Building Credibility And Securing Buy-In
The majority of my career has been spent servicing clients in various sectors, from nonprofits to startups and corporations, both as a freelancer and full-time employee. When your income or job depends on client satisfaction or the learner’s performance after your training, you learn to leverage data effectively. Here are a few reasons why every L&D professional needs to get good at using data.
Reasons Why L&D Leaders Need To Effectively Leverage Data
1. Design Choices
When it comes to designing training, there are a lot of opinions and preferences. However, it’s essential to make informed decisions based on data. For example, a client may want to use an 18-minute video when the average adult’s attention span is only about 75 seconds. Or, a Subject Matter Expert may want to make the training so packed that it’s an hour long. However, research shows that we forget 50% of what we learn after just 20 minutes. And, sometimes, the client may want to keep costs low by removing simulations from the plan, even though we know that practical experience accelerates proficiency.
2. Demonstrate ROI
Demonstrating the Return On Investment (ROI) is important for future work when freelancing and achieving specific KPIs as an employee. Common data used to measure training impact include business KPIs, such as employee retention, performance, and satisfaction. Also, being able to demonstrate how the training changed behavior, upskilled, or reskilled, or how the training closed the gap in performance or knowledge are equally important.
3. Countering Subjective Opinions With Facts
The reality is that even when you create awesome training, you are still often being evaluated on opinion, not facts. Opinions are subjective statements that reflect a person’s views or beliefs. They cannot be proven definitively true or false and vary greatly between people.
On the other hand, facts are objective statements that can be proven true or false. They are based on observable evidence or verifiable data and can be confirmed through methods like experimentation or research. And the more data literacy, storytelling, and visualization skills you develop, the more persuasive you can be when it really matters.
Tips For Data Storytelling And Visualization Skills Proficiency
1. Leverage Quantitative And Qualitative Data
Quantitative data is numerical and can be analyzed statistically but may miss details. Qualitative data is descriptive and provides richer context but cannot easily be measured. Combining both allows for a fuller understanding.
2. Prepare A Fact Sheet
Most L&D professionals know through experience what best practices are. When working with clients and SMEs, presenting that information based on your experience and supporting it with qualitative and quantitative data is always helpful. Use this as a guide you can share before, during, or after these discussions.
3. Identify Audience-Relevant Data
Often, the person making decisions about your work is not in Learning and Development or familiar with the process or how-tos. Find out how they measure success and then identify what data needs to be used to demonstrate success.
4. Build An Evaluation Framework Early
Determine how everything will be measured on a micro and macro level. On a micro level, clearly outline how each learning outcome will be measured in the course and on the job. For example, a new skill may be measured in the course with a simulation. On the job, the learner may be asked to demonstrate that skill to their coach or the skill may be attached to a specific performance KPI such as an increase in sales.
On a macro level, identify the data you will collect, the tools used for analysis, and how the information will be presented. Here are some examples:
- Learning engagement and satisfaction
A survey with an NPS question.
- Knowledge retention
A reassessment in 30, 60, and 90 days.
- Skill development
Manager observation with a rubric, behavior change, or improvement in performance.
Why Develop Data Storytelling And Visualization Skills
With data playing an increasingly central role in our working lives, L&D professionals must be skilled in data storytelling and visualization. It makes conversations like budgeting, proposing new ideas, and defending your work much easier.
First, data-driven storytelling allows you to connect learning analytics and evaluation data to compelling, human-centric stories that resonate with stakeholders. Rather than presenting dry facts, skilled storytelling brings data to life—putting faces to numbers and clearly conveying the “so what”. This narrative approach forges an emotional connection and helps convey the real workforce impact of training programs.
Additionally, strong visualization skills enable you to produce more impactful reports, dashboards, and presentations. Well-designed visuals allow faster pattern recognition and more efficient communication of key insights, trends, and recommendations. The adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” is especially true when presenting data. Effective data visualization transforms complex info into accessible, engaging visual formats that clarify rather than confuse.
Data storytelling and visualization empower L&D teams to inform decisions, secure buy-in, track progress, and showcase impact through data. Building these skills is critical for maximizing strategic value.