SumTotal Blog

Brent Colescott (6 Posts)

Brent Colescott

Brent Colescott is the Sr. Director of Business Strategy and Transformation for SumTotal, A Skillsoft Company. With over 20 years experience in the learning and talent fields, he has successfully initiated and optimized online learning platforms and programs during his career in the HR, Utilities and Energy industries. Notable accomplishments include being recognized by WebEx as their “Innovator of the Year” in 2005 and by Skillsoft as the “2007 Learning Leader of the Year.” Brent holds a Master of Education in Administration and Technology and is a former Chairman and Executive Board Member of the Humble ISD Education Foundation.

What the H in HR Really Means

What the H in HR Really Means

We are living in an increasingly non-binary world. I welcome this change. In particular, I look forward to watching HR professionals embrace this idea and apply it to their jobs.

We are all aware of the phenomenal impact technology is having on HR and its ally learning and development (L&D). To say technology is revolutionizing HR and L&D is not an understatement. Apart from the more obvious use cases like recruitment, onboarding and performance reviews, technology is enabling HR to expand its strategic reach.

HR technology now produces such a wealth of data and insight, that HR leaders can drive strategic initiatives.  HR can identify flight risks, coordinate and implement an unprecedented standard of succession planning, and promote career pathing or journeying, whichever you prefer to call it. Plus, it is facilitating employees to learn in the flow of work. Such capabilities were unheard of not that long ago.

What does this mean? It means that because HR now can monitor employee engagement, attrition, capability gaps, and internal skills development, its influence is significant. The bottom line is HR data, and therefore, HR can change the trajectory of their business.

So, what’s the problem?

Perhaps there isn’t one other than the potential in a rush to exalt the wonders and contributions of technology to the profession; we can overlook the industry’s primary benefactors. After all, who does HR serve if not human employees? If we forget that and look to leverage technology solely to improve efficiencies, it means we will have lost sight of our function.

However, here’s where the non-binary approach applies. I recommend we develop a mindset whereby rather than an either-or mentality — human or technology — we build an HR experience that exploits innovation to imbue HR with a most human “experience.”

Making HR about humans again

The first step involves taking a step back. Remember, the best defense is an offense. Organizations must look at their people and determine what they need, what they want, what are their expectations. The next step is assessing the needs of the company. In the current tight labor market, where the shortage of skills is a potential threat, relying on external hires to plug the gaps is no longer viable. Today’s organizations must look to continuously reskill and upskill employees. Plus, this training must take in a broader perspective. It is not just about training employees in their job; it is a more holistic approach to development.  Whether it is equipping employees with the skills to facilitate a meeting, teaching employees how to make presentations or addressing best practices for time management.

However, it doesn’t stop there. Human Resources is also about:

  • Onboarding
  • Compliance
  • Performance
  • Succession

The beauty is that technology serves all these functions. Therefore, ideally, a company can provide the quintessential human experience with the aid of technology. Today, most HR systems cover learning, workforce management and talent management into one seamless system.  The beauty of such a capability is that all the data you need is at your disposal. It is simply a matter of ensuring that the technology works with and for your employees rather than against them.

Why the Amazon Learning Strategy Makes Perfect Business Sense

Why the Amazon Learning Strategy Makes Perfect Business Sense

The news that Amazon plans to spend over $700 million to offer training to 100,000 workers made global headlines. In today’s historically tight labor market, this talent strategy makes perfect sense.  Not only will Amazon position itself as an employer who offers opportunities for professional development, but it will also build a workforce of highly skilled talent.

I regularly speak of the current “HR Perfect Storm,” and Amazon’s approach of combining learning and talent processes is akin to battening down the hatches. By interweaving these processes, organizations stand a better chance of weathering the storm. The good news is that developing an essential learning and talent strategy to combat this market storm is not difficult.

For starters, here are three easy steps that will help HR establish a basic framework for a learning and talent strategy.

1. Assess

It is easy to fall into the trap of assuming that everyone in an organization is on the same page. In my experience, this is rarely the case. To redress this disconnect, begin by examining the factors that influence the way employees view the company learning programs. It is critical to know where everyone stands to understand how best to move forward. Leverage a Survey Monkey questionnaire or similar tool to assess your team or stakeholders. Within the poll, make sure to have a narrow scope and use standard terms for clarity. I find that tenure and individual roles within the organization contribute to varying perspectives when assessed.

2. Align

The next step is the most important. Recently I had the pleasure of helping several leading organizations align their talent and learning strategy. What I learned from these experiences is that companies must take special care to define the parameters of common terms for any talent development plan. Start by reusing the survey/questionnaire but in a group setting where respondents can only submit one answer. Listen carefully as the dialogue during this time is gold and generates highly valuable insight to begin the process of alignment. Once the team can honestly assess their current state, calibration starts.

3. Execute

After the alignment exercise, it’s time to determine how best to proceed. Utilize the alignment discussions to identify one or two themes to focus your efforts. Look for areas that will establish a solid footing for your strategy, not necessarily the most visible or exciting. Don’t try to change everything all at once. Two areas that I see as the most fundamental and most significant indicators of success are governance and change management.

I also encourage organizations to leverage the Skillsoft Organizational Maturity Index. This framework offers a practical methodology for aligning learning, talent, and workforce management. It is an invaluable framework designed to assist the HR function pivot in the right direction to drive tangible business impact. By utilizing the maturity index, an organization can assess their progress and understand the milestones that demonstrate advancement to the next stage. Skillsoft provides a complimentary online assessment that diagnoses a company’s present stage and offers a playbook of recommendations to ascend to the next phase.

The key takeaway is that the intent for aligning your learning and talent strategies is to be deliberate in your outcomes. Organizations in 2019 cannot afford to be “coincidental” in their learning and talent strategies.

For more HR and talent development insight, please check out my weekly deliberations on my web site: www.brentcolescott.com.

Why Learning is Now at the Heart of HR

Why Learning is Now at the Heart of HR

The role of L&D within an organization is increasingly recognized as essential for business sustainability and critical to strategic growth. For an organization to be successful in the rapidly changing marketplace, people development must be a top priority in your HR strategy.

The power of modern learning and development (L&D)

Employees today demand learning opportunities delivered how and when they need it most. It is also expected that the learning experience will match what they experience in their personal lives. For the learning to accomplish the business objectives, it should be targeted to:

  • Driving immediate impact with onboarding that reduces time to productivity
  • Developing both hard and soft skills, making employees more effective in their current role
  • Addressing critical areas of compliance and safety to build safe, inclusive, and compliant environments for employees to thrive. Limiting financial exposure to your organization
  • Leadership development, regardless of an employee’s level. In today’s project/team-based structures, every employee will take a leadership role, whether it be formal leadership or leading a project.
  • Collaborative learning that transfers knowledge across your multi-generational workforce
  • Building digital literacy, ensuring each employee keeps pace with technology innovation
  • Allowing employees to self-direct learning for aspirational career goals helping drive up retention

Measuring the ROI of learning

In 2018, US businesses spent $87.6 billion on training initiatives. HR Leaders are under pressure to measure the return on the organization’s investment in employee development. Technology is making it easier to record and track the contributions of L&D to the company’s success. However, it is incumbent upon HR to advocate with the C-suite that the real value of people development impacts both the top and bottom-line of your balance sheet.

Research by Deloitte shows that internal employees can develop the same skills as an external hire in 9-12 months at one-sixth of the cost. Businesses can save resources, increase engagement, and preserve company culture and knowledge with robust in-house talent development strategies. Additionally, providing employees a clear path to learning, development, and career growth has a direct impact on retention and engagement, leading to a more productive workforce.

No organization can overlook the importance of compliance within their learning execution. While it is often seen as the most perfunctory of employee learning opportunities, a workforce that isn’t up-to-date with compliance training can cost the company dearly through hefty fines, reputational damage, or both.

With these elements in mind, HR should be asking the following questions:

How much time is each employee spending on learning per month, per year? What about the entire organization, on average?

How has training completion and learning opportunity affected turnover? Are well-trained employees staying longer?

Are employees taking advantage of the educational opportunities available to them? What is the impact on the performance of those that have?

 

If the answers to these questions reveal that your organization is not optimizing learning, then I recommend reading SumTotal’s latest e-Book, Learning is the Heart of HR, and the Key to Business Success.

Written by Morne Swart, Vice President of Global Product Strategy at SumTotal, this e-Book details:

  • Why old-school L&D no longer cuts it, and how to modernize your strategy
  • How HR can lead and bring learning to the forefront creating a radical cultural change
  • Key insights on why learning and internal development makes financial sense, and how to communicate this benefit to decision-makers and leaders within your organization
  • The cost of ignoring your people’s hunger to learn and be challenged

 

Is Your Organization Worried about the Falling Unemployment Rate?

Is Your Organization Worried about the Falling Unemployment Rate?

The current US unemployment rate is at a historic low. Which, although in the main is excellent news, it does present significant challenges for employers as they scramble and compete with each other for the same ever-dwindling pool of talent.

Recently I contributed to TalentCulture’s #WorkTrends podcast + Twitter chat hosted by Meghan M. Biro to talk about this very subject and offered her listeners advice about how learning and development can fix this problem. It’s a topic that is very close to my heart and one I encounter on an almost daily basis as I travel around the globe in my capacity as Senior Director of Business Strategy and Transformation at SumTotal.

Why L&D is the answer to the talent shortage question

The bottom line is organizations must prioritize learning and development to retain current talent and attract new talent. This emphasis on education is not a new solution; many companies have a tradition of investing in their people. What is new is that such investment is no longer an optional, “nice to have” benefit to working at your company. No, in today’s tight labor market, it is essential that enterprises have systemic, structured career development. I think soon we will see within an organization clear and structured career pathways similar to the current mapping app must of us have on our phones.

A new emphasis on the employee experience

Another consequence of this new employee-driven labor market is a renewed or shift in focus on the employee. If this is not happening within your organization this year, you may find it tougher than ever to recruit and retain workers in the future. I’ve already seen several advertisements for an SVP of People Experience, a role that simply did not exist before and reinforces the emphasis and value employers are placing on their employees.

What can organizations do to meet employee expectations?

For starters, employers need to accept that learning is more than setting up a catalog within an LMS; developing talent is more than ensuring annual performance reviews take place; and managing the workforce is more than a series of time allocation activities/making sure your employees clock in on time. These functions must work together in, ideally, perfect harmony.

Skillsoft researched over 6,700 organizations and 45 million employees in 160 countries to gather real-world data upon which to design a blueprint for companies to use when bringing the siloed areas of learning, talent and workforce management together to prepare for this new employee-centric future. The Skillsoft Organizational Maturity Index is a practical guide that assists companies in aligning their infrastructure and provides concrete stepping stones to reach higher levels of excellence. By utilizing the maturity index, an organization can assess their progress and understand the milestones that demonstrate advancement to the next stage. Skillsoft provides a complimentary online assessment that diagnoses a company’s present stage and offers a playbook of recommendations to ascend to the next phase.

The 5 stages of growth

Achieving the results of a mature learning strategy is a journey. Benchmarking, both formally and informally, helps identify the methods and actions that will make a difference. Through research and hands-on experience, Skillsoft has identified five stages of growth:

Stage 1: Disparate learning, talent, and workforce functions; culture is hierarchical and unengaging.

Stage 2: Initial coordination between learning, talent, and workforce functions; burgeoning executive interest in employee engagement and culture.

Stage 3: Learning, talent, and workforce functions merge; culture is very people-centric.

Stage 4: HR is a core strategic decision maker; engaging, agile organizational culture

Stage 5: Self-developing ecosystem; a highly sought-after culture.

Measuring success and growth

Skillsoft has nine indicators they use to measure success around these five stages. What is interesting to note is that so far, most of the companies assessed are at stage two. In a way, it’s like the idea is beginning to catch on, leadership is starting to make the connection and the relevance of this connection, between the areas. Once this occurs, the shift to stage three happens at a faster pace.

 

The time for reskilling is now

Here’s a question to ask yourself – if an employee at your company was learning a new skill and had some professional development happening onscreen, would they feel the need to hide the learning if someone from leadership or HR passed by? If the answer is yes, then perhaps it’s time to re-examine your company’s culture. HR needs to link training and performance. Employees are hungry for learning and development. It is your responsibility to ensure each person sees the potential and path for progression. Otherwise, you risk them leaving your organization for new career opportunities. The idea of L&D as something for after-hours is obsolete.

Other changes the future will bring

  • HR data will get better: HR will finally get the data they are looking for to do their job thoroughly.
  • Employees are like a sports team: We will begin treating employees as team players and move people around to where they are needed the most.
  • The human factor: Despite the automation of many tasks and functions, at the end of the day, humans still serve a purpose. However, this will also include new skills, so again it as about preparation and training.

 

Make sure to join me on my next TalentCulture #WorkTrends podcast, September 13th at 1:30 p.m. EST, where I will be talking about my latest white paper: Putting the Human Back in HR. The podcast will be followed by a #WorkTrends Twitter chat Wednesday, September 18th.

Perspectives19: 20 Years in the Making

Ron Hovsepian discussing the future of work at Perspectives19

Well, it’s 2019 and another Perspectives is in the books.  But this wasn’t just another event, another year.  This year marked our 20th Perspectives.  While trying not to feel too old about this, I’m proud to say I have attended 18 of the past 20 events.

This year’s event saw many milestones: the 20th Anniversary, our opening keynote from our Executive Chairman, Ron Hovsepian, an articulation of our new strategy, and the introduction of innovative technology. As a Skillsoft and SumTotal event, we have truly moved to a point where customers and partners are an essential part of the strategy that influences our solutions.  It was great to connect with many other colleagues I’ve come to know over the years attending this event.

If you’ll indulge me, let’s take a brief step back to see the journey to today.  I can recall one of my first Perspectives events in New Orleans, right around the time of the SmartForce merger.  Elliott Masie was a keynote speaker and at the conclusion of his speech, he asked for any questions from the audience.  There was an awkward silence so I mustered up the nerve to ask the first question.  Can’t recall exactly what it was, but I can say it was rewarded with a free pass to his Tech Learn, now Learning, event.

Two of my most memorable Perspectives I attended as a customer occurred in 2005 and 2007, both at the Green Valley Ranch Resort in Henderson, Nevada.  In 2005, I arrived late to the event and was informed that the hotel was sold out.  Not to worry, I would be provided a suite for the night.  What followed was my introduction to a 3,000 sq. ft. suite with its own pool, and pool table!  You could say we had two customer evening events that year.  My other fond memory in 2007 and winning the “Skillsoft Learning Leader of the Year Award.”

Over the years Perspectives has seen many changes in location, attendance, management, and customer evening events.  Speaking with attendees at this year’s event, there was again that sense of nostalgia for the past 20 years, but also an excitement as we see the possibilities for the next 20.  The one thing that has been constant is the amazing networking and comradery of its attendees.  Not just for the product information, but also for the insight that an industry leader has on the broader landscape of training and development.

Customers have always had unprecedented access to the senior leadership of both companies to discuss their needs and identify ways to grow both product lines.  As a former customer and now employee, this has always been one of my favorite events to attend each year.  Even as a young manager, I was thrilled to have had substantial conversations with both the CEO and COO of Skillsoft.  I’m honored to say that both had a direct impact on my decision to become a part of this organization and consider them friends to this day.

It is evident that Perspectives has driven product development for both Skillsoft and SumTotal through feedback from the customer base.  Our industry has changed so much as the role of learning has taken on new significance with the development of skills as they related to career development and advancement.  Perspectives continues to be an event that brings together new professionals to the field with seasoned attendees who love to discuss the “art of the possible.”

5 Hiring Trends HR Must Consider in This Tight Labor Market

 5 Hiring Trends HR Must Consider in This Tight Labor Market

2018 ended on a high note for US job seekers. Over 300,000 jobs were added, and after ten years of minor improvements, wages rose 3.2%.  Furthermore, the US is currently enjoying historically low unemployment rates. In fact, “2018 was a year that shifted more power to workers,” says Josh Wright, chief economist at iCIMS.

These employment figures are great news for individuals and the economy. For HR professionals it means a competitive labor market, and unless your recruitment strategies are on the ball, it could spell trouble.

I’ve worked in the learning and talent industry for over 20 years, and the recruitment challenges and changes facing HR are some of the toughest I have ever seen. Both technology and how it has completely disrupted the talent acquisition space coupled with the current job market mean anyone with recruitment responsibilities must understand and prepare for what’s happening in 2019.

Here are my top five picks for the changes we can expect to see in the hiring process over the next twelve months.

#1 New recruitment tactics

Recruiters will need to think outside the box and use non-traditional hiring practices to combat the scarcity in available talent pools.  I’m talking about the introduction, or in some cases the rise, of referral incentives, revised “minimal standards” (i.e., applicants will no longer need to have a college degree to apply), increased use of LinkedIn as a source for talent, “One-Click Applications,” video interviewing and perhaps even the beginning of the end of the paper resume.  I’m also now seeing jobs get posted on corporate Twitter accounts that have direct links to the application for the position. Recruiters realize the easier they can make it to apply for a job, the higher the chance they have to lure talent away from other organizations.

#2 HR will adopt a new approach to align with new hires 

HR must begin to recognize that it will have to change the way it operates. Part of this means looking internally and addressing its own changing needs through offering more flexibility around the traditional 9-5 workday, using remote workers, replacing or updating old HR systems to gain efficiencies and reduce administrative burdens. It also applies externally and includes the more “human” type interaction as new workers bring new challenges. One CHRO specifically told me that they are in the position of helping new employees open bank accounts and provide more interpersonal skills training (i.e., how to facilitate a meeting). In some organizations, the idea of “adulting” as a development opportunity is rising fast.

#3 A much greater use of artificial intelligence (AI)

AI might just become HR’s best friend. Not only will it provide greater clarity and enable HR to identify flight risks and stagnant performers it can also generate a more real-time analysis of the existing workforce and thereby assist HR in anticipating any potential labor or skill shortages.  This isn’t a one-sided proposition either.  Candidates can also leverage AI capability with a growing number of services that use AI to write and adapt resumes for better visibility with recruiters and search bots.  Additionally, we will see the usage of AI as a way to identify talent.  For example, AI can help recruiters make job advertisements more targeted by putting the ads in front of the right people at the right time based on their browser history.

#4 Companies will look internally to fill talent gaps

Upskilling and increased employee engagement are going to be huge in 2019 as organizations look to build metaphorical walls around their talent to avoid looking externally.  Apart from the fact that it is costlier to hire externally, upskilling provides a great way to invest in talent and show the company’s interest in developing its employees, which aids in talent acquisition.

#5 Video interviewing will become the new norm

Interviewing candidates via video is on the rise.  Time is now a more precious commodity than ever before, and organizations are reluctant to impose time-consuming multiple rounds of interviews on employees. It is also an attempt to increase the level of the certainty of fit before bringing candidates on-site.

SumTotal is acutely aware of the pressures facing HR as it works to attract talent in this jobseekers’ market. Our Talent Acquisition Solution now offers the essential tools and capabilities to ensure companies are streamlining and maximizing all their recruitment and onboarding processes. Want to see just what is available? Request a demo to see how SumTotal’s Recruiting and Onboarding work to help you find the talent you need.