Thursday, 30 May 2019

Does Learning and Development need Data Analytics?

Learning and development is digitizing. What once was a fat binder with printed sheets, today is a PDF. What once was a week’s residential course, is now a mixture of classroom training, eLearning, and discussion groups. And what was once a drive away is now a webinar at your desk. Digitization is happening faster in some organizations than in others, but it is happening everywhere. People can access role-relevant training for free with MOOCs, (massive open online courses), regardless of what their manager, or the L&D department say. Moving learning from the physical to the digital is like all change: messy, challenging, and uncertain.

What is clear, however, is that digitization produces data. Lots of data.

Data isn’t new, of course, we have been storing data about training for years. Courses attended, hours spent learning, and delegate feedback have kept stakeholders informed for years. What is new is the opportunity to capture different data, often more meaningful data, and compare it to data held in other parts of the organization. Sales training data for example, might be combined with sales and marketing data from CRM and accounts systems.

As it happens, this capability isn’t new either. Data has been brought together in data warehouses for years, allowing all kinds of interesting trends and insights to be extracted. The only problem with this approach is that it can be expensive.

Happily, data analytics tools have also improved, in answer to both the high cost of analysis, and the mountain of data we are all generating. Today organisations of all types and size have access to data analytic capabilities that were once available to only the large and wealthy. Microsoft Power BI, for example, does not need a big budget to visualize data, attach to a variety of data sources, or find previously hidden insights.

Affordable data analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, sentiment analysis, and big data technologies are here to stay.

But does data analytics have a place in the learning and development department? Wouldn’t money be better spent on developing content, rather than data? Learning professionals believe data analytics is the future. Towards Maturity surveyed 7500 learning professionals from 53 countries about their 2019 priorities and skills, and found that:
  • 96% saw data analytics as a priority, with only 24% believing they have the necessary data skills.
  • 98% saw learning evaluation as a priority, with only 43% believing they have evaluation skills.
In contrast, 82% said they have the skills to deliver classroom training.

This shows that technology for the learning and development sector is both a challenge and an opportunity, and that making good use of data is one of the highest concerns. For help with your learning evaluation and data analytic priorities, get in touch and find out how we can help.