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Learning & Development in People Analytics

By: Ralf Bovers

Learning and development people analytics lecture

Learning & Development has currently taken center stage at many organizations, and rightly so! In these challenging times, in which COVID-19 forces companies to redeploy their people across the organization, reskilling is crucial. Additionally, as the concept of “lifelong learning” is permeating the world, the importance of L&D will only increase. This big idea of continuous learning has the promise of professional and personal growth for both organizations and individuals.

In that sense people analytics and L&D have the same purpose: letting people and organizations thrive. They also reinforce each other as analytics can be applied to the growing amount of L&D data. This blog will look at five different areas in which analytics can help you leverage your L&D efforts: skill development, performance, business results, turnover and promotions. Hopefully these examples inspire you to start experimenting and analyzing yourself!

1. Skill development

Many organizations are trying to identify opportunities to close the skill gap. As L&D is a key enabler of skill development, companies wonder what to do with their L&D data in relation to skills. Well, the opportunities are endless! For instance, organizations can zoom in on one specific skill to establish which training is most effective to develop that skill. This works particularly well for knowledge-based skills. For soft skills, e.g. delegation or collaboration, it is recommended to also include data on coaching and behavioral programs. Furthermore, with the growing amount of data, organizations can analyze where in the organization L&D efforts are most effective to develop skills and where not.

To be fair, the number of companies that have a well-developed skill-taxonomy is still limited, but the space is evolving fast. Both specialized vendors and large companies themselves are working hard on skill taxonomies, skill inference and level ratings. As a result, there is a big opportunity for people analytics to help bridge the skill gap.

2. Employee performance

One of the goals of learning & development is to increase performance of individuals. Most organizations give their employees a performance rating. Typically, there is a “high, medium, low” categorization that encapsulates the total performance of an employee across aspects: e.g., results, team work, leadership, and communication. Sometimes organizations also use a more granular rating per subtopic, which allows for deeper analyses. Let’s look at a few example questions.

Do we see a difference in performance development between leaders who were allowed to follow an intense general management program and the ones who didn’t? Do we see the performance scores for communication increasing after having introduced communication workshops? If you have the data, you can analyze and start looking for correlations. After correcting for other factors influencing performance scores, you now have great insights in applying learning to the benefit of your employees and your company. Additionally, it helps you to allocate your L&D budget more wisely.

3. Business data

Adding business data to your people data allows for even more powerful insights. To track performance, you cannot only use performance scores but also business metrics. For example, the sales figures of your sales force (from your CRM). Establishing a relationship between L&D data and sales performance data over time can lead to powerful insights on which type of L&D efforts help you to grow your sales. We see a lot of companies extending their people data with business data and sales figures are definitely the most popular one, as they are relatively easy to measure. Another typical case are safety metrics for manufacturing plants: e.g. incidents, observations. This is great data to connect to your learning data to figure out what are the most effective training programs and to investigate the aspect of time (how often should trainings be repeated so that they stick?).

4. Turnover

Replacing employees is difficult, costly and time consuming. Decreasing turnover is therefore on the agenda of most companies. L&D has a crucial role to play here. Giving your employees sufficient opportunities to learn (through training on the job, workshops, education and mentoring) enhances the employee experience. It gives your employees an extra reason to stay.

People analytics can help to pinpoint this more precisely. To effectively tackle turnover, one should establish its relationship across various aspects: e.g. learning, engagement, rewards, career opportunities, etc. As more and more L&D data becomes available, the connection can be better established – not only on a company level, but also across workforce segments: functional areas, business lines, locations, etc. Did you find out that in country X a mentoring program resulted in less turnover? Try it in other parts of your organization! Did you find out that an expensive leadership program had no effect on both performance and turnover? Allocate your L&D budget differently!

5. Promotions

Ensuring a high promotion rate means that companies have to hire less from the outside, which can save a lot of costs. Additionally, increasing the internal promotion rate signals to employees that there are continuous development opportunities at your organization, which can contribute to more engagement and less turnover. L&D efforts can help organizations increase internal mobility and people analytics can support you to measure and analyze these efforts. For example, after introducing a leadership program within IT, has it become easier to fill managerial positions internally than externally compared to a year ago? Additionally, there are lots of opportunities to experiment and benchmark across the organizations so that you can analyze what works. This not only helps you to efficiently allocate your L&D budget, but also to increase your promotion rate

A promising future

In conclusion, learning and development has impact across the employee life cycle. It also plays a key role in the employee experience and eventually impacts business results.

These are just five examples of leveraging L&D data in people analytics. The range of opportunities is much bigger. L&D data can for example also be used to study the concept of learning itself. In particular with the rise of learning experience platforms, tons of data will become available so that organizations have the opportunity to analyze how their employees learn best. Next, all this new L&D data can be connected to all types of HR and business metrics. In addition to the ones already discussed in this blog, one could think of succession management, engagement, profit per store per employee or production per employee per plant. Sufficient reason to stay focused on L&D as a growing field within people analytics!

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