The biggest gift of the past decade to the business community has been technology and the data boom. To offer some perspective, experts believed in 2013 that 90% of the world’s data was generated between 2011 and 2012. With 4.5 billion internet users across the world, businesses large and small are contributing daily to an explosive growth of information. However, it begs us to consider; knowing how much data is created every day means nothing if we do not know how to use it strategically.
Nowhere is this more true than in the Workplace Learning space. Workplace learning has evolved tremendously, from in-person training sessions, to online learning, LMS platforms and most recently, Learning Experience Platforms. As technology makes learning more accessible, we are seeing 2 major changes. Increase in the size of the learner base and the need for a personalised experience for every employee. Central to this is the idea that L&D professionals today need a more comprehensive snapshot of the learning experience from the reporting data.
In 2016, about 8% of organisations used predictive analytics on their L&D program. While there’s been significant change since, collectively we are nowhere near our full potential. So let’s get into what we mean by Workplace Learning Analytics.
Workplace Learning Analytics of the past.
The primary understanding of workplace learning analytics has for a long time been a binary assessment. Course completed, pending or dropped out? Test passed or failed? The issue with such starkly opposed results is that they don’t leave any space for nuance, for the human element of learning. There is no way to know if the course has actually helped the employee do their work faster, or better. Has the training led to real, measurable employee development?
As more courses go online, training is simply reduced to certificates being posted on LinkedIn, as opposed to knowledge gain that can be valuable for the company and the employee alike.
The other major issue with this dated approach is that it offers a static picture of the company’s collective capabilities. As certificates expire, and newer training modules emerge, a dated analytics system hardly offers a true representation of the learning occurring at your organisation.
Analytics means taking action
Far from being an academic exercise, or a formality to please the company leadership, analytics is at the core of providing insights. A successful workplace learning analytics study should offer insight on the past, present and anticipated future actions and how well they converge towards the company’s goals.
Questions such as these can help the organisation look at learning as something more than a reactive, tactical tool to a proactive, strategic business driver.
There are 2 ways to leverage workplace learning analytics
- Improving insights and decisions related to the learning function, learning programs, learning practice, learning participants, skills & capabilities enablement and people development.
- Enhancing learning experience through personalisation and constant feedback on learning exercises
Companies must look at data that offers insights across both these avenues to look for ways to improve usage of data. A mature workplace learning analytics program should be able to answer below questions and use the insights gained to plan future learning opportunities;
- Who are our stakeholders and what sort of information do they need while making L&D decisions?
- Are the learning initiatives undertaken based on the interests and needs of the employees?
- Are we able to match the formats, durations, frequencies and modes of learning that are preferred by the learners?
- Are we studying the right metrics, and using the right data to forecast learning needs for the organisation in both short and long term?
- Can this information be used in other aspects of the business, say for business development, or vendor management?
Levels of Workplace Learning Analytics
Your organisation’s Learning Analytics maturity can be at one of the 4 levels. Operational Reporting, Advanced Reporting, Advanced Analytics, and Predictive Analytics, are the 4 stages through which all organisations looking to harness data must pass. Each stage signifies the level to which data is used in decision making. Here’s a simple breakdown of stages of workplace learning analytics.
At this stage, organisations are only using data to report basic metrics such as headcount, attrition, training costs, course completions /certifications, etc. This is pretty standard across all organisations, and is conducted on a daily / weekly basis. However there is no real insight that can be gleaned from this kind of reporting.
In terms of L&D, organisations at this stage use a basic HRIS and LMS to track learning completion.
At this stage, companies are able to start reporting the same numbers as above, but proactively. They offer ratios like courses completed over a set period of time, or courses completed at different levels of company hierarchy. Around 30% of organizations are at this level while only another 14% of organizations are at a higher level.
For both level 1 and 2, not much is done with this information. Moreover, keeping the reporting up to date is usually time-consuming.
This is the real stage where companies transition from reporting to analytics. At this stage, the company uses analysts to perform statistical modeling, regression analysis and other techniques to solve real business problems.
Which brings us to a caveat for effective workplace learning analytics – narrowing down to the relevant business problems is at the crux of using analytics. In learning, some metrics to track would be – skills developed over a period of time, time spent on learning, pulse survey results, retention rates and promotion rates.
This stage is the real game changer of workplace learning analytics. Predictive analytics enables organizations to make even better decisions by showing their potential impact. At this stage, HR heads can look at current learning to understand future learning needs of the employees. They can study ROI of investing in learning by measuring revenues or sales / cost of learning.
Another interesting metric is internal hiring. If your learning programs are helping employees take up additional responsibilities, that’s definitely a metric to track. Organizations at the level 4 are able to predict the impact of policy changes based on the data they’ve collected. This is the stage at which HR and L&D truly becomes a strategic business driver.
The Issue of Data Hygiene
As with most supportive business units, data usage has one big issue – quality. Top-notch, well-managed data won’t get anyone any recognition, but a single number out of place can throw away efforts for a toss. Incomplete, outdated, duplicated, incorrect (content and/or format) data can become the Achilles Heel in any organisation’s decision making. Poor data quality costs the US economy approximately $3.1 trillion annually. Data Hygiene refers to the quality of the data collected and used for analysis. One of the biggest challenges at present is getting clean, consistent, error and duplication free data. As the old adage goes, “garbage in, garbage out.”
Better data drives better decisions. So focus on not just on big data, but on right data. Explore data hygiene practises to make sure you’re not wasting time and effort on data that only offers misleading insights.
Tips to harness Workplace Learning Analytics.
Below are some tips that can help businesses make the most of the data generated with regards to your company’s learning programs.
- Build a learning experience that takes individual learning needs into consideration.
- Ask participants to evaluate courses / tutorials immediately following completion.
- Follow it up with opportunities to apply the learning. These can be through projects, peer skillsharing, documentation, etc.
- Like continuous learning, explore continuous review and update of the training material. Allow domain experts to add their inputs.
- Encourage employees to offer feedback on areas where they found the experience below par. This can help HR and L&D in shaping a better experience.
- If learning is offered in multiple parts, measure how many participants opted to continue to the next part.
- If possible, monitor whether participants discuss the training on social media sites or forums.
- Offer recognition for employees during and at the end of learning activities.
Unlock Workplace Learning Analytics with BHyve
At BHyve, we look at analytics at the core of the learning experience, for both employees and L&D heads. An insight into learning needs, trends, patterns and estimations can be a tremendous value add for organisations looking to make learning and growth a centerpiece of their employee experience. BHyve is a great platform for companies with a Learning Culture.
Reach out to chat more with one of our organisational psychologists.