KnowledgeAdvisors released a research study in late 2004 that
outlined best practices for managing change issues when
implementing a learning analytics program. The study summarized
results from a survey of some 53 organizations, including Dell, GM,
and Nextel Communications. Here are several key findings.
A successful learning analytics program relies on the ability to
make changes. An area where organizations are making dramatic
changes is in the way they measure the impact of their learning
investments. No longer are smile sheets at the end of a class the
norm. Organizations are linking training to business results,
conducting deeper analysis, sending out supervisor and on-the-job
surveys, and calculating financial returns. All of these changes
need to be managed appropriately for maximum benefit.
Planning for Change
Get support. Most experts agree that the first
step to success is gaining support for any sort of major change
initiative. But how can you do that? More than three-quarters of
respondents (78 percent) said that they gained support by
presenting a list of tangible benefits associated with the change.
Other useful arguments included presenting a business case for the
change (57 percent) and describing the ramifications of not moving
forward (47 percent).
Outline benefits. According to 75 percent of
respondents, illustrating a clear link between training and
organizational business results was most useful in convincing
management. Decreased cycle time for reporting results and
increased quality of training programs were also effective, both
weighing in at 53 percent.
Define barriers. As with most initiatives that
require major process changes, survey respondents said the most
common barrier is resistance by employees who are used to "the old
way" of doing things (58 percent). Other common barriers included
- inability to get agreement and achieve consensus (44 percent)
- political agendas (38 percent)
- skepticism (38 percent).
Overcome barriers. Many of the success strategies
identified will come as no surprise to most practitioners. Topping
the list was maintaining a continued emphasis on the benefits to
change (62 percent), which was followed closely by piloting the
change before the full rollout (56 percent) and getting those
affected by the change involved early on in the process (51
percent). Surprisingly, only 38 percent of respondents said that
creating champions helped them achieve success.
Tailor the message. According the study, 60
percent of organizations send different communications to senior
management, trainers, and employees or customers. In addition, 43
percent said that they communicated a different message to line of
Solicit input. Most organizations solicit input
from stakeholders affected by the change. As expected, senior
management was by far the most solicited source of input (71
percent). Oddly, instructors were a common source (54 percent), but
only 42 percent of course designers were asked to offer input.
Vary feedback mechanisms. Focus groups and
interviews (63 percent) were the most common means of feedback
provided among survey respondents. Phone and email also are common
methods (49 percent), along with surveys (44 percent). In addition,
some 39 percent of respondents claimed to make a point person
available for collecting feedback.
Market change. Organizations use many tools to
market and communicate change. According to respondents, the most
commonly used methods were formal meetings (53 percent),
in-classroom communications (53 percent), and memos from leadership
(43 percent). Other tools used by respondents were newsletters, Web
casts, and demonstrations.
Finally, few respondents had an established schedule for
communicating change, with most opting to communicate information
about forthcoming change issues on an as-needed basis rather than a
fixed schedule. Of those that did communicate on a regular basis,
41 percent sent messages monthly.
Optimizing Change Results
Reward change adopters. More than half of all
organizations surveyed (54 percent) did not have a reward system in
place. Of those organizations that did, public recognition was the
most common means of reward (37 percent), followed by prize
giveaways (24 percent).
Maintain momentum. When asked how they kept the
momentum of change moving in a positive direction, 67 percent of
respondents said they made use of regular process updates. Other
strategies used by organizations included
- publishing the outputs of the analytics tools (54 percent)
- offering continued training and support tools (51 percent)
- publishing success stories (46 percent).
Have strong change leaders. Respondents to the
survey found that communications (76 percent) and people skills (58
percent) were the most critical characteristics of a successful
change leader. Fifty-three percent of respondents also ranked
project management skills and measurement/analytics skills as key
So, what practices will lead to the successful change management of
a learning analytics program? According to the survey, early
involvement of people affected is the number one factor. Other best
practices to keep in mind include having visible management support
and allowing plenty of feedback.
Indeed, the results from the study are unsurprising, but they do
provide a framework for better understanding the mechanisms behind
successful change. Hopefully, you can use the data in your quest to
implement a learning analytics solution at your organization.
Ryann Ellis is editor of Learning Circuits,
ASTD's online magazine covering e-learning. You can reach her at
is a business intelligence software
company that helps organizations measure and manage their learning
investments. For a copy of the complete report, "Best Practices in
Change Management When Migrating to Learning Analytics," email
Jeffrey Berk, vice president of products and strategy for