How to Use Big Data for Better Employee Training

We’ve all been there.

You hand your employees a binder (or two) full of unwieldy papers as part of your employee training program. Maybe they’ve read the whole thing, or maybe that same binder turns into a dusty paperweight at the bottom of a desk drawer. Either way, it’s difficult for your organization to even know what, if anything, your employees have read, what they’ve understood, and worse yet, what they’ve misunderstood. (And, as we discovered in an earlier post, this can have very costly implications.)

Training “binders”, or any other forms of untrackable content, contribute to what we consider to be the ultimate black hole for content creators: what’s working, and what’s not? Who’s seen what content, and have they properly understood it? With print materials, end user engagement is impossible to measure, understanding of the material is hard to track, and calculating training ROI feels like a guessing game.

Thankfully, the rise of mobile devices, and content designed for them, has helped limit the black hole effect. Data-driven training programs are slowly becoming the norm, with learning and development teams looking to invest in more modern approaches to creating, and measuring the effectiveness of, employee training. So, if you’re ready to toss out the binders in favor of a digital-first training solution that can feed data back to you, where do you start, and what metrics do you prioritize? Just what are the right questions to ask, and what are the best practices in handling this data?

How to Think About Measuring Training Effectiveness

We see two key categories of questions to ask when determining the effectiveness of your employee training: assessment and engagement.

1. Assessment: “How are my employees understanding my content?”

Measuring training effectiveness begins and ends with employee comprehension. Organizations should agree on internal metrics for tracking comprehension of the materials, as those metrics tend to vary depending on the content and format. Performance can be measured via pass/fail, percentage scores, or even percentage of content read. Are employees reading to the end of each section? Are they consistently missing certain quiz questions in different modules? What kinds of notes and highlights are they making, and can patterns from these annotations be incorporated into future content?

2. Engagement: “How are my employees interacting with my content?”

In many ways, anyone creating digital content should think like a digital marketer. The modern marketer has perfected the art of collecting actionable data on how, where, when, and why their audience engages with content, and iterate accordingly. A good analogy is the rise of online advertising and paid search. With a paid search campaign that drives traffic to a landing page, a good digital marketer will measure not only how many visitors fill out a form or buy a product but also how long visitors stayed onsite, how many pages they visited, and so on. With this additional engagement data, marketers can then adapt their campaigns to provide better content to visitors.

Similarly, content creators can use data from digital content consumption to track engagement. Some key questions to ask might include: which pages are getting a lot of page views and lingering time? Are employees clicking on every page, or are they skipping sections? Which sections take longer than others to complete? Which interactive sections seem to capture their attention, and which are falling flat?

The Takeaways

1. Agree on your company’s definition of success.

What’s the agreed upon “good enough” score at your company? Are absolute numbers important, or would you rather have completion rates? Make sure this metric has sufficient alignment internally before deploying any type of training. This will be the easiest metric to come back to when justifying budget, ROI, and related topics. With platforms like Inkling’s that can deploy custom analytics capabilities, training leads can institute metrics specific to their priorities and business objectives.

2. Don’t just gather data: act on it.

Acting on the data gathered in a timely fashion is critical, and establishing a process for doing so on a regular basis is even more important. For example, after a specified amount of time, your team could institute a cycle of (1) gathering data, (2) rewriting content to incorporate key “engagement” takeaways, (3) including new questions that may have been inspired by employee notes, and (4) revising chapters/questions that appeared to consistently confuse employees.

3. Choose a platform that allows for automatic, real-time updates.

All too often, training leads are so focused on testing comprehension that they fail (pun intended) to ensure their content is an accurate, effective, and lifelong reference. Accuracy and measuring comprehension don’t have to be at odds with one another, though. You can have engaging, accurate content with measurable learning outcomes.

Cloud-based authoring and distribution platforms, like Inkling’s, play a central role in this circulating great content and updates in real-time. Instead of relying on binders of paper or static PDFs that require re-distributing new files to spread more accurate information, content that lives in the cloud can be easily updated and the new material seamlessly pushed out to all users immediately. This means that you quickly incorporate the data and learnings you’ve been gathering without any distribution worries.

The Bottom Line

Shifting your employee training materials to the digital screen opens up a whole new world of data-driven decision making. The key is to identify what you want to address with your data before you collect it. By pinpointing your goals, markers of success, and data evaluation periods, you’ll be able to harness your data for improved employee training. Finally, don’t forget to incorporate qualitative data with your hard numbers. Your best sources for feedback are, of course, your employees (which, in this case, you can think of as your customers), and by conducting thorough customer research in addition to crunching the numbers, you’ll get to the best version of your employee training faster.

Smarter training programs for smarter employees are just a click away. Find out more about our solutions for corporate training programs here.