Why you should care about people analytics in L&D

People analytics and learning and development (L&D) have become buzzwords in HR and the professional workforce. However, these buzzwords can be elusive. So, we took it upon ourselves to unpack these concepts. We sat down with Vivo Team’s EVP of People Analytics and Talent Activation, Dr. Jim Sellner, to discuss how people analytics in L&D apply to you, and why you should care. Check it out for yourself with our FREE Team Assessment! 


Question: What is people analytics in L&D?

Dr. Jim: MIT Sloan defines people analytics as: “a data-driven approach to improving people-related decisions for the purpose of advancing the success of not only the organization, but also of individual employees”.

To be more specific, Vivo Team’s people analytics focuses on Team and Leader Development Programs and Coaching, aka learning and development or L&D.

The term people analytics is used in HR to measure a wide variety of elements including: retention, time spent onboarding, attendance, etc.


Q: Why is people analytics in L&D important?

Dr. Jim: People analytics in L&D provides the data our clients require to measure the growth, development, and successes of their team and/or leader development programs and coaching. This is done in terms of behaviors and dollars (by measuring a decrease in the cost of lost productivity*). People analytics in L&D is highly accurate in diagnosing the effects of behaviors on teams. That’s why people analytics in L&D is so important!

*The cost of lost productivity, in simple terms, is loss of work/revenue/production caused by the unavailability of an employee for any reason in terms of dollars.


Q: How is people analytics used in L&D?

Dr. Jim: People analytics in L&D is a machine learning (or ML) process to identify the need for training and the specific areas that need to be addressed first. Traditionally, in L&D, it’s called a training needs analysis. Within people analytics, the training needs are identified by the participants, and the machine learning builds a more accurate, detailed diagnosis.


Q: How does people analytics support leaders and their teams?

Dr. Jim: People analytics provides teams and leaders the tools to diagnose, analyze, predict, prescribe, deliver, and evaluate their learning and development efforts.


Q: How does L&D support a productive workplace people want to be a part of?

Dr. Jim: By including people in the diagnosis of what’s happening in the team dynamics. They identify the most important areas for improvement which increases the probability that they will be engaged in committing to making performance improvements—the WIIFM principle, What’s In It For Me?


Q: Specifically, can you describe how Vivo Team uses people analytics in their learning development program?

Dr. Jim: People analytics form the foundation of Vivo Team’s proprietary, award-winning VSR (Vital Statistics Report). Validated by the University of British Columbia’s Statistics Department, the VSR measures team effectiveness through the 6 key indicators of high performance (i.e., communication, interactive feedback, accountability, structures, emotional intelligence, and cohesion). These indicators provide leaders and teams the ability to diagnose, analyze, predict, prescribe, deliver, and evaluate their L&D efforts.


Q: Can you discuss the science behind it?

Dr. Jim: The science is machine learning—a type of artificial intelligence (AI) that allows software applications to become more accurate at predicting outcomes without being explicitly programmed to do so. Machine learning algorithms use historical data as input to predict new output values.


Thanks for chatting with us, Dr. Jim! 

It’s Not Fair!

Dear Dr. Jim,
Why did my colleague, who has similar background and experience as I do, get promoted instead of me?
– Richard*

Hi Richard,

This is a very complicated question.

But, there are a couple of things to think about:

1. Some people seem to have a knack of connecting with the right people, of doing the right things within the organization so they get noticed, or creating a perception that they have leadership capabilities or need to be promoted to the next level.

People perceive you in a certain way, and some people will perceive you as having leadership capabilities and others as not.

2. One of the important things here is to be willing and able to present yourself in a way that you are seen (as much as possible), understood (as much as possible), and recognized (as much as possible and appropriate).

3. If you really are interested in getting promoted, then the thing to do is to present yourself in a way that you are heard. One of the best ways of doing this is to regularly connect with your Next-Level Manager (NLM). Your NLM is probably the most important person in your career because they see things going on with you. Ensure you are well connected with them; don’t wait for your NLM to make the move.

It’s kind of a “just enough” thing. We want to put ourselves out there so that we’re seen, but not seen as pushy. So be wise, be strategic about how you’re presenting yourself, and ask others for feedback about your blind spots and how you come across.

Hopefully that’s helpful!

– Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

Next-Level Manager

A Next-Level Manager (NLM) is the person you directly report to.

Do you have a NLM? Or, maybe you are one?

Your role as a NLM encompasses much more than just managing. It involves leading by example.

Lead with connection. Remaining connected with your direct report(s), especially in a hybrid or virtual work environment, is essential to maintaining clear communication, company cohesion, and accountability.

One way to do this is through a periodic check-in: a short, 10 minute semi-structured meeting between NLMs and their direct report(s).

If you’re a team member and you don’t regularly check-in with your NLM, consider introducing this idea in your organization or to your manager.

Why do an NLM check-in? 

It supports development and commitment, encourages active application of learnings, and keeps everyone in the know.

  • 25% of leaders and managers perform better
  • 29% are more committed
  • 40% are more likely to stay with the organization

What’s involved in an NLM check-in?

It’s an open dialogue between NLM and direct report. Consider key discussion points including: recent learnings, successes, and difficulties.

As an NLM, remember, your job is to listen, ask for clarification when needed, and refrain from prompting your direct report(s). This is an opportunity for them to demonstrate their ability to level up!

To ensure both parties are on the same page at the end of the check-in, conclude with a round of appreciations (something you liked), difficulties (anything you’re stuck on), and final statements (last words). At Vivo Team we make a concerted effort to end all of our meetings that way–encouraging immediate feedback, mutual understanding, and next steps.

8 Things Great Leaders Do

Leaders are great, but great leaders are better! So how do you go from being a good leader to being a great leader? As an emergent leader, or one who wants to level-up, what does this look like?

Check out the list of 8 things great leaders do that we’ve compiled from some of our great leaders!


1. Great leaders move decisions forward instead of sitting on them or procrastinating. This is something our CEO & Founder, Renée Safrata, models every day.

2. Make each day a series of small “yeses” and model this for your team. It’s a fundamental shift in approach and mindset. Encourage your team to bring forward solutions rather than bringing forward problems and expecting you (the leader) to solve them.

Emergent leaders: this is an easy and effective way to level-up your leadership! Say “yes” and commit to giving this a try. Remember, as the first point identifies, great leaders action items; so start by actioning this one!

3. Great leaders use “The Platinum Rule” when interacting with people. The platinum rule involves finding out what others want, are interested in, and passionate about, and then doing everything you can to help them to reach their goal(s). Our VP of Talent Activation and People Analytics, Dr. Jim Sellner, practices this rule.

David Yudis, a Vivo Team Executive Coach, shares a similar mindset: engage with The Platinum Rule, consider how others need to receive communication and adapt your messaging accordingly.

This element of personalization demonstrates your awareness as a leader, and shows your willingness to work to best support your team.

4. Great leadership isn’t just about you, and what you do. Our Executive Coach, Petra Mayer’s favorite thing great leaders do is listen and encourage great listening skills on their team.

Active listening helps to avoid misunderstandings and mistakes while demonstrating an interest in what is important to others–the foundation of empathy. This is critical for emerging leaders. Empathy is the ability and willingness to seek to understand others and is also a key ingredient in emotional intelligence.

5. Great leaders are energetic and inspiring, shares our Coach Greg Basham. They are excellent storytellers with engaging visions. This skill doesn’t happen overnight; practice makes perfect. As an emerging leader, this is a great place to start—test the waters, practice, refine, and learn from your mistakes.

6. Great leaders believe in their people. Believing is the first step, but the level up is demonstrating this belief. Consider the ways in which you can demonstrate your belief in your team.

7. Great leaders benchmark the achievement of their aspirations with data gathered from their teams. Data, analytics, and measurement is necessary to chart growth and track development. Achievements and results are difficult to demonstrate and justify without measurable, data-driven indicators. Our team assessment is crucial in this process. It measures and tracks team and leader performance, check it out! And, try assessing your own team.

8. Great leaders embrace discomfort. They openly and excitedly work through issues when there are conflicts around strategy or decisions. This openness and willingness to engage with discomfort is key for emerging leaders as well as those looking to level-up.

Embracing discomfort (rather than shutting down in moments of uncertainty) displays a willingness to learn and an appreciation for continued learning, growth, and development. THIS is what you want to continually demonstrate as an emerging leader. Such comfortability with discomfort positions you as a role model for your team members–encouraging them to be equally open to exploring and accepting discomfort.

Whether you’re a long-time leader or an emerging leader, strive to be a great one!

Level Up!

Our Customer Success Manager, Tee Komsa and Dr. Jim chat about the importance of staying connected with your Next Level Manager (NLM)—especially when working remote.

Strong communication, active listening, accountability, and feedback are key!

Developing Leaders

Dear Dr. Jim,
I promoted our communications coordinator to manager. She is skilled and experienced, but her direct reports are still coming to me instead of her. How do I help her assert herself?
– Will*


Hi Will,

Your statement: “she is skilled and experienced”—yes, skilled and experienced in communications, as a coordinator, but not skilled and experienced as a leader or manager (yet).

So, your job is to help her learn how to become a better manager. If she’s lacking development, she’s going to become what we call an “accidental leader”, and she’ll likely not succeed in the new role. Here’s what you do:

  1. Identify articles for her to read about leadership and management.
  2. Initiate/establish weekly meetings with her to talk about (1) what’s going well in her new job and responsibilities, (2) what needs improvement, and (3) what might be missing.
  3. Finally, encourage her!

The other thing that’s really important—if her direct reports keep coming to you, direct them back to her. (I’m assuming you’ve been through significant leadership or management training and you know how to do these things.)

If you too are an accidental leader who has been promoted but not developed, that’s a problem. Consider connecting with us!

– Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

Are You An Accidental Leader?

Accidental leaders are experts in their field with a high level of education and experience who were promoted into a leadership role based on their hard work and expertise. Or in some cases, are those who did not set out to become leaders, but fell into the role through good luck or being in the right place at the right time.








Do any of the following apply to you? 

  • You are good with people but just can’t seem to motivate your team
  • You lack formal professional development outside of your field
  • You relay information to your team, yet are finding they fail to successfully complete the tasks
  • Your hands are tied, but you don’t know what to do differently

If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, you might be an accidental leader


If you identify as an accidental leader you are not alone—there are tens of thousands of you! If you have been given the responsibility of leading or managing a team, but not the support or training, here are some ways to help you effectively assert your leadership.

5 Ways to Develop Your Leadership Skills

  1. Learn to Lead: Upon being promoted, ensure you receive training for the new position; make it a condition for accepting the role. 
  2. Lead by Example: Be a behavioral role model. Be honest, supportive, and trustworthy with your team; they’ll naturally behave the same way.
  3. Ask for Help: If you need support, ask for it! Identify an experienced, recognized, and respected leader in your field to ask for advice and have conversations with. 
  4. Prioritize: What’s important and urgent? What can wait? What’s important to others? After asking yourself these questions, establish 2 x 60 minute time slots in your day when you are on “Do Not Disturb” mode—no exceptions. Use this time to complete your priorities. 
  5. Establish Ownership: Before responding to problems, identify who owns the problem and who is responsible for it. See if your direct reports can solve the problem on their own, then circle back and check in with them on their progress. 

Remember, leadership is about clarifying issues, setting priorities, and holding others accountable. Don’t just strive to be liked, strive to be respected!