‘We are in a talent crisis’ – how big data can help L&D

by John Hilton25 Nov 2015
It is getting harder and harder to hire the right people and replace top talent, said Tym Lawrence, Director, Solutions Architect APAC at SumTotal Systems, a Skillsoft company.

In order to address this talent crisis it’s particularly important to focus on continuous learning and how big data can impact this, he said.

“That centres around four key phrases: Know me, Entice me, Improve me and Reward me,” he said.

“Knowing me involves understanding me as an individual, and having all my information about me in the one spot. Then it’s a matter of personalising it, and using big data to understand who I am, what’s my role, what materials are helping others in a similar role, and then making meaningful recommendations,” said Lawrence.

“But also, what’s my preferred usage pattern? Do I access a smartphone? What type of resources do I use? Is it micro-learning snippets or am I an instructor-led training preferential person?”  

It’s then a matter of using that information to be able to ‘Entice me’, said Lawrence.

That involves using the big data to push relevant information and content to the user, in order to connect them to the right learning resources as part of their day to day job, he added.

“You can’t just throw data at people, you have got to have the right data and present it in a way that is easy for people to use,” said Lawrence.

‘Improve me’ includes collaboration with peers and career mobility which is that performance management, he said.

Finally, the rewarding side is a matter of giving people visibility of their accomplishments.

“This involves feedback, performance and even being able to improve their career and compensation,” said Lawrence.

Moreover, Lawrence said that in order for big data to work effectively you have got to have really big amounts of data.

“You look at people who do big data successfully, people like Google, Amazon, and the Khan Academy. They have millions or billions of data points,” said Lawrence.  

“Most companies who are sourcing learning content from smaller providers won’t get millions of data points. They would be lucky to get thousands of data points in terms of what content was used by whom and in what context.”

If there is enough big data it can lead to new methods of developing and assessing learning experiences to create highly specific learning paths for employees, he said.

Lawrence told L&D Professional that in order for a self-developing organisation to prosper, education and learning content should be available to everyone, fun, easy to find and straightforward to use.

“It’s got to be embedded wherever the people are and be that just-in-time learning. It’s also got to have people helping people,” he said.  

“Additionally, learning has to be valued as part of the culture. These are the things that make self-developing organisations succeed.”