The transformational power of data within L&D

August 29, 2019

Ray Brown, Sales Director – Learning and Development at Capita People Solutions, looks at the challenges and benefits of using learning data to drive business performance – now and in the future.

For so many years, L&D has fought to justify the existence of data, battled to demonstrate its relevance and struggled to prove its value. It has existed on the fringes of the organisation, considered a tactical, transactional player that’s ill-equipped to serve the needs of the wider business.

And that’s not surprising when you see that only about a third (31%) of the employees taking part in our recent research into the future of work say that the learning or training they’ve done in the past year has had a notable, positive outcome. 36% feel that the development opportunities they’ve had have just been “tick-box exercises” with no real value.

This is a particular problem within transport. Of the seven sectors that we surveyed during our research, transport is by far the worst at joining up the dots between learning and business outcomes. It currently delivers the most indiscriminate learning (45%) and the least learning that’s planned or evaluated against key outcomes (55%).

Data and insight turn all of that on its head. Already, we’re seeing the established Kirkpatrick model of measurement – with its heavy focus on tactical metrics such as attendance, utilisation and satisfaction – being replaced by genuine business-focused analytics in forward-thinking L&D departments.

A lot of those forward-thinking L&D professionals seem to be working in transport! 92% of the HR & L&D leaders working in the sector that we spoke to during our Human to Hybrid research say high-quality data and insight plays a crucial role in improving learning delivery.

With a smart approach to data analytics and insight, as an L&D professional you can track and measure data sets across two different parts of the business to show the value and impact of learning. For instance, you can see whether a team of people completing a training course on sales support has a tangible impact on customer service and satisfaction levels.

For employees, data and insight enables a more personalised, engaging learning experience, based on their individual preferences and learning behaviours. Appetite for continuous, effective learning is increasing dramatically, particularly among younger generations, and data and intelligent insight is essential in meeting this demand. Over time, as our use of data becomes more sophisticated, we will almost certainly see the emergence of digital learning footprints, where people take their learning history and experiences with them throughout their career.

HR and L&D leaders within the transport sector are facing some specific challenges. Of the organisations that are already putting L&D data and insight to good use, 48% are using it drive L&D strategy, and 42% are using it to inform their L&D content and delivery (leading the way alongside the retail sector). However, just 20% are using it to support other HR activity, making it the worst sector among the seven that we surveyed for ensuring its learning data has a wider impact within the organisation. It’s also one of the worst sectors for using learning data to benchmark L&D’s impact against the market – just 22% of organisations are doing this.

Despite this, they are keenest to use learning data and insight to measure the impact of learning on individual and business performance (58% and 50% of HR and L&D leaders respectively think this would be very useful in improving learning delivery over the next five years). And almost half (48%) say the top three benefits that data-driven learning would bring to their organisations are reducing the cost of learning or making savings through more targeted approaches, demonstrating the ROI of learning more clearly, and creating a culture of learning. 

But there are some barriers to be overcome before they can start to enjoy these benefits. 36% of HR and L&D leaders are just too busy to turn data into insight, and 30% don’t have the necessary analytics skills within their teams to make it happen. But the biggest issue that they face is a lack of, or outdated, learning technologies or learning management systems.

As skills become the currency of future business, learning moves to the centre of the organisation, influencing strategy and preparing it for the future. As our Human to Hybrid research has shown, learning will increasingly drive talent acquisition strategy, as organisations recruit workers based on potential and mindset over experience and qualifications. Learning becomes a critical player within digital transformation, M&A and go-to-market strategy, because organisations now recognise that they need the skills and agility to respond to changing market conditions and to pursue new opportunities.

Our research proves that data and insight is key to unlocking this exciting future for L&D professionals, and to ensuring that organisations develop workforces with the skills, behaviours and cultures needed to thrive in a hybrid world. L&D leaders in transport need to focus now on ensuring their workforce possess the ability to learn, un-learn and re-learn, developing the right skills needed to maintain and keep our railways and highways running, and most importantly improving the infrastructure for a better service.


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