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Learning Platforms Are a Goldmine of Business Data

July 06, 2022 Learning and Development
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By Sarah Fister Gale

Business leaders face constant pressure to improve workforce learning programs, increase employee retention and upskill and reskill current staff for future roles. But doing so in an efficient manner requires first understanding what skills exist in the workplace and who has the talent and ambition to develop new ones.

Many companies have been trying to tackle this challenge by creating skills taxonomies. Cataloging the skills of an entire workforce can seem complicated and time-consuming, but there's a way to streamline the process by pulling existing data from the company’s learning platforms. What chief learning officers and heads of employee learning and development will find is that they're sitting on a gold mine of potentially useful business data.

“CLOs are increasingly looking at user data to capture insights that will enable their leaders to make better decisions about upskilling and reskilling,” said Greg Brown, President of Udemy Business, a global marketplace for learning and teaching online. 

Getting a View Into Skills

Learning platform data may not provide a comprehensive list of all the skills the workforce already has, but it can provide a view of where it’s going and what people are interested in.  

“Leaders can gain powerful insights into what people are choosing to learn versus what they’ve been assigned,” said Kelly Palmer, chief learning and talent officer at Degreed.

Those self-selected courses can tell you a lot about the workforce, including who has a passion for an in-demand skill that isn’t part of their current role — like the marketing person taking a course on JavaScript, or a junior employee searching for leadership training. It can also uncover people who use their spare time to learn non-company specific skills, which is equally compelling.

For companies that claim to be seeking lifelong learners, identifying employees with a passion for knowledge can be key to company culture, Palmer said. These learners are likely open to new opportunities and willing to take on the challenge of learning a new skill.

When learning leaders cull and analyze this data, it can inform career development conversations and help managers identify talent across the organization who might be a good fit for a new role.

Every new job opening could begin with a search of who has taken training on the relevant skills or is following a predefined learning path, according to Palmer.

“It informs talent mobility and makes it easier to match talent with opportunities,” she said.

Related Article: Talent Shortage? Tap Into Transferable Skills Within Your Organization

Getting Ahead of Retention Problems

The data pulled from learning platforms can also be used to find employees who are struggling or planning to leave.

“If someone commonly takes three courses a month and suddenly they aren’t taking any, that is a red flag,” Brown said.

Similarly, if everyone on a team is taking a course on conflict resolution or searching for tips on how to generate passive income, it could be a sign that they are not happy in their current position and are considering a move.

“People leave companies when they think they have no opportunity to grow,” Brown said.

If leaders monitor their learning data, they have a chance to proactively intervene. These insights can trigger conversations between managers and employees about their future goals and what the team needs to feel better supported. It also sends the message that learning will be rewarded, which can encourage others to seek learning as a way to bolster their own careers.

Related Article: Remote Work Fueled the Rise of Learning Experience and Digital Learning

Probe for Reasons Behind the Scenes

This valuable learning data isn’t only useful for white collar roles. JD Dillon, chief learning architect for Axonify, a provider of training for front-line workers, encourages his company's clients to keep an eye on the topics their hourly employees are searching for as a way to identify challenges in the workplace and training needs that aren’t being met.

“If employees are regularly searching for a topic and aren’t finding answers, or they need to refine their search to fill that need, it could mean there is a gap in the content offering,” Dillon said.

However, he urged learning leaders to find out why employees are doing these searches before taking any actions. For example, if they see frequent searches for how to close out a receipt on a point-of-sales platform, it may mean employees need more training — but it could also indicate a problem with the technology.

“Don’t assume they want a new course when all they need is an answer to a specific question,” he said.

Regardless of who is using the training or doing the searches, the key is to monitor the data and let it inform future workforce planning decisions. This data won’t solve every talent mobility issue, but it can be a useful resource to understand current skills in the workforce, where there are gaps and who deserves to be put on a fast track to bigger and better things.

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