Prove Learning’s Value: Making the Business Case for Learner Analytics

What is learner analytics, and why should the business care? In this post, we outline the value of learner analytics and offer advice on how you can make a case for investment in learner analytics in your organization. This second post in our Building a Business Case blog series addresses the various types of learning analytics you can implement, each offering value to the organization in different ways.

The First Item on the Menu: Learner Analytics

In the introduction to this series, we encouraged you to select one or two items from a menu of use cases that are likely to have the most significant impact across your organization. We start this menu by looking at learner analytics as a general use case and will drill down to specific types of learner analytics in subsequent posts.

What Is Learner Analytics?

Learner analytics is any learning analytics that focuses on the learners rather than on content, platforms, or programs. The target audience tends to be people with a particular interest in the learner’s learning data—such as a coach, mentor, manager, or even the learners themselves.

Learner analytics can include individuals and groups of learners and looks at their learning, achievements, compliance, and performance. L&D teams also can use learner analytics to identify the training needs and desires of those they serve.

You also can use HR organizational hierarchy data to segment and filter learner analytics reports—giving managers a view of their people and enabling comparison of different parts of the organization.

In large, global organizations, filtering reports by HR data may be required to fulfill data protection policies and laws. For example, it may be a requirement that only managers responsible for people based in Germany are able to see data relating to those people.

Use data from coaching observations to support learner analytics. This example dashboard shows reports on data from a Xapify observational checklist, enabling a coach or manager to review scores and comments relating to learners they are responsible for.

Discover the Power of Learner Analytics: Real-Life Examples

Coaches at Applied Industrial Technologies use Watershed reports to inform coaching sessions with managers. Reports highlight competency strengths and weaknesses based on both learning assessment data and business performance data.

These reports inform coaches to recommend steps to address weaknesses and improve. Without learner analytics, coaches would have less insight into the training needs of these managers. And the manager’s training and coaching programs would be less tailored to their development needs, and, therefore, less effective at addressing areas of weakness.

Another example is how a sales team at a pharmaceutical company used Watershed to report on salespeople’s scores in a quiz game following an in-person training event. As a result, they were able to identify that many of the salespeople had not caught the main point of the in-person training event, so the team was able to offer additional training to address that gap.

The dashboard makes it easy for somebody like me, without a big data analytics background, to use the product. — Pharmaceutical Field Training Manager

Easy-to-use dashboards are essential for learner analytics because the typical audience is line managers who may not work with data.

This example sales dashboard provides an overview of learning and performance data relating to a sales team.

How Does Watershed Support Learner Analytics?

Watershed brings together learning data from all your different learning platforms into one place. In fact, we set up automated data flows so you can say goodbye to time-consuming data downloads.

And it’s not just xAPI data either; Watershed gathers learning data in any format and converts it if required. Then, we combine that data with HR organizational data so you can filter, segment, and restrict access to data about different individuals and groups.

With all your data in one place, you can use Watershed’s WYSIWYG Report Builder to create insightful, engaging, and easy-to-understand reporting dashboards for your users. You configure the dashboard once (with our help if needed), and then our robust data permissions system ensures that each manager only sees data relating to their respective teams.

For instance, Watershed's configurable quick-filters empower your report viewers with applicable drill-down and filter options, giving access to the data they need without including unnecessary filter options.

Watershed provides managers easy-to-understand reports about their people, which are updated in real time from automated data feeds—giving managers the data they want, whenever they want it.

Making the Case: What’s in It for the Business?

Being able to use Watershed to easily and quickly create learner analytics is good news for L&D, but how do you convince the business to invest in Watershed so you can make it happen? What’s in it for the business? There are three areas of business benefit as a result of implementing learner analytics in your organization:

  1. L&D: With good learner analytics in place, L&D can more easily identify workforce training needs and skills gaps. This is always valuable, especially in any environment where skills and training needs are evolving rapidly—such as technology, automotive, and many other sectors with a fast pace of change. Faster insights for L&D mean a faster training response from L&D, equipping learners and plugging skills gaps sooner to keep the organization competitive.
  2. Managers: Equipped with real-time dashboards, managers can keep track of the performance, training, and support needs of their people. Managers can provide tailored support and recommend the most appropriate development plans to support their teams to develop and flourish.
  3. Learners: Effective learner analytics enables you to best support learners in their career development. For example, Caterpillar uses learner analytics to identify where learners want to go, what they want to learn, and how they want to develop. These answers inform the learning offer provided, so it best fits the aspirations of the workforce.

This example report shows how a group of managers has improved their managerial competency scores from before to after training. A senior manager can use this report to identify those who may need further support.

How Can I Convince Stakeholders of the Value?

Clear benefits of learning analytics are being able to tailor L&D offerings to learners’ needs based on data and empowering managers to support their teams in an informed way. But if that argument is not convincing enough, you may need to more clearly join the dots from an investment in learner analytics to the value for the business.

Understand your stakeholders and how they will benefit from learner analytics.

Use the following table as a guide for ensuring you’ve included relevant information that will speak to each of your key stakeholders.

Meet Your Key Stakeholders

StakeholderPain PointsBenefits
C-Suite (CLO, CEO, CFO) Ensure learning uptake across all parts of the organization.See how different parts of the organization are learning and ensure they are engaging with the content.
Human ResourcesFulfill a rapid need to upskill and retain people.Ensure all learners are engaged and satisfied with the learning provision.
Learning LeadersUnderstand learner needs. (e.g. training needs analysis)Gain visibility of learner performance to plan future training.
Instructional DesignersUnable to see how learners are using content in practice.Gain a better understanding of learner needs to inform content and pathway design.
ComplianceUnable to see who is (and isn’t) compliant.Ensure employee compliance across the organization.
Line ManagersSee what their people are learning.Support their people’s learning and development.
LearnersReceive recognition for their learning, whichever system they are using. Access a single learner record with data from every system that particular learner uses.

Learner analytics empowers your learning leaders to make data-driven decisions.

Global enterprise often serves thousands of learners across their learning programs, and even more learners if they are responsible for the training of their extended enterprise. So how do you prove the effectiveness of your learning programs to the C-suite—those who are in charge of assigning substantial L&D budgets?

While investing in a learning analytics platform does require upfront costs, it also offers a sustainable approach to measuring and improving the effectiveness of your learning programs. Dashboards and reports can help you identify which content is working and—more important—what isn’t. In other words, when you scale up these savings, they pay for themselves.

For instance, one of our clients used their L&D data to identify an hour of irrelevant training for 9,000 learners, saving an estimated $340,000. Now, just imagine what you might uncover and the things you might accomplish once you have access to all of the learning data across your organization.

Improve retention with a rewarding self-development program for employees.

Consider reviewing the cost of hiring externally compared with the cost of upskilling and reskilling the current workforce. Learner analytics can help ensure skills development is informed by skills demand, skills gaps, and learner career goals.

Start small and prove the value using available data sources.

Try running a pilot project to prove the value of learner analytics (i.e. a little appetizer, following the analogy from the introduction). For example, can you use Watershed with one of your sales teams and an assessment tool to identify and monitor gaps in their sales knowledge—and use those insights to address the gaps and improve sales?

Next Course: What’s a Learner Transcript?

Learner analytics could form part of your business case for Watershed, either as the main use case, a quick-win appetizer, a side project, or a longer-term goal (i.e. dessert). But don’t choose too quickly—we’re just getting started with the menu!

The next item we’ll explore is a specific type of learner analytics: the learner transcript. Join us next time to discover what a learner transcript is, how Watershed can help, and how to build a business case for real-time updated learner transcripts that include everything—not just activity in one platform. Subscribe now using the form above to make sure you don’t miss it!

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