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Trish Uhl

Owl's Ledge

Senior Consultant, Data Science & People Analytics

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Setting a clear direction on your workplace learning analytics journey


In the second of a six-part series on the components of a workplace learning analytics strategy, Trish Uhl looks at how to map your course and make sure that you’re delivering on all your essential priorities when creating your strategy.

I’ve spent the past seven months traveling the world meeting with learning practitioners in cities spanning four continents, from Dubai to San Diego, Lisbon to London, Auckland to Atlanta, Chicago to Sydney to discover how they’re leveraging workplace learning analytics to drive business impact and benefit their people. I’ve asked:

  • What analytics projects are they working on?
  • How is their analytical output viewed, valued and acted upon by the enterprise?
  • How are they challenging the status quo and putting analytical decision-making at the heart of the learning and development (L&D) function?

Recurring themes surfaced. Many are using analytics to improve employee experience, to help business leaders deliver more value and to have greater influence in and L&D impact on the c-suite.

Universal challenges also arose – as it turns out, many are seeking the same thing for their workplace learning analytics journey – a good map – one that gets their team oriented, sets clear direction, defines a pre-determined destination and provides mileposts along the way.

They asked:

  • How can we start with an honest assessment of where we’re at, where we’re going and what it’s going to take to make the journey?
  • How do we assess our current capabilities and determine what our future analytical capabilities could and should be, given timelines and organisational constraints?

I had one such conversation with Rachel about the work she and her team are doing to transform L&D into an analytically driven function while simultaneously leading other major L&D initiatives and supporting their organisation’s strategic initiatives.

Rachel’s story: life at Mars

Rachel Horwitz is the global learning and development director, IT function at Mars Inc., a company probably best known for its sweet products such as M&Ms.

Rachel has responsibilities in driving analytical maturity at multiple levels, including building analytical capability in the L&D function, applying analytics to key L&D programmes and promoting analytical capability throughout the organisation.

I asked Rachel what building analytical capability means to her and her L&D team at Mars.

Rachel responded: “We need to determine how to use and analyse data differently to inform key business decisions about learning programmes and the L&D function, while also aligning to our big focus within enterprise globally, across the board on digital transformation in every aspect of our organisation.”

Are you like Rachel and her team, leveraging workplace learning analytics to simultaneously deliver on several priorities, at multiple levels? It can be easy to get a little lost and to get things tangled.

Rachel and I were both in agreement that this is where teams could really benefit from a map, so I turned to an expert data scientist for some help.

Mapping your workplace learning analytics journey

John Young is director of data science and machine learning at Capax Global.

Whether you’re embedding analytics into individual projects, building analytical capability at a functional level, or as part of a larger organisational initiative, the ‘map’ for the strategic planning process is the same, according to John.

He has created a tool called the Analytical Capability Maturity Matrix (Figure 2 below) to determine measurable end points – start and finish – for his analytical capability projects.

This is the same matrix John uses to assess baseline maturity and target analytical capability when he’s setting strategy with Capax Global clients.

John has generously given his permission for us to include his matrix for your reference and use here.

How to use the Analytical Capability Maturity Matrix

Use the Analytical Capability Maturity Matrix to assess your learning function’s current and future (desired) analytical capability maturity. These then become your current (start) and future (end) states.

John’s Matrix defines analytical capability based on maturity in four dimensions:

  1. Scale and scope
  2. Data maturity
  3. Analytical ability
  4. Analytical resources

Follow these steps to assess current maturity of your L&D function:

  1. Using the matrix above and the information below, score your L&D function in each of the four dimensions.
  2. Draw a mark near each selected ‘score’ on each dimensional scale.
  3. Note: select points representing your current practice, not what you aspire to.
  4. Connect the dots with intersecting lines.
  5. The intersection of all four points determines the current quadrant for your L&D function.
  6. This is your L&D function’s baseline – current maturity level – and current state.

Analytical Capability Maturity Matrix: four dimensions

1. Scale and scope: which level is your focus? (for L&D functional maturity, select ‘department’)

  • Individual project competency – analytics only used ad hoc in isolated projects.
  • Department competency – data-driven and evidence-based is core to how the department makes decisions.
  • Enterprise competency – organisation has competitive advantage and intellectual property through its use of analytics.
  • Enterprise+ competency – organisation has business model and revenue stream(s) directly dependent on its analytical capabilities.

2. Data maturity: how is your L&D function sourcing data today?

  • Spreadsheets and databases
  • Independent data marts
  • Enterprise warehouse or data lake
  • Big data ecosystem

3. Analytical ability: what is your L&D function’s analytical approach?

  • Business intelligence (BI)
  • Diagnosis analysis
  • Key performance indicator (KPI) dashboards
  • Modelling/artificial intelligence and machine learning

4. Analytical resources: how does L&D leadership view analytics as a resource?

  • Cost centre
  • Tactical resource
  • Mission critical
  • Strategic function

Answers will vary, depending on what level (project, department, organisation) you’re assessing. You might find that an ‘individual’ project is at one level of maturity, but the department or functional area – as a whole – is at another.

Given your selection in each dimension, which quadrant does your initiative fall into?

  • ‘Flying blind’ – low business value
  • ‘Untapped potential’ – moderate business value
  • ‘Pockets of analytics’ – moderate business value
  • ‘Analytical competitor’ – high business value

This defines your L&D function’s current state, i.e. your baseline, or your starting point.

Which quadrant represents your future (desired) state?

Repeat the same six steps above, but this time use aspirational goals.

This second intersection (hopefully in a different quadrant) is your future state – it’s the capability maturity you’re aiming for to meet your target goal and strategic objectives.

Your future state clearly defines your target goal, or your endpoint, and sets your performance and quality targets.

Getting from current state to future state

Now that you have your endpoints (start and finish), later in execution, you can monitor progress and evaluate outcomes by measuring against them – comparing actual against baseline – to determine where you’re on or off track.

For now, your next step is to continue crafting a strategy outlining how you’ll improve the analytical capability maturity of your learning function. In other words, close the gap between current and future states.

Like Rachel, you now have the right map to start!

Interested in learning more about analytics? Read Demystifying HR analytics – it’s not what you think.

Author Profile Picture
Trish Uhl

Senior Consultant, Data Science & People Analytics

Read more from Trish Uhl

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