Rewiring corporate learning #4: Do Data


Nigel Paine, former chief learning officer at the BBC, continues his series on rewiring corporate learning. Here he looks at data.

We are moving into an era of big data. What does that mean? It means using data that is often collected and barely used to draw fresh conclusions. It is collecting complementary data that will illuminate more than its limited focus.  All this needs analytic tools that are beginning to proliferate.

You need to look at what data you collect now and how you can use that data to inform future policy or priorities and then what new data could complement what you have already.  This is not necessarily expensive and more and more tools are emerging that are cheap or free. Google Analytics for example can sit behind any web site and produce a stream of useful data.

If you want a case study look no further than Google’s Project Oxygen.This was an attempt to improve leadership in Google. They did this by first analyzing performance reviews, feedback surveys and nominations for top-manager awards. They correlated phrases, words, praise and complaints and ended up with a list of positive and desirable management characteristics that they could train to.

The data was culled from 10,000 observations, performance reviews and other documents that were freely available but not used in this way.  The resulting training improved the performance of 75% of Google’s least well performing managers. The learning was data driven from the outset and therefore resilient. There was nothing particularly complicated about the process but it did involve both machine analysis as well as human commentary and coding but the impact was company wide.

Most data from annual appraisals, performance review meetings and 360s just sits on a hard disk and is never reviewed.  A data driven approach sees this material as vital evidence to help determine the way forward.

Next in the series: Rewiring Corporate Learning 5: Jumping into Technology

Previous articles in the series

  1. Rewiring corporate learning #1: understand where you need to go
  2. Rewiring corporate learning #2: how to decide where to begin
  3. Rewiring corporate learning #3: Focus on impact

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