Go Figure

An ability to analyze “big data” is reaching into Learning & Development and Human Resources as organizations look for insights to help catalyze change, improve access to experts, speed onboarding, retain talent, and measure the effectiveness of training programs.

Math was never my best (or favorite) subject in school. You’d think with parents in the aerospace and computer industries that I’d have a math gene advantage, but apparently I take after my grandfather, who started out as a copyboy for wire service UPI and worked his way up the editorial ladder. Two decades in the workplace later, I still have not developed an affinity for numbers – which is why I have an accountant do my taxes and a researcher tabulate our surveys.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a healthy respect for the power of numbers and those who can crunch and analyze them. Such an ability to analyze “big data”—complex data sets that cross functional silos—increasingly is in high demand in today’s organizations. And it is reaching into Learning & Development and Human Resources as organizations look for insights to help catalyze change, improve access to experts, speed onboarding, retain talent, and measure the effectiveness of training programs. However, analytics skills appear to be in short supply. Only 1 in 4 organizations indicated they have an ability to meet their analytics needs, while another 17 percent plan additional hiring to do so, according to the American Management Association’s global survey of 800 respondents from more than 50 industries conducted by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp). The majority of respondents (47 percent) plan to invest in training to meet their capabilities gaps, so L&D will need to step up programs in this area. See “What’s the Big Deal About Big Data” to find out how companies such as water engineering firm NWH Global and Defense Acquisition University are successfully utilizing big data analytics.

Running the numbers also is key to figuring out whether to hold training programs on-site at company offices vs. off-site at a hotel, conference center, or college campus. Numerous factors can weigh in favor of each choice, and the decision-maker—whether a chief learning officer, training manager, or meeting planner—must carefully consider the pluses and minuses with the aim of maximizing the program’s return on investment. Check out “On-Site vs. Off-Site Training” to find out the costs and benefits to be considered and “Immersion in the Sub-Sahara” to learn about Novartis’ off-site African Leadership Program. 

In addition to the on-site vs. off-site debate, many companies struggle with creating a tuition reimbursement program that benefits employees but doesn’t break the bank. In the January/February issue, we examined tuition reimbursement practices utilized by 2013 Training Top 125ers. That article sparked requests to look at tuition reimbursement practices by industry; see “Top 125 In-Tuition: Part 2” for the follow-up, which focuses on tuition reimbursement practices in the finance and banking, health and medical services, real estate and insurance, and technology industries.

Returning to my mathematical musings, there’s hope for me yet. Keynoters at our Training 2014 Conference & Expo held February 3-5 in San Diego offered a glimpse into our mental circuitry and how we all have the inner ability to alter/re-channel our mental power sources for the better (see “Golden Opportunities” for highlights and photos from the event). Perhaps that can put me on the path to do the math!

Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.