HR management systems: Better, faster, sharper

Scoot, OCBC Bank, Trivago, Lenovo, and Swarovski: these are just a few of the many global companies that have recently moved their HR functions onto a single, comprehensive talent management platform.

And the list is quickly expanding, particularly as HR departments globally are now required to be even more than just strategic. They are also expected to possess updated capabilities to meet the needs of their businesses.

With a growing emphasis on newer workforce objectives, such as real-time employee engagement, integrated performance management, temporary workforce management and staff wellness, coupled with traditional needs like payroll and leave management, more organisations now see the benefits of adopting a customisable, yet still exhaustive people management solution.

Flexible and scalable
Swarovski, for example, moved onto a new system hosted on Workday in the hopes of achieving more transparent, efficient and simplified people processes, while supporting new ways of working and catering to changing organisational objectives.

Beyond that, the organisation was looking to empower its people and line managers to make data-driven and fact-based people decisions.

Earlier this year, hotel search platform Trivago, was seeking out a cloud-based HR solution capable of providing one single source of “truth” for employee data, while empowering HR leaders and managers with better insights to make faster and more accurate decisions.

The company also needed a platform that its 1,300 employees globally could access at any time and from anywhere in the world.

Using Workday’s Human Capital Management, the deployment saw Trivago transform day-to-day HR processes, such as compensation, absence management, time tracking, recruiting, expenses and performance and development.

“We needed an HR solution that provided the technological platform for a single, always-up-to-date database – a solution that was flexible and especially scalable as we grow,” says Sian Williams, Business Operations and Strategy – Talent Solutions at Trivago.

“It is fantastic and also new for us that we’ll be able to use the system no matter where our people are, or which device they are using”.

Indeed, as Workday’s President David Hope notes, whether it’s collecting real-time staff feedback or managing contingent workers, companies today understand that with business needs constantly evolving, having the flexibility and freedom to design functionalities based on priorities, is the ultimate key.

“Our clients are already exposed to a comprehensive suite of functionalities that encompass many of (these) trends,” says Hope.

“I think more important than designing any specific new feature for one particular client is the ability to continuously innovate and update our software to meet the fast-changing needs of the modern HR landscape, as well as to tailor our systems to specific client needs.”

But many companies are also avoiding bespoke systems that are overly complicated and difficult to maintain.

Hope says that Workday’s technology enables customers to configure their rules and policies without requiring extensive customisation or coding, which means they are not adversely affected by upgrades.

Real-time functionalities
Times Software, the winner of two awards at HRM Asia’s Readers’ Choice Awards this year, foresees increasing demand for fully digital solutions that provide real-time employee engagement integrated with a performance management system able to facilitate consistent, two-way communication between management and employees.

At present, the service provider is experiencing a surge in clients requesting for more interactive performance reviews, as well as dashboards that are able to boost interaction and engagement of employees, says Managing Director Charles Liaw.

Alongside the increase of temporary workforce management inquiries, largely from the hotel industry, and the growing demand for mobile-enabled features such as geo-tracking and push notifications on apps, Times Software ensures that the latest trends can be easily integrated into its systems.

“We ensure our solutions are built with constant improvements in mind. That is why our products are easily enhanced in accordance to the market needs,” says Liaw. For example, the company is currently in the process of adding data analytics, and has also built a broadcast facility, in which temporary jobs are advertised via SMS and with mobile push notifications.

Liaw agrees with Hope, saying client organisations appreciate platforms that are not fixed with limited functionalities.

“A one-size-fits-all approach is no longer feasible in HR as different companies have differing needs. Therefore, we provide a basic platform which is flexible for customisation,” he says.

Moving with market trends
In Singapore, where the bulk of Times Software’s clients are based, the government’s call to move towards a “Smart Nation” is expected to see greater development on the mobile technology front.

Liaw foresees an increase in digitisation of payment methods in particular.

“The government’s push for cashless technology means that there will be more payment options available and we wouldn’t be surprised if in the near future, petty cash for claims will all be paid through QR codes instead of physical cash,” he says.

The major technology companies’ development race in Artificial Intelligence (AI) will also see robotics technology mature, although Liaw says it will still be a long time before this plays out.

Still, there will be more integration of AI in almost every sector, and that includes HR solutions.

“Deep learning will become part of HR solutions, where the system is able to learn about the company’s trends through repeated usage, and then make improved recommendations to users,” says Liaw.

“AI will enable more productivity as menial functions such as delegation of tasks will all be done by the system.”

Disruption in developing countries
Similar changes have also begun happening in developing countries in Southeast Asia.

At the recent Cambodian Federation of Employers and Business Associations, law and tax advisory firm VDB Loi shared how the world of traditional HR was being rapidly disrupted with cloud computing, social media, mobile technology, and analytics changing the way businesses are run across the region.

In order for companies to keep pace with these trends, it is essential to take their HR processes into the digital era, said Dara Ouk, Business Development Manager of VDB Loi.

Ouk further stated that by 2020, “digital natives” will comprise more than 50% of the global workforce, which will present a new set of challenges for any HR teams still prioritising traditional strategies. Employee engagement and development; attracting top talent; retaining and rewarding this talent; and performance management are just some of the issues that business leaders and HR professionals will face.

In late-2015, VDB Loi entered a partnership with technology firm Microimage HCM Asia in Myanmar. VDB Loi employed Microimage’s digital HCM Cloud solution, which was customised for the niche market based on VDB Loi’s local data, knowledge and expertise.

The HCM solution enables companies to maximise the full potential of digital technology while receiving a consumer-grade user experience that is intuitive and interactive. The solution works across all devices including mobile.

Just last month, the legal firm also rolled out the platform across its Cambodian offices.

“Taking HR into the digital era with a platform that was designed for the future generation of digital natives is the only way organisations will be able to attract, retain and motivate the right talent and remain relevant,” says Ouk.

Change HR Policies To Adapt To Demands Of Employees — Talentcorp

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 20 — There is a crucial need for organisations to look into their human resource policies and quickly adapt to the demands of their employees for flexibility in the workplaces, said a member of TalentCorp’s Board of Trustees, Datuk Seri Idris Jala.

He said productivity was at its highest when employees felt that they were motivated and empowered.

“The results of the ‘Life At Work Survey’ confirm this, with 80 per cent of the employers surveyed agreeing that work-life practices contributed to improved productivity,” he told reporters after presenting the awards to the winners at the ‘Life At Work Awards 2017’ here today.

Idris said more organisations in Malaysia were implementing work-life practices in their workplaces.

A recent ‘Life At Work Survey’ by Talent Corp Malaysia Bhd (TalentCorp) and Ernst and Young that survey on over 360 employers from key sectors such as education, finance, healthcare , manufacturing, oil and gas and professional services, revealed that 90 per cent of organisations in Malaysia agreed on the importance of offering work-life practices for employees.

He said 47 companies in Malaysia still did not apply the work-life practices mainly because the industry did not permit that kind of practice.

“But I believe when the leadership changes in many of the organisations, we will see those kind of resistance to it will disappear because the main thing here is leadership.

“When leaders believe the future of work has to change to adapt to demands of society and workplace, those things will change and the number of companies to apply the practice will increase,” he said.

Meanwhile, TalenCorp Chief Executive Officer, Shareen Shariza Abdul Ghani, said over the past five years, the ‘Life At Work Awards’ had recognised employers and individuals who articulated the best practices in ensuring balance between work and personal life.

“This year, we are seeing even more commitments from companies in addressing flexibility in workplace policies and shift in culture to respond to current and future talent needs, whereby there was an increase of four to 32 companies participating in the award.

“I think the awareness and readiness of the companies are there,” she said.

The winners this year included CIMB Group for Best Malaysian Organisation, PwC Malaysia for Best International Organisation, IHS Markit (M) for Best Lean Organisation and Albern Murty for CEO Champion.

Company Under Scrutiny? How To Manage Your Internal Team As A High-Visibility Leader

Having good visibility is excellent for an organization. You gain the ability to quickly draw in new clients and keep steady ones engaged. But especially strong visibility brings with it its own sets of challenges, especially if it is associated with a brand ambassador.

Everything your leadership does is amplified. Simple or off-the-cuff comments can be misinterpreted, generating weeks of public relations headaches. It can be very easy to be overwhelmed by the voice of the people, who all have — sometimes wildly different — opinions on your brand, products or current direction.

So how can high-visibility leaders be responsible leaders to their internal teams when there’s so much outside scrutiny and pressure? Members of Forbes Coaches Council suggest keeping the following in mind.

1. Mind Your ABCs

Leaders must move with the awareness that everything you do is magnified and on display. You are watched, as if in a fishbowl, and everything you say may as well be delivered by megaphone, as it’s heard with amplification regardless of what you intended. Mind your ABC’s: Keep your “actions, behaviors and conversations” aligned with corporate values and congruent with your strategic objectives. – Suzi Pomerantz, Innovative Leadership International LLC

2. Have Your Act Together

Maintain emotional control in private, and especially in public. Have your act together internally and you will be fine when the media comes calling. Never get caught on camera running or hiding from a reporter. Don’t do anything that must be censored out. All U.S. presidents offer great lessons, so study their examples. Right or wrong, things they do or say in private eventually become public. – James Chittenden, Triumph Business Communications, Inc.

3. Lead By Example

Digital technology has broken down the old, familiar models of organizations, and has also created a broad set of new challenges. Different ages require different kinds of leadership, but certain universal characteristics are timeless. Leaders who “walk the talk” inspire and generate loyalty, commitment, passion and enthusiasm in their team members excel at creating a positive work environment. – Maria Pastore, Maria Pastore Coaching

4. Make Time To Candidly Communicate

Make time for a series of open conversations with internal teams and discuss candidly with them the “storm” that is brewing. The key to these sessions is open and honest communication, even when the answers are unclear or unknown. These sessions enable a sense of unity, calm and resilience in the leadership team, so that these leaders will then lead by the example set for them. – Elva Bankins Baxter, Bankins Consulting, Inc.

Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?
5. Get Feedback From A Trusted Source

Outside scrutiny is only helpful when the feedback allows you to grow personally and professionally. Destructive feedback should be ignored. Surround yourself with people you trust to speak truth to you, even truth you’d rather not hear. These are the people whose opinions matter: Your tribe who want you to succeed, and not the outsiders who enjoy berating high-visibility leaders. – Frances McIntosh, Intentional Coaching LLC

6. Focus On Employee Engagement

Great leaders know that scrutiny is out there, regardless. The key to true leadership is to ensure genuine employee engagement. It starts with managers and is amplified in teams. If a high-visibility leader takes care of their employees, the organization does better on all fronts: productivity, client service, profits, and even employee wellness and happiness. Isn’t that what a leader wants? – Cha Tekeli, Chalamode, Inc.

7. Be Open And Candid

Every leader has a built-in responsibility to their internal team first and foremost. A rule of thumb: If you don’t want your actions posted on the front page of the newspaper, that could be a yellow flag. Accountable leaders are open and candid, seek feedback regularly and foster an environment where collaboration is valued, and the culture is prescriptively managed. – Kirsten Blakemore, Partners In Leadership

8. Always Have Your Team’s Back

There is nothing more important — and more often screwed up by CEOs in tech and elsewhere — than actually having your team’s back in the face of bad publicity, regulatory challenges and worse. Overcommunicating this at every occasion, as well as actually following it up with action, creates and reinforces trust that is so critical when dealing with outside scrutiny effectively. – Yuri Kruman, Master The Talk Consulting

9. Admit You’re Actually Human To Your Team

The best leaders focus on the accountability: We have to see each other as human beings first. If you’ve messed up, admit it to your team. Fight that impulse to HIMJAB, or hide, ignore, minimize, justify, avoid, or play the blame game. Sincerely apologize or be transparent about what happened. If you’ve built the right team, they will have even greater respect for you. – Rosalee Laws, The Rosalee Laws Company

10. Get Specific: ‘This is How We Do Things Here’

Instead of talking about “culture” or “environment,” leaders can use the phrase “this is how we do things here.” It’s a simple way to communicate with employees, customers and the watching world — and it’s a good way to catch when you’re out of sync. Be specific: “When X happens, this is how we do things here.” Make your list now, and you’ll quickly see where you need to do things differently. – Darcy Eikenberg, Red Cape Revolution

11. Let Go Of What The Critics Think

Stop hustling for ratings and positive press: The outside critics are a distraction from what matters most. Spend your precious energy developing strong relationships with your teams, creating fierce boundaries and consistently modeling the behaviors that support your company values. Surround yourself with a trusted and courageously honest support team to keep your self-awareness in check. – Jenn Lofgren, Incito Executive & Leadership Development


President Edgar Lungu says Zambia’s development agenda can only be achieved through the acceleration of the human capital development in various fields.

President Lungu says there is need for an increase in the number of people equipped with higher level of knowledge and skills.

He notes that universities have a role to drive the agenda of creating a skilled work force in various fields to enable economic development and growth in the country.

Officiating at the University of Zambia -UNZA- advancement fundraising Gala Dinner in Lusaka last night, President Lungu said government is aware of the challenges that the learning institution is faced with such as inadequate teaching and accommodation space.

He however said government will continue to make strides to ensure there is improvement at the learning institution.

President Lungu also pledged ONE million kwacha towards the construction of the multipurpose teaching and research center.

He also committed a 90-million-kwacha allocation towards construction of the centre from government through the Ministry of Infrastructure development.

And minister of Higher Education Nkandu Luo said among the reforms that her ministry wants to undertake is to make it policy for former students to contribute to improving the institutions they attended.

Professor Luo has since urged all public institutions to put all students in the database.

Meanwhile UNZA Alumni Relations and Advancement Board Chairperson Tukiya Kankasa- Mabula said there is need to promote infrastructure development, research and scholarships as a way of transforming the institution into a center of excellence.

Dr. Mabula explained that the gala dinner was aimed at raising 50 million kwacha of the 200 million kwacha needed to construct a multipurpose teaching and research center.

Speaking earlier, UNZA Chancellor Jacob Mwanza said it is important for the highest learning institution to continue playing a significant role in contributing to the country’s national development through quality academics and learning facilities.

Transformational HR — Because the Workplace Deserves Progressive People Practices

When you think about the work you do in HR, it’s not always easy to think of the higher sense of purpose it brings or the value it imparts to the world. Yet, when given the chance to explore the vision you want for your profession, it’s definitely higher-purpose time.

After I was invited to write Transformational HR: How Human Resources Can Create Valkue and Impact Business Strategy (Kogan Page, 2017), I struggled with where to start. Ours is a profession that—let’s face it—is the butt of many corporate jokes. A profession that means well but is often misinterpreted. A vocation that can feel darned thankless and exhausting just trying to keep up.

So the story is about challenges but, more so, about opportunities.

We see work all around us in a state of deflation. Stagnant wages, gig working, technological displacement and increasingly damaging health-related side effects.

Can HR leaders emerge as workplace heroes? They can, but only if they transform themselves and their organizations.

Using the past, the present and the possible future, I set out to create belief and confidence among beleaguered professionals who can’t quite see what they can do to create an HR metamorphosis for a transforming world of work.

I’ve called into play the best elements of the digital workplace evolution and shown how HR can reinvent itself just like the IT industry did over the past 15 years. My research is based on case studies of companies that have transformed their approaches to work—from the Eudaimonia approach at Widen in Wisconsin, to the “Joy Factory” at Menlo Innovations in Michigan, the self-organized inclusivity at Nearsoft in the U.S. and Mexico, the entrepreneurial spirit of Competo in Slovenia, and the transformative impact of HR at fashion retailer River Island in the U.K.

In distilling transformative qualities, I’ve explored three elements to help HR practitioners transform and be transformative.

Transformational HR is about me, we and it (it being HR). All transformation programs involve narratives, plans, charts, events.

I’ve developed six states of Knowing. The first state gets at what you know about yourself and how that impacts the transformation that you want or that you are a part of. Other states of Knowing cover:


My book provides guidance on testing your Knowing Quotient (KQ) and understanding your

Transformational Quotient (TQ).

Once you’ve mastered this, the book invites you to think about how you do your work. This is the meso-level transformation across HR: a mid-level shift to be better, together.

Next, transformation moves into the macro areas that make up the strategic sensibilities of:

External vigilance.
Contextual intelligence.
Design artistry.

Application of science and stewarding a just organization.
For HR to succeed, it must find its confidence, competence and creativity. HR might just be the surprise MVP in the game of business. As I quoted Vince Lombardi in the book, “The measure of who we are, is what we do, with what we have.”

How to Thrive in HR in the Age of Digital Disruption

In an age of digital disruption, technology is transforming every aspect of a company including employee recruitment and managing a 21st-century workforce. In order to keep up the evolution, HR and business leaders can no longer operate in their old paradigms. Are you prepared for this new revolution? We sat down with Josh Bersin, Principal and Founder,

Bersin by Deloitte, Deloitte Consulting LLP to discuss the major trends and role of technology in the changing HR landscape.

Highlighted below are three key points from the discussion. For a complete view, check out the Leading Edge webcast.

1. Three important HR trends
Each year Deloitte publishes the Global Human Capital Trends Report. According to Josh and the 2017 Trends report. Here are three key trends of focus:

1. Companies are no longer operating in hierarchies, but rather as teams and networks. Organizations are striving to break down silos, to encourage collaboration. This requires restructuring organizations to fit the needs of the future.

2. Employees need continuous learning. With technology such as AI, employees are uneasy about the implications and unknowns as it pertains to their job. This is driving companies to build “always-on” learning experiences that allow employees to build skills, quickly and easily, on their own terms.

3. Use cognitive tools and data for recruiting to find the best people for the team and company; making the recruiting process an art and science.

2. Digital adoption is centered in HR
According to Josh, HR has to play a leading role in helping the company, and its leaders, become digital and understand the digital characteristics that benefit the organization. These digitally based processes and tools reinvent how HR operates, producing team-centric HR solutions, and elevating the HR tools. Adoption of these tools requires understanding what employees need and producing experiences, tools, coaching exercises, and apps that support individuals and teams. It helps them perform, excel, and thrive in their roles and responsibilities. Also, don’t forget to make it simple and easy for your employees to access the tools so you can increase adoption.

3. Get leadership’s attention
This topic is imperative to get your organization on the digital train. A simple approach can help you frame the conversation.

Identify the top concerns of your CEO, or business stakeholders, and determine the issues or personnel that are impacting the business agenda or stalling progress from being made.

Take those issues back to your HR department and apply design thinking to work toward the core of the issue. Think about the challenge in context to the stakeholder, what they need to achieve as a whole, how the issues are affecting their division and others, etc. To give an example of an executive leadership issue that HR creatively tackled, during the digital disruption of mobile commerce, Visa’s executive team felt that their experience in this new technology was lacking. Instead of hiring new people, Visa University was created. It is a digital platform used to promote digital learning and help their employees learn more about mobile commerce. It’s a collaborative platform where employees can learn together, share best practices, and build new digital solutions in the e-commerce market.

More firms willing to hike wages next year

MANILA, Philippines — Average salary hike across industries is projected to be higher in Philippines compared to other economies in the region next year as the country’s stable economic growth is prompting more companies to pay more, a new report by global human resources consulting firm Mercer showed.

Mercer’s Global Compensation Planning Report and Total Remuneration Survey revealed that overall salary increase across industries in the Philippines is seen at 6.3 percent for next year.

The projected increase is higher than that of Thailand (5.3 percent), Malaysia (5.2 percent), Korea (4.4 percent), Hong Kong (3.9 percent), Singapore (3.9 percent), Taiwan (3.6 percent) and Japan (2.1 percent).

In the Philippines, companies in the fast-moving consumer goods, energy and life sciences sectors are reported to be more aggressive, forecasting 6.5 percent to 6.7 percent salary increase.

“Mature industries such as energy, consumer and pharmaceutical tend to pay more compared to emerging industries such as the shared services and business process outsourcing,” Mercer said.

The Philippine market is also bullish on hiring, the report indicated, with 47 percent of the companies surveyed planning to add headcount in the next 12 months as skills shortage continues to be acute across all levels of career.

Mercer said there remains a mismatch between the skills employees possess and skills demanded by employers in the country as the current educational and technical infrastructure is not producing enough “ready for work” employees.

Jobs that are difficult to recruit and retain are sales, finance, and IT positions at both professional and management levels, the report showed.

“The diversity of employees in the workplace in the Philippines is increasing rapidly and resulting in multi-generational workforce in organizations. We are also noticing year-over-year increase in the number of employees on local plus packages especially in the IT and BPO industries. Given the different needs and aspirations of all these employee groups, organizations should be changing their approach to creating employee value proposition,” said Floriza Molon, Philippines career business leader at Mercer.

The report further revealed that Filipino employees have a high level of satisfaction when it comes to their work.

However, it said the high level of satisfaction does not translate into commitment to stay longer in their jobs as Filipino workers want to be recognized and rewarded for a wide range of contributions.

On the other hand, they leave because of pay, opportunity for promotion, and flexible work options.

“Overall, apart from compensation and benefits, it is also important take a more holistically view from a total rewards perspective and to have a successful employee value proposition that not just addresses immediate retention needs but also the future talent attraction and retention plans. Innovative employee benefits are also key in helping employers differentiate and brand themselves as employees feel valued when employers take care of them and their families,” Molon said.

Five Steps to Protect Your Training With Reinforcement

Talent development professionals know the challenges of educating thousands of employees on a new product or skill set. But that’s just one part of the process. Next comes creating incentives that motivate employees to complete the course, and then you must ensure that employees retain this new knowledge so they can apply it to their jobs.

Think of these concepts as the training challenge, the incentive challenge, and the retention challenge.

It’s not uncommon for the talent development profession to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars addressing the training and incentive challenges, but then overlook the retention challenge entirely. In such cases, the forgetting curve begins to erode our hard-earned victories. The moment employees leave the classroom, their new knowledge drains away at a rapid pace. Within a few weeks, most of what they’ve learned disappears. That often results in a significant gap between learning and performance: What people learn doesn’t translate to improved job performance.

Corporate training success stories show that one of the most effective methods to tackle the retention challenge is to enroll employees in a training reinforcement plan as soon as they complete a learning program. Training reinforcement introduces carefully planned retention exercises (known as retrieval practices) so that learners retain knowledge and can apply it to their jobs.

The research

In the late 1800s, German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus discovered the forgetting curve. Since then, researchers have repeatedly shown that people instantly start forgetting what they’ve just learned—as much as 70 percent within 24 hours.

This issue is evident in all kinds of settings, and corporate learning is no exception. Making matters worse, typical training conditions don’t support long-term knowledge retention, leaving employees with an “illusion of knowing” (or “illusion of mastery”). The strategies often used to accelerate learning during training (for example, massing practice to minimize the time spent away from work, providing frequent feedback, and keeping the conditions of practice constant) are proved to be some of the worst techniques for long-term learning.

Therefore, the challenge to improve how we learn is this: Discover a way to interrupt the forgetting process and overcome the illusion of knowing.
The solution: Training reinforcement

We’re in luck. Cognitive psychologists have spent more than a century researching what works best for ensuring long-term learning retention. Studies show that effort is the key to deep, comprehensive, durable learning and the ability to transform knowledge into real-life actions. The more effortful and stimulating the learning process, the better we internalize new knowledge and the easier it is for us to recall and use that knowledge outside the initial training context.

That’s why a training reinforcement plan that uses retrieval practices is so effective. The primary goal of a training reinforcement plan is to foster long-term knowledge retention and understanding. It should prompt learners to actively recall and retrieve what they were taught by using short retrieval practices (mainly quizzes, but possibly also flashcards, smart tips, and microlearning modules). Every time we call up a memory, we reinforce a mental route in our mind and, therefore, increase our ability to connect what we know with what we can do. Even a single retrieval practice can produce significant improvements in retention.

The first thing you need to do is determine which corporate training programs can best benefit from a reinforcement dimension. Then you define a basic structure, choose a delivery method, and create the content. It’s not as complicated as you might think.
Here are five practical steps to get you started.

Prioritize your programs

For best results, prioritize which of your training programs need reinforcement based on three factors:

  • Criticality—which programs are most valuable to your company?
  • Cost—which programs are the most resource-intensive, in terms of both actual and opportunity costs?
  • Reach—which programs have the largest number of target trainees?

By focusing on those characteristics, you maximize your training reinforcement investment and put yourself in a better position to demonstrate value to executives.

Choose the right reinforcement structure
Your training reinforcement plan should start right after the initial training program ends and last no more than six weeks (depending on your content). Ideally, each session is five to 10 minutes in length and offered two to three times per week. Overwhelming your learners will only hurt your chances of success.
Choose the delivery method
Although you have several options for delivering training reinforcement content, mobile is an important one to consider. Native mobile apps make it easy and cost-effective to implement learning reinforcement in a corporate setting because they:

  • are tailored to the modern learner, offering a strong user experience and learner engagement
  • provide offline access to learning content
  • can work in step with cloud technologies to carve out intelligent, customized learning paths that respond instantly to the changing needs of individual employees
  • support a rapid development cycle
  • collect data at a granular level, both for real-time analytics and to provide individualized coaching opportunities.

Craft results-driven content

Content will make or break your training reinforcement plan. Excellent structure and scheduling with mediocre content creates the perfect storm for a stalled reinforcement plan.

The good news is that developing effective reinforcement content doesn’t need to be complex or time consuming. The idea isn’t to rehash everything that’s been taught in an initial course. To be effective, your plan needs to reinforce core information that is most fundamental to long-term retention and job performance. You can accomplish that in four steps.

First, identify core competencies. Focus on the most critical knowledge your employees need to transfer to their everyday jobs.
Second, develop a series of quizzes with a solid question bank, because quizzes are one of the best forms of retrieval practice. Your question bank needs to have several items for each competency covered in your reinforcement plan. Scenario-based questions, such as “What would you do in this situation?” are a particularly effective—especially when they’re challenging. Retrieval practices need to be effortful to be effective (but not overwhelming, of course).

Third, use additional bite-size learning resources. These might include flashcards or microlearning modules to enrich your learners’ reinforcement experience.

Last, use metrics and a control group to first sell the effectiveness of your reinforcement plan, and then to fine-tune as you go.

Start small, but start

Training reinforcement needs to become an integral part of your learning investments. Consider running a simple and inexpensive pilot to test the waters. By using analytics, you can measure and demonstrate how much you have increased the return on your training. That way, you would have tackled the forgetting curve head-on and, more importantly, you’ll no longer have to guess how your employees perform after training.

If you’d like to learn more about learning reinforcement, doing some extra reading is always a good idea. For a comprehensive overview on the latest research around durable learning and retention, read Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter Brown, Henry Roedinger, and Mark McDaniel.

Company lets employees share PTO

In this season of gratitude and giving, some companies are offering their personnel a way to make those virtues tangible.

One such company is New York-based Business Intelligence Associates (BIA), an e-discovery firm that has an office in Portage with 20 employees.

About seven or eight years ago, one of the firm’s staff members had a severe family emergency that required her to use up all of her paid time off (PTO).

The company wanted to help, said Brian Schrader, BIA president.

“Like many, she and her family didn’t have the resources to be able to continue for long after all of her available PTO and other leave had been exhausted,” he said. “In looking for ways that, within often-strict employee/labor laws, we could help our team member in need, we discovered a company that had created a PTO donation program.

“We immediately adopted that program, and the employee was able to take several more weeks without having to go on unemployment, disability or other assistance.”

Schrader said most needs for leave time fall within the three to five weeks of PTO the average BIA employee earns per year, depending on years worked in the company, so relatively few have had to take advantage of PTO sharing.

“It’s really a program that comes into play in those thankfully few instances where an employee has such a severe and lasting need that their normal PTO is exhausted,” he said.

Financially speaking, the impact on BIA of allowing leave sharing is low since it’s mostly a matter of moving already-allotted leave from one person to another.

But one of the things BIA had to consider before implementing the program was what the differential in pay rates might cost the firm after PTO is transferred.

“When we first got into it, (we knew) for accounting purposes, you have to track accrued PTO. One of the things we thought about was when you value a person’s PTO for accrual purposes … say I get paid $10 an hour, and you get paid $20, you’re getting PTO time that’s worth $10 instead of $20 or vice versa,” Schrader said.

“We looked at that and said, ‘At the end of the day, it’s not worth preventing this.’ The differential isn’t that much for most employees.”

A factor that helps prevent abuse of the policy is the family-oriented culture at BIA, Schrader said. Its close-knit teams usually already know when a co-worker is struggling. They know about the opportunity to share PTO, and they know the need is genuine rather than someone trying to game the system.

Schrader said while BIA hasn’t seen a one-to-one correlation between the leave-sharing policy and talent attraction, it is a benefit that never fails to surprise prospective workers.

“We were looking to do something above and beyond the normal. Most of our peers in the same market, as we are, offer basic health insurance. But we wanted to do the shared PTO,” he said.

Other perks the company offers include lunch-and-learns, where BIA provides free lunchtime training sessions; company outings to baseball games; and a “Wow” program in which employees vote to recognize the excellent work of their teammates, and the company rewards winners with a $1,000 bonus and three extra PTO days.

The company also offers the opportunity for employees to take three extra PTO days for community service at a charity of their choice. Schrader said whole departments often opt to volunteer as a group at the same place.

Partly thanks to these bonding activities, turnover at BIA is fairly low — last year it was around 5 percent of the company’s workforce of 65 to 70, Schrader said.

“We have employees who have been here five, 10, 15 years,” he said, noting the company is 15 years old.

Retention is increasingly important in such a tight labor market, Schrader said. It’s not just the Michigan office that has a hard time finding qualified workers; it’s also BIA’s other offices in Washington, D.C.; New York; and Denver.

“When we first moved into Michigan in 2008, it was the worst year of the economy (during the Great Recession),” he said. “Then we saw a swing in Michigan. When we first came in, there were tons of people in the job market. You would put out a posting for five or 10 positions and would get hundreds of applications. Now you don’t.

“Even today, a lot of it depends on the position. If I’m looking for a computer forensic expert or attorney — the highly trained, highly skilled workers — that’s harder.”

Although a lower unemployment rate is a good thing for the economy, it means the programs BIA puts in place for retention and workplace culture are crucial.

“We want people to get up and not dread going to work, but to like the company, the programs and the people they work with,” Schrader said.

“It’s not just touchy-feely. It does help the business. If everybody’s enjoying themselves and getting along, it translates into a better work environment and a better experience for customers.”

The Achilles’ heel: talent attraction and retention

It is imperative for politicians and economic development officers who crow about “bringing jobs” to West Michigan to cease the false bravado and address the enormous elephant in the room: talent attraction and retention.

This oft-cited Business Journal analysis is given new perspective by example of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who last week began twisting legislative arms for a $7-million national marketing campaign to attract workers to the state where 13,000 workers are needed (and not available) just for the jobs being created by Foxconn Technology Group, a deal Walker brokered with $3 billion in tax incentives. According to the Associated Press reports, Wisconsin has worker shortages amounting to 45,000 in seven years, across all industries. Reuters reported last week that Moody’s Investor Service dropped the credit rating for Racine County, the site of the new plant, citing the debt burden after authorization of financial incentives.

Grand Valley State University Seidman College of Business researchers have put Michigan’s deficit at 80,000 in the same period. Most of that shortage is exacerbated by deficiencies in educational attainment. Business Leaders for Michigan research shows the state ranks 31st among all U.S. states. The executive group has moved education issues to the front burner of priorities.

Business Journal reporting provides a pause to applaud a program to alleviate the shortages currently obstructing the skilled trades industry. Associated Builders and Contractors Western Michigan Chapter partnered with the Literacy Center of West Michigan to provide training for refugees through a Michigan Office of New Americans (MONA) grant. The collaboration provides job training for students in the English as a Second Language program. ABC/WMC Vice President of Workforce Development Jen Schottke told the Business Journal, “West Michigan has a large population of new Americans seeking work, and we thought this partnership would provide promising opportunities for both these individuals and our local construction employers.”

Another report provides an example of retention of employees. Business Intelligence Associates (BIA), an e-discovery firm that has an office in Portage with 20 employees, conducted a deep dive study to retain an employee who needed personal time for a family emergency, after exhausting time available. After looking for pathways within often-strict employee/labor laws, BIA found the answer by way of a company that created a PTO donation program. The employee was able to take several more weeks without having to go on unemployment, disability or other assistance.

Employers must use such out-of-the-box initiatives to stay ahead of the worker shortage tsunami. Politicians and economic development officers must do so, too. The problem isn’t more jobs, it is educational attainment and worker shortages.