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Bridging the data skills gap in L&D: What we need to succeed

We need to bridge the data skills gap in L&D to succeed at measuring the impact of learning. That was one of the clear messages from the third of our measuring the business impact of learning workshops, hosted at the historic Royal Institution in London.

Forty-four attendees from industry-leading organisations joined us for a stimulating session of collaboration, discussion and insight.

A view from the room during Andy's talk on the data skills gap in L&D

Along with practical activities to help our attendees reach the next stage of their measurement journeys, we heard from key industry figures, including the CIPD’s head of L&D Content, Andy Lancaster. Andy spoke about the challenges L&D teams are currently facing to upskill and deliver on learning measurement strategies. He also offered some thoughts on ways to start bridging the data skills gap in L&D departments.

Why we need to bridge the data skills gaps in L&D

As the second year of results from our measuring the business impact of learning survey demonstrate, L&D teams are increasingly feeling the pressure to measure the impact of their learning.

Senior management are now making demands for evidence of the value of L&D spend. That means L&D teams need to source and then deliver demonstrable evidence of the value of their learning programmes.

And when it comes to measuring business impact such as ROI and ROE, L&D teams need more advanced, data-based methods to measure success over the more qualitative methods they may currently be utilising.

Although L&D may be slower to feel the effects of digital transformation than other areas of the business, as LEO Learning’s Piers Lea emphasised at the event, the time to get started is now. This is L&D’s moment to catch up with other areas of the business, such as marketing, and harness data-driven insights to prove the value of their work.

How big is the data skills gap in L&D?

During his session, Andy mentioned recently published research from the CIPD and Towards Maturity that shows the data skills gap is significant, even in high-performing organisations.

The Driving Performance & Productivity report mapped the L&D skills deemed as ‘priority’ against the respondents’ evaluation of their team’s current skill levels. It’s clear that there is a significant gap when it comes to data analysis. Data skills are a top priority, but the capability isn’t in place – yet.

Our workshop survey supported the CIPD's findings on the data skills gap in L&D

This finding was also echoed in one of the live surveys we conducted at the workshop, in collaboration with partner company, data and LRS experts Watershed. We asked the attendees to assess their teams’ current capabilities on measuring the business impact of learning.

The same gap on data analysis capabilities was evident in the responses, with the majority saying knowledge on data collection and analysis was either moderate or low.

How to bridge the data skills gap in L&D

With a significant gap to bridge, what can L&D teams do to start making progress? During his session, Andy shared the following valuable insights:

1) Understand the capabilities needed

As evidenced at the workshop, it’s often not the case that the L&D teams don’t have any data. It’s more likely that they struggle to find and then analyse the data they need.

L&D teams need to assess their teams’ competencies to understand the kinds of roles they need to recruit. The goal here is to assess your current level of capability and then decide whether you can build data skills with your current team, or whether it’s something you specifically need to recruit for.

There are new roles emerging in L&D, such as performance consultants, curators, asset creators, digital prototypers, data analysts and data interpreters. L&D teams of the future are likely to include roles that purely focus on interpreting learning data.

You can also identify the members of the team you can upskill with relevant qualifications. Part of this process can be recognising the value of your current team and where you can leverage their existing skill sets.

2) Make a commitment to change

Intention is key. L&D teams need to seriously commit to making changes and take responsibility for the process that’s required. And they need to be empowered to invest in themselves and secure the investment they need to succeed.

3) Start thinking now

As with measuring the business impact of learning in general, the key action is to just get started.

Identify and build your vision of what your L&D team of the (near) future looks like and start building the capabilities you need into your team now.

Andy Lancaster talking about the data skills gap in L&D

To discover useful and practical learning measurement strategy from the workshop, download our insight, ‘Creating the chain of evidence: Real stories of practical learning measurement strategies’.

Download the insight