How to use data to improve training and development
At every point in the employee journey there are opportunities to increase team performance using data.
In GB cycling, from the moment a young rider with potential is identified and they enter the young rider program, information is gathered on their progress which is used to improve future recruitment, enhance & personalise training and advance performance delivery.
Similarly, in England Rugby, the player database holds masses of information about existing England players and potential England players. This includes information on player wellbeing and injuries, through to training methods at club level and nutritional plans. This information is then used to enhance the onboarding of new players and to help support coaches as they try to align different players around a style of play, one that may be different to their club’s style of play. (what they are used to?)
In business, we also capture huge amounts of data in an employee’s lifecycle; from the recruitment phase, when a new starter begins with the organisation, performance goal setting and promotion & succession planning. However, we don’t tend to feed any of this information back into the recruitment or training processes, to improve the rate of development or improve the time it takes new hires to get up to speed. This is an area we need to enhance, and which could be a competitive edge for many organisations.
In sport, data is gathered and used most commonly to try and improve an athlete’s and a team’s performance levels – most of which focuses on development. This tends to take the form of ever more personalised individual development plans.
In business we too should be trying to personalise training and development plans, and refine our goals setting approaches. Perhaps the obvious way of demonstrating why we should think about using data in business to help personalise development plans, is to give another sporting example: you wouldn’t give a cyclist the same training plan as a lock forward in a rugby match. They have very different requirements of their bodies. A cyclist would be squashed in the first tackle and a lock forward would break the bike (and themselves in the Tour de France).
It’s clear that physically they have different outputs expected of them: a lock forward to tackle, to win the line-out ball, to run with the ball into contact. This requires physical strength, flexibility, weight and strong upper body.
A cyclist in the Tour de France, needs to deliver sustained power output, with a high power to weight ratio. This requires less body fat, increased levels of lean muscle mass, low lactic acid, endurance and strong flexibility.
Therefore, both athletes require different training; training that supports the delivery of those outputs.
In addition to their psychical conditioning, the athlete’s nutrition plans, psychological training, skills training and communication abilities, are all developed to enable them to deliver in the environment in which they perform.
The same logic should apply in a business context. You wouldn’t train an Accountant in the same way you train a Salesperson. Therefore, we know that personalised plans are necessary – but what does personalised mean?
In sport this means collecting data to underpin the training plans, data on the individual and data on what has measurably worked before.
In business that means grouping information on goal achievement, on what goals are achieved by which type of individuals over time. That could also mean personality information. With just these two types of data we can start to look at answering questions like;
- Which type of personalities do well with which types of learning content?
- Which people got up to speed quickest and why?
- Which type of goals were hit and which were not?
- Which type of personalities hit which goals?
- Do people who have been in the business for a certain length of time hit more goals than those who are new to the organisation?
Being able to answer these questions in an organisation will enable more personalised development plans for individuals and ever more refined spend on training and recruitment – ultimately resulting in greater ROI on people spend.
In summary, there are huge team and organisational benefits for tailoring training and development to individuals. Start by building a culture of continuous improvement, with development goals and performance goals for every individual. Then gather data on those goals. What type of goals are being achieved and which are not. Are there demographic factors linked to goal achievement, certain tenures of individuals that are linked to goal achievement?
Finally, you might see patterns of where training is impacting goal achievement, how quickly new hires are hitting 60% of their goals, how quickly newly promoted employees are getting up to speed. This will help you in personalising goals and personalising plans for development in the future.
Once you start this process of analysis you will find you are starting to build a continuous improvement culture, which is a byword for a high-performance culture. You will see how the data that you’re already gathering can help improve your training and development approaches.