How to mine external and internal data to jumpstart learning programs
Employers are finding innovative ways to dig into treasure troves of data and use their findings to improve the employee experience.
HR is beginning to realize the value of the massive amounts of data in their possession — and they're finding ways to mine for treasure hidden within.
Applicant tracking systems now do more than hire for a single opening; they provide a bank of potential applicants for future vacancies. Today's learning and development professionals are also looking at Big Data to see how it can help them upskill, retain and attract top talent to the fold.
L&D managers could scour through every qualification of every employee on staff to create standards, burning through man hours to get the job done, but AI can pull from existing data and provide baselines in a matter of seconds. Whether relying on internal data, or resources from other platforms, AI is redefining employee development in ways HR couldn't have imagined a few short years ago.
HR Dive spoke to two companies about their innovations in using big data to upskill and engage employees.
Leveraging internal data
A recent survey by Ascendify outlines the struggle employees and their companies face with skill gaps; 59% of respondents were unsure which skills would make them successful in the future. Another 13% were unsure they had the skills to perform their work today. The digital transformation threatens to leave employees behind, and businesses are working to keep ahead of the curve, but with so much disruption at so many levels, a high powered solution may be needed.
Can AI help create career paths to grow and retain? Learning management systems have not historically been purpose-driven, Matt Hendrickson, CEO of Ascendify, told HR Dive in an interview. But employers can shift their data to create career mapping, help employees find their purpose and give them the guidance to achieve their goals, aligned with the needs and initiatives of the company.
Ascendify has taken the potential of big data to its new feature, Aspire. "We think of it as a virtual career coach," Hendrickson said. "AI that helps employees grow with a personalized touch and a better understanding of where they want to go." The principle part of the Aspire program is career navigation. It begins by evaluating the employee's current skill set in relation to the work they perform. It adds information about their passions and interests and then presents them with options within the company that might be a good fit today, and with development, in the future.
By mapping skills throughout the company, Aspire can show employees how their current skills compare to desired positions and can make recommendations on how to get there. It outlines what others in their current role are interested in, as well as what will likely be needed in the coming years with regard to skills, giving the employee options to consider and routes to take.
"Aspire asks employees who you are, what you want and where you want to go," Hendrickson said, "but it doesn't stop: it gives details and options on how to get there."
When employees find a path of interest, they're provided with avenues to develop their skills: coursework, videos, conferences, training and even internal resources. Some companies even open access to project work, giving employees an opportunity to participate in short or long-term projects outside their typical work day to grow their skills and interests. These opportunities make learning an asset for the company as well as the staff member.
For businesses that have used Aspire, Hendrickson said, the response has been impressive. GE recently introduced Aspire to build a career portal. Through it, employees identify their own skills gaps and link to learning assets within the company's LMS to grow and develop. The company stated that by turning over control of career growth to their employees, they saw increases in engagement and retention. GE saw 70% participation in Aspire, which was voluntary. That level of participation suggests employees are energized for growth.
Capitalizing on external data
"When I think about growth of a career or person within their job, I see three trajectories," Marc Rind, VP of product development and chief data scientist at ADP, told HR Dive in an interview. "Either they move up and grow to say, management; or they're interested in becoming an expert at what they do. A third option is to spread their wings outside the box, doing something completely different."
At ADP, the company has been looking at what people are doing on the job and where they go within and without their organization for decades. Based on millions of data points at their disposal, ADP began to build on job trajectories. Their Executive and Manager Insights platform continuously sifts through data points — wages, locations, industry and more — to deliver employee retention and management recommendations directly to decision-makers. Providing those insights to managers allows them to work collaboratively with HR and L&D to put employees on track for growth.
Another critical use, Rind said, is identifying at-risk employees. Driven by data, businesses can look at how long someone has been in that job position compared to others within the company and industry-wide. Have others similarly situated left the company in the past? Identifying these at-risk employees offers an opportunity to engage with them, find out what, if anything, they might need for growth internally. Paying attention to these employees is a key retention strategy; employees are happy they're being recognized and offered options.
In the past, Rind said, data was cultivated by HR teams who shared their analysis with managers. This strategy was time consuming and the analysis often came too late. With Executive and Manager Insights, management teams are getting data in real time, like new hire turnover rates on their teams compared to others. Data frees them and L&D to work together on solutions — bridging skills gaps, growing and retaining talent.
Where will AI take us tomorrow?
"One of my favorite definitions of big data: using data collected for not what was originally intended," Rind said. Employers have volumes of information at their fingertips that they've been shelving in the past, he added. New uses are emerging in ways employers never anticipated when it was compiled.
"We've spent the last 20 years learning to collect data," Hendrickson said, "and we'll spend the next 20 trying to figure out all the ways we can use it."