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Access to Training Data: An Overlooked Problem

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

When working with enterprise-level training teams and learning and development (L&D) professionals, one of the biggest problems that I see is a lack of data access. Interestingly, most L&D pros aren’t aware of this issue. They’ll often show off reams of reporting on activity metrics and training operations data. Usually, they’re more worried about how to process their existing data than about getting access to more.

Efficiently managing existing data is a challenge for many L&D teams. But I think it’s more important to ask about the data that you don’t possess. Why hasn’t it been collected or accessed? How could it inform key decisions about the learner experience and broader talent management strategy?

It’s important to identify gaps in our data access. Even more important is developing strategies to fill them. That’s the key to getting a full, well-informed view of our own operations as L&D pros.

There tend to be two kinds of barriers that prevent access to data. First, there are technical barriers. These are caused by software and data management practices that block the smooth flow of data. Second, and equally problematic, there are organizational barriers that create silos around and within the training team. These prevent people from considering data that they assume isn’t relevant to what they’re doing—often an incorrect assumption.

Let’s discuss each of these problem areas and explore how to fix them.


Technical Barriers

Technical barriers to data access typically aren’t caused by a single software system. Yes, there are software packages that gather data without the ability to report on it. Those systems lock data away from a human decision maker. You should try to identify such systems and find a way of accessing the data that they’re hiding.

But more importantly, consider how your data flows through the software ecosystem that you’ve constructed to manage your operations. If your systems are integrated and interconnected, then data gathered by one system should be easily accessible from any other system.

More often, however, training teams use a dozen or more disconnected software systems, each managing one small aspect of training operations. Moving data between systems requires manually linking and synching, which takes valuable time and effort. It also increases the risk of errors. Unfortunately, these situations are common, and they create major blockers to the free movement of data within your system.


Organizational Barriers

Organizational blockers tend to arise from restrictive mindsets. Often, people believe that training data is all that’s relevant to the training team and that the data isn’t relevant to anyone outside of the training team. This leads to an artificial blockade of data and context.

In most companies, nearly every worker will interact with the training team. Despite this, there is usually poor communication between the training team and other departments. Collaboration and data sharing are rarely ingrained in organizational culture.

Additionally, the training team tends to wall itself off by focusing solely on training operations data. Yes, it’s important to know how many learners attended and passed a given course to keep track of operations. But does that data really describe the impact that training is having on the rest of the business? Proving the return on investment (ROI) of training means tracking the data that truly reflects the success or failure of the learning experience. When learners return to their jobs, do they apply what they learned to make a difference?

Access to data is something that’s often overlooked by L&D teams. However, it’s an essential part of developing a sustainable strategy for making data-driven decisions. Investing in your data architecture and in an open organizational data culture will pay off in the long term.

About the Author

Wendy Sly is a training technology sales consultant who works with leading enterprise training teams across North America to solve complex training operations problems. She currently consults with clients for Administrate, a training operations platform provider.

1 Comment
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Great insights shared. I feel the organizational barriers are mostly common, especially with regards to getting the needful data from other departments that would aid the training/L&D teams to make data-driven decisions. In my opinion, part of what could help to remove this barrier is to have major stakeholders agree on ways to make this data centrally accessible to the Learning and Development teams whenever they are needed.
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