Future of learning blog

How to make data analytics the new ‘normal’ for everyone in L&D

How to get comfortable with using data analytics in learning and at work

Data analytics – too scary, I hear you cry! And I would have agreed with you, before I spoke to Trish Uhl at the Learning Technologies Conference 2020.

Trish Uhl is an expert on data science, analytics and AI with the added bonus of huge enthusiasm and communication skills that make the most complex topics available to us all. Trish’s no-nonsense methodology shows that data analytics is accessible and, from a training perspective, immensely valuable to us in L&D.

Her work rests on three pillars. One is data and analytics. The second is emerging technologies. And the third is the future of learning at work. Trish believes all three are integrated and form a new way of working for anybody who’s developing talent within a business, facilitating organisational agility, and helping to develop an adaptive workforce.

Make data work for you

Which is a great fit for us at Stellar Labs where our mission is to fill the skills gap in emerging technologies and the new roles they create.

We’re applying technology to training by using brain friendly methods – the neuroscientific, evidence-based learning that we know works. And we’ll be using data analytics to measure the progress of the people we train; to ensure the training is adaptive and personalised and to equip them better with the required skills to go into a new role, or improve their performance in their current job.

Trish recommends we “zoom out” and look at the bigger picture; at why ongoing skills development is so important to today’s employees and how data can support that at every level.

Her belief is data is no longer just for business analysts in the back room. Nor is it just for the executives and the management team. She feels strongly that organisations must build analytical capability for everybody, from the frontline up to the C suite.

“Analysing data won’t be a big deal any more. It’s just how we’ll do business”

It’s a whole new way of thinking about how people get work done, and Trish advocates that we in L&D learn how to do that ourselves, bring it forward and embed it in everything we do.

More and more people will need to get comfortable with analysing data, with understanding what data means, but we know that can be a daunting prospect. The good news, according to Trish, is that analysing data won’t be a big deal any more. It’s just how we’ll do business.

Trish takes heart from watching the next generation come into the workforce as they are more comfortable with data, and treat data analysis as a natural part of daily life.

From choosing which movie to watch, to where they shop, they’re making decisions based on feedback and star ratings – qualitative comments from peers and people they trust. To them, data is just part of the decision-making process.

Data analytics can deliver ROI

All of which makes data seem a lot more approachable or, as Trish says, “ambient” – as in ambient noise that comes from our environment and is everywhere around us, including our home.

Think smart home technology that uses data to adjust your room thermostat. Or wearable tech such as the Fitbit that helps you track your activity levels and sleep pattern.

Whether it’s in our homes or on our wrist, data is being gathered. As we get used to it, we can take those principles and apply them in L&D. And we can show that data analytics has an impact on ROI.

“It’s fast feedback, embedded in the environment, right in the flow of work”

Trish gives the example of the “happy or not” buttons located in the ladies’ toilets at airports to monitor hygiene standards. Trish’s local airport in Chicago has lost revenue and dropped in the rankings as a result of data indicating the airport is failing to keep the toilets clean.

That’s why we’re seeing similar data-gathering devices appear in high-traffic areas, located in the places it matters most. It’s fast feedback, embedded in the environment, right in the flow of work. It’s leveraging connectivity and sending results back to a central source to be analysed right away.

And, when that data hits an escalation point or a quality threshold, it triggers an action. In the case of the airports, to deploy cleaning staff.

So we in L&D can use the same kind of paradigm to get enough information to take an action to serve people, make a positive impact and provide a business result. And there’s nothing scary about that.



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