitious goals. Getting the pulse of a workforce — and learning what it takes to reach a major milestone — can only come when advanced analytics are applied to training data, which is shared widely with other departments over time. For companies that integrate training data with other departments and invest in the analytics that turn it into actionable insights, workforce pulse can inform C-suite when the company is ready to pivot, crack a new market or make another bold move.

Moving Forward

Company leaders don’t often think of training departments as the source of valuable data, but they should. Detailed information about personnel can tell a business what they can accomplish today and what they should be able to do in the future. With businesses facing so many challenges, information is among the most valuable asset a business can have. Company leaders have a wealth of valuable data — they just need to know where to look.