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Liam Butler (26 Posts)

Liam Butler

Liam Butler is AVP of SumTotal EMEA and has over 15 years’ experience in the Learning and Talent Management sector. His experience encompasses working with SMEs through to leading FTSE 100 organizations. His specialist domain expertise includes Extended Enterprise, Aviation, Manufacturing and other highly regulated businesses including 21 CFR Part 11 and EU GMP.

September 7, 2017

Benefits in kinda


Perks. From gym membership to the company cars, it is these ‘extras’ that are perhaps more beloved and more lauded than our monetary remuneration. Okay so perhaps not more, but they are a starting point, a deal – breaker or maker – and given the current employment landscape and a certain predilection of some Millennials to switch jobs every few years, they play an ever increasing and important role in the draw and retention of desired talent.

While having free meals or massages at your desk are a great boon in the workplace, if as the employer, the provider of these ‘extras’, you do not ensure that where it applies, the tax on the ‘benefit’ as been paid, you are giving your employee a most unwelcome ‘perk’ and one that could potentially land them with a hefty tax bill.

Remember these extras, while considered part of a salary, are classified as benefits in kind and some are taxable and others not. This ‘are they or aren’t they?’ is confusing, but the situation gets even more confusing by the fact that if an error does occur, it can be the employee who is faced with an underpayment demand, not the employer.

The process for taxation of taxable benefits is quite straightforward really. Every country has their own rules and procedures, so it is the responsibility of the relevant department in each to know and follow the regulations. Here in the UK, once it is established whether tax is due on the benefit in kind, the employer then completes the relevant tax form, a P11D, with the details of the benefit values for the appropriate tax year, as well as working out the Class 1A National Insurance contributions on said benefits. If this does not happen, the employee could receive a P800 form declaring an underpayment of tax.

Obviously everyone involved would prefer not to have this happen, but is there something an employer can do to ensure it never happens?


Include them with your payroll. How?

By including any benefits in kind as ‘tax not pay’ amounts, a payroll system will automatically produce P11Ds with all the calculations, including Class 1A National Insurance returns.  Additionally, and this adds even more benefits, if the solution includes self-service options, the employees can themselves view their current and/or historical P11D forms online. Now that’s a great perk!

What makes using a payroll system even more advantageous is that we are increasingly seeing the tax process change. Currently, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is encouraging benefits in kind to be taxed and reported via payroll which means as more organisations adopt this approach, it is likely the P11D form will gradually become obsolete. With the inclusion of taxable benefits as part of the normal payroll process, the tax is then calculated and deducted at source and the relevant information included on the statutory real time information (RTI) returns, therefore eliminating the need to produce the P11D form.

In short, with a payroll system, an organisation can streamline the payment process, adapt to tax regulations changes while providing employees with peace of mind with the knowledge that their ‘perks’ are not going to come with a price.

Check out SumTotal’s Payroll Solution.



August 17, 2017

5 Things You Need to Know About Managing Talent Today


Even if you have never seen Fight Club you will no doubt be familiar with these now infamous and iconic lines:

The first rule of fight club is you do not talk about Fight Club.

The second rule of Fight Club is YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT FIGHT CLUB.

Sometimes, I think HR can be a bit like that. Okay, so we do not pulverise each other, but it can feel like you are working in a vacuum, isolated both from the rest of your organization, but also, and importantly, from other people in HR. There is a myth that HR is something that happens behind closed doors and is only spoken about when a problem arises. Perhaps someone in finance has watched Fight Club one too many times, and then all of a sudden it’s all about HR.

But in the normal run of things, the day to day business of managing talent, this is what intrigues me.

What are your HR peers focusing on? How are other HR departments handling the ever evolving world of the modern worker whose expectations and experiences with HR is rapidly being reshaped by technology at a rate that is both thrilling and equal parts exhausting and infuriating?

Which is why when we do get some insights into the world of HR, we tend to inhale the information as though it was a last meal.

The Fosway Group and SumTotal’s Transforming Talent in the Modern Workforce research and Mercer’s Talent Trends 2017 Global Study have both recently completed large comprehensive studies on the modern workforce and what the findings reveal is that, not surprisingly, HR is feeling the heat of the modern worker and their collected expectations.

#1 Performance management and appraisals show the most progress

88% of company’s made changes to their performance management processes in 2016, with more to follow. However, only 44% reported that their performance management process was ready for the modern work force, which means most do not feel ready.

#2 Learning & Development is not ready for the impact of technology

Again, only 42% believe they are ready to provide ‘very advanced’ learning. What does this mean for L&D professionals, and how can HR address this poor showing?

#3 Career development is not developed

Only 1 in 10 said their approach is very advanced, with 69% saying they have work to do to be ‘ready.’ I am slightly surprised by just how low this number is, and do have to wonder why it is so abysmal? Are we not listening to our talent, who repeatedly express a desire to have the opportunity to advance in their careers and see it as a deciding factor when choosing an employer?

#4 Not promoting from within

Harnessing talent internally is still one of the least advanced elements of the talent agenda. Again, I am disappointed that companies are not seeing the incredible opportunity that is at their disposal, particularly since we all know there is a massive skills shortage and soon we will see companies fighting over talent.

#5 Hiring is misfiring

Less than 1 in 4 believe their talent pool approach is ‘ready.’ Without sounding like I am on repeat, this too is a figure that is less than satisfactory. What are we not doing that we should be doing?

Are you surprised by the results? Or are you nodding your head in agreement?

What would you say are the roadblocks facing HR? Well, if your answer includes any of the following – company culture, lack of organizational urgency around talent management and time constraints- you’d be right. When asked, these were the items that popped up the most.

But I’m curious now to see and hear what HR is doing to combat these concerns and improve the numbers. I’m also encouraged by customers I have the privilege of speaking with who are taking steps to right some of these wrongs.

Perhaps now that such areas of concern have been highlighted, we might see a greater redirection of focus or efforts. But we still need greater buy-in from CEOs and others who can impact company culture and shift the emphasis to greater awareness around managing talent today.

If HR is to win and succeed in managing a workforce that is itself evolving and facing new challenges, we must have more open discourse. Otherwise, much like Fight Club’s protagonist, HR will become embroiled in a war with itself.

June 21, 2017

What is the Future of HR and Talent Management?


HR must give value or give notice” – Dave Ulrich

Okay, so we’ve been hearing this statement for some time now. This, and the fact that HR is facing change like never before: politically, economically, and socially.

But what does it all mean to the person working in HR?

When they go into the office and open their email, what fills those subject lines? What issues or problems do they encounter on a daily basis?

This is what we wanted to know, so we asked. We surveyed HR teams from a broad range of industries, company sizes, and included those from both the public and private sectors. In total, we got 175 responses reflecting the thoughts and opinions of 150 organizations.

We took the responses and developed a white paper, The Future of HR and Talent Management.

Will the results surprise you? Perhaps.

Is it a worthwhile read? Definitely.

The survey provides some fascinating insights – including the reasons for the current penchant for switching jobs regularly, why the traditional bi-annual review is going the way of the dinosaurs, and what it means for everyone – not just HR – that only 10% of respondents rated their onboarding process as effective.

What is the benefit, the value of this information?

I think one of those interviewed, Fran Stott, HR Director with Story Homes provides the answer:

“I think the HR function needs to be able to show their value to the business, and strategically support the business in their medium to long-term ambitions.”

In other words, HR must give value. And to be of value, you must have knowledge, understanding, and a comprehensive and current picture of the situation, in this case the workplace environment, to then be in the best position to serve and provide, yes value.

To get this, I’d recommend you start by reading the white paper, here.

April 28, 2017

National Living Wage


This month the National Living Wage increased and will continue to do so until 2020 when it is projected to rise to at least £9 per hour, as detailed in the initial 2016 agreement.

This will result in a significant number of implications but the primary impact will be on hourly workers. Industries such as healthcare, residential care homes, and in particular manufacturing, will experience short- and long-term consequences from the annual incremental increase. In the short term, operating costs will rise adding to an organisations bottom line, while going forward the exponential cost of overtime and the potential of increased risks will serve to only further escalate operating costs.

Regardless of how you feel about it, the harsh reality is that organisations are struggling to manage the administrative burden of their large workforces in the light of persistent upheaval.

The substantial HR challenges the National Living Wage regulations present should not be underestimated. At SumTotal, through years of experience, we know that a Workforce Management (WFM) solution can and will provide your organisation with essential assistance.


WFM software provides your organisation with the data and insights which in turn empower you to better manage your workforce.

Here are just some of the ways WFM helps:

  • Tracking time – letting you know if employees are punctual in completing their schedule, thereby ensuring you are not paying employees for time not worked.
  • Prevents “Buddy Punching” – our time clocks work on a personal identification system putting an end to friends/colleagues punching in for an absent employee.
  • Scheduling – the reporting system will provide the data to ensure you always have the optimum number of employees allocated, thereby reducing overtime costs. Additionally, “shift trading” means employees can now be assigned shifts based on availability and skill thereby reducing opportunities for human bias or error.

In short, a WFM solution can reduce operating costs, reduce payroll costs and provide invaluable assistance to workforce planning.

To learn more about SumTotal’s WFM solution or get a free demo please click here.

January 10, 2017

How HR Pros Can Predict the Future (Really!)

I think if you drew up a wish list for HR folks, a crystal ball would claim the top spot. And yes, some might use it to get the winning lotto numbers – and then it would be goodbye HR, hello R&R – but many would use it as an opportunity to see what changes are coming down the road in order to prepare accordingly.

Future Looking

Jack Welch said, “Change before you have to.” As Jack and others will testify, few people enjoy having to scramble in response to changes in laws or company growth. It is far better to be prepared for change: to have a strategy in place that ensures everyone feels confident that no matter what is thrown at them, they are prepared and have a plan.

But back to the crystal ball. Already we know that issues like globalisation, digital disruption and the constant amending of regulations present huge challenges to HR. Uncertainty about what is going to happen next looms like a huge dark cloud over every HR concern. And trying to hustle together a L&D strategy before the cloud bursts? Well, it’s exhausting and frustrating. But if you knew the forecast and could foretell the tempestuous weather that lay ahead, then you could easily plan and pack accordingly.

But it would appear many working in HR never get any forecasts or warnings and are simply working in the dark. When we asked over 100 of our customers in the UK and Germany about their L&D planning strategies, the responses indicate how underused talent management data is in the vast majority of businesses. When asked about upskilling, 38% cited lack of insight in the key skills in the business making it hard to know what training is needed.

How can you upskill when you do not know what skills need upping? Less than a third of survey respondents felt confident in their ability to know what the company actually needed, what learning content aligned with the most essential skills to develop.

We can’t give you a crystal ball but we can give you something equally valuable in predicting the future: data. Data you can use to prepare for the inclement weather, because with insight you can foresee the storms ahead and design and implement the programmes you need to manage and see out the storm. Data that tracks employee skill needs and requirements. Data that will identify future leaders and data that highlights any disconnect between skills that will be needed and the skills your workers actually possess. Putting that data to use, we then offer solutions that best help your team develop those skills.

Currently this is data that is seriously underused in most companies. But given the current HR quandary, such data could play a pivotal role.

Vote for YOUR top talent challenges of 2017 in our poll!

December 20, 2016

How Automation is Forever Changing HR

In many ways, it is thanks to the automotive industry, and Ford in particular, that the process of automation caught on. And although there were earlier attempts – Eli Whitney in the 1700s with muskets I believe–I think many of us automatically picture the Ford assembly line when we think of automation. That image of the conveyor belt, the speed and efficiency of automation so glaringly obvious you begin to wonder why it took two hundred years to perfect.

Assembly Line

Due to his assembly line process, Ford succeeded in reducing the time required to assemble a car from over 12 hours to just over 90 minutes—and while automation may have originated on a car factory floor, its uses soon spread. Today, it’s an innate part of almost every industry imaginable. Its application for HR is phenomenal—automation has transformed certain processes with outstanding results.

At its very heart, automation shaves time off a process and in doing so saves labour and reduces the possibility of error while simultaneously replicating at such a speed that it produces increased levels of accuracy and precision. In fact, you might almost say automation was custom-built for the HR sector – if that is not a contradiction in terms!

Now, thanks to automation tasks such as completing and submitting timesheets, performing health and safety checks, onboarding, taxation, recruitment, administering benefits and evaluations have been forever changed. Organisations can guarantee that their employees receive accurate and timely information in a consistent, yet cost efficient, manner.

And speaking of costs, if the fact that automation saves time and increases accuracy didn’t convince you of its merit, this might- The APA (American Payroll Association) estimates a 4-7 percent saving on annual payroll by automating time and attendance alone – a figure that is itself impressive, but is further compounded by additional savings from improved record keeping feasible thanks to… you guessed it… automation.

But the benefits don’t stop there. Automation can help you become compliant by helping ensure that not only are the correctly qualified staff completing assigned tasks and keeping current with mandatory training, but that staffing numbers meet their quotas. Additionally, it can help you make sure everyone is getting the correct number of breaks and rest periods.

Automation can also increase productivity rates by providing the data and analysis necessary to allow optimal scheduling and distribution of employees, creating even further savings.

The impact of automation on HCM cannot be underestimated, which is why SumTotal designed and developed SumTotal Work – a workforce management (WFM) solution that takes full advantage of all automation offers. As the only fully inclusive solution in the industry, SumTotal Work gives your organisation every opportunity to realise the unparalleled ways automation can transform the way you operate.

The future trends of WFM remain to be seen; but one thing is for sure: just as the assembly line revolutionised the automotive industry, so too has automation transformed the way companies manage their talent.

December 13, 2016

How Top HR Organisations Get More for Less

According to research from The Hackett Group, not only do world-class HR organizations enjoy cost savings of around 23% per employee and function with 32% less staff, they do so and still manage to outperform their peers.

HR Value

Impressive. So, what’s the secret?

For starters you need a well-designed service delivery model (SDM) focused on operating at optimum levels.

Then—and we have spoken about this many times before– you need to use your data to produce analysis that matters. Analysis that measures and quantifies aspects of human capital and allows you to clearly demonstrate the value HR brings to your organisation. “World-class HR organizations show an unrelenting commitment to operational excellence,” said The Hackett Group’s Global HR Transformation and Advisory Practice Leader Harry Osle. “They use analytics to derive superior business insights from HR data and information, which helps earn them a ‘seat at the table’ with senior leadership.”

The next bit might ruffle a few feathers, but part of their reason for success is that they spend more on technology. This means higher levels of self-service and automation across a wide array of administrative and transactional activities. And all at lower running costs.

This one I find particularly interesting – these organisations all streamlined their hierarchies. They all operate with far fewer job grades – 22% fewer managers and 23% fewer clerical staff. They outsource more, make fewer internal staff changes and have smaller in-house teams.

Additionally, these firms prioritise strategic workforce planning (SWP). How? By getting their senior business leaders involved, by asking the experts to analyse the data, and by relying on platforms and tools to give them the necessary data to plan, develop and promote their internal talent. Talent who will not only be active faster, but who will then remain with the company longer. Retention rates for managers at these companies are 86% better after one year and 70% better after two years.

Top HR departments also are better at understanding the symbiotic relationship between business strategy and talent management. They recognise how investment in human capital enables financial performance, and they are routinely involved in executive-level discussions about tying business strategy to people and HR strategy.

Finally, and perhaps in many ways the most significant differentiator, is that these leaders know what to measure. In fact, they measure the business impact of HR projects over 80% more often than typical companies, and spend significantly more time analysing data than typical companies—but only about half as much time collecting that data.

Each of these tactics or strategies, if you prefer, is transferable to every organisation. You do not need to reinvent the wheel—you simply need to watch and take note.

Learn more about what sets leading HR organizations apart: download the SumTotal and Skillsoft Learning and Talent Maturity Framework here.  

December 8, 2016

Finding Diamonds in the Dust: How to Source for Talent Internally

Picture this. You are sitting at your desk when you get an email alert. It‘s your boss telling you that a position on the C-suite has just come available and it is up to you to find a replacement…asap. Yesterday in fact. What do you do?

Diamonds in the Dust

Do you

a) Panic and then, if lucky and funds allow, call a recruitment company. Otherwise, well….


b) Panic and then remember there are a number of people already working for your company who could be ideal for the position?

Currently when presented with this scenario, almost 50% of HR managers choose the first option, according to SumTotal’s recent survey of 100 customers in the UK and Germany. In other words, only half of companies will look internally and feel confident that they have a process or system already in place to ensure succession or replacement is never a problem.

The question this response raises is, what does it mean? What does this divide say about our talent management practices? Is this a good thing? Okay, so that was more than one question, but in my defence, I see them as three moving parts of the same question.

Granted, there are times and situations where bringing someone in from the outside is the only choice—and the best one at that—but it is not always the case. Choosing from within comes with the obvious benefit of a shorter learning curve, but it also, perhaps more importantly, demonstrates a company’s desire to facilitate employee career development, a key factor for the majority of workers when making career decisions.

As Paul Devoy, Head of Investor People observed in a recent article in the Independent: “Small things can make a big difference. Feeling valued, understanding their role in the organisation and how they can grow with an organisation are all big concerns for UK workers.”

But since hiring the right candidate is crucial, the decision-making process is just as crucial, and should not be done without assistance. Steve Jobs is often quoted as saying he believed hiring was “a collaborative process,” a transaction that should involve more than one perspective. SumTotal couldn’t agree more. We believe the data from your talent management system should–and must be—included in the decision. Make recommendations based on data that can help you identify which employees possess the right skillset, who to nurture and develop and which employees are potentially at risk and may leave the organisation soon.

How does data help with the hiring process? Solutions like our Succession Planning can identify competency gaps across a workforce, develop talent pools and align succession planning to the goals and strategic objectives of your organisation. Our Talent solution includes tools like Position Fit which quickly and simply illustrates which competencies the candidates possesses and which skills need improving.

The point is that if, as in the original scene, you are asked to find someone to fill a position, you no longer need to panic. Instead, you simply turn to your computer, and let quantifiable data and talent insight provide you with a list of suitable candidates.

This in turn frees you up to concentrate on all the other tasks that always seem to appear, as if by magic, on your desk.

Learn more about how SumTotal helps empower career mobility: take the tour.

November 22, 2016

AI Insight: Why Robots Might Fly the Plane, But Not Bring Your Coffee

In 2014, the Pew Research Center asked a panel of 1,896 experts if artificial intelligence (AI) would destroy more jobs than it created within a decade. The group, which included Google’s chief economist and a number of MIT computer scientists, was divided, with 48% saying yes and 53% saying no.

SumTotal AI

Since then reports about the consequence of AI have ranged from dystopian scenarios à la The Matrix or The Terminator, or the somewhat less fantastical but equally terrifying reality whereby the gap between the rich and the poor grows even greater. That not only will the working classes be decimated and left destitute thanks to machines taking their jobs and livelihoods, but so too will the middle classes. The rich will become a super elite group, very small in number and the only ones with some sort of future.

Neither vision is attractive. But both are gaining ground as AI moves into the workplace. A report by the Science and Technology Committee is very damning of the UK’s government action—or inaction—around this topic: “The government does not have a clear strategy on how to maximise AI and robotics for economic benefit, which could see millions of Brits losing their jobs as the use of automation increases.”

In truth it remains to be seen just how AI will impact both the workplace and the economy, but it does make good business and political sense for countries to prepare for this ‘revolution’.  But a recent HBR article proposes an impact not considered in either of the aforementioned scenarios. The authors ask us to consider the notion that AI will change how we value performance. They forsee AI’s impact as a complete transformation in how we evaluate value to a business, guiding decisions on who to invest in and who to replace with AI.

Performance management as we currently know it will undergo a seismic shift. HR will have to rethink its focus as companies shift attention toward pivotal roles rather than proficiency ones. It will in essence all boil down to this: what jobs add the most to profits, and what jobs can be eliminated and replaced with AI while maintaining or improving current efficiencies?

To demonstrate their point, the authors use the airline industry, and pilots and cabin crew in particular. Pilots are currently valued for their skill and expertise, while cabin crew are perhaps viewed with a different value. Most of us might assume that the ideal job to replace is that of the cabin crew, as they would be deemed to have a less specific set of skills; however, according to this article, that is not the case. Continued investment in a pilot will not exponentially increase their value to the business – however, thanks to the growing competitiveness of the industry, the flying experience is the real differentiator.

We are asked to imagine a flight where the cabin crew is armed with a version of Google Glass through which they can access customer data and personalised preferences. No nut dishes served to Charles in 3C given his allergy, but black coffee and a predisposition for inflight duty free. Early seating meal for Sarah in 2A so she can get to sleep quickly. That level of personalised service adds exponential value to your business—hence it becomes the pivotal role, the role with the greater value.

Now it is acknowledged that despite advances in AI not many of us are ready yet to board a plane captained by Wall-E’s cousin, but given the enormity and the scale of AI’s impact in the workplace, it does give one pause for thought.

We at SumTotal are very interested in understanding exactly how AI will change talent management, and we believe it is a discussion that everyone in HR should be getting involved in. We would like to hear what you think about this, and whether you see this as the new objective for HR? Share your comments below.

November 10, 2016

Building a Business Case for an LMS

Spend any amount of time around HR people and soon the conversation inevitably turns to the subject of Learning Management Systems. Some love the ones they have; others view theirs so riddled with holes as to resemble a fine Swiss Emmental. Then there are those who long for one, while others curse the day someone ever put the letters LMS in the same sentence.

HR Challenges

Regardless of how you personally view the LMS, as friend for foe (or friendly foe), the truth is that if you do not already have one in your organisation, you very soon will.

If you fall into this last category, this blog is for you. Making the move to an LMS is huge and should be treated with thought and consideration. Likely, you will have to prepare a business case, a rationale for the need to change the way your organisation currently manages and implements its L&D.

In partnership with some of our clients, SumTotal designed a 10-step guide to help you navigate the journey through this process.

Step 1


Look at what you currently have, decide where it is letting you down and why it needs to go.

Step 2


What do you need to have to present your case to justify the costs?

Step 3


If you don’t, get to know how IT is procured. Through this process you may realise that teaming with an externally hosted learning solution makes more sense than hosting a solution internally.

Step 4


Oftentimes, mandatory and strategic training requirements exist in many different areas of your organisation, and it’s your job to discover and compile them.

Step 5


Find out what their different strategic goals are, what challenges they face and how they measure success.

Step 6


Discover any weaknesses in your compliance management, highlight any leverages and expose areas at risk or redundant.

Step 7


Do the sums to establish the current spend on managing training, and then do the sums to show how much it will cost in the future, with the new LMS.

Step 8


This person will not only help you make your case, they can also provide you with valuable feedback regarding what management will want to know before they approve anything.

Step 9


The most important thing is to take your ROI numbers and the process flows you’ve put together and ensure they are compelling and coherent. Do they support each other in a clear and understandable way? Does it tell a compelling story? Make sure you address the major pain-points in your training process and articulate how a learning solution will alleviate them.

Step 10


This is your project, and for it to be successful, you’ll need to be its biggest champion. Be wary of having other groups pick up this initiative — loss of control could lead to the project losing steam or delivering unexpected results.

Of course, once you get the green light, then the fun really begins. Now you have to ask yourself which LMS vendor to choose?

And that, well that’s a subject for another blog.

We’ve given you just a taste of the full process for developing your LMS business case in this post. Get your copy of the complete guide now for more tools and tips.

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