5 Learning Analytics Trends from Learning Technologies 2022

There’s nothing quite like the hustle and bustle of a room full of vendors and specialists all out-enthusing and out-competing that screams “events are back!” After a lengthy, COVID-19 induced hiatus, Learning Technologies was a welcome reminder of what we’d been missing.

There’s nothing quite like the hustle and bustle of a room full of vendors and specialists all out-enthusing and out-competing that screams “events are back!” After a lengthy, COVID-19 induced hiatus, Learning Technologies was a welcome reminder of what we’d been missing.

It’s fair to say that there was a certain amount of trepidation, especially from those who weren’t used to packed crowds without masks. But once everyone had settled, sufficient coffees sipped, and seminars underway, it felt like Europe's leading showcase of organizational learning and L&D technology was back in full swing.

With our schedule of Learning Analytics expo and conference talks all mapped out, we set off to get a feel for what the market was saying. Here’s our take on the common themes and trends we discovered.

1) Demonstrating business impact is critical for L&D.

Okay, so this is hardly a surprise, but happy sheets and completion rates simply don’t cut it. Learning and development technologies and ecosystems represent a significant investment, and both the business and L&D want more. Your metrics may show X number of learners completed a course, but what difference did this training make? Did your learning program make your employees more effective at their jobs?

The focus has to shift away from push-learning and compulsory compliance tick boxes to impact metrics that showcase L&D’s value if the much-mooted move toward a pull culture of on-demand learning is to be realized.

Kevin M. Yate's recent article on Training Industry sums up the value of impact metrics nicely:

An impact narrative using facts, evidence, and data that shows how learning affected performance and business outcomes — for example, “People who completed training program ‘x’ show a 5% decrease in ‘y.’"

We noticed far greater interest from vendors in what we do at Watershed than we have in previous years; comments like, "Oh wow, you're in the right business at the moment then." seemed to indicate the time for impact measurement has arrived.

Take a deeper dive into the state of play (e.g. adoption, challenges, etc.) of measuring business impact with our in-depth report: Measuring the Business Impact of Learning in 2022

2) L&D is desperate for a Seat at the Table.

This will be a familiar story to many of our readers (see Mike Rustici’s 2016 article on eLearning Industry), but L&D is still struggling to be heard when setting and driving business objectives. There’s real value in baking training measurement goals into your people strategy from conception—but how often is that actually happening?

The perception of L&D being a cost center underlines the need for impact metrics. We heard the phrase ‘get a seat at the table’ in so many conversations we almost started wincing. L&D has a way to go to convince the broader C-Suite of its value. And this leads us neatly to our next point.

3) Leadership buy-in is everything.

Having a learning analytics team that reports on training impact metrics is only helpful if your stakeholders actually pay attention to what you’re saying! We recently interviewed a couple of our clients who operate global learning analytics teams on different ends of the spectrum (resource and team-size wise).

They both said the struggle to get buy-in from above can hinder L&D’s desire to move away from ‘prove’ to ‘improve’. By this, we mean shifting toward using measurement to drive the continuous improvement of learning programs and the associated improved business performance from the learners themselves.

This thread was common in the seminar talks we attended and reminded us of parallels of when marketing started to work out how to present the value of data-led metrics to inform decision-making at the highest levels.

See this great example of how athenahealth drove interest and uptake in the learner analytics program by engaging in some basic marketing principles: Client Spotlight: athenahealth’s Newsletter

4) Marketing practices can be easily adapted to boost your learner engagement.

Speaking of marketing, does your training content delivery method drive sustained awareness and desire? Do your learners have time set aside to learn? Or is it left as a last-minute tick-box exercise that a harangued line manager delivers?

Engaging Learners Like a Marketer was a great talk by our friends at Degreed that applied the marketing ‘P’ mix to your delivery method. Given engagement metrics are relatively widely reported, why not make the most of them?

There are several quick wins that L&D can apply to maximize impact. From identifying learners' pain points and creating personas to recognizing that one size does not fit all, a personalized delivery approach helps you maximize the ROI on your existing content by optimizing uptake. And if that means taking things back to basics, so be it. Coffee vouchers and dedicated time to study may not sound revolutionary, but they work.

Consider a dual approach to quantitative and qualitative metrics for a balanced view. Data captured from surveys can be correlated with individual feedback from both UX testing and interviews. And of course sentiment analysis, if you're there (BTW, expect big news from Watershed on this topic soon!).

5) People are as important as the technology.

This trend was pleasing to see as (spoiler alert) it’s a topic we’re passionate about and the subject of an upcoming ebook! But you simply can’t expect to get ahead on your learning measurement journey without the right people in place.

The exact roles will vary, but it certainly feels like it’s time for L&D to upskill…themselves! Assuming you don’t have the budget to build your dream analytics team instantly, there’s a good old-fashioned reliance on passion, learning on the job, and utilizing the available reporting tools.

In short, even if the skill set is not perfect, don’t underestimate the power of having someone who’ll dedicate the time to think about learner analytics and challenge the status quo.

It was interesting to hear Peter Manniche-Riber of Novo Nordisk say that the first tactical shift was to streamline his L&D function to three key roles: content, data, and marketing (the latter relates neatly to point 4 above).

All in all, Learning Technologies was a fantastic event that provided opportunities to catch up with friends and colleagues while also offering many great takeaways for everyone who attended. We hope everyone had as much fun as we did, and we can’t wait to see you at upcoming L&D events this year!

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