Overcome the biggest obstacles to modern learning analytics

In Conferences by JD Dillon

Data is a leading priority for L&D management over the coming year based on insights from the industry report What’s Trending in Corporate Learning Analytics for 2019. And I couldn’t agree more! It’s beyond time for L&D to prove its impact on business results. Significant improvements in analytics strategy are a giant piece of the puzzle L&D needs to solve to get there.

Why has it taken so long for L&D to confront this problem when other workplace functions – Sales, Marketing, IT – have been able to attribute their efforts to specific, measurable results for some time? According to the report, the three biggest challenges are:

  1. Time
  2. L&D talent gaps
  3. Lack of clear value

If you can’t validate the impact of your L&D effort, you’re left to make semi-educated guesses regarding the right action needed to help people solve their problems. And, when it comes time for budget season decisions, you’re going to have a hard time making your argument for additional resources.

Here are a few ideas for overcoming the biggest roadblocks to improved use of learning analytics.


Is it actually about time … or is it about prioritization? L&D has the same available time in their day as everyone else in the workplace. How we choose to focus that time is up to us. Unfortunately, a lot of L&D time is spent chasing. Chasing people to complete training. Chasing subject matter experts for reviews. Chasing business stakeholders and their changing priorities. Executing a solid analytics strategy is not a heavy time burden, but building that strategy can be. Tough decisions have to be made to prioritize the long-term value of L&D work over short-term, limited gains. You just have to say NO sometimes and provide a clear explanation as to why you are shifting your team’s priorities. Improving your analytics skills can also help you overcome the limitations of time.

L&D Talent Gaps

Be honest: the smartest data people in your organization don’t work in L&D. They are in Business Intelligence, Operations, IT, Data Science, etc. Rather than recreate the wheel, partner with these existing subject matter experts to integrate your analytics strategy with existing processes. Learning data is just one part of the larger business analytics picture. Bring your data questions and interests to the people who do this for a living to determine how to best shape your strategy moving forward. Also, be sure to look outside your company for analytics experts with whom you can network and gather proven practices.

Lack of Clear Value

There are plenty of clear benefits to an improved analytics strategy, and I have already mentioned two big considerations. First, by using data to validate your business impact, you can make smarter decisions about how you focus your time and resources in the future. Looking to cut costs? Scale more effectively? Focus on the topics that matter most? Data can get you there by helping you become more proactive and limiting the amount of chasing required to get the job done. Second, you will have strong evidence to support your cause when you are inevitably asked to justify the value of your function. It happens to every team, especially during periods of heavy disruption. Quiz scores and class attendance don’t justify investment. Data-proven business results do.

45% of organizations surveyed in the CLW report admitted that they primarily use intuition to make L&D decisions. In a fast-paced business world where problems are constantly changing and mistakes are magnified like never before, intuition isn’t enough. Experience is important, but strong data will help you ask better questions and serve as the basis for applying the insight you’ve gathered over your career. L&D must take inspiration from other functions, especially Marketing, that have been down this road already and seized on improvements in technology to fundamentally shift their approaches and improve their use of analytics along the way.

I’d love to hear about your efforts to use data to inform workplace learning strategy. Are you facing the same challenges listed in the CLW report? How are you partnering with other functions to improve your analytics? Leave a comment below!

You can learn more about improvements in learning analytics during Corporate Learning Week in Orlando, November 27 – 30, 2018. Register now using code CLW_JDDillon to save 20%. I hope to see you there so we can discuss your thoughts around learning analytics, microlearning, adaptive learning and more!