Tag Archive | talent management

Learning Mission Critical Control: Corporate Compliance

complianceAlmost every organisation has to deliver some sort of compliance training. In some companies, it may be as simple as communicating the internal rules. In others, it can be a matter of life or death.

As one of the top 10 Most Popular LMS providers, Alex Poulos CMO of NetDimensions discussed the role of learning systems in compliance training in this blog article.

Compliance requirements for employees and organisations place new demands on learning systems that more traditional, developmental requirements do not. Our industry nowadays seems flooded with learning and talent management systems. But for such systems to succeed in a compliance-related role, they must be able to readily adapt to changing needs, operate at enterprise software level, and offer the requisite functionality around auditing, reporting, and security.

It is important that L&D and HR departments are up-to-date with the compliance requirements specific to their business. Here are a few suggestions to make this easier:

  1. Talk to your legal team and to your compliance officer to better understand who in the organisation is responsible for what.
  2. Define clear requirements and objectives for training and the technology implementation.
  3. Question your vendor and demand a software validation for the learning or talent management system. For the technical parts, don’t be afraid to ask your IT team to participate.
  4. Make compliance an on-going part of your business via well-defined workflows, checks and balances, and actionable reporting.
  5. When it comes to training, reinforce formal compliance learning with recurring programs. These initiatives may include informal collaborations (such as forums to discuss on-going compliance issues), on-the-job assessments (to better evaluate the effectiveness of the compliance training), and performance support (to provide easy access to compliance-related materials at the point of need).

This blog is an abstract from Learning & Compliance: Friends or Foes? – You can read the full article here.  You can find more blogs from Alex at the Work, Learn, Play blogs.

If your organisation struggling to meet government regulations, standards set by professional bodies, or obtaining and maintaining qualifications such as ISO 9000 or Sarbanes-Oxley?

You can downloadCompliance and your LMS – A Practical Guide to Make Compliance Easy by NetDimensions.

Aurion Learning is Ireland’s only accredited reseller of NetDimensions’ Talent Management Suite. For further information on its learning management system solutions, visit our website

To read more about the 20 Most Popular LMS study and how the results were obtained, visit the Capterra website.

Please let us know your comments or share with others who you think may benefit from this. Follow us on twitter @aurionlearning for our latest blog articles and updates. 

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E-Learning Market Review Part II: Mergers and Acquisitions in 2012

By Glynn Jung

Back at the start of 2012 I attempted to make sense of the jumble of mergers and acquisitions across the digital learning market.

At that time I commented on the convergence of education and corporate sectors using Bluedrop and Serebra as illustrations. This trend continues including, for example, the high volume of Moodle implementations in the public and private sectors – away from their education sector heartland. This is helped no doubt by the emergence of commercial wrap-around  solutions but there is also the factor that Open Source is now trusted by major organisations (and ISVs including Microsoft) as well as interfaces and plug-ins for .NET technologies. We are also seeing IWB specialists SMART and Promethean increasingly penetrating the corporate market.

The social media sector similarly continues to show an appetite for growth, demonstrated by the recent acquisition of Yammer by Microsoft.

I also commented previously on the inexorable growth of big organisations in the Talent Management market by acquisition of niche players. In January the wedding of Kenexa and Outstart (respectively Talent Management and LCMS giants) was announced. Since then the resulting combined organisation has been bought by IBM. The earlier acquisition of Plateau Systems LMS by SuccessFactors, to contribute SuccessFactors Learning to the whole Talent Management Suite, was followed at the end of 2011 by SuccessFactors themselves being swallowed up by SAP … with the whole integration process still under way it seems.

So what we are witnessing is the continuing battle between Oracle (with their PeopleSoft and Taleo acquisitions), IBM and SAP for the Enterprise Software market including HCMS and Talent Management.

On the plus side it seems as though every major acquisition (there are few genuine “partnerships between equals”) leaves doors wide open and rooms empty for niche players to step into. The LMS market, for example, continues to witness mergers and acquisitions across all sectors but to stay steady at the 250 – 280 suppliers level. Why so many? Well possibly it’s to do with increasing digitisation of learning, training and assessment, with increased volumes and complexity of different regulatory and compliance systems and, particularly, the variety and sophistication of Open Source communities and their work.

Across the road in classroom world, the traditional classroom model has been successfully disrupted as commented upon by Clayton Christensen in “Disrupting Class”, which in 2008 was seen as somewhat heretical or hysterical. Nowadays the digital campus and classroom are a reality, as are Open Content and services such as the phenomenal Khan Academy. I am currently working on networked digital classrooms for manufacturing and assembly workers … an unimagined concept until very recently.

Consulting and classroom training companies continue to acquire what they see as eLearning companies but they are frequently disappointed and frustrated by the difficulties presented by moving into product markets, by the sales cycles and most tellingly by the price pressure driving down margins.

And so it goes … and will probably continue…

What is Succession Planning?

In the last of our guest blog posts on talent management, Steve Curtis, EMEA Channel Director at NetDimensions talks about performance appraisals and PDPs.

Two people passing a baton

First of all a statement on Succession Planning; this statement might not be true, but it is my firm belief after many years of working with businesses all around Europe. It is this…

Succession Planning is the single most important and critical piece of functionality in the Talent Management suite – however it is:

1) the last one that you should implement, and
2) possibly the hardest piece of functionality to get right.

Sorry if this is in bold – I would probably put it in flashing lights as well if I could…

Consider this – how many times have you seen companies lose their way and quickly lose market share, profits and shareholder value when the wrong person is appointed into a critical position? How many times have you read about the time it has taken to appoint someone else into a critical position, and seen the impact that this delay has had on all the above, and on the other side of the coin, how many times has success of a business been linked directly to the critical talent that is the driving force or forces behind the company.

Often this is the CEO or Managing Director of the group, but just as often it is the Chief Financial Officer or the technical boffins in the company that are the financial and the creative brains and therefore just as critical to the performance of the company.

Succession Planning is therefore about one major thing – making the right decisions about who inside the company is able to step into the critical positions at the right time. The right time might be an emergency – what happens is the CEO falls ill? What happens if a critical technical person decides to resign to pursue something different? There are many circumstances that will lead to businesses losing people that are fundamentally critical to the business, and in a large company there could be hundreds of critical positions.

Another what happens if the business doesn’t have a replacement, capable of stepping into a critical position? The business will have to go outside to the market to recruit the right person, and this will have several large negative impacts:

Immediate Financial Cost
Critical roles will almost certainly have a large salary and benefits package attached to them, and therefore head-hunter and associated costs will be high. Most head-hunters charge companies based on the value of the employee, and often they will charge the equivalent of between 6 months and 1 full year of the person’s salary that they are recruiting – so if headhunting a new critical person, the immediate impact is likely to be a 6 figure sum disappearing off the bottom line revenue of the company. Large businesses with more than 25,000 people use head-hunters many times in a year, but used correctly, Succession Planning could reduce this significantly by better identifying and preparing worthy successors from inside the business. It has a potentially massive immediate impact on the profitability of the company.

Time to recruit
Recruiting the right person is likely to take months, and while this happens the business will have issues of various kinds, with the most obvious one being drift – without the business or technical lead in place the business will not perform as it should, and this could have a high cost over the months that the business is lacking it’s leader(s).

Time to train
People who are recruited from outside – even though they might be very skilled – still need time to get up to speed with the way the company operates. This will have a negative impact and the business will struggle while the new head takes time to start to add value.

Dissatisfaction in the existing workforce
If the company does not promote from within whenever it can, then it can cause deep unrest and dissatisfaction and can often lead to other critical members of the workforce leaving the business.

So to summarise on these points – there is a real and valuable business case for the management of succession planning – and therefore it is often seen as the most strategic and valuable part of the Talent Management suite by senior people in the business.

Succession Planning is also about doing planning for the 1 year, 2 year, and more replacement of critical talent. Planning worthy successors from inside the business takes time – so if the business starts to look at potential successors for critical senior positions what types of information do they want to have available and therefore analyse?

  1. Competencies – if a potential successor is there, how many gaps does he or she have in their competencies when you evaluate their scores on these against the competency requirements for the critical job position?
  2. Performance appraisal ratings – What have the recent performance appraisal rating been, and therefore is the potential successor a hi-po (High Performer)?
  3. Career expectations – does the person want to make the next move and take on this extra responsibility? Some people for outside reasons may have the skills but may not want the extra burden.

This is why Succession Planning and Succession Management has to be one of the last components of Talent Management to be implemented – it is useless without the metrics gained from time spent using the other components. Without this there will be insufficient data to do the analysis and then groom the identified successors.


How does a business use Succession Planning to prepare the right individuals?

The first and most critical step in Succession Planning is to identify competency gaps and appropriate training that will allow potential successors to close gaps in their competencies relative to their job position.

This will allow the business to get the internal workforce ready to take on those critical positions quicker. Communicate opportunities to the people concerned, and make sure that they are comfortable to move up if and when needed.

Succession Planning is a vital part of Talent Management and should be a very easy sell to senior people such as the HR Director and the CEO.

Performance Appraisals & PDPs

Continuing his series of guest blog posts on talent management, Steve Curtis, EMEA Channel Director at NetDimensions talks about performance appraisals and PDPs.

Person sitting on a correct tickPerformance Appraisals
So onto Performance Appraisals – I don’t know about you, but I think a lot of managers don’t really enjoy performance appraisals. In my humble experience managers in some larger organisations will complete a performance appraisal because HR tell them that they have to, but they will put as little effort into the thing as possible and in reality their views in the appraisal will be far too subjective. If they like the person, then the appraisee will get a good rating, and if they don’t it’s highly unlikely that that person will do well, irrespective of their ability to do the job.

So this then is the conundrum of HR – most HR managers understand this, and so want to achieve two things:

  • Remove subjectivity and replace it with objectivity.
  • Make the process as easy as possible for all concerned.

Every company I have worked for in the software world has used a different form for performance appraisals, and since I have worked for a number of companies for more than 5 years, I have seen performance appraisal forms change inside a company a few times as well. This is the challenge for the software business that wants to supply this functionality to clients – they will have one way of doing it, and often they will want you to replicate this in software – which is difficult to do without customisation.

Constituents of a Performance Appraisal
I’m not going to tell you in this blog what a performance appraisal is – I’d actually be quite worried if you don’t know this….however let’s for a minute consider the type of things that different companies might (or might not) want inside a performance appraisal.

  • A review of the past period – often 6 months or more often 12 months – including a competency review – has the appraisee got better in the competencies related to his or her job during the period?
  • A review of objectives and progress – most HR groups want their employees to be set objectives at the start of the period and then the performance appraisal is the formal assessment of progress against those objectives. Objectives can be personal in nature, or can be linked to department, business unit, or company objectives.
  • A review of the next period – setting and agreeing some objectives for the next period. These again can be supplemented during the period if needed.
  • An overall rating – some organisations want an overall rating for the appraisee.
  • A skills review – what skills does the appraisee have that do not directly tie to their current role?

Some organisations might have more than this, but some will have less. Some will separate the objective setting for the following year, and want to put this into a separate area and time. Evaluating a person’s performance in a given year may sound easy, but with management changes happening quite often in large organisations, and changes of role, these can make performance appraisals a complex area to try and handle in the real world, and to try and automate this in software can be even harder.


Benefits of Automating Performance Appraisal Management
For Talent Management what is the implication of a good process here – what are the benefits of automating this area?

  1. Automatic storage of a person’s potential improvement over time.
    Paper records in HR are an administration overhead and time consuming to manage.
  2. Automated management of the workflow process.
    Who does the appraisal or part of the appraisal need to go to and when?
  3. Conformance with regulatory requirements.
    Managing performance appraisals in this way means that the business can much easier conform with any government regulations in the area.
  4. An ability to look wider across the business and report on the critical talent much easier.
    Having this data across the business often means that it is much easier for the business to select talent pools – groups of people who can be accelerated and become the future leaders.
  5. An increase in objectivity.
    Software should allow other people to be involved in the appraisal process for more critical or senior people. This gives the business the ability to have a 360 degree view at appraisal time. Think about these things when you go to companies and talk to them about this.


The PDP and its Relationship with the Performance Appraisal
So now you understand what a performance appraisal is, what is a PDP? A PDP is a Personal Development Plan. At the start of a period (this may be for instance when the performance appraisal for the last year has just been completed), the business will want each user to know what he or she needs to accomplish in the next period. This goals setting can include goals that the individual wants to achieve (personal goals), department goals, business unit goals etc. Goals should be capable of being pushed down through the organisation hierarchy to the individual.

So why would an individual want or need a personal goal? Perhaps they want a promotion or want to move roles into a more senior position. It might be that some of the competencies required to be in this position are ones that the person needs to have training in order to improve his or her rating. Personal goals always need agreement from management but are often a critical element of the PDP.  The PDP is a living breathing and evolving document during the period, and the goals from the PDP then drop into the Performance Appraisal at the end of the period, and the user is formally rated against those goals at that time.

Does this Have an Effect on Compensation?
A pretty obvious question, but one you need to be aware of in software terms. Compensation is often directly or indirectly tied to ratings and scores from performance appraisals. Objectives set for the period often have bonus pay linked to them, and so if you remember the Gartner diagram from my second blog in this series (Talent Management 2: Competencies, Ratings, Scales & Pitfalls) compensation management is a part of Talent Management, and you will sometimes get request from businesses to link the performance appraisal process through into a compensation product.

There is a lot more to Performance Management but that will do for now. A lot to think about – but think of it from the viewpoint of the person who is wanting to buy – what the HR director wants will be different to the CEO, and different to the business unit manager. We’ll discuss that a little more next week.

Talent Management: Terms & 9 Box Reporting

Continuing his series of guest blog posts on talent management, Steve Curtis, EMEA Channel Director at NetDimensions talks terms and 9 box reporting. Confused? Read on.

Terms and 9 Box Reporting
This week I’ve decided to write up a bit on Talent Management terminology as a lighter bite for the week. I’ve gone into some functional depth in the last few weeks and so thought it would be good to maybe lighten things for a week.

Hippos and Hippies
I’ll start to drill into Performance Management in the next few weeks, but before I do I’d like to look at the terms so that when I then talk about them everyone is not confused…

Hippos (actually Hi-Po’s) are High Potentials. High Potentials are people in the business who have been recognised as being possible leaders of the business in the future. I actually found a pretty funny website here http://www.highpotentialssociety.org/Society/society.html for people who want to classify themselves as high potentials – but the reality is that in business it is important to be able to identify those people who have the potential in the future to really drive the business forward. To understand who is a high potential, and to understand more just google the term – you’ll find loads of data about this term.

Hippies (actually Hi-Pe’s) are High Performers. High Performers are people in the business who in their current role are performing very well, and are good at what they do. They will normally be very competent in their job role, and will be getting high scores in their performance appraisals.

9 Box Reporting
It makes sense that a person who is a high performer could also be a high potential – but a high performer might not be a high potential for a number of reasons. Maybe the person is happy where they are and does not want the extra responsibility that comes with a more senior position. Maybe the person is in a deeply technical role where there is no value to the business in moving them further up the organisation.

HR Directors have therefore found a diagrammatic way of dropping people into boxes in a graphical report commonly called a 9 box report. It is a matrix where one axis rates people based on their high potential score and the other axis rates them on their high performance score. I like this diagrammatic view.

9 Box Reporting

As you can see, if you put people into the various spaces in the grid, then you know a bit more what you should do with them. Software systems give the business the ability to rate people as Hippos, Hippies, or both – however I would always remember that the system is just a tool – companies still have to rely on the abilities of their managers to rate individuals – a bad rating because of lack of knowledge can still drop an individual in the wrong box…and this can be detrimental to the business and to the individual.

Businesses try their hardest to retain people in most quadrants, and will try to have their churn (rate at which people leave and join) be of people in the bottom left quadrant.

By the way – two interesting things:

1. There is also a 16 box – where the scales are 4 by 4. However the more boxes the harder the management becomes.

2. I once met a senior HR manager at a UK event who presented on this subject. She spent a lot of her time producing a set of 9 box reports for her 100,000 person organisation. She was very proud of the myriad of excel spreadsheets she maintained…a lot of hard work that modern Talent Management systems should now support.

Talent Pools
I would love to define this this week but I’ve come to the end of this week’s chapter – so let’s talk through Talent Pools next week, and then we’ll move into Performance Management after that.


Talent Management & Competency Assessments

Continuing his series of guest blog posts on talent management, Steve Curtis, EMEA Channel Director at NetDimensions talks about competencies and assessments.

360 Assessment
Competencies and Assessments

Many of us think of assessments as things that are used in learning to assess a user’s understanding of a set of education. Assessments in the Talent Management world are a different beast altogether, and the purpose of this week’s blog is to review assessments in the world of Talent Management.

Last week I talked a bit about competencies – leadership and technical. The critical talent in a business can be the people who are identified as the future potential leaders of that business, but can also be the deep techies, who we can all love to hate, but who at the same time are sometimes the more critical talent of the business. People with the ability to lead effectively are in demand, but some technical abilities can be truly unique and therefore quite often it is the people with technical competencies that can be the critical talent for the business.

At some point each year (and for some businesses and roles at multiple points during the year), the business will want to have a person’s competencies assessed formally. Assessments of this kind normally are not something that you can do via a test – it is not an assessment that we, with our learning backgrounds think of – it is normally more of a subjective measure of the abilities of an individual, and this is where there can be a challenge for the business and for HR.

The 360 degree Assessment

Let’s give a real example of this in action. Fred is a call centre manager, and at a personal level his manager doesn’t really like him much. However he is good at the job, is liked by the people who report into him, and has a good reputation with the customers. In a normal organisation with a pyramid organisational structure, and in a pressured business environment, it might only be his manager that will formally score him against his competencies, and this might cause an issue since his manager doesn’t really like him. More and more businesses and HR are therefore trying to move to a 360 degree assessment model, where Fred is assessed by his manager, by the people who report into him, and by other people, including maybe even the customers who work with him, and the people who work alongside him.

This is called a 360 degree competency assessment, and there is software out there that will do this automatically. The benefit of this approach is that the ratings become more objective and less subjective if the business involves all the right people in the rating of his ability to do the job. Some software will allow the business to weight the scores, so that maybe the manager’s rating counts for 50% of the score, the subordinates total 30% etc….

There is always a negative to this and the gotcha here is that the more people you involve, the more time it takes, and the more admin it needs – paralysis by analysis again can easily rear its ugly head.

Things to think through with assessments

Competency assessments can be as complex an area as the business wants it to be – consider these questions:

1. Should a rater be named on the assessment, or be anonymous? If someone rates you with a poor score would the business want the person being rated to know who it was that gave him that low score. The ability to set a rater as anonymous is sometimes asked for, but both ways can have positives and negatives – anonymous ratings with comments are often constructively more useful as the rater feels more able to be honestly constructive about the rating. However anonymous ratings may not give the person being rated the ability to ask the rater why a rating was given or how they could improve. So there is not a right answer here.

2. How many people should be involved? – the more the better, but too many and you get paralysis through analysis.

3. Should you have different setups for different jobs? – for instance if you have a retail organisation with high turnover and you set the assessment so that everyone is assessed in a 360 degree way, is it right to have a shelf stacker rated in the same way as a senior manager – of course not – so you need to have a flexible approach where 360 degree assessments may only be used for areas of the business and people where it will benefit the organisation.

4. Do you want comments at all, or just ratings? – comments can help but again take longer to put into the system.

5. Should you even involve the extended enterprise? – customers and suppliers – should they be involved at all in rating your people? Their opinion will count for customer and supplier facing people, but do you want to expose them to your internal appraisal systems.

Trends and my thoughts

There are lots of considerations here, and there is no right answer, but to finish off this week with some high level trends and thoughts:

1. There is a movement away from subjectivity towards objectivity.

2. Some organisation wrap the competency assessment into the performance appraisal – but the 360 degree assessment can be done at any time of the year, and often businesses will isolate one from the other.

3. When linking competencies to learning the last thing most organisations want is to have the rating of a person move upwards automatically after the person involved has attended training related to a competency. Businesses are much more interested in seeing that the training has allowed the person to be more effective in that aspect of their job, and so while we often want to link competencies to training so that the business can allocate suitable training based on competency gaps, the business will want to have a period of time then after the training before the 360 assessment to see how the training has affected the competency of their workforce. Some systems allow the business to visualise the uplift in competencies and link this to delivered training and this is one of the “nirvanas” for the L&D department….

Enough for this week….next week I’ll move on to Performance Appraisals – a subject we should all know well.

Talent Management 2: Competencies, Ratings, Scales & Pitfalls

Continuing his series of guest blog posts on talent management, Steve Curtis, EMEA Channel Director at NetDimensions talks about competencies, ratings, scales and pitfalls. 

Another week gone; I can focus back on one of my areas of interest – competencies and use of competency frameworks.

Again – like most of the Talent Management space – the use of competencies by clients will vary, but generally competencies fall into two main categories – technical and functional/leadership.

Fundamental Building Blocks
Understanding competencies in a business means that first you need to understand where and how competencies might be used. They are the glue that joins learning to the other areas of Talent Management and they are a fundamental building block if a business is to have success in this area.

When I say a fundamental building block, if you compare a Talent Management strategy to a large house, then competencies are the foundation bricks that allow you to then construct the rest of the house. Think about it this way…if you assume that Learning is not there purely to put a tick in the box for compliance, and you think about the broader business drivers for a business wanting to deploy learning, then you have to start to think about the business being able to quickly get it’s people well trained at the jobs they do. People in the business who are already well trained (and competent) will want to use training as one of the components to enable them to move upwards in the business. The business will want to use training to fill any gaps in knowledge where they are possibly considering a person for a senior and critical position for the business (this is part of succession planning).
All of these situations first of all require the business to have a defined set of competencies, and without them none of these activities will work.


Gartner’s View of Talent Management
At this point it’s probably worth going back to my blog last week – I said then that there was a fairly simple diagram that I liked about Talent Management – and this is it:

Gartners View of Talent Management

This is Gartner’s view of  Talent Management – and the reason why it’s good to bring it out now is that you can see two things from this: Competencies go across the entire strategy & learning is only one of 7 pillars.

So moving from Learning into Talent is a big step.

Implementing Frameworks
The next questions to think through are:

1. How long does it take to define a competency framework?

2. Who needs to be involved?

3. Do companies sell frameworks?

Unfortunately the answers to the first two are not easy….I spent a full day at Disney in Orlando a couple of years ago sitting in a room in one of their hotels defining and mapping the competencies for 2 fictional jobs that we used for an exercise with about 10 clients. Defining

competencies can take a long time, and you typically need to involve the business leads – the people who know what is needed to do the job well. Therefore there is time and cost involved in defining the framework.
One interesting aspect to question 3 – you will tend to find that a lot of companies sell leadership based frameworks as Leadership is fairly well understood and the competencies of a leader therefore tend to be fairly well defined. However technical competencies are often specific to the business, and often therefore take more time to define – as the business needs to do this from scratch normally.

Paralysis through analysis
HR Directors can be quite critical of competency frameworks – some of them have already gone through one round of trying to implement them and if you’re not careful implementing a framework too deeply can cause paralysis through analysis – the business takes so long defining, and then measuring scores for individuals relative to their job/role that it costs the business too much money and things grind slowly to a halt.

Focus on strengths
Not many systems out there allow businesses to focus on strengths – most systems look at competency gaps – and this tends to make businesses focus on weaknesses and not strengths – I got a lot of feedback in my time from HR Directors who when selecting key Talent wanted to focus on strengths – often the most Talented people can actually be quite annoying people, and they often have some real weaknesses – but this is outweighed by their strengths. So don’t think that competencies and using them is the panacea for everything Talent related….

Competency rating scales
To be most effective each competency has to have an associated rating scale. This then let’s a business rate their people on that scale. Person A might have a rating of 1 out of 5, and person B has a rating of 4 out of 5. Training requirements will differ for person A than person B.

Next week
Next week I’ll talk about ratings for competencies and how these can be done. This will bring us onto 360 degree assessments and performance appraisals.

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