Blogs • 28 Aug 2018

How to support your learning strategy with visual reporting

At Amista, we are always trying to broaden our horizon. Right now this implies learning how the SuccessFactors suite works. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been taking a look behind the scenes of the SuccessFactors Learning Management System (LMS). I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that the LMS features customisable interactive dashboards, which can be drilled down to look at the underlying data for more information. This visual reporting feature allows managers to have a visual overview of their team’s progress and look into the details when needed. They know when to take action and motivate their teams to take up where they left off.

I have implemented and maintained two LMSs, worked with a third as a content author and looked at multiple others from both a user and admin perspective along the way. Customisable visual reporting is not a feature that most LMSs offer. Let me explain why this should matter to you and share a few tips and tricks along the way.

Data matters

In most companies (yours probably too) the HR department is responsible for training and the corporate LMS. Matching HR priorities to your organisation's business priorities is the perfect remedy to ensure that the HR department is taken seriously by more business oriented people and by senior management.

Today’s technology helps us realise that goal by providing loads of reliable data. Data-driven HR methods are based on the fundamental idea that data should be used and interpreted to improve decisions and optimise business processes. Modern LMSs can track almost anything. Going from how many times you have attempted to login, to how you have navigated through your latest e-learning course. The data is there!

But which data to use, and how to leverage that same data to make better training decisions? What might be meaningful to you now will not necessarily be meaningful in six months’ time. Business strategies change and so will the data you use to gain valuable insight. That’s why it’s important for your HR tools to have a powerful reporting feature. You will need to be able to customise your reporting without much fuss in order to get the data you need to make the right strategic decisions.

Visualise your data for maximum effect

Most LMSs nowadays have the possibility to customise reporting. So you might ask why I am writing this article. That’s because custom reporting usually means a ton of data, crammed into one basic excel file. Not exactly easy to interpret, let alone use in a presentation to convince your management and business colleagues of your expertise and insight.

Your management and all the people from the business you have meetings with, are used to charts and real-time reporting. Important business decisions are based on solid numbers. If you want to be taken seriously by your colleagues outside of HR, you have to talk the talk. That means you have to be able to show them real-time reporting that is in line with the business objectives. In talking a common language, you will generate a mutual understanding.

Gain support from within the business

There is another important reason for visualising your data. It's got to do with delegating work to colleagues and having less to worry about. What's not to love?

For the sake of example, you are the talent manager of a medium-sized pharmaceutical company and your CEO has decided that one of the objectives this year is to achieve 100% compliance to certain industry standards. You make sure all industry standards that have to be met are covered in different e-learning courses on your company’s LMS. You organise the courses in different curricula since everyone should only take the courses that are relevant to their job.

As you don’t have the time to check the completion of every course of every employee, you would like to ask the team managers for help. They should regularly check their team’s progress and encourage them to complete the necessary courses.

You need a customisable visual reporting dashboard to gain the team managers’ support and cooperation. Ideally, the team managers log on to the LMS and see in one glimpse how their team is doing. If they have to scroll through lists of names and courses, not only will they quickly lose interest, they also won’t have a clue of their team’s progress.

The visual reporting dashboard will help you to get your colleagues on board and meet your company’s objective regarding compliance. It will help your colleagues understand that training is actively helping your company stay competitive. You will be able to convince your CEO of the value of your LMS (and of your own creativity).

Customise your reports. And when you’re done: customise them again!

You've already got a beautiful visual report and your company’s support? Great! But can you easily change your report and include different data?

At one of the companies I worked for, I felt that it was indispensable to have a solid reporting dashboard to gain support within the organisation for the learning project. I customised the LMS reports and ended up with a big bunch of meaningful data in several excel files that were complete gibberish to the uninitiated. Next, I took several courses on how to make interactive reporting dashboards in Excel (Udemy you rock!). It took me weeks to build a sound dashboard that everybody in the company could understand.

After roughly a year, I realised that the reporting dashboards should be updated to reflect some of the changes in our company’s strategies and goals. Due to the large amount of legacy data in the reporting files, that wasn’t possible. The layout of the data in the old reports didn’t work well with the new dashboard we wanted to create. Instead of starting from scratch, I simplified the dashboard so we only covered the bare necessities. Sometimes, that simply might not be enough.

Business priorities and strategies change and your reporting should support a changing strategy, not hold it back. You should make sure that you can change and adapt your reports at any given time. And believe me, you will need to do so sooner than you think!

If you take away only one thing from this article, let it be this...

Make sure that your LMS can help your company attain its goals by creating custom reports with meaningful data. Always present your data in a visual way. If possible, create custom dashboards directly on your LMS.

If you bought a reporting module in addition to your LMS with the goal of creating custom dashboards, verify that you can adapt the reports when needed. And make sure you have access to the necessary services or a good consultancy partner to help you out, should the need arise.

Good luck and don’t hesitate to reach out if you feel you could use a helping hand with your learning strategy or any other training issue!
Would you like to be inspired some more? Watch Amista's take on Digital Learning!