Let’s be very real. Gathering and organizing skills data from across the learning ecosystem is one of the most significant challenges facing learning leaders today. This process isn’t quick or easy, but it’s worth the effort.
When done properly, it can lead to the most meaningful insights that will transform your L&D strategy and drive real change toward becoming a skills-based organization. It offers a blend of instant visibility into your organization’s skill health, but crucially, it gives you the layers of benchmarking data that provide the foundations for all the fancy stuff down the line.
Want to identify skills gaps? You need to reach this milestone first. So, let’s dive in and discuss what this means for L&D.
Before we dig into the blog post, be sure to take a look at the introduction to our Skills Data and Analytics blog series. It offers a comprehensive overview and handy tips to benefit from this series.
Smooth sailing with skills data
Imagine you’re a ship captain sailing across the world. Your ship represents your organization, while your crew’s abilities are the skills data. Now, imagine having a world map (the global view of skills data). Without it, you’d be sailing blind, not knowing where your strengths lie or where you’re lacking. Scary, right?
Having a global view of your organization’s skills data is like having this world map. It shows you where your crew excels and where they need training. This immediate insight is helpful for L&D, just like knowing where to sail next.
The more of your map you explore, the better you can navigate. Over time, you start to see trends and learn lessons. You understand which parts of the map offer smooth sailing and where the rough seas lay. In data terms, you’re benchmarking. You hit a few rough patches, but you're building a picture of both your shortfalls and strengths (e.g., starting to identify your skill gaps).
As for the ship’s infrastructure, think of it as your organization’s data infrastructure. A ship must be strong and well-built to sail the seas. Similarly, a well-established data infrastructure allows for effective data querying. It’s like having a well-organized ship’s log, where you can easily find the information you need to address specific challenges.
And last, the C-suite represents the ship’s officers. They need to make strategic decisions, and having access to well-organized skills data makes their job easier. It’s equivalent to having a clear, detailed map and logbook at their disposal.
That’s why having a global view of your organization’s skills data isn’t just important—it’s essential. It’s the world map, compass, logbook, and infrastructure that keep your ship sailing smoothly toward success.
Why do we call it a skills analytics journey?
Incorporating skills data into your learning strategy does not happen overnight. We refer to it as a journey firstly because (and apologies if this sounds obvious) there are chronological steps that build and enrich your strategy as you progress. Each step unlocks exciting possibilities for the next stage of your journey.
Importantly, though, journeys are unique to each organization. So, no matter your company size, appetite for change, or the maturity of your approach to learning analytics, you should tailor your journey to your unique needs. Frameworks are a starting point, but it’s not until you set sail and discover the rough seas for yourself that you adapt for next time.
What are the key steps in a skills analytics journey?
Many organizations are still developing a cohesive people strategy that incorporates insights from the learning ecosystem, HRIS systems, and emerging skills-specific platforms.
Here’s our take on the key steps:
- Aggregate data across the ecosystem. Start by aggregating your learning, HRIS & skills data into a single place.
- Have organization-wide visibility of skills. At any given time, understand where your organization currently sits.
- Understand your skill supply. Map out your organization’s skills volume and proficiency.
- Understand your skill demand. Identify gaps and how to allocate resources proactively.
- Create and optimize a talent mobility strategy. Leverage insights to get the most out of your workforce.
- What are your employees telling you? Understand the learning and skill needs of your workforce directly from your end users via content search analytics.
- Integrate your skills journey into your learning strategy. You’ve now identified the strengths and weaknesses of your skills heat map. So, does your learning function now close the gap?
If you’d like to discover more about the logistics of these steps, watch our on-demand webinar recording A Skills Analytics Journey: Turning Data into Meaningful Insights. We teamed up with skills expert Steve Boucher from Degreed to explore the subject in detail.
7 immediate benefits of achieving a global view of your organization’s skill health
It may be an arduous journey to get here, but the time spent collating and sorting your learning, skills, and HRIS ecosystem data is a worthwhile investment. Viewing these insights in a single place (such as via a learning analytics platform) enables many immediate benefits:
- You can build a proper understanding of your current “state of play” regarding skill health.
- A skills heatmap shows your existing strengths and weaknesses.
- You can identify priority “here and now” skill gaps and address them swiftly.
- You can drill down to get skill insights by any perimeters you want to localize your strategy (e.g., by region, department, dealership, or job title).
- You can dive into particular skill sets to understand the distribution of this skill in your organization.
- You have benchmark data, which is essential for assessing progress on future initiatives (e.g., by measuring talent mobility, see trend No. 4 for an example).
- You’ll have invested in a scalable way of collecting real-time learning data
What future L&D insights do you unlock?
Referring to the journey listed above, achieving a global view of your skills health places you at step two. The remaining steps in that list are all far more effective (and arguably only viable at all) if you have a sense of your organization’s current skills heatmap.
In addition to those points, your investment in this process unlocks future strategies in the following areas:
- Analyze skills gaps.
- Anticipate demand.
- Offer enticing upskilling paths to develop and retain staff.
- Offer organizational agility by identifying and addressing upskilling needs.
- Unearth hidden gems within your workforce by identifying “bonus” underutilized skills.
- See what skillsets staff are searching for in your ecosystem.
- Build a holistic workforce strategy by bridging the gap between HR and L&D.
- Provide the foundation that supports a shift from role-based to skills-based people strategies.
- Gives you reliable, real-time data infrastructure that enables the smart use of AI to detect trends. (See Karie Willyerd’s LinkedIn article The One Sure Thing You Can Do Now to Prepare for an AI Future.)
Navigating the stormy seas of skills
Now that we’ve plotted the path, we hope we’ve inspired you to see the bigger picture. A cohesive, organization-wide view of the “here and now” of your skills health offers some big business wins, but it’s the next steps that provide incredible potential.
The next post in this blog series explores a little more of the “how,” and discusses some of the more hands-on elements of handling, organizing, and prioritizing your skills data.
About the author
Brandon has spent the past 4 years demonstrating the accessibility and power of learning analytics. He works with organizations that are in the beginning stages of their learning analytics journeys—bringing their L&D data stories to life while identifying areas for growth to help ensure future success.
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