Use Data to Start Conversations


I attended a vibrant webinar today where Laura Overton presented a high level overview of the first Towards Maturity regional benchmark study of Learning and Development (L&D) in Australasia.  The webinar was hosted by the Australian Institute of Training and Development (AITD).  I’ve compiled the tweets from the webinar (via Storify) if you want to get a flavour for key points.  Keep an eye out for the webinar recording to be posted by AITD.  Even better – download the report from the Towards Maturity site.

Early in the webinar Laura made the statement “Use data to start conversations.”  I’m not sure if she was trying to encourage the webinar participants to get active in the chat box – I don’t think she needed to as the group were already exchanging views, and the conversation picked up even more as the webinar progressed.  In the coming week as I read and think about the data in the report I’ll post about the findings and invite others to join in discussion about the data.  I expect that LinkedIn will be a good place to do this.

Today I’m thinking more about the use of data to start conversations and some of the ways I’ve seen this done recently.  Those who follow my Working Out Loud page and Twitter account will know that I have used the Towards Maturity benchmarking process and tool in my work at both Coca-Cola Amatil and Qantas.  I have also encouraged other L&D practitioners to complete the benchmarking in order to reflect on their goals, strategy, results and practices and inform action.  Of course, to turn data into action requires conversation in order to gain insight from the data.  One of the interesting conversations we had at Qantas as a result of benchmarking was to compare maturity of tactics used by different L&D teams and ask ‘what are the teams doing differently from each other, why, and how could we improve our practices’ (i.e. what can we learn from each other).  If you’re curious you can read more about what Qantas learned from benchmarking.

We also used the Learning Landscape Audit at Qantas – a ‘learner voice’ survey that provided insights into things like what and how people were learning, how they wanted to learn, use of technology in work and learning.  One piece of data that has started many conversations was that over 65% of the 1,400 Qantas employees who completed the survey use their own devices to access resources for work and learning.  This greatly exceeded expectations, particularly for workforce segments such as baggage handlers.  It opened up conversations exploring what this means for the delivery of performance support and learning solutions.

Of course, if you have an LMS you have lots of data you could probe into and look at from different angles.  For instance, what’s the average attendance at your face to face learning sessions?  What if you were to find that you had courses being delivered face to face where the average class size was less than two people (yes, this is a real example).  This sparked some discussions about why this is the case and what could be done differently.

Two weeks ago, during the conduct of a learning technologies review for a client, I familiarised myself with xAPI. The real value in using xAPI is the opportunity to transform data about work and learning into a common language and analyse it to gain a wide range of insights including what top performing people in a role do differently in both their work and learning, and what learning interventions actually make a different to workplace performance. I have become very excited about xAPI and they potential insights we can gain using it and the opportunity to embed more learning into the workflow.  Imagine if you could gather evidence of compliant behaviours through analysis of people’s work instead of pushing lots of people through mandatory recurrent training and assessment to demonstrate compliance.  Of course, a lot of conversations would be required with stakeholders around the data in order to get to this point.  So, I’ve digressed a little here -> this is my ‘half-baked’ Working Out Loud space after all.

If I’ve aroused your curiosity about xAPI, here are a couple of introductory resources that I found helpful:

Is it time to move from SCORM to xAPI – from Workstar (download their White Paper on xAPI while you are on their site)

Change your life with data: an introduction to xAPI – from Kineo

Would love to hear from others about how they are using data to start conversations (not restricted to the domain of Learning and Development).

 

  1. #1 by Con Sotidis on October 23, 2017 - 6:52 pm

    Great summary of today’s webinar Michelle. Data is a great conversation starter and I think telling stories aligned to the data is also a great way to continue the conversation.

    xAPI is a marvellous way of expanding our data set and allowing us to provide that “additional data” that can make the C-suite stand up and listen.

    • #2 by Michelle Ockers on October 24, 2017 - 6:59 pm

      Thanks for your feedback Con. Agree with your post about telling stories aligned to data as a way to continue the conversation. Even asking “what story (or stories) is this data telling us” can be a helpful start to inquiry. Shawn Callahan from Anecdote spoke about ‘conveying big data insights with stories’ at the Knowledge Management Australia conference in 2016 – here’s a link to my notes taken on the spot during his presentation https://www.evernote.com/l/AL-oNgLQlLBF4Je4zcBAZr5RuGtnc2gC7Qw

      Another thought is to ensure that whether we’re using data to start conversations, create or tell stories we L&D practitioners need to use the language of the people we seek to engage, not our own language. So, the data and the way we use it need to be relevant to them and relate to issues and results that matter to them.

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