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Highlights from EMEA Perspectives 2019


As we finally draw breath after another hugely successful EMEA Perspectives, I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect on last week’s event. It was our biggest customer event to date – we had a record number of attendees -and I’m delighted to say that the day held true to my predictions. […]


Highlights from EMEA Perspectives 2019

As we finally draw breath after another hugely successful EMEA Perspectives, I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect on last week’s event. It was our biggest customer event to date – we had a record number of attendees -and I’m delighted to say that the day held true to my predictions.

Our SumTotal breakout sessions proved to be popular – it was standing room only as we discussed several topics, including talent development in the employee lifecycle, the SumTotal Organisational Maturity Index, the latest and greatest product releases for 2019 and finally the benefits of using the SumTotal mobile app. These are exciting times for HR professionals as the changing nature and makeup of the work landscape sees our role shift and move to the center of an organisation.

Other highlights of the event include: Ron Hovsepian, Skillsoft’s Executive Chairman, kicked off the day with a comprehensive overview of SumTotal’s operating strategy for the coming months. As the lines between talent and learning blur, SumTotal customers are ideally positioned to navigate through this new terrain, and we are here to help you with every step. Further reinforcing our position as content agnostic SumTotal has added new platform relationships like LinkedIn Learning and Udacity to our growing library of content aggregation partners. Customers now have access to an even broader range of content across numerous domains. SumTotal is also continuing to promote the idea of learning in the flow of work, and to this end, we have enhanced our mobile and consumption experience with enhancements to capabilities and functions that include push notifications and the ability to launch content outside the learning management system (LMS). In addition, new partnerships like that with IBM Watson Talent means customers can expect to see a frictionless journey from recruitment through to onboarding and development at your fingertips.

Morné Swart, VP of Global Product Strategy, talked about the three D’s – digitisation, digitalisation, and digital transformation. He spoke eloquently and passionately about the fact that everyone is embracing people development and while executives are in agreement of the theme, often CEOs and CHROs disagree on how to accomplish this objective. He encouraged everyone to own their organisation’s story that to let Glassdoor and other recruitment resources become the voice for your brand is not a good idea or strategy. Morné stressed that with the UK enjoying its lowest unemployment rate since 1973, attracting and retaining the desired talent is going to get more difficult, which is why it is imperative that companies look to develop internally. Develop intelligently, mindful of the current challenges employees face daily.

Employees today are overwhelmed.

Sheri Zee, Skillsoft’s SVP of Talent and Culture,  took the audience on a journey through the Skillsoft employee experience and how Skillsoft and SumTotal are working to #MakeWorkMatter. How? Everything from employee spotlights, employee recognition cards, social media campaigns, and video clips are all components of an overall strategy designed to improve company culture.  We use the SumTotal onboarding module for recruits, and while we got rid of the annual review, SumTotal uses the 30 x 30 continuous feedback model on its employees.

Our keynote speaker, Shivvy Jervis, was phenomenal. While on the one hand, Shivvy shared her excitement and passion for all things tech, she did ultimately remind us that humans will always play the central role in the workplace. Given that she spends her time travelling the world following the latest technology trends, here is her list of the top four technology areas to have on your radar:

  • Emotive AI: this is referring to the bots or avatars who will help people complete tasks with a human touch. Already such digital humans exist in the form of Xinhua’s AI anchor and Sophie Air New Zealand’s digital customer service rep.
  • Next Gen Data: Currently, 80% of data is dark or unknown. This figure will change as the flood gates open, giving organisations access to untold amounts of data for analysis and application.
  • How will we interact with the future workplace: We can expect to see more virtual reality, a more immersive workplace, and the use of augmented reality to boost engagement.
  • Digital identity: 42% of security breaches stem from within the organisation. With the average cost of a data breach hovering around the £3 million, companies want to change this abysmal figure. Expect to see the introduction of biometrics as the first line of defence. Shivvy spoke of examples like a heartbeat ID or a brainwave ID.
Shivvy’s prediction about the new jobs of the future.

Torsten Schuhardt, the Learning and Development manager for JYSK, part of the Dänisches Bettenlager group, gave a candid account of moving from instruction-led-training (ILT) to online learning. Making this transition even more challenging is that JYSK operates in retail where most of the employees will access this learning on their own devices and on their own time. However, despite these obstacles, the transition is a success with an estimated €430,000 in cost savings. Additionally, they now have a way to identify talent and prospective leaders, so it’s a win-win.

Torsten talking about training retail talent.

As the CEO of Fosway Group, Europe’s leading HR industry analyst, we’ve all come to expect rich and in-depth insights from David Wilson. He didn’t disappoint. He showcased Fosway’s latest findings illustrating just how ill-prepared most organisations are for the modern workforce. He also reminded everyone just how much technology is impacting HR and why everyone in the industry needs to be aware of artificial intelligence and robotic process automation (RPA), and how each is changing the profession. David also gave his predictions for the top three ways technology will be adopted in an organisation:

  • Predictive analytics
  • Chabots
  • AI-led candidate recruiting


I want to thank everyone who joined us at the Royal Lancaster and look forward to seeing you all again in 2020.

Unlocking the People Potential in your Organisation

Ahead of his webinar with us later this month, David Wilson, CEO of Fosway Group, Europe’s #1 HR industry analyst, joins us to share his thoughts on the importance of talent and people development today. […]

Ahead of his webinar with us later this month, David Wilson, CEO of Fosway Group, Europe’s #1 HR industry analyst, joins us to share his thoughts on the importance of talent and people development today.

The editor for Wired Magazine David Rowan, is often quoted as saying that: “The world will never move this slowly ever again.”

This captures the experience of many of us at both an individual and an organisational level. A sense of technology and work moving faster and faster; being impacted by advances in technology, how we work and who we work with as well, whilst changes in demographics mean we now have a much more diverse workforce.

From our research, here is just a snapshot of the serious change impacting organisations like yours.

The dynamics around organisations are changing:

  • Employees with the right skills are in intense demand – 54%
  • Employees’ wellbeing is critical to becoming an employer of choice – 46%
  • Employees work where skills are in demand rather than because of company loyalty – 42%
  • Employees’ performance management is based on a continuous review process – 42%
  • Employees are sourced globally – 39%
  • Employees work in flatter organisational structure – 33%

The nature of work is changing:

  • Employees use technology for more and more virtual working – 68%
  • Collaboration and social media tools are key to working – 55%
  • Employees use self-service to do their work and maintain their data – 50%
  • Employees experience more virtual and augmented technologies at work – 46%
  • Employees work primarily using mobile devices – 44%
  • Employees are connected to work 24/7 – 41%

Nearly half of our research respondents confirmed that an aging workforce is a growing trend in their organisation and 45% highlighted that their teams are becoming increasingly diverse.

When this is combined with the increasing speed and impact of technology, organisational success and agility becomes not just about harnessing the energies of newer entrants to work, but also about maximising those with more mature careers.

Expectations about what keeps and attracts employees is becoming more obvious

When we asked HR professionals to rate the importance of what might make them an employer of choice it’s the personal growth of employees that looms largest:

  • Personal and professional development – 69%
  • Career progression – 64%
  • Utilises latest technologies – 63%
  • Flexible working – 62%
  • Progressive & dynamic organisational culture – 58%
  • Strong vision, values and purpose of organisation – 57%

But when asked if their systems area a good fit for the modern workforce, the resounding answer is NO!

Nearly 70% of organisations from our latest research in association with SumTotal, the findings of which we will release in the coming weeks, say their systems are not fit for the modern workforce. And when we look more closely at talent management, only 9% believe their solutions fully meet expectations.

Without wishing to understate this, there appears to be a crisis in talent management today. 91% of organisations are not able to deliver the sort of experience that enables them to attract and retain the best people in the modern economy.

Do you think your HR systems are ready for the modern workforce? How well do your talent management systems meet the expectations of today's modern workforce?



And with 47% of organisations declaring they either have no systems in place or just use Excel spreadsheets, the scale of the under-investment in people becomes abundantly clear.

But the opportunities are immense.

What consistently stands out from this, and Fosway’s ongoing research, is the importance placed on individual growth and learning. Whether it is in the priorities for improvement in the organisation’s Employee Value Proposition (EVP) or the biggest differentiator of an organisation’s EVP to their existing and prospective talent – learning consistently tops the bill.

What part of your talent and people development approach do your employees value the most?

As you can see here, the word cloud built from the free text responses to the survey question ‘What part of your talent and people development approach do your employees value the most’ tells the story perfectly.

And against a consistent message from business leaders themselves – there is no reason not to act. The writing is on the wall with a skills crisis looming.

There are simply not enough people with the right skills available. So, what is clear is that you need to grow and develop those people yourself if your organisation is to keep pace with the speed of modern business.

And the great part is that investing in that proposition actually creates a virtuous circle in your organisation, because the opportunity to learn and develop is the #1 reason people want to join your organisation – or leave it if those opportunities are not available.

The war for talent is wide open to those who invest in their people relationship strategies

But in a world where successful organisations need to attract, stimulate and keep employees who love to learn. What a great coincidence that that is the reason why the best talent wants to join your organisation.

Talent is attracted to those who develop and grow the careers of its people.

Which means there has never been a better time to invest in your people development story. Not only will it help you bridge the skills gaps, and help you retain your talent, it will also help you attract the best too… And with the bar sadly set so low, as our research shows, it’s easier than you might have thought to a leader in talent today – and unlock the people potential of your organisation for tomorrow.

I’ll be hosting a webinar in association with SumTotal Systems which explores ‘Unlocking the People Potential in your Organisation’. Register today.


You can follow David via @dwil23 and Fosway on @fosway for more insight and analysis on HR, talent and learning.


5 Talent Development Challenges for HR in 2019

The US is experiencing historically low unemployment numbers. Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute 2018 Skills Gap Study, found that 2.4 million jobs will likely go unfilled over the next decade and that over the next decade more than $2.5 trillion in manufacturing GDP is in jeopardy. […]

The US is experiencing historically low unemployment numbers. Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute 2018 Skills Gap Study, found that 2.4 million jobs will likely go unfilled over the next decade and that over the next decade more than $2.5 trillion in manufacturing GDP is in jeopardy. Furthermore, more than 90% of CHROs believe that competition for critical talent will only get more competitive over the next twelve months.

I could go on: however, the point is talent development is now a strategic imperative. Organizations, if they are to succeed, must establish a new approach to employee recruitment, development and retention. While there is nothing new about this sentiment, what is perhaps novel is that ownership for this objective will now fall to HR. That although in many ways executives and senior leadership may prioritize and drive the talent development strategy, the task of executing on such planning belongs to HR.

Facing such a behemoth task HR must consider these five critical areas to deliver on this target.

Company Culture

What may surprise some is that an employee’s rating of “culture and values” is 4.9 times more predictive of a company recommendation than salary and benefits.  Companies who have a clear vision for their culture and who work strategically to foster it produce happy employees who want to share their experience. Identity is a powerful thing. A clear sense of company culture allows an organization to say “this is who we are,” and bolsters loyalty and contentment amongst employees. It is also imperative for attracting new employees. As my blog, Why Employer Branding is Just as Important as the Company Brand, demonstrates, candidates are increasingly researching a company before they apply for a job. It is also worth noting that from a potential employee’s perspective, an essential part of an organization’s culture is what learning and development opportunities exist. In fact, 94% of employees surveyed said they would stay at a company longer if it invests in their careers.


“It’s not a nicety; it’s almost a business imperative,” said Bill Pelster, a principal at professional services firm Deloitte Consulting LLP, of the importance of reskilling workers. Employees want professional development and organizations need a pool of talent from which to draw the rapidly emerging skillsets necessary to succeed in the modern economy. It’s a win-win. Plus, developing internal talent costs one-sixth the price of hiring an external candidate, and they gain the same skills as an external new hire in 9 to 12 months.

Focusing on upskilling and reskilling enables organizations to address the skills shortage with precision. Given the pace of change with AI, automation and digital transformation, the shelf life of skills has shortened considerably, placing enormous pressure on organizations to bridge the widening skills gap. Businesses must be ready to invest in L&D with a proactive approach to address this growing problem. The right solutions offer a comprehensive view of the people and their skills which make up the workforce, allowing businesses to close skills gaps, map succession plans and prepare for the coming waves of digital transformation.

Diversity & Inclusion (D&I)

In Diversity in the Workplace: Good for People, Good for Business we addressed the issue of the business case for changing the demographics of the workplace to reflect the changing demographics of our community, our industry and our world. While homogenous teams were once thought to be easier to manage, the similarities amongst members created biased patterns of problem-solving and often led to groupthink. Today organizations are diversifying to advance company culture and spur innovation. Recruitment policies must align with D&I efforts. Organizations need to ensure they are taking measures to broaden the talent pool.

Consumer-Grade Technology

Most leading HR departments are already utilizing technology to redefine the employee experience particularly as it regards L&D opportunities. However, introducing online learning capabilities is not sufficient. Employees expect the simplicity they’ve grown accustomed to from today’s app-centric consumer solutions with their intuitive user experience. Therefore, it is essential that any learning platform selected must be visually appealing, intuitive and easy to use. However, it’s not just about aesthetics. When choosing a learning management system, HR must ensure it offers sophisticated data collection and analytics that give HR leaders and L&D professionals the ability to:

  • Improve their grasp on employee engagement
  • More accurately perceive company culture
  • Register workforce skills and plan for talent advancements & succession
  • Understand the real impact of learning on business outcomes.

Employee Retention

Attracting new talent is just one piece of the puzzle. Another piece is making sure employees stay. Onboarding, or rather effective onboarding, plays a critical role in ensuring new hires do not leave within the first year. It’s also the ideal opportunity to introduce the new employee to the culture, value and expectations of the organization and sets the stage for learning and career growth for each employee. I believe onboarding is most successful when it is personalized to provide employees with the mentoring, goal setting and resources they need to be successful in their day-to-day role. In a move, I highly recommend, some organizations are taking onboarding a step further and continuing to deliver guidance and support as employees move from one position to the next.

I also believe forward-looking companies are overhauling how an employee receives performance reviews. Most have abandoned the traditional annual performance review system and replaced it with more frequent and regular interaction between the manager and employees. Included in these “reviews” are topics such as timely reviews, development and goal setting objectives, further contributing towards the value and giving the employee a sense of purpose.

There is no better time than the present to prioritize your organization’s talent development strategy. Want to learn more about how to accomplish this objective?  Read our newest whitepaper, Talent Agility in an Emerging Workforce, by Morne Swart, SumTotal’s VP of Global Product Strategy and Transformational Leader.