SumTotal Blog

Tara O’Sullivan (7 Posts)

Tara O’Sullivan

In her role as Chief Creative Officer for Skillsoft, Tara ensures that everything we do at Skillsoft and especially our digital technology strategy, presents our brand, our voice and our vision consistently and authoritatively. Tara has extensive experience in using product marketing, branding and driving strategic growth. Tara oversees the content production business and corporate marketing. Tara has over 23 years' experience in B2B technology marketing including leadership positions in Oracle, IONA Technologies, SAS and TES Global. She has an MA in International Marketing from University College Dublin.

The Winds of Change

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Perspectives 2018 just wrapped.

What can I say?

I’m exhausted, need a sugar and caffeine detox, have almost, but not quite lost my voice, but I feel more exhilarated and energized than ever.

The winds swooping across Vegas may have knocked over a glass of wine or two and driven many a person to regret their clothing choices, but I saw them as refreshing and heralding a much-desired change in the way we view corporate learning and talent management.

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Josh Bersin spoke of a renaissance in learning and reminded us that while automation of work may frighten some CEOs, the truth is we have nothing to fear if we grab the opportunity by the proverbial horns and rise to the challenge.

And it is a challenge. Yes, employment rates are up, wages are up, but productivity is down. The workplace is considered the biggest source of stress in America, 1 in 6 Americans now relies on drugs to get asleep and we are all now living and working longer than ever before. Can learning help alleviate some of these concerns? Yes, but we are given so little time for learning – on average 24 minutes per week – literally making every second count.

Organizations must now answer this call and examine their learning solutions. Is both micro and macro learning offered? What about opportunities for practice? Leaners have spoken and said they want learning that’s personalized, adaptive and readily available, which means they want the learning to come to them rather than having to take the time to seek it out. It’s learning in the flow of work, on demand. What you have to ask is what do you have or offer at your organization?

To me, this is where it gets exciting. This pressure to match demand with need, made even more pertinent by the fact that hiring from within is cheaper making investing in your own talent more critical than ever, is when we really begin to separate the wheat from the chaff. As Josh enumerated the ways we must deliver learning, I found myself repeatedly nodding my head. We’ve got this, from Percipio ELSA to the latest enhancements to the SumTotal Talent Expansion Suite, Skillsoft and SumTotal are not just reacting to this change, we’re a step ahead. The last two years of investment and transformation within our organization is paying off. Now we’re in the unique and enviable position that we can give you the tools, the power, and the means to transform your learning and development opportunities for all your employees.  As Chad Gaydos, our COO, put it to everyone, the real issue now is – are you ready?

If you are in any way uncertain about your future, or if you are ready for the future, then you need to look no further than Andy Cunningham. Her keynote reminded us all that to remain relevant and to succeed it is necessary that every organization define its unique role in the marketplace compellingly and differently. To fail to do this means a fate similar to Kodak, Toys “R” Us and the railroads. To assist with this, Andy offers a guide, a series of 12 steps that once taken will provide the material for you to establish your organization’s identity and why you matter now.

After Andy, we heard from Apratim Purakayastha (AP), our Chief Technology Officer (CTO), and Mark Onisk, our Chief Content Officer (CCO). AP showed off not only his impressive dance moves but also ELSA and Percipio in all its customizable, out-of-the-box curated content glory, at one stage even talking to Alexa! Percipio is the number one consumer-led learning experience platform, and it really does bring learning to a whole new level.

Percipio ELSA is a great example of cutting-edge technology being used to disrupt a market. Percipio ELSA dramatically improves the user experience by offering learning where they are, when they want it and how they want it. If you want quick snippets, a deeper dive, video, audio or text, it is at your fingertips. It used to be that immediate access was one-click-away. Percipio ELSA sets a new standard by enabling embedded learning. You never leave your work to learn. That’s a game changer,” said Todd Maddox, Ph.D., Learning Analyst at Amalgam Insights, Inc.

Mark then took to the stage to showcase our content products – including our new Skillsoft Leadership Development Program, our new Digital Transformation series and our IT Skills and Certification Training. We have worked hard over the past 12 months to make sure that the learning we offer ensures employees achieve their fullest potential and organizations benefit accordingly.

My colleagues have spoken to these products directly, but here’s Heide Abelli explaining why our new Digital Transformation courses are game-changing and will become the core of your transformation.

When Wendy Sachs, our third and final keynote speaker, took to the stage the atmosphere in the room visibly changed. Her unbridled passion infused the room, and the audience soaked up her infectious spirit en masse. Wendy urged us all to get comfortable being uncomfortable, to not see failure as a death knell, to stop internalizing it and instead see it as proof of reliance and staying power. She also wants women to stop saying sorry and to speak up for one another. She also encourages women to stop using shrinker words, words like “just” or “actually” as they devalue or diminish what you are saying – say it strong and with confidence.

It was then Innovation Awards time. We recognized 15 winners in six categories for using Skillsoft and/or SumTotal’s products and services to impact real organizational change, fuel the success of their talent, and enhance employee engagement. A hearty congratulations to Accenture, ASAE (The American Society for Association Executives), Capgemini, comScore, Defense Security Services, Domtar, DXC Technology, Florida Blue, General Motors, Global Knowledge, HealthcareSource, Heber Sambucetti, LexisNexis Legal & Professional, Lloyds Banking Group, and Moneris. All of these organizations demonstrated success, innovation and expertise in learning and development, talent management, and/or workforce management.

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After lunch, it was time for the breakout sessions, and it’s always great to hear our customers and partners speak about how they are using Percipio, Skillsoft and/or SumTotal. Again, there were many to attend, but there are two I want to mention. The first is Enabling Cutting Edge Career Pathing with SumTotal given by Derek Blake of PSAV, a man whose infectious enthusiasm is most refreshing. In this session, Derek spoke about how PSAV overhauled their approach to career development to build a clear and structured foundation that develops employees, making them a match for a new job even before they have applied for it.  This means creating new job descriptions for each role within the company and ensuring that it lists the specific competencies, specific skills and the specific certificates or professional qualifications required for a particular role. This makes it easier for employees to see what they need to achieve so they can advance within the company and gives the company a clear picture of what employees are the best fit for internal transfers. In other words, a win-win for all.

On Friday, which was again a morning of breakout sessions, I went along to hear how Moody’s developed and implemented a Digital Transformation program. Clive Swift, VP CIO office, gave a comprehensive, step-by-step, overview of how he and his team accomplished this. All those in attendance were rewarded for staying for what was the last session of the conference. It was quite impressive to hear Clive explain how they managed this project. From the beginning, everything was meticulously planned and the seven streams – Digital Transformation, Agile, DevOps, Cloud, Practical Architecture, Security and Customer Centered Design – chosen for a foundational program were offered in a multi-modal format. Each stream was delivered via a combination of learning options. For example, DevOps, was available via a combination of eLearning, video, ebook, books, with a DevOps handbook particularly popular amongst learners. All streams included knowledge testing and as learners completed the entire program they were awarded with a certificate and a shout out at the Town Hall. Clive also gave us everything we needed to know about how to promote such a program, and again it was impressive to hear him explain just how many different methods Moody’s used.

2018 is our 19th Perspectives, and our biggest and best one to date. While the unseasonably strong winds did mean we had to move our pool party indoors, not once but twice, I see them as the portentous harbinger of the changes happening in the L&D world. A change long overdue and one Skillsoft and SumTotal are fully prepared to embrace.

I hope all those who attended enjoyed the event as much as I did, or at the very least left knowing more than they came with and that all got home safely. Here’s just a snapshot of what went on in Vegas.

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Perspectives 2018: The Age of Learning On-Demand

 

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Instant gratification takes too long.”  — Carrie Fisher

I love that we live in an age where almost everything is available on demand. The idea that we are still restricting learning opportunities makes absolutely no sense. We know that employees want to access knowledge when they need it and not at some pre-appointed date that may or may not be convenient or help in the completion of current tasks.

It’s why we developed Percipio ELSA, our new frictionless learning browser plugin, which brings all the power  of Percipio to the learner, right where they are and when they need it.

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This shift from “taking” training to “seeking” information is now the driving force behind the delivery of learning and the time is ripe for our industry to explore what this metamorphosis means for HR, for L&D and organizations at large.

Perspectives, our annual conference, is the ideal venue for this conversation. And as this is our 19th Perspectives conference, we’ve gathered together a host of leading experts to ensure this subject gets the attention it warrants. We want everyone who attends to leave with both a deep understanding of the seismic shifts happening within our industry and importantly equipped with the knowledge to thrive and excel in this new, and exciting, world.

Leading the way is Josh Bersin, principal and founder of Bersin by Deloitte, and a vocal advocate of on-demand learning, of giving people what they need to learn, perform, and grow on the job. His keynote on “Learning in the Flow of Work” will show how micro-learning, macro-learning, and adaptive learning have come together to make learning in the flow of work really happen for an organization.

Andy Cunningham, author Get to Aha!: Discover Your Positioning DNA and Dominate Your Competition, founder and president of the Cunningham Collective, will address the importance of understanding positioning to make strategic decisions on branding, messaging and corporate values in her presentation, “What’s Your Positioning DNA? What Does it Tell You About Your Company, Your Positioning and Your Success?”

Wendy Sachs, author of Fearless and Free: How Smart Women Pivot and Relaunch Their Careers, will give us some practical guidance and lessons and teach us how to redefine our skills and our roles in the current climate of market and organizational change.

Speaking of organizational change, recent research suggests that Employee Experience is slowly replacing Employee Engagement, and we see it as part of our duty to enable our customers to facilitate this change within their organizations. Many of our breakout sessions will focus on dealing with how to map out this journey – from talent acquisition to onboarding – and how to do this in a way that aligns with employee expectations.

Once a new employee is hired, how then can you guarantee a positive employee experience? Partly through an active and robust culture of compliance and partly through leaders. This is why leadership development is now just huge and why we are reinventing how to conduct it. The traditional setup whereby a select few are given leadership training on a three day facilitated offsite, is no longer relevant. Today we must provide for the democratization of leadership – everyone, regardless of level should have access to leadership training to make them more effective as a manager. Everyone must be able to lead a cross-functional group for a specific length of time, and we need to give people the training so they can succeed. We need to ensure that leaders, at all levels of the organization, are prepped.

Perspectives is a unique event bringing together people from every facet of an organization; it isn’t just for L&D professionals – it is now important that everyone within an organization is aware and informed about our industry and what major trends they can expect to see in the coming months. The collective levels of experience, expertize and skills in any one room is reason alone to attend. Nothing beats hearing how others have dealt with a challenge and found a working solution.

Perspectives is a global event, so in May we will host shorter versions in the UK, India, and Australia. I’m personally very excited that when we are in Sydney, Code like a Girl founders Ally Watson and Vanessa Doake will speak about involving women in STEM. Rajeev Peshawaria, author of Open Source Leadership, will also keynote. As well as being a best-selling author, Rajeev has served as the Chief Learning Officer of both Coca-Cola and Morgan Stanley.

The next few months are busy, and while I’m not a huge fan of airports or long flights, I am looking forward to meeting customers from all over the world and checking in with each as we all strive to succeed in these instantly gratifying times.

 

Active Shooter Training – Now Free to All to Help Save Lives

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This is hard to write.

On Valentine’s Day I was watching the news in my hotel room after a very successful Sales Kick Off in Atlanta and watched with horror as the tragedy in Parkland, Florida unfolded.  As a company, we had been planning a marketing campaign with respect to our new active shooter course, so I contacted our team and we put a hold on our plans and started thinking about how we could help.

We wanted to do something, but it’s hard to know the right thing to do in the moment.

It’s hard because families are shattered.    Hard because as a parent I cannot conceive of the unimaginable pain the parents of the people killed are experiencing.  Hard because the frequency of these tragedies is making us numb (this is the second time we have pulled an active shooter campaign because of an actual shooting).  Hard because as an organization, any effort or sentiment expressed might be misconstrued as opportunistic, self-serving, exploitative or in bad taste.

Nonetheless, like many others, we want to help – and doing nothing is not an option.

We can no longer offer our condolences and little else.

We can no longer feel powerless.

As I watch the young women and men of Parkland take the initiative and take a stand and be heard, I am in awe of their courage, their bravery.

I think change is on its way.  In the meantime, I believe we at Skillsoft can help, and like all good corporate citizens, we have a responsibility to do something.  To contribute in some way to ensure the safety of our children, of our employees, of everyone, by making available the knowledge we have regarding how best to protect, respond and react in this kind of unthinkable situation.

This is why we have decided to make our Active Shooter training free to all – every school, workplace, and organization across the globe.

You can watch the course here, and refer to the additional resources – infographic, webinar and assessments on this page, which we think can help save lives.  We think everyone can benefit from the knowledge we are sharing, so please feel free to make others aware.

I saw a sign from the walk-out on 15 March that a student wrote that said it best, “One death is one too many.”  We hope everyone feels the same.

 

 

Let It Go: Why We Need To Change the Stories We Tell

 

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Stories are powerful teaching tools.

Our brains, research tells us, are hardwired to understand and learn from stories; that we instinctively are drawn to the messaging, and we internalise and “get it” is a most basic human trait. Stories are our earliest form of learning.

But if this is the case, we need to change the stories we tell our children. We keep indoctrinating each new generation of girls and boys, at least those in the West, with stories that define particular, very narrow gender roles that in today’s world simply do not belong.

Think of it – of all the “classic fairy tales,” those bedtime stories we love to read to our little ones in the hope that not only would they drift off to sleep, they would also instil in them values, a passion for reading and nurture a vibrant and historical imagination.

I’m talking Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and a whole heap of other ‘classics’ that do our young girls and boys a huge disservice.

Take Cinderella for example. I recently saw a video showing this story but merely changing the gender. Now it’s the story of a young boy mistreated by his evil stepfather and evil stepbrothers. After his fairy godfather magically transformed the boy, he goes to the ball and meets and falls instantly in love with the dashing young princess only to make a midnight dash sans a shoe. Naturally she must pursue the owner of the shoe and her heart and so ensues a search of the kingdom for the foot and its owner that the shoe fits. Lo and behold she does, the lovers are reunited and are destined to live a happy and fulfilling long life together.

Somehow that just doesn’t work and is not something we’d read to our little ones – boys or girls. Yet substitute a princess for a prince and somehow we happily read it repeatedly to our girls. Not only that, we gladly let them spend endless hours watching the story played out in bold, bright colours, clearly establishing for them at that most impressionable young age, that girls are for saving and boys are the saviours.

And just when you might be about to say but hey those stories are ancient, things are different today we get this report.

A study carried out by The Guardian and Nielsen, the market research company, on the 100 most popular children’s picture books of 2017 revealed:

  • Lead characters were 50% more likely to be male than female
  • Male villains were 8 times more likely to appear than female villains
  • Over the course of each book characters who spoke were 50% more likely to be male
  • Male characters outnumbered female characters in almost half the top 100 stories

Even when the characters aren’t human, females don’t fare any better.

Whenever an author revealed a creature’s sex, it was 73% more likely to be male than female. And the males were more typically embodied as powerful, wild and potentially dangerous beasts such as dragons, bears and tigers, while females tended to anthropomorphise smaller and more vulnerable creatures such as birds, cats and insects.

Lauren Child, the current Children’s Laureate,  has this to say about girls’ roles in modern books and movies: “If boys get the starring roles in books – both as the good and bad protagonists – and girls are the sidekicks, it confirms that’s how the world is and how it should be. It’s very hard to feel equal then.”

While all this might seem a tad depressing, I can’t help but think of the phenomenon that was Frozen. Yes, that movie with the singing snowman and not one but two female leads who not only speak, they sing and dance and all while making around $1.2 billion at the box office. The sequel is due to have Elsa fall in love with a woman. The first openly gay princess may actually happen before 2020! And in the meantime, we have to buy our girls books like the wonderful Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls.

Today it’s International Women’s Day. I usually dread this day.

I fail to see how gathering up all the women who work for your company and posting a trite “We couldn’t do it without you” is empowering. In fact, it’s condescending and patronizing. Imagine if we collected all the people of a particular ethnic or racial group and took a photo of them and said the same thing! This would never be an appropriate social post. But somehow, on International Women’s Day, it is ok to corral all the females, take a picture and post some platitudes.

Well, no more.

I believe with all the current #MeToo movements, now more than ever, we need a new message. We need to tell new stories that teach right from the very beginning that women and men deserve to be treated and represented equally. For all of us.

 

2017 APAC Perspectives

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When we were deciding the theme for this year’s conference we talked to both our customers and our team to try and get a sense of what’s ‘hot’ right now – what are the issues and the topics the industry is buzzing about.

Turns out we are all looking to the future and there is a sense of curiosity and anxiety around it, what it will bring, what organizational learning will look like and what the worker of the future will expect from their employer.

This led us to ‘Step into the Future of Learning and Talent’ as our theme and it is one we think is particularly relevant given how consumer-led content, technology, gamification, virtual reality and Gen Z are dramatically changing the way we approach learning and talent today.

So, what can you expect at APAC Perspectives on June 1?

We will be hearing from several our customers including the National Disability Services (NDS), Australia’s peak body for non-government disability service organisations, who represent more than 1100 non-government service providers who will discuss how they are using our platform to enable them to offer training capabilities to all their members.

I am looking forward to hearing what Michael McQueen, named in 2015 Australia’s Keynote Speaker of the Year, has to say about emerging trends shaping society and culture and how it impacts business decisions.

And finally, there will, as usual, be plenty of opportunities for you to network with your peers and learning professionals from the region. Our team of learning experts will also be  on hand to demo our new technology, show off our new content and offer their expertise to help you answer your most pressing questions.

Register, here.

Join Us at the 2017 India Perspectives

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Stepping into the Future of Learning and Talent is the theme of our 2017 Perspectives conference this year.

What does that mean and why did we choose it?

Arguably, it could mean many things. But for us, as the leading provider of eLearning, we feel it is our duty to ensure our customers are prepared. Now while we can’t prepare you for absolutely everything, we can prepare you for the future workplace, the future worker, the future learner.

Let me assure you that the future looks different. Change is happening on every front: from consumer-led content and personalised technology, to gamification, virtual reality, and the arrival of Gen Z.

It is a future that will present people working in L&D and talent management with challenges, but challenges that can be easily met – if you’re prepared.

To ensure you are prepared, we’ve put together an agenda that encompasses all these areas and is filled with expert thought and insight into not only what to expect, but how to meet these expectations.

For starters, our Executive Chairman, Bill Donoghue, will give an overview of the changes we have made to our content, systems, and platforms over the past 12 months and how we plan to continue this growth in the future.

He will be followed by Apratim Purakayastha (AP), our CTO, who will discuss in greater detail our technology. Potoula Chresomales, SVP Product, will unveil Percipio, our new and exciting learning experience, while Bill Docherty, SVP Product, will talk everyone through the new SumTotal Future Roadmap.

Then, we will have a panel discussion moderated by Melissa Ries, VP & GM, APAC on Is Your Talent Future Ready and include Damodar Padhi, VP & Global Head – L&D, TCS, and Prithvi Shergill, ex-CHRO, HCL.

Lastly, from Skillsoft I’ll give you quick overview on all the fabulous new content we have completed and what else will soon be making its way to your systems.

Next, we’ll turn the day over to three of our customers – Tata Communications, Landmark Group, and Sun Pharma to show case their success stories.

Ester Martinez, Editor-in-Chief of People Matters will then host a lively and energetic debate on looking at the organizational learning with two lenses – HR and Business. This will be followed by the Keynote Address by Ashish Vidyarthi, National Award Winning Actor, Speaker, and Founder of AVID MINER.

To end, we will announce the winners of our 2017 India Innovation Awards.

We look forward to see you at 2017 India Perspectives on Thursday, May 18 at The Oberoi Mumbai.

Join us. Register here!

Step into the Future of Learning and Talent at EMEA Perspectives

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“Planning is bringing the future into the present so you can do something about it now.”
– Alan Lakein

I am a huge fan of planning, and yes, I admit it might be some sort of control issue thing, but I will say this – it has served me very well in my career. You need to keep thinking and looking to the future if you want to thrive in business, and personally actually. Call it strategy or long term vision, it means the same. It means you are prepared, and that means success.

That we have chosen to focus on planning for the future of talent and learning for this year’s EMEA Perspectives makes me very happy. I want to see organisations thinking about the next “big thing” or the next generation of technology, especially when it comes to artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR), and how it continues to revolutionize the workplace.

After all, no one wants to be blind-sided, or be left behind. Gen Z has just entered the workforce and technology is evolving faster than ever. We, as people, are changing too. We have different expectations around our career goals, our work-life balance, but at the same time, we are demanding more of our learning opportunities.

With our theme and focus on the Future of Talent and Learning this year, as well as many speakers talking on this topic, you will get to experience our brand new state of the market learning platform – Percipio – and see our new Platinum Skillsoft Courses. We will also showcase the latest release of our fully integrated SumTotal Talent, Learn, and Workforce Management suite 17.1 and our exciting 2017 roadmap for SumTotal featuring market leading social and mobile functionality.

As well as hearing from us, you’ll hear from thought leaders and customers:

  • David Wilson of Fosway Group will unveil the results of an extensive research project on the talent and learning landscape across EMEA. The insights and data this study will tell us what workplace learning looks like today, fundamental information needed when planning how it will look tomorrow.
  • The Future of Work with Felix Mitchell from Instant Impact, the awarding-winning graduate recruitment agency, who will hold a panel discussion on Millennials in the workplace.
  • Laura Overton, Founder and Managing Director of Towards Maturity, will reveal how best-in-class organisations are delivering improved performance through learning innovation.

I look forward to seeing you in London on May 16th.

Check out of the agenda and you can register, here.