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12 Resources for L&D Teams to Become More Data Savvy

Nihal Salah
Sep 15 2020

Every learning leader I speak with wants to get better at demonstrating the business impact of their learning initiatives. 

So I’ve been on a mission to find the best resources on using data to prove and improve the impact of L&D initiatives. 

In this post, I’ll be sharing my top 12 resources to help you get started. These are the categories I've split them into: 

  1. Measurement strategy and models
  2. Creating a learning team culture that creates and uses data daily
  3. Communicating with and influencing business stakeholders
  4. Using data to drive engagement

Measurement Strategy and Models

There’s a chapter (13) in the book Leading the Learning Function: Tools and Techniques for Organizational Impact called Metrics Matter. The chapter was written by Rachel Hutchinson, Director of Learning and Development at Hilti. 

Rachel talks about the importance of designing learning with measurement in mind.

This paragraph is a good summary what the chapter covers: 

“Trying to find analytics after creating the learning solution will only make your job harder. Instead, start during the discovery phase to define what needs to change and then identify how you can affect it with the learning solution and how you can see the result.”

Bonnie Bereford is the Director of Performance and Analytics at GP Strategies. She has a way of simplifying the complex into simple steps that you can apply immediately. 

That’s no easy feat when it comes to learning measurement! 

In this article that Bonnie wrote for Chief Learning Officer, she talks about why measuring impact must begin with alignment with the business and its goals. 

But the real gold is in her Measurement Map which is a blueprint to illustrate alignment and hypothesise about the causal chain of evidence between a learning intervention and business goals. Here's a quick snapshot of Bonnie's Measurement Map.

Learning Measurement Map

Source: Chief Learning Officer: So You Want to Measure Impact. Now What? By Bonnie Beresford 


Here’s another model for you by Derek Mitchell (he’s known as The L&D Measurement Guy). 

In this article he shows you exactly the data you need to get your L&D analytics function off the ground, for immediate results. He discusses how you can demonstrate business return directly attributable to your learning activity. 

SIMMPLE stands for: Standard Industry Model to Measure Payback from Learning Events.

In this Harvard Business Publishing article, Hallie Boger discusses the key data points for decision making for L&D. 

She outlines three categories in which L&D can benefit from data-driven decisions:

  1. Developing needed skills
  2. Understanding programme health
  3. Engaging new learners

Hallie argues that by using data to make more informed decisions, L&D can make sure that learning in their organisation is more effective and that you’re better positioned to help self-directed learners succeed and get a higher return on learning investments.

Becoming a Data-Driven Learning Team

If you want to learn more about how to create a learning team culture that creates and uses data daily, then you need to read Winning with Data

Authors Tomasz Tunguz and Frank Bien draw on their extensive backgrounds in big data, business intelligence, and business strategy to give a blueprint for companies looking to move head-on into the data wave. 

The strategies they discuss can be adapted to learning and performance teams. 

Yes yes, we all know we should be more ‘data-driven’. But what does it actually mean? 

As with many buzz words, we find ourselves using them without stopping to really unpick what they really means. That’s what Dan does in this short blog post.

Can you tell I’m a fan of Bonnie? In this article, she shares the 20 things she’s learnt about learning measurement over the past two decades. 

My favourite is number 4: Remove the fear:

“If people think measurement will be used punitively, you’re sunk. Collaboratively craft a statement of intent for measurement (see example below) that articulates how you will use measurement and the value you expect it will bring.”

Communicating With and Influencing Business Stakeholders

If you have the best data skills in the world and can’t tell a good story, then you’ve lost a massive opportunity. 

Stories light up our brains unlike any other type of communication. They help the message stick with our audiences and are a great way of getting buy-in and influencing stakeholders.  

Storytelling with data is a skill every learning professional should have and a great way to get started is with Nancy Duarte’s book: DataStory

You’ll learn the most effective ways to turn your data in stories that combine the power of numbers, words and images and how to transform your data into a narrative that drives action.

If you want the 3-minute read to give you a taste of what’s in Nancy’s book, DataStory, then read her blog post: 3 Strategies High-Performing Brands Use to Communicate Data

Nancy discusses how to communicate your data story with the rest of the business with impact. 

Setup, conflict, resolution. These are the three elements of any good story. 

And in this short video, Scott Berinato, author of “Good Charts” and “Good Charts Workbook”, walks through how to use these three essential ingredients of any story-including those told with data.

Building strong partnerships with internal stakeholders is high on the agenda for every corporate learning team. 

I wrote a blog post about how to talk data with the business and I shared some examples of the approaches I’ve tried and tested over the past decade.  

I also talk about practical ways you can build strong business acumen to better understand underlying business needs, how to avoid vanity metrics and how to measure what really matters.

Using Data to Drive Engagement

You can learn a lot about driving active engagement by studying the principles and best practices around customer engagement. And this book is full of gold! 

Data Driven: Harnessing Data and AI to Reinvent Customer Engagement, was written by the team behind the data management platform that helps fuel Salesforce (the #1 customer relationship management (CRM) company in the world). Let’s just say they know their stuff! 

It’s packed with insights on how to bring customers closer to your brand and inspire them to engage, purchase, and remain loyal. Can you see the transfer here? 

I'd love to hear which resource you found most useful or if you've got any resources around data you'd recommend.  Just leave a comment below!

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