Good performance consulting can be a lot like flossing your teeth: You know it is a best practice and yields the best results, but between rushing to eat lunch at your desk and running to another meeting, a quick clean with a toothbrush is often all you can squeeze in.

All too often, projects appear on the desk of an L&D department with one or more of the following: limited time, resources or budget. Often, the stakeholder or client already has an ineffective vision of their solution, but since they are funding the development, it can be difficult to change their opinion. So, we make do with a quick polish and scrub of yet another e-learning module that will likely not solve the real problem and results in tooth decay.

It can be difficult to suggest a round of performance consulting, especially with impatient SMEs who expect an e-learning course for every performance gap. However, collecting a few key pieces of data before meeting with a stakeholder can help drive a faster, more productive conversation and elevate L&D from order-takers to trusted advisers, delivering quality and impact.

Intranet Search Terms

IT departments have records on the top search terms for their portals and website. These terms indicate what your audience is interested in. Consider the following scenario: A stakeholder insists that his or her employees are desperate for content on a particular topic. A quick search of your intranet reveals this subject has not made even the top 50 search terms, so the gap is dubious. You may discover search terms that are not even on the radar for development, indicating that you need to pivot. With these data, you have evidence to advise your stakeholder of the best investment of your scarce L&D budget.

Downloads, Views, Likes and Shares

If you have a social collaboration platform, statistics on post engagement should be readily available. Just like with the common search terms, these data indicate whether your audience considers the content to be valuable . Do a light comparison: Do videos, infographics or articles have the most likes or shares? Are there differences among locations? Use these insights to gain stakeholder buy-in to modalities that have proven track records in your environment.

For example, one of the most common requests made to an L&D department is to build an e-learning module. While it might seem like there’s a strong case for e-learning, if an infographic is receiving a lot of likes, shares and comments, use that data in your conversation with stakeholders. Often, the default solution is an e-learning module, because there is little awareness of alternatives. If infographics, articles, podcasts or videos have high engagement in your environment, show the facts to your stakeholders to guide them to a better ROI.

Most Active Times and Pages

Humans are fickle when it comes to our consumption of digital content. Attention spans are short, and people quickly develop patterns and shortcuts to find the information they want. A lot of insights can come from knowing when and where your audience has high engagement. If you know the time of day or week when there is the most traffic to your learning content, you know the best time to launch a new program or communicate with your audience. Likewise, stop building new pages and portals for content. Instead, look at where people are already going, and place your content there.

Stakeholders often want to launch learning programs according to their own timelines and preferences. However, when there is only a split second to capture attention, it is critical to push content when and where an audience will most likely engage with it. When you arrive at the performance consulting conversation with these data, it is much easier to make better decisions.

Stop Looking at Completions

Stakeholders and regulatory bodies like completions because they are clean metrics. But learning is messy and never in a straight line. Look at data points on top-performing content, such as the most shared, downloaded or commented on. In some cases, these numbers could exceed engagement with mandatory courses, because the format, topic or location simply works for the audience. Learn from these insights and replicate them. The next time a stakeholder asks you to make content mandatory, use these data points to give examples of content people want – not have – to consume. High engagement increases the likelihood of application.

A word of caution: Data can be deceiving. You might see a spike in visits to a module that isn’t an indicator of high engagement but the result of refreshing a broken link. Data needs to be dissected and analyzed to uncover the truth. That said, data can elevate and speed up the performance consulting conversation. If you arrive at the stakeholder table prepared with key data in hand, you have indisputable evidence to guide better decisions.