Why measuring course completions is still a must do

It is interesting to see how many people share the view that measuring course completions is a waste of time. It is business impact that matters, and a positive impact of business performance is never expressed in course completions.

Where I agree that business impact is what you want to measure, i completely disagree that you should not measure course completions and jump straight to the more fancy (and much more complicated) stuff. Here are some reasons why course completions are more relevant than ever:

  1. It is a good place to start building your data & analytics, skills and services or products.
  2. Compliance training is still fully depending on training completions
  3. Training completions data is vital for solid learning portfolio management
  4. Learning analytics is not possible without training completion data

Start simple

Many L&D professional are somewhat reluctant to start working with data, reporting and analytics. They might not yet grasp the importance of data in the world of digital learning (if you are one of them, check out this article). They might think they do not have the knowledge and skills do so. This is all very understandable as working with data is far removed from the classical activities of L&D and HR. That is why data and analytical skills are very frequently mentioned in the top 3 of current and future skills we need in HR (see this link and another). It’s clear that L&D professionals and L&D organizations recognize that data and analytical skills are key to continue to stay relevant. So what is one of the best ways of getting involved in this? Start simple. Start with data that we all understand, recognize and have lying around aplenty: training consumption in the form of registrations and completions. If you have an LMS, you will have a lot of this data at your fingertip. And even if we know that training completions say nothing about business impact, there are a number of interesting metrics we can identify and analyse: what parts of the company are consuming most training? What Geography or what job groups/functions? Can we see an equal distribution of training consumption over the year, or does the data shows peak training seasons and when? Why would that be?

Compliance Training

Compliance training has been around since the start and will remain around for the next foreseeable future. And whether you like it or not, it is a big part of all corporate L&D departments especially in highly regulated industries as Life Sciences and Manufacturing. I have been around compliance learning for a big part of my career. I find it a fascinating field in L&D. We all must do it, but nobody has any intrinsic motivation to do so. Compliance learning reports are however crucial (sometimes even crucial for the continued existence of the company) and they are all about completions. Ensuring that the right people have completed the right training at the right time (or better, before the deadline). If you are using technology and data to track this across your organization, why not expand this work into all training that is not mandatory? It almost seems a waste not to. This will also allow you to for example understand the ratio between consumption of compliance and non-compliance formal training in your organization between and see if that ratio is what you would like it to be.

Learning Portfolio Management

Portfolio Management is “the selection, prioritisation and control of an organisation’s projects and programmes in line with its strategic objectives and capacity to deliver. The goal is to balance change initiatives and business-as-usual while optimising return on investment.” (source)

Learning Portfolio Management (LPM) is then the selection prioritisation and control of learning and development programs and projects in line with the strategic company objectives and the capacity of the L&D department to deliver these projects and programs, balancing the introduction of new projects and programs versus running and operating the existing programs and projects. There is a lot to do around learning portfolio management. I’m actually helping 2 large organizations exploring what learning portfolio management is and what a good portfolio looks like. I will share more on this later shortly, but for now it is sufficient to say that one of the basic elements required to do (operational) portfolio management is tracking of training completions. If you are about to make serious investments in large scale digital training portfolio’s like Skillsoft, Plurasight, LinkedIn Learning and Coursera, you will not just want to understand the business impact of that investment, you will also want to understand the consumption of these portfolio’s. When you have an expectation around the uptake of these programs build into your business plan, and calculated it will cost around 100,- euro per employee, that cost per employee will dramatically change if actual consumption is only a fraction of your expectations.

Last but not least: Learning Analytics

Data analytics comes in 3 flavours: Descriptive, Predictive, and Prescriptive. Most of the analytics done is descriptive and explains what has happened. Any analysis in training consumption of course completions can be considered to be descriptive: where is consumption very low or high? When is most training consumed? Many more questions can be answered with the analysis of training completion data itself. The more interesting part of using learning analytics to demonstrate business impact is when you can start to link consumption data with business performance data to predict what levels of consumption are required to achieve certain business results. For example, the outcome of a predictive analytics project could be that for a leadership development program to really make a difference, at least 60% of the leadership population at mid-level needs to have completed the program. Lower completion levels could mean additional risk of specific leadership behavior that is not aligned with the company goals. Or simply to many leaders are not aware what the desired behavior is and how to bring that in their everyday work life simply because they have not completed the training. In such a study the availability of consumption data is crucial.

There are several compelling reasons to not disregard your training completion data in favor of the new fancy stuff that everybody is talking about. Start using it to educate yourself and experiment with data, and you will see you can get a lot of value from it!

Learn to walk before you start running

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