Preparing for the Future: Steps to Embrace Skills Data

The rising importance of skills is unquestionable, and the shelf life of job roles and technically-focused skills is shorter than ever. This shifting demand can feel like you’re forever chasing your tail.

Yet getting your house in order can feel like a step into the unknown. Is it an L&D task or HR’s? One thing is for sure, and that is getting a handle on your data will give you the best chance of building a strategy that helps retain and upskill your most crucial asset—your people.

Oh, and AI? It also requires a bedrock of reliable and clean data to work from. Here’s our take on the fundamental principles that build a reliable foundation of data that informs your skills strategy.

Best practices for integrating skills data into your L&D strategy

Integrating skills data into your L&D strategy requires careful planning and execution. That’s why you need to maximize the benefits of skills data by taking a strategic approach and following best practices for implementation.

When integrating skills data in your L&D strategy, consider the following steps:

1) Clearly define your objectives.

Clearly defining your objectives is essential before you begin using skills data in your L&D efforts. For example, what specific skills do you want your employees to develop? What gaps does your organization have, both now and in the future? How will you measure progress and success?

Establishing clear goals and objectives ensures your efforts are targeted and aligned with your business strategy. Consider that your objectives may change over time, as the more you explore your data, the more you’ll likely want to adapt as you go along.

2) Choose the right technology.

There are many tools and tech for tracking and analyzing skills data, ranging from simple spreadsheets to a learning analytics platform. Choosing the solution that best meets your organization's needs and budget is essential.

So consider factors such as usability, scalability, and integration with other systems when selecting your technology solution.

3) Collect relevant skills data.

To derive meaningful insights from skills data, you must collect the right skills data. This means pinpointing the primary skills and competencies critical to your organization's success and tracking them consistently.

This approach also may mean collecting data from multiple sources—such as employee learning assessments, performance evaluations, and training records—to get a comprehensive view of skills development.

4) Analyze data regularly.

Skills data is only valuable if you use it to inform your talent acquisition and development decisions. Regular skills data analysis can help you identify trends and patterns, track progress toward your goals, and make informed decisions about L&D programs. Consider setting up regular reporting and review processes to ensure you use and analyze skills data effectively.

5) Communicate and collaborate.

Integrating skills data into your L&D strategy requires collaboration and communication across the organization.

Ensure all stakeholders—from employees to the C-Suite—understand the value of skills data and how they can use it to support talent development efforts. Encourage open communication and collaboration to help keep everyone aligned and working toward the same goals.

Note that identifying who your stakeholders are is a task in itself. If you are adopting a trial approach, focusing on certain skills, learning programs, or departments first, sharing initial results can help engage any stakeholder who may have shown limited interest previously.

Persist with your efforts! Results talk, and some people need to see a vision of how it could apply to them before they truly engage.

Use classic learning design and delivery principles to engage employees with your skills strategy

The role of skills data in talent development will only continue to grow in importance. As technology advances and workforce demands evolve, organizations must continue to adapt and innovate their talent development strategies.

Some of the key skills data trends we think are likely to emerge include the following:

1) Microlearning

Microlearning is the delivery of training in small, easy-to-consume pieces. This approach has become increasingly popular over recent years as employees seek more flexible, convenient learning options that fit into the flow of work.

You can use skills data to deliver microlearning content targeting the specific skills and competencies employees need to develop, making the training more relevant and valuable.

2) Gamification

Gamification involves using game mechanics—such as points, badges, and leaderboards—to make training more engaging and enjoyable.

And you can use skills data to track progress and achievement in gamified learning programs, offering instant feedback and recognition to employees for their accomplishments. These credentials themselves can form part of the assessment on particular skill development.

This approach can help boost motivation and engagement and improve the overall effectiveness of talent development initiatives.

Preparing for the Future: Steps to embrace skills data in L&D

To prepare for the future of L&D driven by skills data, you must take action now to ensure you're ready to use the power of data to support talent development. Some key steps to consider include the following:

Understand your benchmarking is unique to your organization

We receive a lot of questions about skills taxonomies (mapping and grouping skillsets), as well as thresholds for skills verification—what is an acceptable level to be confident a skill has been acquired? And we fully understand why—these some of the biggest questions facing L&D today.

From a data perspective, it’s almost irrelevant what you chose. The thresholds and methodologies are for L&D, HR, and the business to agree upon and will be unique to each organization. They can vary for each skill, depending on the importance or risk of applying these skills.

As long as the data writes down into your ecosystem, it can be extracted and analyzed in conjunction with your learning data. Your thresholds may change as you explore the data, as in practice you’ll be evolving your own knowledge of what feels right for your organization.

Your reporting solution should be scalable and span both L&D and HRIS data

Investing in the right technology solutions for skills data tracking and analysis is essential for success in the data-driven L&D landscape. Consider the features and capabilities needed to support your talent development objectives and choose a solution to grow and evolve with your organization.

Blending three types of data sets offers a cohesive view. Note that “skills data” can commonly sit in both points 1 and 2:

  1. HRIS data
  2. Learning data
  3. Business data (for linking outcomes with KPI shifts)

Develop a data-driven culture

To fully leverage skills data's potential, you must first develop a culture that values data and analytics. Then, encourage employees at all levels to use data to inform decisions. You should also provide regular training and support to help them understand how to use skills data effectively.

Align skills data with business strategy

To ensure targeted, practical talent development efforts, you should align skills data with your organization's business strategy and objectives. For example, regularly review your skills data to ensure it aligns with business goals and adjust your talent development initiatives as needed.

Monitor and evaluate learner progress

You should regularly monitor and evaluate skills data to ensure your talent development efforts deliver the desired results. Use data analytics to:

  • track your objectives,
  • discover areas for improvement,
  • make informed decisions about training programs,
  • evaluate the benchmarks you set for validating skills (Do they still feel right? Are business KPI shifts supporting your validation thresholds?),
  • track L&D’s progress in filling skills gaps, and
  • measure talent mobility.

Foster continuous learning and improvement

The data-driven L&D landscape is constantly evolving, and organizations must foster a culture of continuous learning to stay ahead of the competition. Encourage employees to own their professional development and provide the tools they need for success.

By embracing a good learning culture, you can future-proof your workforce and ensure everyone is ready to meet any challenges that may come their way.

Remember, skills data is a powerful tool for talent development. By using the potential of skills data, organizations can create personalized learning experiences, improve employee engagement and retention, and future-proof their workforce.

To prepare for the future of L&D, organizations must embrace a data-driven culture, invest in the right technology, and align skills data with their overall business strategy. With these steps in place, you can unlock the full potential of skills data to support talent development and drive success well into the future.

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