Big data is here to stay. As a function, learning and development (L&D) needs to embrace it or fall behind the rest of departments inside our organizations. The struggle we are all facing is where to find the skill set on our teams to tackle the mounds of available data — and put it to use to improve the impact we make when training our companies’ employees.

L&D has struggled with the collection and structure of learning analytics since the beginning of time. For years, Training Industry’s research has identified it as one of the top challenges learning leaders face. It’s about time that we start to define the role of the learning data scientist. To be successful, the role will require a combination of skills that go beyond data collection and an understanding of the language of L&D.

But I think it goes beyond just defining the role and brings us back to the fundamentals that great training organizations have embraced for years. The best companies make clear connections between training investments and their intended impact. They ensure that their training programs are specifically aligned to the core objectives of the organization. They think about measurement while they’re designing training programs, not after they roll them out. They are systematic in the implementation of learning technologies to maximize their technology stack for data trackability. They are customer-focused and mindful of the need to collect feedback from all stakeholders in the roll-out of a training program, not only the learners.

It might feel like a tall order for any company’s L&D team, but we must drive in this direction to make sure that we remain relevant and connected to the businesses we support. Learning analytics will help us make certain that not a penny of the investment we make in training is wasted. More importantly, it will allow us to better monitor and understand the value we bring to the teams we support, which I believe is table stakes in the environment of scarce resources and escalating skills-related challenges that many companies now face. As roles morph, corporations are looking to reskill their employees. The rate of change in skill requirements continues to accelerate, and we need to be ready.

The great news is that there are many resources available to help with the journey, and we are excited to add to the resource pool with this edition of Training Industry Magazine. As always, we would love to hear your thoughts about the perspectives shared in the magazine. Please feel free to send along any suggestion for future editions of Training Industry Magazine for us to consider.