Data Storytelling: How to Change L&D Behavior by 'Reporting Out Loud'

In this post, David Rosenfeld of athenahealth shares how he used “Reporting Out Loud” to encourage a behavior change within an L&D team so learning analytics isn’t just icing on the cake, but rather, it’s baked into their strategy and programs.

Reporting Out Loud is a way to scale peer-to-peer inspiration, put momentum behind data-enabled action, and gradually advance best practices by committing to sharing ideas, results, and stories of learning programs.

At athenahealth, I function as a shared resource for a handful of business units—including sales enablement, customer success enablement, new hire onboarding, and more. In 2018, we implemented xAPI and a learning analytics platform to evaluate and improve our learning programs across these business units. The L&D leads for the business units I serve, however, have such limited bandwidth that, most of the time, they can only focus on delivering programs—much less evaluate and iterate on them.

I wanted a way for the L&D colleagues we support to not only evaluate and measure their programs, but also collectively learn from each other’s projects and be inspired by what’s possible with learning analytics—even if it just meant changing one element of a program. Our goal was that every month, this type of sharing and learning would take place either in person, or digitally—and we refer to it as Reporting Out Loud.

The goal of Reporting Out Loud is to enable the L&D team to:

  • tell stories with L&D data
  • deal with different levels of proficiency and/or adoption
  • prevent repeatedly sharing the same conversations and information
  • innovate without resorting back to old ideas and designs

Reporting Out Loud can take place within your L&D team, or be broader to include multiple stakeholders. At athenahealth, it turned out to be the best way to gradually advance the practices of a low-bandwidth set of stakeholders, who had no idea what an LRS was, or how xAPI adoption could help drive insights and impact for their programs.

One by one, program by program, we’ve seen an increase in adoption, with accountability and collaboration come to the forefront—for these teams and their programs.

3 Ways to Start Reporting Out Loud

1) Put Momentum behind data-enabled action.

Reporting Out Loud is about creating urgency for action by sharing insights in the moment, where context matters. And a great way to do that is to tell meaningful stories with reports that incorporate key metrics and data.

Commit to sharing ideas, results, and stories of learning programs.

Make it interesting. Regardless of how basic or advanced your reporting tools are (e.g., spreadsheet, presentation, or newsletter), be sure to include engaging images, hyperlinks, and easy-to-understand explanations that share an interesting, comprehensive story specific to your audience.

Create a routine. Once you’ve started creating reports, keep the momentum going by scheduling and sharing them with stakeholders on a regular basis. By consistently placing important data in front of managers and leaders, you’re not only showing the value of your work, but also keeping your work top of mind for others across the organization.

Give early visibility. You also can create reports to routinely monitor data. For example, I’ll create a report showing who is “accessing” a learning program, and provide that information to the relevant program manager so they can monitor engagement in real time.

These reports aren’t meant to prove business impact. Rather, they help keep the program manager accountable and more strategic in increasing user engagement numbers. For example, program managers can schedule communications to bolster engagement or strategically message people who aren’t engaging with the program.

2) Scale peer-to-peer inspiration.

When’s the last time you took a deep dive into a colleague’s program? There’s quite a bit we can learn from our peers—new ideas, perspectives, and processes, just to name a few.

For example, do you share only successes, and not failures? Could “friendly peer pressure” from Reporting Out Loud help your team? Other ways you can become more involved with sharing across teams include:

3) Gradually advance best practices.

It’s also important that your colleagues are at a similar level when it comes to creating programs that take full advantage of your organization’s tools and technologies. Reporting Out Loud is not a one-and-done practice.

Plan a data monitoring strategy and set up a cyclical cadence for sharing that encourages creativity and accountability.

To continuously improve and develop your reporting/analytics practice, consider the following questions:

  • If there are varying levels of experience with these tools, where would I like my team to be?

    Start by setting goals for advancing your team’s practices and using actual work to showcase small wins along the way.
  • What insights can be leveraged that have never been accessible before?

    As your team becomes more comfortable in analyzing and sharing data stories, consider how you can advance your current evaluation practices.
  • How can Reporting Out Loud be a catalyst for change in my organization?

    Expose areas of work that could benefit from your reporting tools. For example, you might uncover new use cases for these tools that help improve adoption and accountability.

If all else fails, start with gateway data.

Find the KPI or datapoint your stakeholders care about most—even if it isn’t that interesting or sophisticated. For instance, we know attendance tracking isn’t that far up the learning analytics totem pole, but attendance tracking was the building block to getting stakeholders comfortable with our reporting platform.

Once they saw their attendance data was reported on in the platform, they wanted all of their data in there. Stakeholders become comfortable with our visuals and dashboards, and most important, see how much it benefits them.

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