Many of us had our fill of statistics in college. But things are different thanks to new data sources and methods. Now we can collect and use data from business units to see whether our learning initiatives are having a business impact, and we can drill deeper to determine which parts have the greatest effect.
JetBlue has been working on this for 10 years. Therese Schmidt, manager of the assessment, measurement and evaluation team, said JetBlue recently went through an organizational redesign, with a focus on analytics and data-driven decision-making.
Within JetBlue University, reviewing performance metrics is now at the top of the agenda at departmental meetings. A main section of the JetBlue University annual report is “Highlighted Data-Driven Improvements.” This reliance on analytics changed the way JetBlue University evaluates and improves learning, and it’s changing the way business unit managers operate. For example:
Analytics drive decisions. One of the team’s mandates is to teach managers in various departments how to use data to make better decisions. The process serves as a model: Team members work to understand the department’s business goals, they help identify key performance indicators, determine solid learning targets, then they select which data to track and set up a data collection process to support decision-making. The team also has enterprisewide credibility. It leads the data collection planning for strategic initiatives, such as investments in culture and technology overhauls.
Analytics measure business impact. The team scouts the best data sources to measure the business impact of learning. Its measures are the real deal, such as customer net promoter scores, sales, attrition rates and customer complaints.
Analytics measure performance. The university provides training for all airline functions including inflight procedures, ground and airport operations and reservations. It uses detailed task analyses based on Federal Aviation Administration guidelines that allow for performance testing during training. This generates a tremendous amount of student data the team analyzes to evaluate learning effectiveness.
Back on the job, performance is tracked as well. For pilots, flight attendants and reservation agents, data are collected continuously and are accessed by the data team and compared with data during training.
Analytics promote action. “Data collection and analysis are fruitless unless the insights lead to action,” Schmidt said. Here are three examples of JetBlue data tracking and subsequent action:
- Data tracked during aircraft servicing revealed a rise in cosmetic aircraft damage. The learning team and the safety department worked to identify learning needs and to change the trend.
- The U.S. Transportation Department tracks customer complaints, and JetBlue saw an increase in complaints from customers with disabilities about boarding. Based on this data, training was revised and expanded, resulting in a reduction in those complaints.
- An airline’s overall customer satisfaction score is always important. Additional training for flight attendants resulted in improved scores.
More organizations will be moving on a path similar to JetBlue’s, reaping benefits from better tracking of on-the-job performance data and business results. “We are coming to a point where just about every job will have some connection to data, and therefore HR staff — whether in training, leadership development, recruiting or talent management — will need to be data savvy,” said Karen O’Leonard, vice president of benchmarking and analytics research at Bersin by Deloitte.
However, O’Leonard’s research shows most learning functions are not harnessing the full potential of their data and lag behind other HR functions.
More of us will need to develop an appreciation of data, metrics and dashboards; a knowledge of how and where to access business data; the ability to separate cause from coincidence; a commitment to evidence-based decision-making; and the expectation that claims about learning benefits will be backed by business data.
Photo of JetBlue plane courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.