I’m spending a lot of my time lately reading about analytics and big data. Learning and Development organizations have always had lots of data. Smile sheets, end-of-course surveys, enrollments, completions, assessments, compliance reports and more. Did I mention smile sheets? Well today, big data has arrived and all the information L&D gathered is now overmatched by data from other areas in the company. That is the opportunity as well as the disconnect.

Kirkpatrick would be amazed by the amount of data we can now gather on each individual. Training data is now just one blip on the data radar screen. The point of training is no longer to get people through training or improve performance. The point is to provide measurable value to the company. That measurement is a function of reviewing all the data and asking questions L&D might not have been able to answer before.

For example, how well does training impact on performance long after the training event has been completed? Do smile sheets really correlate with improved long-term performance? How does your curriculum map to the data on your learners’ productivity or performance? Is training success any indicator of an employee’s success or long-term retention? Can training results point to high-performers or future leaders? Do your training programs lead to more creativity and innovation? Does your training impact a person’s social network. and do lessons learned become part of the culture?

Big data needs to become part of every L&D organization that can access the information. Not only for the obvious reasons stated above, but also for responding to the Big Demand: “We need more training programs!” Big data can now show you that more training programs are not necessarily or always the whole answer, but only a part of the solution.

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