“Oh the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
And since we’ve no place to go
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow”
Be ready or be snowed in.
Are you a person who loves the snow or one who dreads the snow? It often depends on how prepared you are for the upcoming winter and snowfall. If you have the right equipment, like a snow shovel, good tires, skis, snowshoes, or a snow machine (snowmobile), then snow can be an opportunity. You can plan on what you are going to do next. You can go outside, stay by the delightful fire, and even play.
We can also think of data as snowflakes. Each piece of data is unique. We can have a plan on how we are collecting, sorting, and analyzing data. Or, we can just ignore the data and let it just melt away, but it can limit what we are able to do. Data can be considered a worrisome threat or an opportunity.
Data as an Opportunity
Data helps us make a decision. When we look at a learning program or other initiative, we need to consider key decisions such as:
• Should we continue this program?
• Should we stop offering this program?
• Should we change this program?
We can then collect the right data to help us make a decision. To establish whether we should continue a program, we need to know the impact of the program on performance and business outcomes. We need to determine whether the performance of learners has changed, which impacts business outcomes like sales, retention, production, and customer satisfaction. We also need to make a prediction or hypothesis about the training. An example hypothesis is, People who complete this training will solve customer problems, which, in turn, will increase customer satisfaction. So, we count the number of problems solved, and then track the results of customer-satisfaction surveys. The data is an opportunity to determine impact and decide on whether to continue the learning program.
Data as a Threat
How is data a threat? Data can impact the way learning and development (L&D) organizations operate. Data, like course completions, hours spent in training, or number of courses offered, alone does not show an alignment between learning and the business. The data could show that people are finding other ways to learn such as through Google, coworkers, YouTube, and other informal learning offerings. The data could signal that L&D needs to move from building courses and eLearning to using existing content and job aids to enable learner performance on the job. The data could indicate that it is time to change the program or approach.
A measurement plan that answers the following questions should be in place to handle the data:
• What decisions do we need to make about a program or initiative? (Stop, continue, pivot.)
• What data do we need to make those decisions? (You need business and performance data.)
• Who can we partner with to collect the right data? (You need on-the-job data.)
• How do we sort and analyze the data? (Use your hypotheses to analyze the data.)
So, as the snow falls this winter, and as you consider the data that you collect, think about what decisions you need to make and what data you need to make those decisions. The more prepared you are, the more you can take advantage of the data and the snow.