Business leaders and employees call for improved use of data and insight in learning and development.

Skills gaps can be addressed through learning culture.

Over half of skills gaps within UK organisations could be fixed through optimised use of data and insight in learning, yet according to research from Knowledgepool only 12 per cent of learning and development (L&D) leaders regard their use of data and insight in learning strategy and delivery as ‘excellent’.

The research, based on interviews with 350 L&D leaders, 500 business leaders and more than 2,000 employees – highlights the potential for data and insight to transform the effectiveness of learning and drive workforce performance. On average, L&D leaders believe that over half (52 per cent) of all skills gaps within their organisation could be addressed by better use of data and 90 per cent view high quality data as important to improving learning delivery in their organisation.

This appetite for greater use of data and insight in learning, is set against a wider need for organisations to develop cultures of continuous, lifetime learning within their workforces, to deliver the skills and agility they will need to compete in the future. 91 per cent of business leaders cite improving learnability at all levels of their organisation as important in maximising the benefits of a hybrid workforce (where people work alongside AI), and 88 per cent believe that upskilling employees in new areas and emerging job categories is essential.

However, despite recognising the huge potential benefits of adopting a data-driven approach, many organisations are not consistently using data and insight in learning. 45 per cent of L&D leaders report that they only ‘sometimes’ use people data to inform their learning strategies and over half (55 per cent) admit that they only use learning data ‘sometimes’ to inform learning delivery and content.

L&D leaders are also struggling to use data and insight to measure and evaluate the impact of learning programmes and investments. Only a third (35 per cent) of L&D leaders are very confident that they have full visibility of all learning investment across their organisation and they report that, on average, 38 per cent of all learning investment made over the past 12 months could be described as ‘indiscriminate’ and not planned and evaluated against key learning outcomes. More than a quarter (27 per cent) report that their organisation suffers from a lack of clarity and consistency in measuring return on investment (ROI) and learning outcomes.

This inability to track and report on the impact of learning is alarming given that 73 per cent of L&D leaders report that their departments are under more pressure than ever from the wider organisation to show the ROI of learning interventions and technologies.

“As effective learning becomes a critical priority for organisations, it’s essential that L&D departments are able to use data and insight to identify skills gaps, ensure learning delivery is aligned to overall business strategy and to measure and report the impact of all learning interventions and investment in terms of business outcomes,” says Dan Ferrandino, managing director at Knowledgepool. “Currently, too many organisations are failing to draw any meaningful insight from their data, meaning that they are essentially ‘learning in the dark’, without any real idea of the impact that learning is having and certainly no way of improving.

“By adopting a data-driven approach to learning, L&D leaders can make ongoing, lifetime learning an essential component of a future-looking employee proposition, and encourage a culture of learning to ensure their organisations are in a position to develop the skills they need as they transition to a hybrid workforce.”

According to L&D leaders, the main barriers to more effective use of data within learning are a lack of time and a need to focus on other priorities (35 per cent), a lack of analytics skills within the L&D team (31 per cent), poor quality data (27 per cent), outdated technology (26 per cent) and fragmented workforce and learning data (24 per cent). Three quarters (75 per cent) of L&D leaders say that they need more support from vendors and partners to make better use of data and insight in learning.

However, despite these challenges, L&D leaders are in no doubt about the potential benefits of optimised use of data and insight in learning. 85 per cent believe that data and insight that allows them to predict future learning needs within the organisation and to understand learning behaviours and patterns within the workforce would drive improved learning delivery and performance, and support greater workforce agility.

The benefits of data-driven learning are also seen to extend beyond the existing workforce, with 25 per cent of L&D leaders stating that it can help attract new talent into the organisation, as ongoing learning becomes a more important factor for candidates when selecting a new employer, particularly younger workers (millennials and Generation Z).

Ferrandino concluded: “Data and insight will transform the role, reputation and strategic contribution of the L&D department. Already we’re seeing the traditional, tactical metrics used in learning, such as attendance and utilisation, being replaced by genuine business-focused analytics in forward-thinking L&D departments. By tracking data sets across different parts of the business, businesses can now genuinely track the impact of learning on business-focused KPIs such as customer service and retention, workforce performance and productivity, and sales and revenue.

“L&D leaders must find ways of overcoming the barriers to more effective use of data and insight, ensuring that they equip themselves and their teams with the tools, skills and vision to make the most of the data they have at their disposal. This means a laser focus on the key data points which will provide the genuine insight they need to deliver more personalised and relevant learning experiences, and to track, measure and optimise the impact of each and every learning intervention.”

The full research findings can be found in the ‘The Quest for Data-driven Learning’ white paper, which is available for download here.

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