How Streamlining a Data Ecosystem Can Impact Learning Measurement

In the last post of our case study blog series, Alfonso Riley, learning technology consultant at Caterpillar Inc., explores the results from their Career Development Process, discusses where they’re headed next, and shares some tips on how you can implement a similar measurement approach in your organization.

As a result of architecting a robust learning ecosystem, Caterpillar’s Global Dealer Learning (GDL) achieved streamlined metrics through the learning ecosystem and provided on-time data analytics. Using data from business platforms and the learning ecosystem, we also created cloud-based dashboards to provide visualizations for leaders and employees, which enhanced support of the GDL Value Stream.

Define metrics with outcomes in mind.

Before developing the Career Development Process, we mostly focused on cost recovery beyond if we were achieving business impact or even if we had high levels of customer satisfaction (The dealers really didn’t have other avenues to get the content).

During the transformation, we defined metrics with the outcome in mind, and from there we designed metrics to monitor our value creation streams within our organization. We looked at this process from a perspective of People, Quality, Velocity, and Cost, and defined operation metrics, learning metrics, and customer engagement metrics. And we rely on our business and learning systems to provide the data with on-demand access.

How did leaders and employees respond to these changes?

Most people have responded favorably. They took it as an improvement opportunity rather than something that could adversely affect their employment.

What has been the biggest impact out of this transformation?

As a result of creating a consistent, measurable learning ecosystem, our organization (both Caterpillar and its dealers) has shifted our focus from reacting to changes to preparing for them.

COVID-19 has provided a stress test of our strategy and is showing the benefits of our process and our ecosystem. We have incremental growth year over year in process and tools adoption—with 2020 already outperforming 2019 by 500 percent (and 2019 was a record year in itself).

We were able to adapt to changes in learning modalities and exploit our learning systems to support our dealers’ development needs. Not everything has gone perfectly, but we are proving that the direction we’ve taken has been the right one.

Sometimes the (technology) solution is the obstacle.

The most rewarding aspect of this initiative has been the learning curve. The challenge of learning so many different things in such a short amount of time provides a great opportunity to test myself in uncharted areas. Learning is my passion, so it’s fitting that I do what I love.

And in the process, our team learned two important lessons:

  1. Not presuming all learning systems vendors understand the technology and standards to integrate platforms. Integrating platforms through xAPI proves that not every vendor in the learning technology world is xAPI enabled.
  2. Learning terminology needs to be clearly defined from the start to ensure alignment with the end goal. People can understand terms based on their backgrounds coming from academia or from marketing, product design, etc.

So, what’s next for you and your team?

We’re going to keep evolving our strategy, maturing the adoption of our Career Development Process, and optimizing our learning ecosystem to adapt to the needs of the modern workforce.

It’s important for us to carry out our mission statement of providing “the best technological platforms which enhance the individuals’ learning experience for increasing our customers’ learning agility (Technology).” Our journey also includes creating and managing more informal learning solutions to achieve our just-in-time learning goals, as we move away from heavily relying on formal—mainly LMS-centered—solutions.

Specifically, we plan to continue our focus on video-based learning development, skills assessment, and robust digital on-the-job training program.

The Takeaway

Because GDL’s work is never truly done, the team continues to expand on its learning programs, tools, and technologies while also supporting learners to perform at their best. The Career Development Process enabled us to not only define common metrics for each operation that aligned with business goals, but also move decision-making from experiential to data driven.

The information provided in this series is based on Caterpillar’s 2019 award from the Brandon Hall Group in the category of “Best Advance in Creating an Extended Enterprise Learning Program.” Special thanks to Alfonso Riley, Jeff Barbee, Phil Adams, and Paul Gasparro of Caterpillar for their time, contribution, and insights.

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