Why do we need an analytics role on the L&D team?

Data analytics in L&D
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There’s a growing trend among leading brands for bringing data and analytics roles onto the L&D team. It's a positive sign that learning analytics is being taken far more seriously, but more L&D functions would be wise to follow suit.

Imagine that you get to build a fresh, new learning and development team. What roles would you include? Let’s start with a Chief Learning & Performance Officer (CLPO).

Let’s add instructional designers, training facilitators and an LMS administrator. Let’s also add a performance consultant, learning technology specialist, operations manager, communications expert, and project manager. Finally, let’s add a data analyst.

Wait, a data analyst? On the L&D team? Whoever heard of that?

Yes, we need a data analyst on the L&D team. Why? Because we need a role that's focused on telling our story with facts, evidence and data. We need talent that can evaluate the efficiency, effectiveness and outcomes of our training and learning solutions using analytics.

You might be thinking, 'Do we really need to dedicate headcount just for that? Can it not just be part of the responsibilities for one of the other roles?'. To that I would answer, 'Yes, we need dedicated headcount and the role needs time and opportunity to focus solely on measurement and analytics'. The reasons why are outlined below...

An art, a science and a skill

Using data and analytics to measure the impact of training and learning is an art, a science and a skill. Just like other disciplines in L&D are specialised, such as instructional design or learning technology, so too is analytics.

Of course, all roles across the L&D team should be data literate. But to expect that any other role can perform analytics as part of the work they’re already doing is unfair and unrealistic. We need someone on the team who has the talent, capability and time to specifically focus on measurement, data and analytics.

There’s a fast-growing trend within the industry for roles being created specifically for measurement, data and analytics.

When are we going to stop talking about measurement and start taking action on it?

We’re seeing job titles such as, 'Manager for Learning Impact & Measurement', 'Senior Analyst for Learning & Development', 'Learning Evaluation & Data Manager', 'Director of Learning and Evaluation', and 'Learning & Development Measurement and Analytics Data Scientist'.

Just a few short years ago, these kinds of roles on L&D teams were unheard of. But now we’re seeing recognition, value and importance placed on having these specialised skills and capabilities for measurement, data and analytics embedded in L&D teams.

What do measurement and analytics roles in L&D look like?

I’ve started collecting job postings for L&D measurement and analytics roles and what I’m seeing is nothing short of amazing and transformative. Here’s my high-level observations:

  • The world’s leading brands are hiring talent for measurement and analytics on their L&D teams

  • Data collection, data quality, data visualisation, business intelligence tools, analytics applications, programming, experience with statistical models and methods, research and predictive analytics are the more specialised skills

  • Consultative capability, internal partnering, communication, execution and project management are common ‘soft skill’ requirements

  • Some organisations, but not all, require previous experience in HR, L&D or talent development

  • Most organisations require a minimum of five years’ experience

What’s amazed me most is the swift rise of these roles and how specialised they’ve become. And what I’m really excited about is how some organisations have literally put pen-to-paper on defining the scope of roles focused on measurement and analytics for L&D.

They are dedicating headcount for answering the question ‘Did training work?’ with facts, evidence and data.

L&D measurement and analytics roles demonstrate belief and commitment

The conversation in the L&D community about measuring results and impact for training, learning and development is one we’ve had over and over for the past 10 years or so. For me, it’s reached a point where I ask and challenge, ‘When are we going to stop talking about measurement and start taking action on it?’.

I’m excited to see these roles emerge in L&D as evidence for taking action and belief in the efficacy of using data and analytics to measure results, inform decisions and predict outcomes. And it further demonstrates commitment by hiring talent that supports the belief.

These new roles are helping us do what other parts of the organisation are already doing when it comes to showing results with facts, evidence and data.

There’s something about these roles I don’t want us to miss. Did you notice how these L&D measurement and analytics roles are part of, and not separate from, the learning and development team? That’s important. Why? Because it commits the full attention of the role as a resource dedicated to the needs of the L&D organisation.

It’s not someone on loan from another team with data experience and expertise. It’s not a dual role for someone on the L&D team who’s also focused on another L&D discipline. It’s a full-time role focused on the practice of measurement, data and analytics for the L&D team. For me that demonstrates full belief and commitment.

L&D measurement and analytics roles help us do what other parts of the organisation are already doing

Can you image the Chief Marketing Officer saying to the CEO, “We’ve spent 1.5 million on our latest product promotion and we believe it was effective.”, or the VP of Production saying to the CEO, “We’ve invested 5 million in reducing defects and we think we’re producing fewer defective products.”?

Trust me when I tell you that’s not how it works. Marketing, production, operations, research and development, sales and other parts of the business are using data and analytics to answer questions and inform decisions. They’re using data and analytics as fact-based evidence for results and outcomes.

Thank goodness for the new roles in L&D that are focused on measurement, data and analytics! We don’t have to wish, hope or believe training, learning and talent development are making an impact when there’s data to prove it.

These new roles are helping us do what other parts of the organisation are already doing when it comes to showing results with facts, evidence and data.

More than a trend: measurement and analytics roles for L&D are here to stay

I’ve been in training, learning and talent development long enough to see methods and trends come and go. I’ve seen the transition from using transparencies with overhead projectors to PowerPoint. I’ve seen CBTs (computer-based training on discs) replaced by e-learning. And I’ve seen learning management systems (LMS) totally transform the way in which training is administered, delivered and managed.

I don’t expect to see the role for L&D measurement and analytics to come and go. The data revolution is already here. We’ve just been a little slow getting on board.

My L&D crystal ball tells me we can expect to see more organisations embed roles for L&D measurement and analytics on their teams. These roles are not just a trend. They’re here to stay.

 

About Kevin M. Yates

Kevin M. Yates

Kevin is a Learning & Development detective and just like Sherlock Holmes, he solves mysteries. The mystery he solves is, “Did training work?”. He uses facts, evidence and data to show training and learning’s impact on behavior, performance and goals.

His work is global and multi-industry. He’s served in a variety of roles across training, learning and talent development which guides and informs his perspective and actions. Kevin’s guiding principle is, “Find one thing about a person’s behavior or performance you can attribute to training or learning and let that lead to the facts about impact.”  

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