Analytics that Transform Learning Programs


Data is the currency of HR, and just like money, you have to be careful how you use it. Having said that, analytics can teach you how to create a successful and efficient learning program.

Analytics in Learning
“Learning doesn’t drive the corporate strategy, it aligns with the strategy,” Martha Soehren said. Soehren is the Chief Talent Development Officer and Senior Vice President with Comcast.

For that to be the case, analyze the implementation of current learning programs and business goals to produce an aligned strategy that predicts learning output and outcomes.

Soehren explains Comcast achieves this through the National Executive Learning Council. The council is made up of members of the C-suit and some other senior leaders.

“When we meet, this body ensures alignment between the business and learning, sets new expectations and strategy, ensuring learning priorities are in alignment with both the business imperatives in the pipe line as well as key performance indicator (KPI) data across the business that is monitored on a minute-to-minute basis, in many cases,” Soehren said.

One of the changes made after the creation of the council was to mandate all front0line leaders get 24-hours of instructor-led training. Why?

“We want supervisors to spend the majority of their time coaching their team members. We want them in the field, in the homes, and in the call centers assisting, giving feedback, and driving a better customer experience with their team members,” Soehren explained.

In the case of Parkland Health and Hospital System, learning goals align with the organizations overall strategy through culture, employee engagement, and patient satisfaction.

That’s not all.

“We also align with the goal of growing talent and great careers,” former Parkland Chief Learning Officer Paul Rumsey said. “We started to track the internal promotion rate and improvement in team engagement scores for leaders who complete our year-long leadership development programs.”

It also ties into their annual performance appraisals.

“Our individual goals came directly from the Parkland strategic plan; therefore, all employees understood how their performance and work aligned with the greater strategic plan and organizational goals,” Rumsey said.

Data Transforming Learning
So, how does one do that?

Step One: Evaluate learning and development programs that already exist in light of shifting business strategies and priorities. Too often, companies revise or adapt what they use for training rather than potentially scrapping and reinventing programs to support future needs.

As an HR professional, the first question to ask concerning your learning and development programs is: “Can our programs remain unchanged in a dynamic operating environment?” To be sure, we change and adapt technical and sales training to follow new product launches, yet we may overlook the relevant capabilities of those designing our products and leading our organizations. This is not to suggest that all existing learning and development programs quickly become outdated or irrelevant, rather, there must be an objective and formal process to assess, evaluate and reinvent these programs to ensure alignment of human capability with business strategy.

Step Two: Establish metrics for measuring training’s impact on the business to determine if the learning objectives are driving the intended behaviors and performance.

Assuming that you have assessed and evaluated learning and development programs to validate relevancy to business strategy, the next question to ask is: “How do I know programs are having the desired impact on the business, and to what degree?”

First, consider the top level metrics that capture the overall performance of your company: measurements like sales and earnings growth; quality; on-time delivery; product cost and safety are common examples.

Next, establish the linkages that tie these metrics to people activities and the incremental benefit or performance expected to result from the learning and development program. For positions that directly generate revenue (i.e. sales) or reduce costs (i.e. operations) the connection between incremental performance and outcome is more easily defined. For indirect, executive or other management level positions, the connection to hard measures may be more difficult. In these cases, core competencies or behaviors may be captured through evaluations from internal or external sources such as customers and suppliers.

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Once the measurements and incremental benefits are defined, they should be captured and tracked through the company’s performance management system using the smart criteria: specific; measurable; achievable; realistic and time-bounded. As an alternative or supplement, structured survey instruments can be developed and sent to stakeholders who are positioned to observe the degree of improvement.

Finally, do not be deterred from evaluating the impact programs have on employee engagement and retention— two strategic measures that are often overlooked. Although this approach will not precisely capture and measure the benefits of training, it is vastly superior to using intuition or other subjective methods to determine the business improvements.

Step Three: Measure the efficiency and process effectiveness of delivering learning and development programs.

Once you determine that the right programs are being offered and the desired results are being achieved, the last question to ask is: “How do I know that these programs are being delivered in the most efficient and cost effective way?” Aside from the program cost, the number trained and the frequency, determine the overall value compared with outside alternatives.

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As a general rule, eliminate, off-load or outsource whatever is not part of the core business, or that which can be delivered cheaper through alternative means. There are numerous firms that sell and deliver training programs – and some of these may be the right solution for your business. However, do not relinquish ownership and responsibility for learning and development programs that tie directly to the core competencies of the company. Like other forms of intellectual property, they drive the performance of your business. Although it may be the right decision to deliver these programs through third party providers, retain control of the design and development.

Establish a means of evaluating your learning and development programs against objectives standards for cost, quality and delivery. There are plenty of professional and industry resources to draw upon. Start benchmarking to generate ideas, compare metrics and adopt best practices.

Continuous improvement and the need to sustain earnings growth drives us to evaluate everything we do. Every HR professional should evaluate human capability and performance in light of changing business needs. The three steps outlined provide a framework for implementing a more comprehensive approach.

In Summation
Data is a powerful tool. If used properly, it can render great success. Such is the reality with learning programs. As we progress into the future with more and more technology, an abundance of data will be created and collected. In the case of data as it relations to learning programs, it can be used to ensure the choices made will truly support the workers and the business.

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