L&D’s relationship with Data

This title has been taken from the Towards Maturity report published in August of this year. I was immediately drawn to the title and anyone who knows what a maths geek I am will understand why.

I always loved numbers and even just playing with them, multiplying numbers by themselves repeatedly just for fun! Yes I know it’s not normal and I also appreciate that not everyone else has the same love of numbers, in fact quite the opposite. I have several friends who will admit that numbers are almost a phobia.

Reading this report ,it is quite evident that we, in L&D are not great at collecting and using data to its best advantage. Some of the figures that struck me were:

  • Of those aspiring data to affect change only 2/5 were able to say that it helped the, demonstrate business impact (40%)
  • Also only 3/5 were successful in using data to help solve business problems (60%)

Bear in mind that was from a sample size of 700+ and the two figures above were those people who were really trying to use data affectively. This means in reality that there will also be a number of people not even trying so the 40% and 60% are likely to be very optimistic figures.

The most likely reasons cited were:

  1. Data and it’s analysis is complicated
  2. Lack of L&D skills in this area

If I look at the second point first. Why are we not addressing this lack of skills? Is it this phobia of numbers? A fear of what to do once you start collecting? An expectation that things have to change once you start collecting data effectively? Maybe it’s a combination of all three? Or maybe a misconception around what it means to collect and analyse data?

For me it is quite simple (and this may address the first point). In L&D we need to get nosey. When someone asks us to deliver a leadership programme, we need to ask why and how will you know it has been successful? If the first person who asks you doesn’t know, then ask someone else. Is it a real need or a perceived need?

The perceived need may be something like employee engagement scores being low. What we really need to determine is what effect that is having on the performance of the business:

  • High recruitment costs?
  • Lack of agility in the marketplace because there is a high attrition rate, staff not as familiar as they should be about products?
  • Poor customer service because the tools they use have had little investment?

So when you look at these examples, you can start to see it really is not about data analysis, but curiosity, perseverance and a healthy dose of skepticism. If you can pinpoint what the problem is and it is a real business need, then what you need to measure will be very obvious:

  • Reduction in recruitment costs
  • Reduction in time to market with new products
  • Range of new products and uptake
  • Attrition rate
  • Customer satisfaction scores

These are not L&D statistics these are business measures and having highlighted the purpose of your L&D focus, the business will also want to measure it. That is not to say that at times you are not needed to do some data analysis and collection but I think we are over complicating it and not getting to the nub of the problem.

In my book (currently in first draft) “How not to Waste your Money on Training’ I will show people simply how to “find the story in the data”. Using a simple example of a scoring grid, I will show how you can, using a spreadsheet and playing with different graph types, discover little parts of the truth about what is going on. It takes a click and a small amount of curiosity. If you want to try it out then just use this example, using Excel to play around with different types of charts:

  • Bar chart
  • Pie chart
  • Stacked bar
  • Spider diagram

For each format ask yourself “what do I see now?”. Using this approach of curiosity and play I discovered:

  • A bar chart gives a good comparison one person against another for each part of their role
  • A spider diagram shows how well-rounded each team member is in their own right. Some are not rounded at all! Tracy seems the most well rounded.
  • Stacked column shows the teams strengths and weaknesses:
    • Who is the strongest in sales skills?
    • Who is the weakest in product knowledge and working independently (why might this be? Manager poor at delegating?)

So I would urge you L&D, before spending a lot of money on data analytics experts, get nosey and do some detective work yourselves. Keep it simple and dig into what is going on beneath the surface. Don’t just take one persons viewpoint or use just one method, mix it up and start finding the story in the data!

My conclusions from the report and my own anecdotal research suggests that:

  • L&D does not have the skills required for data analysis (I had better get that book finished!)
  • It is not as complicated as you think
  • It is about asking the right questions and finding the story in the data
  • We don’t always need data analytics experts to do this!

 

 

 

Getting beyond the orange juice….

When a stakeholder asks you to  do something, can you distinguish between what they want and what they need? Does it make any difference?

I think it does (otherwise “What’s the point of this blog?” you might ask)

Let us illustrate this with an example. Someone says they would like a glass of orange juice, but is it really what they need? Digging deeper and understanding their situation, you discover they need their thirst quenching. Once we understand that is the real need, it then opens up the possible solutions:

  • A cup of tea
  • A glass of water
  • A cool beer
  • An apple juice

So in a business context I am sure that you can see the parallels. If you drill down into peoples (and the organisations) needs then not only do you bring a solution that is fit for purpose, you also open up the number of solutions available. You also avoid expensive mistakes, whereby leaping into solution mode too quickly, you miss the real point of what is going on.

So how do you find out the needs rather than the desires to “wants”?

It really is not that complicated….. get curious, ask questions, don’t assume they actually know the answer, no matter how convincing they are.

Every month our loyal subscribers get a free resource and in the past they have received:

  • A stakeholder analysis informational  video
  • A stakeholder analysis question sheet

Both of which would help greatly in determining the real needs. If you would like to receive resources like this every month then please subscribe. Depending on whether you are an L&D professional (includes consultants) or manager, you will get different and appropriate resources.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this topic!

Mining for Gold – making the most of your resources

Mining For Gold - 3A while back I shared how I had been inspired by a model for developing people called “Mining for Gold”. It was developed by Tom Comacho in North Carolina and used in a church setting. It is an amazingly simple, yet inspiring model that can be applied universally.

The approach is simple – rather than seeing what people cannot do or squeezing them in a role that does not quite fit, you look for the ‘gold’ in them. The gold is that sweet spot where the three circles intersect:

  • What they have a passion for
  • What they are gifted in
  • What has been successful in the past

Imagine if everyone you employed operated in that sweet spot. How transformational would it be for the individuals, their teams and the organisations they work for? Imagine if you operated in that sweet spot? How much drive and enthusiasm would you have and what results could you expect in your organisation?

So lets imagine you were using this approach to developing you and your staff, one draw back, you may notice, may be that there are tasks/roles for which you find it difficult to get the right person. So what do you do? You could leave the task or role unfilled until the right person comes along or you could contract out those services.

We, at How to Accelerate Learning have partnered with Optimus Learning Services, a company that could manage L&D services that you do not have the time or right people for. Read what Blake Henegan, Director of Optimus Learning Services has to say about what they do:

optimuslearning_logo_horizontalBlake Henegan

Helping L&D to add more value

Here at Optimus Learning Services, we believe in the power of L&D and providing managed learning services that help you drive your L&D strategy forward.

We listen to the same message from L&D professionals the world over; from multi-national companies to single site companies, the administration and management of L&D solutions prevents L&D from driving the real strategy forward.

Combining a real passion for people and learning our managed learning services are designed to set you free from this struggle; to reduce your time spent on L&D administration and help improve your working processes.

Our services are fully flexible, designed around your requirements to ensure you can demonstrate your true value to your organisation.

Flexible, clear support packages

Whether you need big thinking or ‘on the ground’ doing, are short for time or planning ahead; we have three L&D support packages to choose from:

Manage – our full managed learning service. Management of all learning activity, helping L&D teams to focus on L&D strategy and improve learning efficiency.

Support – helping companies with the sourcing & booking of external training, allowing you to service the learning needs of your organisation.

Consult – L&D consultancy and support, providing additional expertise and helping L&D departments transform organisational learning.

You’ll receive a unique service, delivering excellent customer service for your people, lowering the cost of your learning whilst never compromising on quality.

Free consultations available

Let’s have a chat about your L&D challenges. Are you looking to free yourself and your department from the shackles of learning administration and management? Focus more on learning governance than management?

For a free 30 minute consultation to discuss ways of increasing your L&D productivity please email Blake Henegan to arrange a time.

Alternatively, learn more about how we’ve helped L&D at http://www.optimuslearningservices.com/managed-learning-service-case-studies/

Where on earth do you begin with evaluation L&D?

Where do you begin with evaluation?IMG_0853
A few weeks ago, we ran a Learning Loop showcase event called “Taking the Fear out of ROI”. There was a great mix of people from many different organisations and to say the discussions were lively, would be an understatement!

Steven Covey, a man of many wise words said “Begin with the end in mind”. So the answer to the question in the title, would of course echo Stephen Covey’s sentiments. If evaluation has been an afterthought to the process of delivering learning, then, quite frankly it will be a waste of time. It would be a little like starting to knit a jumper, without a pattern or any thought to shape, size or colour and then expecting it to fit your needs.

Here is the essence, for a good evaluation, you need:

  • A solid needs analysis, which identifies the impact you would like the learning to have on the organisation
  • Stakeholders engaged at the beginning, providing you with not only the resources to identify needs, but resources and support for the evaluation. (*for more on stakeholder management click here)
  • Clear organisational outcomes, which the stakeholders will monitor and measure
  • Learning outcomes that support the organisational ones
  • Time before the next new project to complete the evaluation analysis and reporting
  • Realistic expectations from the stakeholders about the expected outcomes

There are of course other factors, but this is brief run through of the key components. The last one is an interesting one, especially when there are multiple factors which may influence the outcomes. Let us take a simple example:

At the same time as the a customer service learning programme being rolled out, a new customer management system is also installed.

In this instance the relevant stakeholders may either:

  • Join forces and measure the overall impact of both
  • Agree percentages of the impact of the two separately

Whichever approach is used, there needs to be realistic expectations from the stakeholders as to some of the other factors which may prevent the objectives being achieved:

  • Lack of line manager support for the learners (one of the biggest reasons for learning not imbedding)
  • A long enough lead time, between the learning and the measurement, to allow the learning to imbed and for results to be observed
  • Time and space in the learners roles for the learning to be put into action

Again, this is not an exhaustive list, but some of the key areas that may be investigated, if the learning does not meet expectations.

At How to Accelerate Learning, we can help organisations to dig deeper into evaluation. Contact us to find out how we could help you.

Does L&D understand their customers?

TM blogs #2This is the second in a series of blogs inspired by David Hayden, at the CIPD NAP(Northern Area Partnerships) conference June 2016, in a short workshop. The title of his workshop was “Is L&D prepared for the Future of Learning?” and the basis of the discussion was around key statistics uncovered in the “Towards Maturity” report of April 2016 “Preparing for the Future of Learning”. David presented around an infographic, part of which is displayed to the right. What was interesting was the “1 in 3” statistic!

It is an often repeated myth that we have a learning preference and we only learn effectively if we are in our preferred mode. However, David Kolb, when he came up with his experiential learning model, said that to learn most effectively, we need to go through every stage! That means we need to:

  • Do something
  • Reflect on it
  • Make sense of it (with theories etc)
  • Apply it to our own situations

Learners are all different, have different interests and are at different stages of learning. People may have preferences but there is no evidence that matching materials or methods to learning style will improve retention. Could you learn how to plaster a wall by listening to an audio lesson if you are an “auditory” learner or if you are a “visual” learner, did you learn how to walk by your mum giving you a powerpoint presentation? I know these are absurd examples but, somehow it does show how absurd the notion of matching learning to a learners style is. It makes much more sense to match what you learn to the type of activity, so that:

  1. If you are learning a skill, you get to learn and practice that skill – make it appropriate. If you are learning customer service skills, you will need to apply them and so here are a few methods you could use: role play, peer observation, video recording, “stop and rewind” role play (get to correct mistakes as you go along)
  2. If you are learning knowledge, then you need to make sure you understand how to make it “stick”. A little knowledge on what makes the brain retain information and put it into long-term memory can help immensley. You can read some of my “5 tips”, in a  previous blog to help with this.

In short:

  • You should design learning with variety
  • Take the learners through the whole of Kolb’s cycle
  • Use some practical neuroscience to help make the learning stick (Recommended good book)

“The contrast between the enormous popularity of the learning-styles approach within education and the lack of credible evidence for its utility is, in our opinion, striking and disturbing. If classification of students’ learning styles has practical utility, it remains to be demonstrated.” (Learning Styles Concepts and Evidence: PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST Vol 9, No. 3 2009)

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