The demands placed on learning and development teams amid the pandemic have sharply increased. Organisations are attempting to mobilise skills to keep pace with a rapidly changing market, and at the same time, many are raising the alarm given severe talent shortages.
This situation, where organisations need to build and deploy critical skills in record time, means that maximising the value and impact of learning and development has been brought into sharper relief.
What’s driving a value-first approach?
First, as programmes that promise coveted skills at speed and scale attract bigger budgets, a more diverse range of stakeholders now want to understand the direct impact on business performance. While this can be about quantifying the commercial return, it also extends to non-financial metrics, like the influence programmes have on retention and company culture.
Secondly, the need to better harness an organisation’s existing workforce capabilities has become more acute as external talent pools run dry. As a result, there is a growing appetite for insights into current skills and capabilities that can be tapped to meet future needs.
Designing, delivering, and optimising learning programmes that satisfy these needs relies on high-quality data and analysis. No longer are programme engagement or completion rates a sufficient indicator of programme performance, let alone value. Instead, there is now a multitude of data sources that not only provide rich insight into the capabilities of an organisation and impact of learning, but together, are become a more accurate predictor of future success.
Rethinking the learning data landscape
In this first article on the impact of learning and development, we look at the spectrum of data sources that enable effective measurement and action to drive value. In many ways, it’s about redefining what fits the conventional criteria of learning data and, while not exhaustive, can be broadly categorised into five key areas:
The diversity and depth of what your workforce knows today can significantly influence whether the business is primed to adapt to future market demand. The knowledge uplift that results from ongoing learning and development initiatives can be directly tested and tracked through online learning platforms, surveys, panels and feedback.
Identifying gaps, developing new skills, and harnessing underutilised capabilities requires a continuous assessment and rapid matching with emerging needs. For example, using digital tools that draw on behavioural and data science, individuals’ skills can be analysed to produce personalised career development programmes based on suitability, strengths and goals.
Data that examines behavioural change can help determine where programmes are working or could be improved. Personality profiles and 360’s reviews can provide evidence of the impact of programmes. Surveys from people and their managers can reveal the efficacy of applied learning, and storytelling and case studies can give qualitative insight. There are also immersive digital learning experiences that can interpret these traits in real-time.
This relies on objectively evaluating team members to understand their aspirations and readiness to take on new roles. This typically includes one-on-one interviews and has the potential to support retention and remove bias in succession planning.
Looking at business performance indicators such as sales, NPS or financial reports, and data like turnover, related costs, and internal mobility from a human resources information system (HRIS), can be powerful indicators of programme performance. Being clear on the desired outcomes and understanding how programmes impact these metrics can help design the right learning experience and inform technology investment decisions.
So, with a more holistic data-led approach that seeks to unearth the multi-dimensional impact of learning, businesses can start to better quantify its value to the organisation at large. This can help establish direct correlations between things like knowledge development and culture, career development and retention, and crucially, investment in learning development and broader commercial outcomes.
In our next article, we examine the technologies that are ushering in the next generation of learning and development programmes and the data and insights they can generate. These can be crucial tools for those seeking to form a more complete view of value and impact.
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