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Expert tips on using learning data analysis effectively

One of the fundamental steps to transforming your organisation through learning is to start measuring the impact of learning. Here, we look back at the wisdom Laura Overton, of innovation specialists Towards Maturity, shared at LEO Learning’s ‘measuring business impact’ workshop on using learning data analysis effectively.

We don’t have to be amazing statisticians to carry out powerful, high-impact learning data analysis – that was a key message from Laura Overton, the founder of Towards Maturity and one of the learning industry’s most respected experts, during a stimulating LEO Learning-led workshop measuring the business impact of learning.

Laura (pictured with LEO Learning’s Gareth Jones) was one of the guest speakers at the LEO Learning workshop and introduces an array of refreshing ideas to around 35 leading organisations from a variety of sectors. During her two sessions, Laura discussed how companies can make the most out of the data they already have, whether that’s in their LMS, user engagement strategy or learner surveys.

Towards Maturity's Laura Overton and LEO Learning's Gareth Jones led the measurement strategy conversations

The questions companies ask of people, as well as sources such as Google Analytics, Salesforce, talent systems and external customers, can also help to build a picture of learning and drive transformation through learning data analysis.

How to start measuring the business impact of learning

The journey to building learning credibility and reputation starts with capturing data. Laura suggested that organisations take a ‘just get started’ approach, supported by a clear vision of what business success looks like for the whole organisation.

From that point, an effective plan can be created to:

  • Improve data analytics skills for learning professionals in order to properly analyse patterns
  • Surface the critical business problems that need to be worked on
  • Make strategic use of learning data analysis by building it into design and review cycles
  • Use data for influence and change, rather than justifying the existence of L&D
  • Treat stories and comments as ‘data with soul’, from which parallels can be drawn

Asking the right questions about learning

It might seem unsurprising that top-performing companies have more data and deploy it wisely, but these organisations are constantly learning and growing as a result, Laura explained to the workshop attendees.

Despite some progress, less than a fifth of L&D teams surveyed by Towards Maturity go back to learners to ask if lessons from particular learning programmes have been applied, and even fewer ask managers what they’ve implemented.

With the guests stirred into action, an intriguing participatory session ensued. Each attendee was challenged to complete a card outlining two steps they would take to effectively measure the business impact of learning within their businesses.

Organisations have a desire to use learning data analysis

The answers repeatedly reflected a desire among the group to explore the ways in which data can be broken down and explained simply, such as in graphs or presentations.

Our participants wanted more time in their schedules to decide what to measure, look at their KPIs, identify patterns in feedback and information sources, and clarify and develop organisational learning priorities.

Ultimately, they also wanted to be able to confidently tell stories with data in senior stakeholder meetings, and use data reports to create coaching and communication sessions.

The cards participants wrote on received a score of one to five from five L&D peers around the room, giving each card a peer-reviewed total score of up to 25. This exercise provided valuable insights into practical steps that learning professionals can take. Some of the specific suggestions included:

  • Picking one project from each member to assess how performance is measured and the need for measurement
  • Designing courses in a way that enables employees to implement learning in the workplace and prove their results
  • Drawing three simple hypotheses from data and creating a short project to investigate them
  • Using data reports to create coaching and communication sessions
  • Tracking, analysing and measuring the impact of “one thing I will do differently” following a piece of learning
  • Learning how to build a compelling narrative around what data really means by taking a set of numbers and constructing a story that can be rehearsed in front of a group
  • With the help of store managers, gathering data on improved speed to competency and presenting this data in a visual format that is easy to read and understand
  • Identifying the skills and capabilities needed for future success by asking key stakeholders to focus on what they will need in the team in five years’ time

LEO Learning hosted a session on learning data analysis where Towards Maturity's Laura Overton was a speaker

L&D can drive organisational transformation

After gathering the scorecards, Laura closed the session by asking each organisation to pretend they were ten times bolder. With this increased confidence, they could have new dialogues about how their teams see Learning and Development, and the specific skills needed to improve learning impact.

Once organisations start these conversations, the possibilities for transformation become evident and tangibly exciting.

Want expert advice on know how to start the learning data analysis conversation at your organisation? Read our insight into the group thinking.

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