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April 3, 2017

Competency Models and Employee Development – A Perfect Match!


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

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

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

Not sure?

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 26, 2014

4 Secrets to a Happy and Productive Career

It’s a well-known fact that an organization’s success is linked to the workforce’s overall satisfaction and performance. And everyone knows that happy workers are more productive – it’s science. Experts note that workers need to be engaged, enabled and energized in the workplace to maximize loyalty, enthusiasm and a sense of well-being. But those are big ideas.Happy Employee

Innovative organizations have smart learning, training and development programs in place that boost performance and morale, all while speeding up productivity, enabling creativity and collaboration and increasing revenues.

But building your personal brand and enabling your own success isn’t a 9-5 job.  Here are a few ideas of what you can do on a daily basis to have fulfilling, successful professional career.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that learning tops this list. When employees have the opportunity to get better at their jobs and bolster their skill set, they become more efficient. If your employer offers access to instructor-led or online training programs, jump on them. Learning management systems are increasingly easier to use and available across countless mediums. The rise of contextual learning allows workers to participate in personalized, just-in-time educational experiences at their desks and via mobile devices in the field. With this kind of access, there is no excuse not to become a highly knowledgeable employee.

Start Early
This might not be what you want to hear, but some of the most productive people carve out a few hours in the early morning. This is a great time of day to work on some of your most challenging projects, before you’re buried in emails or stuck in meetings. The mind is fresh in the morning – even if it takes a cup of coffee to get things flowing – and nothing beats the feeling of checking a handful of things off your to-do list before lunch. The early bird truly does get the worm.

In a world of inescapable access to the internet, palm-sized computers and even a smart phone you can wear on your face – it’s easy to get lost in a wonderland of multitasking.  While we often pride ourselves on how many things we can juggle at once, multitasking really takes away from the quality of work we do. Focusing on one project or activity at a time will ensure that you’re doing your best work and meeting deadlines. Focus and organization go hand-in-hand. By eliminating the practice of multitasking, you’ll quickly experience how much easier it is to manage your work load. Laser-focused workers will wow their bosses and frazzled multitasking colleagues with their collected and efficient execution.

Find a mentor
The most creative, hardworking people didn’t get to where they are alone. Having a mentor is a major one-up in the workplace. While formal training is key to being a productive employee, the first-hand experience from a respected colleague is irreplaceable. Identify an admirable executive or manager with whom you have a working relationship and propose that they take you under their wing. A good mentor will help develop your abilities and experiences to lead you along your career path. Clearly voice your goals and ask for meaningful guidance. Most importantly, be a sponge – soak up all of the knowledge you can from your mentor. Don’t forget to be gracious. After all, this person is not only doing you a favor, but will likely have some pull in potential for promotions.

Bonus: Inspirational posters. Those work, right? Everyone loves a cheap reprint of a cat hanging from the limb of a tree or a climber summiting a mountain at dawn. If that doesn’t perk you up, then you might as well call it a day and head home.

What do you think? Do you have any secrets to add? Feel free to leave a comment below.

July 23, 2014

The Present and Future State of Computer Based Training and MOOCs

Recently I have seen a couple of articles discussing how Computer Based Training (CBT) will never replace teachers, and how Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are the way of the future. In my opinion, both of these claims are wildly inaccurate and show how little the authors understand technology.

Learning and training technology typically falls into two different categories:

  1. Using a new technology to accomplish something you could not do previously.
  2. Using a new technology that improves the delivery of an existing method of instruction.


The Current State of Computer Based Training
When CBT first started out, it was known as Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI). The idea was to offer something that augmented traditional classroom instruction. Applications were typically simulations, games, quizzes, complex interactions, or relatively short pieces of instruction that allowed the student to learn and experience things beyond the classroom. CBT was never intended to replace classroom instruction a hundred percent; however, depending on the subject matter, it has gotten close. (I plan on writing more about why this is true in my next post, so stay tuned.)

The Current State of Massive Open Online Courses
MOOC’s are at the other end of the spectrum. MOOCs leverage a new technology to deliver an existing method of instructions on a much larger scale. The participant’s end user experience of attending an online class delivered via MOOC is arguably better than sitting in an auditorium with two hundred classmates. While MOOCs eliminate obstacles associated with attending a formal class, they are susceptible to a whole new list of potential problems. (Once again, this will be the subject of an upcoming post.)

MOOCs are getting a bad rap due to low completion rates and potentially lower student scores. I attribute this to two factors:

  1. Instructors don’t know how to use the technology effectively, and
  2. The bulk of the student population interested in taking a class quickly discovers they don’t care to complete it.

This isn’t bad, it is just a symptom of making a class so easy to access that anyone and everyone interested can sign up for it.

Looking Towards the Future
My point is, Computer Based Training started as something called Computer Assisted Instruction, and was intended to be another tool a teacher or instructor could use to enhance the learning process, not unlike overhead projectors or chalkboards. Over the past 40+ years it has evolved to replace stand up instruction for certain subject areas, but it has not evolved beyond that.

MOOCs are potentially a technology that eliminates the need to show up in a classroom. However, it has a way to go before it proves to be as effective as a traditional classroom.

One is not a substitute for the other, and neither technology has a complete solution today. However, I do think the first company that delivers a well-coordinated curriculum utilizing g both technologies could offer a complete solution.

What do you think?


July 16, 2014

French training reform: Opportunity or constraint?

As global company, we always look at global news and how it will impact our customers. We recently had a breakfast in Paris with our customers and discussed new reforms French government will put in place effective January 2015.

French Business District

Do you know France currently spends €32 billion Euros ($43 billion USD) each year on job training? The majority of this money is spent to train existing employees. Critics say too little is allocated to the unemployed who are most in need of new professional skills. Is this fair, or is it hindering growth of new talent?

Before we look further, let’s take a quick history lesson to understand the development of French training laws and reform:


  • French trade unions and employers pass the National Intersectoral Agreement (ANI – l’accord national interprofessionel) creating Formation Professionnelle, the current vocational training program, covering training rights of employees who are dismissed or working in sectors which face economic difficulties.
  • Delor’s Law passes. Training develops as a means for personal development and social promotion, rather than a means to onboard new employees.


  • Training policy evolves and becomes a tool for French government to fight youth unemployment.


  • Job security issues arise.
  • French government starts to discuss individual training rights.
  • Government implements Knowledge Validation Process (Validation des Acquis et des Expériences) to improve work experience recognition.


  • French Government passes the Individual Right for Training (Droit Individuel à la Formation). The law provides 20 hours of training per year, accumulated over 6 years and partly transferable. Part of the training may take place outside of working hours , limited to 80 hours per year, paid at 50% of net earnings.


  • The Personal Training Account (Compte personnel de formation) replaces the Individual Right for Training and provides secure learning throughout the working life.
  • Simplified rules to help finance training (percentage of payroll).
  • Employees must develop skills and enhance their professional development through a cycle of interviews, assessments, and competency recognition.
  • Boost the competitiveness of organizations thanks to better trained people and right competencies.
  • Strengthening business negotiation and the role of representative institutions


What does all this mean for the French workforce?

Training has moved from an “obligation to pay” to an “obligation to act,” initiative for organizations to provide training solutions for their employees. Organizations will welcome a more competitive workforce thanks to better trained individuals with appropriate competencies building a more competitive market for employment.

Training Professionals:
Organizations balance company strategy, business challenges, and needs of employees. Training managers will need to find innovative solutions and tools best suited to answer this multiple faceted challenge.

Training managers will see their roles evolve. Training will be viewed as a strategic situation within organizations and training managers will become an integral part of this strategy.

Employees will take control of their learning activity, guaranteeing that received training will be carefully chosen and targeted to help them grow in their role. They will receive access to a wider variety of training, delivered in a more easy and friendly way (out of work time for example). Their training activity will be tracked by HR, who will meet with employees every two years to review training followed, and future needs with a legal appraisal every six years.

After reviewing the history behind French training reform, it is clear that the new laws are a great opportunity for many French organizations.  Learning is now core to employment and talent in France, as the basis for a broader opportunity for growth.



July 9, 2014

5 Tips to Weather-proof Your Organization

The arrival of Hurricane Arthur over the holiday weekend was a quick reminder of what it’s like to be underprepared. Whether it is a warm summer rain or an enormous hurricane, being caught off guard by a storm in your professional or personal life is always surprising.

Organizations are often blindsided by change, and one of the biggest culprits is compliance. Many organizations would spiral out of control in the event of an audit. In fact, 68% of organizations admit they were caught off guard by a compliance surprise.¹

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