Why L&D Should Use Data in Business Storytelling

    

As an L&D practitioner, you collect learning data, build reports, and create analytics infrastructure to make better-informed decisions. But if no one is listening to you, then what’s the point? In this post, we'll explore the basics of crafting an interesting, compelling story with your L&D data.

Use data to tell your story.

Only you have the inside scoop.

Just because you have all the stats on learners and programs, doesn’t mean it will be interesting to other teams or leadership. Other people may not interpret information the same way you do—or even know how to interpret your facts and figures without proper context.

Remember, only you can share these unique insights because they're based on your unique data. Don't miss an opportunity because you're unprepared or don't understand the audience. Crafting a meaningful, impactful story is key to:

  • influencing key decision-making,
  • gaining stakeholder buy-in,
  • enhancing L&D's reputation,
  • getting the attention you deserve, and
  • building relationships across the organization.

When is data storytelling needed in business?

Anytime agreement and ongoing support is needed for an initiative, a compelling story with supported facts is your best friend. Detailed information makes a story colorful and interesting, so weave it logically into your story to get the results you want. Here's a simple example:

Approach 1

Bob: I need some juice.

Sally: Why?

Bob: To feel better.

Sally: That's not a good reason.

Approach 2

Bob: I haven’t eaten in a few hours and feel dizzy. Juice will provide a quick energy boost to help stabilize my blood sugar.

Sally: What kind of juice would be able to do that?

Bob: Orange juice provides fructose that's quickly absorbed into the body, and having a glass would help me feel better so I can focus on work.

Sally: Ok, you should have some juice. 

A broad example of when storytelling is an integral part of the conversation—regardless of industry or department—is during the consideration, implementation, and established usage phases of adding new technology tools to an organization. Simply getting the “ok” for your initiative is not enough. You have to maintain support throughout your work.

As expert storyteller and L&D practitioner Andy Webb says, “Showing off your progress and results is an important political move that can accomplish several objectives (e.g., validation, inquiry, approval, etc.). You need to do this during each phase of the project and invite feedback.”

Think of storytelling like a job interview.

Prepare yourself for telling a good story by positioning your data as you would a late-stage job interview answer. The most successful answers are those with concrete information.

The STAR model is a simple way to make sure you touch on all important areas of your work and consists of the Situation, Task at hand, Actions you employed, and Results from those actions. Try addressing the following:

  • Situation: What was the challenge or circumstance that required intervention? To be the most effective, use facts and figures instead of only soft reasoning.
    • (e.g., Product market share was declining by 2%, even with 95% completion rate for product training.)
  • Task: What was your intended goal or outcome?
    • (e.g., Our goal was to reduce the rate of decline in market share by improving product knowledge and sales performance. Specifically, identifying the competencies and best practices of top salespeople and using targeted training to bring the entire salesforce to parity with those top performers.)
  • Action: What did you do to reach your goal? What steps did you have to take?
    • (e.g., Use sentences that address the following: We investigated, implemented, tracked, measured, developed, repositioned, built, etc.)
  • Results: What was the outcome of your actions? What did you learn? How did this impact your initiative short-term and long-term?
    • Again, lead with facts and figures that align with your story’s situation to have a closed-loop conversation.

Up Next: Storytelling 101

Stay in the know on impactful ideas you can use in your own communications to persuade stakeholders. Join us for our next blog post, as we explore the basics of crafting an interesting, compelling story with your L&D insights. Don't miss out—subscribe to Watershed Insights to have the latest updates sent right to your inbox.


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Tim Dickinson

About The Author

As Watershed’s Director of Learning Analytics Strategy, Tim Dickinson is skilled in leading organizations through strategic changes, getting positive results through learning analytics, and translating complex ideas and trends into easy-to-understand explanations.