Magazine excerpt: Answering difficult questions

What are the answers CEOs want from L&D? Ian Cook provides some ideas.

With the rapid pace of tech advances, it comes as no surprise that firms continue to spend more on L&D every year.

AT&T launched a $1bn retraining effort after discovering that nearly half its employees lacked the necessary skills to keep the company competitive. Additionally, one company, as it expanded its mission of providing mailing and shipping products to incorporate an e-commerce focus, realised that it needed to train an entirely new skill set to support its business of the future.

Clearly, learning is a key part of work; yet, despite the positive effects of learning, it is repeatedly said that executives lack insights into whether learning programmes impact overall business goals.

The Harvard Business Review report, How CEOs and CHROs Can Connect People to Business Strategy, found that 81% of CEOs believe training and development is strategically important, yet only 35% of HR teams routinely report on these activities.

If learning is so important to the business, why is training struggling to measure the effectiveness of its efforts?

LMS won’t lead to data-driven training departments

Analytics is critical to the measurement process, yet according to the Measuring Learning: Applying the Talent Analytics Framework to Learning report from Bersin by Deloitte, only 10% of survey participants say they are “very effectively able” to use data and analytics to respond to shifting or time-sensitive business needs – and the research shows that L&D’s eliance on Learning Management Systems (LMS) is to blame.

Without a more automated and streamlined approach, managing L&D programmes and measuring their effectiveness is a difficult process.

According to Bersin by Deloitte, while an LMS is fairly good “at providing metrics such as learner satisfaction, enrolments, cost of training, and learner demographics, few are able to capture data that is useful outside of the L&D function”. 

The chief learning officer report, How People Analytics Drives Learning And Development, found that only 14% of learning leaders said their learning function uses technology to collect, aggregate, integrate and analyse data from multiple HR systems, while 34% are still manually collecting learning metrics (which includes Excel). 

Without a more automated and streamlined approach, managing L&D programmes and measuring their effectiveness is a difficult process.

First, in order to measure the success of learning, you need to look at data from the employee lifecycle. For example, comparing retention rates with L&D programmes employees went through can reveal how effective that learning was in reducing employee turnover.

Second, once data from this lifecycle is extracted from the various source systems, you need to run calculations on top of it to get the needed insights. Additionally, if the information contained within these systems is inaccurate, then more work is needed to clean the data before you can pull the reports at all.


By the time you have even just some of the information you need, it may be too late to make an impact on business outcomes. 

And this process will only become more difficult to achieve as learning functions modernise and incorporate new methods and devices into their technology stack, further complicating the process of tracking since most LMS can’t combine data from other systems in reporting outputs.

The questions training departments need to answer

With a more complete picture and data-driven process, L&D professionals will be able to provide their executives with the key insights that impact business outcomes. Here are five questions that learning analytics can answer.

  1. What is L&D’s impact on employee retention?
  2. Do employees perform better after going through training?
  3. What is L&D’s contribution to employee engagement?
  4. Who would benefit most from L&D?
  5. Would we be better off without a specific training programme?


About the author

Ian Cook is head of people solutions at Visier.


To read the full article and find out how learning analytics can help your CEO understand L&D’s impact, subscribe to TJ magazine here.


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