June 10, 2019

Learning Measurement Needs to Simplify Dashboards

Image result for airplane cockpit

In talking to learning leaders and their stakeholders, a few common words describe today’s ‘dashboards’. Those words are “complex” and “cumbersome”. While data visualization tools are great and can make data look beautiful, is that really helping people use the data and tell the story of impact? Or is it making things more complicated and difficult to comprehend?

We’ve recently reviewed some really cool dashboards built by some super talented analytics professionals. However, to us, it was like staring at a dashboard of an airplane cockpit. It looked cool, but confusing to understand. Therein lies the problem.

To this problem we ask the question ‘What ever happened to the simple reports used in finance and operations where you show a small, balanced set of key performance indicators (KPIs) against a goal or standard, which you trend to see the directional performance?’ Is that concept too basic? Is it too easy? Is it no longer cool? For whatever reason, learning professionals are over-trying by creating dashboards that look nice but don’t tell a story, or they may even tell the wrong story or an incomplete story. Dial gauges, histograms and other visualizations are the flavor of the month in learning measurement, but are they adding value?

In areas like finance and operations we’re taught to use a small, balanced set of KPIs. We are taught to show an actual data point against a reference point like a goal, prior period, or standard. We are taught to color code the variance for easy understanding. We are taught to trend the data so the user of this information knows where it is heading.

I find it really hard to get this from today’s ‘dashboards.’ I am happy to use a dashboard to drive my car. That information is real-time – how fast I’m going, how much fuel I have in the tank, how much further to my destination. But in L&D, we need to tell a story of impact and demonstrate our value. We need to show how we really did versus the goal we set for ourselves. We need to understand if in this period we are starting to improve or decline. We’re not driving a car or flying a plane, we’re reporting how learning impacted the business, just like a finance person would report how gross margin faired against the budget and the direction it is heading this period relative to prior periods and future goals.

Below is a sample from a Performitiv scorecard that shows a small set of actual KPIs against a goal and color coded for ease of understanding the performance variance.

The data in the above list is from multiple sources, such as evaluations in the training, evaluations on the job, capability surveys, operational data based on the participants and operational data based on non-participants. Regardless of the data source, there is a conversion of this information into a single, central view. Each KPI has an actual score compared to a goal or standard and the variance is calculated and color- coded to help understand if we are above, at, or below our preset goals. Simple, understandable.

Further a logical question asked by any business person would be to understand how certain KPIs are doing over time. They ask that because if something is below goal, is it getting worse or are we making progress? Or, if it is above goal, are we treading water or starting to hit our stride?

Above are a few KPIs trended with annotations to further convey the L&D story and the L&D contribution over this time-period. The turnover is going down (that’s good) and L&D is contributing to it. The competency ratings are going up (that’s good) and L&D is aligned to that too.

In the end, it may be time to get back to the ways other lines of business report KPIs. They use a small, balanced set of metrics and they always show them relative to a goal or standard, color-coding the variance and trending the directional performance.

Remember, we’re not flying a jet airplane, so we don’t need a dashboard that looks like the cockpit of one, we’re telling our story of impact. Let’s start reporting it that way and the conversations will be clearer and more collaborative.

Do you want to learn why Performitiv is the fastest growing learning analytics technology in the market? Contact us to talk further.

Thank you,

The Performitiv Team

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