How HR Can Use Data to Drive Employee Productivity and Performance

Part I: Training and Development

In this two part series, I will explore how Human Resource departments can utilize data to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of organizational operations and employees’ work. In the first part of this series, I will examine how HR can leverage a broad range of data sets to better evaluate the impact of professional development programs and effectively nurture the learning and development needs of employees.

In the 2012 State of the Industry Report prepared by the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), it was found that American companies spent $156 billon on employee learning and development in 2011. Despite the significant financial contributions made by companies towards employees’ education, research suggests that very few employers are actually able to observe improvements or measure the benefits associated with these investments.

There are numerous intrinsic and extrinsic factors that may potentially contribute to the success or failure of an employee training and development program. This may include:

  • the motivation level of the employee
  • whether the training was mandatory or optional
  • how the employee’s other work responsibilities were affected by the timing and duration of the training
  • the relevance of the content of the training program to the employee’s direct work responsibilities
  • the location and delivery format of the training
  • the attitude, behavior, and other characteristics of the instructor and/or other participants
  • the instructional format of the training as well as the assessment features associated with the program

How HR Can Use Data to Improve Effectiveness

If companies are able to enhance their data collection and management systems and pull in new data sets across different functions of the organization as well as through external partners and research institutions, then there is an opportunity to begin to understand some of the salient factors that are correlated with positive employee feedback, productivity, and performance following an employee’s participation in a training program.

This data can be derived from employee feedback surveys, annual goals and performance plans, industry reports, and academic research etc.

The following are two examples of where the analysis of relevant data has illustrated key factors that contribute to successful training and development programs.

Only providing training that is requested or relevant

After analyzing a range of data sets as well as different research on the subject, it is evident that employee-requested training programs tend to result in higher levels of satisfaction than those that are enforced or imposed by companies.

When employees get to chart their own learning path, they are more vested in their personal development and are thereby more motivated to participate in the program and derive maximum learning from the investment.

Additionally, the more relevant a training program is to an employee’s direct work responsibilities, the more likely he or she is to engage in the learning and apply the lessons upon his or her return to the work environment. By collecting and analyzing different data sets, companies can better predict what types of training programs are most suitable to the individualized preferences and needs of employees.

Getting the timing right

Other research has illustrated that if the timing of a training session falls within close proximity to when an employee is required to utilize the new knowledge obtained, then they are more likely to be engaged during the training session and apply the new knowledge to their work responsibilities following the training.

Additionally, if the timing of a training session conflicts with the work or personal responsibilities of an employee, then of course he or she is more likely to be less engaged or derive sub-optimal benefit from the training.

A Little Preemptive Research Can Lead to Big Results

Although the above examples may seem obvious, many companies do not consider these factors closely when identifying and enrolling their employees in various training programs. By collecting and analyzing relevant data on the subject, companies can more accurately identify the key factors that will help them and their employees achieve the desired outcomes.

What are some ways in which your HR department is utilizing larger data sets to drive employee productivity and performance?

Head of People Operations
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