SumTotal Blog

Andrea Berg (8 Posts)

Andrea Berg

Andrea Berg is a Product Marketing Manager at SumTotal Systems. Throughout her career in marketing, Andrea has made product and marketing innovation a priority. When not working, she can be found with her kids, training for a 5k or relaxing at the pool.

What’s in a report?


Anyone working in HR or Learning & Development knows that a lot goes into reports. Often it is how Learning & Development programs justify their existence, their cost and importantly their effectiveness.

The role the information these reports produce is changing and growing in importance. Today, “Analytics is no longer about finding interesting information and flagging it for managers. Now, data is being used to understand every part of a business operation, and analytical tools are being embedded into day-to-day decision making.”

But are the systems you are working with, or in, able to deliver on this? How many times have you wondered why specific functions are not a basic component of either the learning management or human capital management system you toil in on a daily basis?

We wondered about this too.

It’s why when we were looking at ways to enhance our solution, we made sure to address specific areas.

Our SumTotal Talent Expansion Suite updates, which are now generally available, give users and managers some great new reporting tools.

Want to know the number of courses taken by learners?

Now you can. With integrated enhancements, both learners and managers can now track what Skillsoft courses are taken in Skillsoft, advanced learning structures and the Skillsoft Learning App.

Want to limit the number of attempts on a particular learning activity?

Yeah, now you can do that too. In fact, now administrators can set expectations for both the minimum and the maximum number of attempts that can be made on learning activities. Additionally, we’ve also made it easier to manage when either the learning activity expires or the leaner leaves.

Wondering if there is a way to demonstrate program impact?

Absolutely. To support this, we now offer over 40 pre-built KPT measures, delivered either in the dashboards – and now you can also create your own our use one from the three pre-built, or on the domain.

And everything is now mobile.

We know employees feel more productive and engaged when they have workplace mobility. In addition to our extensive learning and performance capabilities available on your mobile device, you can now also access reporting dashboards that are enabled with filtering and exporting capabilities, plus real-time markup and sharing capabilities from your smartphone.

I’m pretty excited about what these additions will mean for you. I’d love to hear some feedback or some suggestions as to what other ways we can make data work for you.

Find out more and see the updates in actions by requesting a demo.

Digital Transformation Hinges on the Least Digital Part of Your Org


Digital transformation is a top priority for any organization positioning itself for future success. Most people don’t need data to prove this – they simply feel it every day in their own work, and in their interactions with the organizations either serving them as customers or working with them as partners.

But if you do need some proof points, look no further than the latest CEO survey by Price Waterhouse Coopers, where digital transformation is a clear and consistent priority, or Gartner’s research illustrating how many organizations are currently working on a digital transformation. Or peruse recent issues of The Harvard Business Review, a bellwether for leadership priorities, where you’ll find a steady stream of articles about the necessity of digital transformation, including this rather interesting one.

Still not convinced?

Then check out these real-world examples of digital transformation, stories being devoured by organizations as they look for best practices and the pitfalls to avoid.

What’s fascinating is that, despite all the discussion of the technologies powering digital transformation, at the heart of it all is the least digital part of every organization: people.

Sure, there’s lots of talk about how digital technologies, especially artificial intelligence, will soon replace humans in the workplace. But we’re simply not there yet.

For now, and the foreseeable future, behind every innovation and organizational change is the unwavering truth that people are still doing the work. And the more talented these people, and the more relevant their skills to the task at hand, the more successful the digital transformation will be.

For some companies – especially “digital native” companies like Google, Amazon, Netflix, AirBnB or whatever the hottest Silicon Valley start-up is this nanosecond – there’s an easy recipe for digital success. Hire the best and brightest new digital talent, pay them a ton of money and excite them with the chance to be part of some “insanely great” work. The same might even be true for a few traditional organizations, companies like GE , as they go through high-profile digital transformations.

But what about companies that aren’t necessarily at the top of the technorati’s employment wish lists? Banks, hotels, industrials, CPG companies, brick-and-mortar retailers, and so on.

How are these companies going to make digital transformation work?

At SumTotal we’ve given this a lot of thought.

We’ve come up with a lot of ideas, ideas best explained by Morne Swart, SumTotal’s VP of Global Product Strategy and Transformation.

Listen here to learn what he can tell you about:

  • What digital transformation means for an organization’s people.
  • Why HR is at the heart of any digital transformation.
  • How the right technology can support and power HR’s success.

The annual review is dead. Long live continuous feedback.


42% of employees want and expect feedback every week. Yep, every week.

The question is, can current processes for performance reviews and forced ratings deliver and meet such expectations?

In most cases, the answer is probably not. Recent Fosway Group research shows that only 44% of respondents believe their performance management process is ready for the modern workforce. This means the majority believe there is work to be done.

The good news is we are seeing change. Companies are attempting to resolve this disconnect.  Mercer’s 2017 Global report reveals that 88% of companies not only made changes to their performance management process in 2016, they expect more to follow. Could the driver for this be the knowledge that organizations who provide in-the-moment coaching create a strengths-based culture which results in higher quality work along with employees who are more engaged and stay longer?

Whatever the reason is, I’m happy to see companies moving in this new direction.

One key change is an appetite for continuous feedback, which is now prevalent in the workplace with 81% reporting that they already have an “anytime feedback” tool in place. Granted, constant feedback isn’t always practical or feasible; but the simple truth is that most employees appear to want regular feedback. Real-time, continuous feedback encourages collaboration, gives development discussions more meaning and provides a process for giving and requesting targeted feedback.

The Mercer report highlights another interesting statistic – 97% of employees say they want to be rewarded and recognized for a wide range of contributions and not for financial or activity metrics alone. How do you achieve this without broadening and redefining the employee review? One way might be to capture real-time feedback that is linked to specific goals and competencies or projects from multiple sources and then tie it directly to the performance review. Again, giving employees what they want – when you can. And with access to continual assessment 24/7 via mobile phones, this is made even easier.

If it is true that the traditional annual review is dying, if not dead, then how or what you replace it with is hugely significant. More often than not, companies are still using or relying on these performance reviews to calculate employee benefits or bonuses and just rate overall value each employee’s contribution brings to the organization.

In large organizations, such calculations are a big deal.

And it will fall to HR to respond. How well HR responds may be determined by the technology at their disposal and if the team possesses the skills to utilize such technology. Best-in-class organizations that use the latest, most innovative HR technology for performance conversations, not only empower their workforce to grow, they give managers the tools required to award pay and promotions.

Want to learn more about what technology is available? Click here for a free demo!

Competency Models and Employee Development – A Perfect Match!


As a manager, I was often asked by my direct reports for help – to tell what them what skills they needed to develop so they could be eligible for a promotion or what they need to do to become a top performer in their current role.

I usually encouraged them to work on those skills in which they were weak; but I realize now what would have been more valuable was if I had competency models – organized and structured paths that I could have used to help these employees both improve their performance and prepare for their next position.

For example, an employee who is currently a sales professional but wants to increase their performance and hopes to eventually become a sales manager, comes to you and asks for guidance. What advice would you give them?

Not sure?

That’s what competency models are for –  now all you have to do is  simply take a look at the competency models for each role – you’ll find that relationship building, product knowledge, strategic planning and decision making are among the competencies recommended for these positions.  Then think of the employee, who you know is really strong on product knowledge and relationship building,  and you offer coaching and feedback so they can develop their strategic planning and decision making skills.

They get the correct career guidance, and you, as the manager, can feel happy that you have provided the relevant L&D opportunities. A win-win.

But competency models aren’t just great for performance coaching, they help organizations unite core talent management functions: learning, performance, succession, and recruiting.  With a common language in place, competency models define what success looks like across all roles and functions.

As the desire for increased development and career mobility continues among employees, it makes good business sense to develop and implement competency models.

And here’s the good news for SumTotal customers – our latest enhancements to the SumTotal Talent Expansion® Suite include new competency capabilities which provide a self-service way to explore competencies for current and future jobs targeted as part of employee career plans. Additionally, our core and job-specific competencies make it easier than ever to identify skill gaps and build personal learning plans which will prepare for the role they want in the future.

With so many benefits to creating and implementing competency models, what is stopping you?

Extend your enterprise to improve customer experience

I had a very interesting experience recently. My home internet service went down and despite doing all the usual- unplug the modem, powering off the computer, – nothing worked. I did a quick check on Twitter – no there was no major outage of my broadband carrier. Now out of options, I dug up their number and called them.  After going through the usual palaver of inputting everything but my shoe size, I finally got to speak to a human.

Extended Enterprise

She was a delight. She talked me through several other possible solutions and after about 10 minutes we had found a resolution to the problem. Not only was I thrilled to be connected again, I also now knew a few more tricks, or how-to’s should this ever happen again. In short, not only did she help get me back online, she had also, in those few short minutes, given me some extremely useful training in their product and impressed me with her knowledge.

This got me thinking. What a great service for all businesses to offer. Not only did I receive excellent customer service, I also feel so confident in the brand and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them, something I rarely do. Market share competition is so fierce companies struggle to differentiate themselves, but simply offering training to customers might just be the ticket. The ‘it’ factor that associates your brand with excellence.

Teach customers how to use your products, guide them through the services available and provide them with the learning that sets them up for success. The benefits are numerous – increased customer retention, reduction in customer support enquiries, and by helping buyers gain value from your product more quickly, it could spark an increase in sales with minimal effort from your sales team.

In our industry, providing training to channel partners, can help them ‘pass it on’ as it were. Now everyone is rising above the market norm, increasing both the value of the product and as a consequence the value of your brand.

So, it’s a win-win for everyone. Back to my situation, I know I was very happy to be back online, and was very happy to overlook the inconvenience the disrupted service caused.

Need more information on how to take this same approach in your company? Read our ebook, “A Roadmap to Superior Customer Experience Through Learning.” It will show you how to apply learning at every phase of the customer life cycle, the benefits you’ll gain, and provides examples of how leading organizations are putting external learning into practice.

Download today  – your customers will thank you tomorrow!

Talent Acquisition Takeaways from HR Tech

The dust has finally settled after HR Tech, one of our industry’s biggest events, and I’ve had time to reflect on some of the recurring themes from the sessions I attended on talent acquisition. The way organizations identify and attract qualified applicants is going through a profound shift… and technology can be a huge differentiator for businesses who want to adapt to the realities of the new job search.

SumTotal Lego Logo at HRTech

People finding jobs vs. jobs finding people

Right now there is a big shift in how candidates look for jobs: We are moving away from people finding jobs to jobs finding people. Organizations can’t just “post and pray” if they want to stay competitive and find the workers that can help them achieve their business goals. Social tools, assessments, video interviewing and other techniques help employers to find the right candidates for their open positions. Several speakers at the conference predicted that talent intelligence, which uses data to find and select the right candidates, will emerge as the next big thing in talent acquisition.


Improving the candidate experience

Analysts and experts agree that there’s a growing need to simplify the candidate experience. Employers need to offer candidates a seamless experience: from discovering the job post to completing the application, participating in interviews, hiring procedures and onboarding, the process new hires go through should feel simple and unified. Many presenters stated that organizations are not focusing on the candidate enough. Employers need to get in front of candidates in the places where they look for jobs and better understand how they look for jobs—which often means a short application process that can be easily done on a mobile device.


Many of our clients have already begun rethinking the way they source qualified candidates—I’m looking forward to seeing even more growth in this area in the coming months.


To learn more about how organizations can better fulfill new hire expectations, check out this report.

3 Tips for Managing Remote Teams

In 2016, it’s anticipated that nearly 63 million employees will do some form of telecommuting. Studies show remote workers are often more satisfied, loyal, less absent, less stressed, and have a higher morale than those who report to an office (50% less likely to quit), which can translate into higher productivity and longer tenures. In addition, a remote workforce draws from wider, more diverse talent pools and can reduce overhead costs. In spite of these benefits, however, managing remote employees may come with challenges. How do you keep remote workers engaged and productive? How do you maintain relationships when team members work remotely? Here are three ideas to use when managing a remote team.


1. Train managers to manage remotely

The first step in preparing a remote team is to train managers for the challenges and benefits of a remote workforce. What software and tools does your organization provide to support collaboration? What expectations will management have for team members? Prepare managers to effectively lead both on and off-site employees.  Ensure you have the right technology for your managers and employees to communicate effectively, including email, chat, video conferencing (like skype or facetime) and phone.

2. Set rules

Groups with remote team members work best when everyone on the team understands expectations. Whether your workforce is in one office, constantly shifting workspaces, or dispersed across multiple sites, set ground rules to support the team. Will you have weekly meetings? Core work hours? Hours that must remain open for collaboration? Knowing how and when is best to connect can help workers feel part of a team, while knowing what’s expected helps prioritize time and focus.

3. Communication is key

Communication will be one of the biggest challenges managers will have working with remote teams.  Encouraging your managers and employees to consistently communicate with each other will be the difference between success and failure. Today’s technologies provide many ways to keep in touch. Video conferencing, instant messaging and collaboration software can help employees stay in touch and feel connected to the team. Determine what methods are best for the team as a whole as well as each staff member. Some people may need a daily check in phone call while others may benefit from a weekly videoconference. Commit to open and consistent communication to keep teams connected.

Allowing people to work remotely can benefit both organizations and employees. For employees, working from home or at another off-site location can cut down on commuting costs and create a more satisfying work–life balance. For organizations, it allows greater reach for talent sourcing, reduces overhead costs, and cultivates employee loyalty, yielding higher performance and retention.

Download this Peer Insight featuring perspectives from HR leaders in a variety of industries to learn strategies for developing on and off-site teams who are connected, productive and successful.

A Holistic Approach to Performance Reviews

What comes to mind when you think of annual performance reviews? Dread? Cold chills? Past performance review processes combined high-stakes conversations and ratings. The result is a process that both managers and employees fear – clearly not the desired outcome. In fact, 53% of employees do not believe performance reviews motivate them to work harder. HR professionals are questioning and changing the way companies measure employee success and communicate both positive and negative feedback. Today organizations are improving the performance review process by taking a holistic approach.

Performance Reviews

What are new trends in the performance review process?

The annual performance review process is evolving. And when you ask employees what they want, 42% want feedback from their managers every week. To meet the needs of their employees some companies have begun  delivering more frequent and immediate feedback. Others are combining old and new practices by keeping extensive annual performance reviews while also providing ongoing, continuous assessments. Some companies are doing away with ratings or simplifying their ratings to indicate only if employee performance is “fit” or “not fit.” Bringing together new and old practices can create a complete and more balanced view of employee performance.


What tools and methods are best for holistic performance reviews?

How can organizations adopt a holistic approach to performance reviews? What tools and methods for evaluating performance work best? Here are questions to consider when moving to a holistic approach to performance:

  1. What are your organization’s key values and goals? Consider aligning performance metrics to support those goals.
  2. What metrics will affect positive change? Do metrics focus on customer service? Collaboration? Financial results? Focus assessment on the metrics that will make the biggest impact.
  3. What tools are available? Develop web-based tools for tracking each step of the process: reviews, ratings, compensation recommendations, and succession and development plans.
  4. How can feedback become part of company culture? Make continuous feedback part of project or department goals. Encourage both in-the-moment praise as well as recommendations for improvement.


At SumTotal, we’ve seen that when managers go beyond simply recommending areas for improvement and employees have access to the learning and content they need to fill those skill gaps, the odds performance will improve increases significantly. Telling employees they need to get better isn’t enough—organizations need to provide the resources that enable them to do so.


Learn more about holistic performance reviews.

Best-in-class companies are using holistic approaches to evaluate employee performance. Many are moving away from the high-stakes ratings and annual conversations and making the overall process more user-friendly for managers and employees. Encouraging immediate feedback and open communication can help transform the review process so that performance evaluation becomes part of company culture and daily activity. Take the anxiety and sweaty palms out of the performance review process and improve business results using a holistic approach.

Download this industry insight to learn how successful organizations are using holistic performance reviews to improve business outcomes.