The 3 reasons you need to link learning data with performance

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As an L&D professional, you’re naturally familiar with the expectation to formulate learning strategies that drive real change in the organisation. You’re also most likely well-acquainted with having to prove to business leaders and key stakeholders that your department is worth their continued investment.

As we noted in our previous blog post, ‘Does L&D have a data problem?’, people must be learning the right skills to stay relevant in a rapidly-evolving world of work. For businesses that cannot afford to hire new talent, it’s all the more critical to invest in an agile and high-performing workforce.

According to Towards Maturity’s Learning Benchmark Report, high-performing organisations who see performance improvement as a critical outcome of their work enjoy the benefits of reduced time to competence, increased productivity and improved organisational revenue.

Ensuring your data successfully joins the dots between training initiatives and performance is vital if you’re going to prove that L&D has delivered.

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1. Upskilling and reskilling are critical to business performance

With budget constraints no longer the primary issue for L&D, executives have realised that reskilling and upskilling existing talent is crucial in the face of both technological disruption and the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, research by McKinsey has revealed that 82% of executives at companies with more than $100 million in annual revenues believe retraining and reskilling are critical to business success.

The L&D community agrees. Upskilling and reskilling was the number one priority in the 2021 Global Sentiment Survey, conducted annually by Donald H Taylor.

It can be tempting to view upskilling and reskilling as ways to keep businesses afloat during times of challenge. However, providing continued learning opportunities goes beyond this. Anne-Marie Malley, partner and UK human capital leader at Deloitte, says more must be done to support employees in developing their skills in the changing world of work. “Businesses are facing an uphill struggle to address these factors, which is leading to dissatisfaction, disengagement and despondency among employees,” she says. “Employers must offer more support to strengthen their workers’ skills and communicate the value their roles are bringing to their company, the economy and society as a whole.”.

After all, an employee who receives the relevant training will be far more confident and able to perform well at their job.

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2. Performance consulting helps you identify where learning can help

When we consider how the business landscape is changing, we realise that we need to shift the focus towards performance and capability when asking questions. This is where performance consulting can help. This is an efficient way of finding out:

  • Who needs guidance
  • What they need guidance with
  • Who has the knowledge to close any gaps
  • What is stopping them from performing currently

By identifying where these gaps are, you can not only assign the right training, but also use this knowledge to shape training needs in the future. The right data will enable you to address and remedy these gaps in an agile and iterative way.

The real beauty of this is that it allows the learning to be designed in a way that’s aligned with the overall business strategy and performance aims.

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3. Performance management allows you to align learning data with business outcomes

Learning initiatives should begin with business goals in mind. How will learning help to achieve these goals (if, of course, learning is the right solution at all)? How can individual performance help to drive these outcomes?

By using the relevant metrics, you can link learning data with business aims and prove how learning initiatives drive performance.

Here’s an example. Say you’re part of an organisation that wants to reduce the amount of complaints it has received from customers relating to the quality of service received. You could put in place learning initiatives to improve the performance of customer service staff so they are better equipped to provide great service and encourage positive feedback. To prove that any improvements could be directly attributed to learning, you would need to do the following:

  • Investigate the current number of complaints and customer satisfaction scores
  • Collect evidence and feedback as the baseline
  • Review customer feedback once the customer service training had been completed

By doing this, you might perhaps discover that as a result of training over the last 12 months, there has been an 80% drop in the number of complaints and higher customer satisfaction scores. This can be tracked by baselining and measuring customer churn rate, which has a direct impact on annual recurring revenue. Happy customers are not only more inclined to stay, but are also far more likely to recommend new business.

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The role of the LMS in performance management

Access to the relevant data provides L&D with the opportunity to assess and predict the business outcomes of learning interventions in line with the overall aims. Determining from the outset what the problem is and how learning can provide a solution is essential for creating the necessary links. Without knowing what to look for, it’s all too easy to get lost in metrics and reports that fall short of value generation.

The vast data sets within your LMS can provide key insights into how employees are progressing and where any gaps are in order to drive performance. For example, you could look at assessment scores for individuals and departments on a particular course, strengths and weaknesses in certain topic areas, and particular skills and capabilities against a required skills profile (something which is key for talent management).

Tracking the path that high performers have taken can help you model learning initiatives accordingly with the help of advanced learning technologies (for more on this, see our blog post ‘The LMS vs LXP: which one should you choose?’). For example, by using xAPI (full name: the Experience API), it’s now possible to track the types of interactions that a learner in a specific role took to achieve high scores in assessment and acquiring knowledge. With attribution to workplace performance, this enables us to identify the most performant learning paths for certain roles, which can help inform future learning initiatives.

Imagine you have an employee called Zoe who works in customer service. Zoe is a high performer who resolves issues quickly, and goes above and beyond to help. This behaviour is mirrored in the learning system; not only does Zoe attend the prescribed events and participate in online learning, but also self-directs by consuming resources in her own time on customer satisfaction. Zoe regularly posts new ideas in the system discussion forum, where she responds regularly to her colleagues.

By using xAPI to track these behaviours, you can see that these are actions and behaviours that Zoe has completed through the learning process that other colleagues have not. With the help of this data, the learning designer can help shape future learning pathways for new starters in customer service by actively encouraging them during their onboarding to complete the same supporting activities as high performers like Zoe.

In summary...

It’s time to go beyond metrics such as learner satisfaction and completion scores. To align with high-performing organisations, it’s time to focus on outcomes-based metrics such as individual performance, engagement, productivity and improvements in business processes.

With the right data, you have the key to inform your decisions and inspire the right actions to drive real performance through learning.

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