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Change Your Mind

Five Critical Mindset Shifts for Using Data to Increase Learning Impact

By Jenny Dearborn, Senior Vice President, Chief Learning Officer, SAP

My job as CLO is to help achieve my company’s business goals. The same is true of pretty much anyone working for an organization, whether they answer phones, sell products, develop new technologies, or oversee global mergers and acquisitions. When a company is well-run, every employee is able to map their daily tasks to one or more strategic business outcomes.

Yet it’s the CLO who acts as an enabler to equip employees with the right knowledge and skills to execute daily tasks and drive business outcomes.

All this seems simple and straightforward, and yet learning and other human capital management (HCM) professionals keep getting it wrong. Why?

They lack the right mindset.

There’s so much talk about data and data analytics and how these can be applied to HCM in general and learning specifically. But until we have the right mindset, attempts to leverage data will fail along with attempts to get a seat at the strategic table and act as enablers.

Here are five critical shifts in mindset that will lead CLOs down the path to success:

1. Understand your business and its drivers

Learning leaders need to be business leaders first and foremost. We must thoroughly understand our organization’s structure, products, services, operations, strategies, and short- and long-term objectives, in addition to industry challenges, opportunities, and competitors, and general business knowledge. A strong command of world events and economics are also crucial.

These provide the necessary context in which we can make powerful, effective business decisions. They’re also the price of entry for any strategic relationship with senior stakeholders. We have to speak their language, operate in their universe, and drive the results they care about.

More and more chief human resources officers -nearly 40 percent, according to a Deloitte study -have significant business experience but less HR experience. CLOs, too, must have a business mindset.

2. Unrelentingly focus on your stakeholders’ goals

Similarly non-negotiable is for learning leaders to have an intimate familiarity with their business owners’ goals and strategies. If you’re not sure of an internal client’s performance objectives, how can you support their priorities?

Here some of us run into an issue: Many stakeholders aren’t clear on what they’re meant to achieve and how. Therefore, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and help clients define their key performance indicators (KPIs). There is zero chance of designing learning that will impact business goals if there are no business goals. How do you help define KPIs? See No. 1, above.

3. Begin with the end

Only by focusing on stakeholder goals can we achieve the next mindset shift, which is to begin planning a learning program only after we have defined its target outcomes – actual, reasonable, measurable, and concrete goals.

For example, to help create effective sales training, begin with target results (faster time to quota for new hires, for example). From there, work backwards to identify leading results indicators (such as opportunities closed in the first three months). Then, go even further back to track the behaviors that will impact the leading indicators (e.g. new reps who focus on best-selling products earn quick wins and build momentum). Now you’ve got a solid basis for meaningful training interventions and can measure their success, too.

Sadly, this is pretty much the opposite of most evaluation designs, which start at Kirkpatrick level I (learner reaction) and too often only add level IV (business impact) as an afterthought.

4. Get data talent on your team

Both in-house and outsourced data talent are as fundamental to learning success as instructional design, logistics, client-liaising, and every other role your team cannot do without. Data analytics doesn’t magically happen on its own. You must get the right people on board.

Whether you upskill your team, recruit internal and/ or external data talent, engage a consultant or some combination of these options, you must make the moves to change your team’s mindset and skillset.

Remember: Deriving meaning from data requires more than stellar quantitative skills. You’ll need business and institutional knowledge to glean insights from the findings and draw direct links between training and business outcomes.

5. Report, Report, Report

It’s not enough to shift your own mindset about using training to truly move the needle on business goals -you must also change the thinking of those around you. Your team, other professionals supporting shared clients, and of course, your stakeholders and senior leaders must also see the light.

So, tell them; then tell them again; and again; and then once more. Show them the data that proves learning’s impact. Do it in the language of stakeholders and senior leader and in a way that makes the WIIFM (What’s in it for Me?) Crystal clear.

A great example is sales training. If you have proof that reps who take Sales Secrets 101 achieve quota 10 percent faster than reps who don’t, you should tell the vice president of sales, the heads of sales operations, the managers of all reps the class is aimed at, and the reps affected. Not only will you find yourself with a waiting list for the next class offered, but you’ll also have no trouble getting a budget approved to add capacity.

Spread good news far and wide. It’s your pay-off for making yourself accountable and for you delivering, and it ensures that the message gets through: Learning drives business results.

Making a True Difference

There is plenty of evidence that CLOs use data to measure results, fine-tune interventions, equip employees to succeed, and drive top- and bottom-line impact. My teams have driven these accomplishments at my company by understanding the business, focusing on stakeholder priorities, starting with the end in mind, and using outsourced analytics expertise:

• We pinpointed success drivers of top sales performers using CRM, LMS and performance management system data along with employee records. We then developed those skills in our sales reps and recruited reps. Underperforming reps began exceeding quota, and sky-high attrition nearly disappeared.

• Understanding the drivers of customer call volume helped our team fine-tune and market existing customer training, which in turn, improved utilization; customers who completed training had a 94 percent lower call volume and 34 percent higher Net Promoter Score.

• After analyzing small and average deal sizes, we realized that reps weren’t selling to senior decision-makers. Introducing a course on engaging C-suite executives helped grow average deal size by 65 percent after training.

• Using data to fine-tune our onboarding helped slash new hire ramp time by 50 percent and reduce attrition by 80 percent.

We’ve had similar success in capturing the impact of training for high-potential women leaders in our Leadership Excellence Acceleration Program (LEAP) for Women at SAP. This program has won many awards. You, too, can drive results for your organization. These five mindset shifts will move you in the right direction.

Tags: January February 2016

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