Data Driven Training: Giving Context a Fair Place Next to Content
Be it in house training, distant training (both synchronous and asynchronous), all trainings focus on content rather than on context. There is a good reason for that: we don’t know trainees’ individual context. Besides, being content focused can be OK. Say, you start your first management assignment: you’ll need basics on how people behave and how to communicate since you didn’t learn that before. Content is more important than your context. But the more experienced you get, the more clout your context has on your training and your performance as a manager. This is clearly why senior managers are, most of the times, individually coached rather than trained in a group (not to mention of course, the political side of seeing a senior executive in a training session;)
With digital transformation, context will be documented (almost) as training content is. Today Facebook or Google track everything people do online. The have tons of data they know exactly how to work with. Today companies don’t have so many data to process. They don’t have data scientists to process it either. But let’s talk about tomorrow and focus on HR and trainings managers. In big companies, HR will hire its own data workers and will be able to connect the context of a trainee to content he needs to have.
Knowing context to bring relevant content
Training managers will know individual contexts with the data gathered, processed by their IT system: hiring, on boarding process, salaries, trainings, performance assessments (official, hierarchical) are already in the machine. Projects assignments, skills endorsements (peers) but also numbers and quality of internal connections, contributions (on internal platforms or wikis) and interests will be, not to mention the infos people will display on LinkedIn, Viadeo, Instagram, Slideshare and so on. Add also sales numbers, monthly turn-over, % of attrition, % of costs savings or whatever you can think of. You don’t see the obvious connections between these different data? That’s OK because there could be none but trust algorithms to make these links clear and give you pictures explaining something or driving you to a decision. You will have, then, to change your mindset. Until now, as a training manager, let’s be honest: you were adding hours of training as a proof of your work. In others words, you were more concerned by the inputs. You were satisfied by the storytelling internal clients would offer to justify their training needs: “Listen, John is really at pain in this project, could you enroll him in a project management training? It will boost his morale!” With the data, storytelling won’t be enough and you will jump to fact checking: “I had a look at the data. I saw that John is a top contributor in the online project management community. He volunteered for the same kinds of projects in the past and got skills endorsements by his colleagues. It suggest that he knows quite well the topic. How did you come to you that the training was the solution?”
From inputs to outcomes
With that question, you shift to the outcomes (performance) and add value to the client’s analysis. Consequences are huge on your daily work: with more data, you will be in position to ask …more questions and you will get deep into the jobs and missions of these internal clients. Your own job won’t be to manage a training facility or deliver training sessions anymore but to develop people performance providing that you have infos regarding it. Let’s be bold here: you won’t even have to bother with the training plan. Trainings could be triggered by data: “We observed that 70% of our people contributing to a project get their own deliverables on time if they have attended a e-learning module on Process Communication”. An automatic Process Com training link could be send to the next wave of project contributors. This sounds too simple (a single factor in the equation giving a crystal clear solution!). It is. But it gives you the flavour. Soon you’ll hunt for data and the different meanings it hides. Instead of just training people, you’ll start, then, to provide performance support all year long (remember the old times where training plan was made once a year?!) And you know that performance happens in the trainee’s environment: these are the “training capabilities”. Will they enhance or erase the training effort? You’ll assess these training capabilities. For instance even if top managers ask for it, no need to bother to train project managers in agile methodology when they don’t have any room to take decisions on their own. Data will tell you that (quarterly feed-back from team to manager). No need to train the same people if they don’t have a safe environment to make mistakes and learn from them when back in their job. Your follow up will ask trainees to connect what was taught with how they will use it by asking more questions: “How will you use this in your daily life?”, “How did your manager help you?”, “What were the conditions to implement such a practice in your environment?”. The answers will enable you to refine the training capabilities requirements and make sure that trainees will really learn something and apply it afterwards.
Data driven training will settle a new mindset: learning will be constant and deliberate (through data analysis), training needs will be supported by facts and robust conversations rather than by top-down orders, fuzzy managers decisions or outdated plans. Data driven training will help you to strengthen a virtuous circle: start with a documented (data based) situational needs assessment, go to relevant design and development to delivery and execution to verification and follow-up (data based). This virtuous circle has a name: you start a learning organisation…