SumTotal Blog

Amber Hubbard (10 Posts)

Amber Hubbard

Amber Hubbard is SumTotal Systems’ event and marketing specialist for North America. She joins SumTotal Systems after years of marketing and event planning in the entertainment and hospitality industries. Her background allows her to maintain great events that focus on customer experience. When she isn't on the road meeting with SumTotal's current and future customers, she is catching up with the latest episode of Parks and Recreation.

Leader of the Pack — Become Employee of the Year in 5 Steps

Today’s workforce is increasingly competitive and everyone is looking to stand out in the crowd and demonstrate leadership. Here are some words of wisdom I’ve heard throughout my career that are core essentials to ensuring your colleagues, clients, and manager always see you at your best.

Step 1: When you pose a problem, pose a solution. You will gain a reputation as a problem solver, not a complainer. Not only will this earn you serious respect around the office, but your opinion will continue to grow in value. Always support your proposed solutions with facts to prove it is the best way to resolve the problem.

Red converse sneakers stand out from a crowd of white keds

Step 2: Show up early. Many top CEOs are early risers and start their day with a gym routine or by jumping immediately into emails.  A recent study shows that bosses tend to have a positive bias toward employees who have an earlier day, even if their performance is identical to those who start later. This doesn’t mean you need to work longer days – if your office offers flextime you should maintain a regular schedule, just shift everything an hour or two earlier (i.e. instead of working 9am-6pm, try 7am-4pm). Extra bonuses: Beat traffic, experience a quiet office in the morning, and have more of the afternoon take on personal tasks.

Step 3: Communicate fair expectations. Everyone has limits. With all the impending deadlines and projects, you need to be realistic about what you can accomplish and when. It is important to share this information with your peers and superiors as well. When you provide realistic expectations, and then meet those expectations, you will become known for always delivering and being a man or woman of your word. That is far better than setting an aggressive deadline to please your manager, or saying that you can take on a task when in reality you have no time, and then not delivering. It’s hard to tell your boss or coworkers “no” to taking on an additional assignment, but if done right you’ll maintain their respect and set a precedent that the work you take on will be completed on time and with great quality.

Step 4: Dress to impress. We’ve all heard this a million times. “Dress for your boss’ job.” Well, go above and beyond and dress to be your boss’ boss. People are naturally visual creatures and the way you dress and hold yourself in any professional encounter shows people you mean business. If you received a top notch investment strategy from a person dressed to the nines and another in their gym clothes – which would you trust with your business portfolio?

Step 5: Listen to everyone. Read that very carefully. Don’t necessarily do what everyone tells you to do, but listen to what everyone says. Every person from CEO to line worker has an opinion and a reason for it. This is all valuable information that can help you make the best decisions that ultimately will be best for the company. All of this information provides you with knowledge to do your job better and pose great solutions (See Step 1). You can’t please everyone, but wise professionals (like yourself!) work in the best interest of the organization as a whole, not for the happiness of every individual.

Incorporate these ideas into your worklife and you will “wow” your supervisor and colleagues. Be prepared for a brighter employee review at the end of the year.


Customers Connect at TotalConnection 2014

Last week, our customers joined us in Miami Beach, Fla. for the SumTotal TotalConnection 2014 conference. This year’s conference had our highest attendance to date with more opportunities to network and learn than ever before!

Not only did TotalConnection 2014 provide great content and insights on current usage and the future of SumTotal and Skillsoft, the event was jam-packed with the exciTotalConnection2014 Tuesday morning drummerstement and fun of a true Miami experience. Where else would you see synchronized swimmers, wake up to a wild percussion performance, and dip your toes in the ocean? Don’t just take our word for it – see what SumTotal customers said (and saw, via some great snapshots) in our #SumTotalTC14 Twitter recap and on Facebook.

Special thanks to our fantastic speakers who shared valuable experiences and helped take the conference sessions to a new level. SumTotal and Skillsoft executives provided great information on the future of our products and the organization. Peter Cappelli shared insights on millenials and the future of the workforce. Author Dave Barry made us all laugh hysterically as we reflected on our work through everyday (and some uncommon) scenarios. The Fistful of Talent team challenged us to consider work-life balance, what that means, and where work/life intersect. We all walked away with great ideas and more to reflect on.

The new ideas didn’t stop there. This year’s conference featured a wide array of content from our very own customers showcasing their innovative uses of the product, best practices, and tips to make the best of SumTotal solutions.  Presentations from the breakout sessions are available on our online customer community, SumTotal Connect.

TotalConnection 2014 Innovation Award Winners

Another highpoint of the week was the Customer Appreciation Gala at The Wall when SumTotal honored customers who have applied our solutions in innovative ways, and  inspire us to consider the many innovative possibilities of the Talent Expansion suite:

  • Best Launch to Organization:  Ace Hardware
    Honorable Mention:  BAE Systems
  • Best Business Solution:  American Cancer Society
    Honorable Mention:  AAA of Southern California
  • Best Overall Use of Product: TD Bank Group
    Honorable Mention:  County of San Diego

The fun and excitement would not have been possible without our event sponsors. If you missed them in our Partner Expo, connect with them online to learn how their services can further enhance your existing SumTotal solutions.

If you weren’t able to join us (or if you just want to relive the fun), here’s a video recap of last week’s festivities. Enjoy!

Identifying At Risk Employees

Did you know that one in five employees plan on quitting their job? That is one startling statistic. If you’re not worried about employee turnover, you should be! Identifying at risk employees and addressing their concerns and needs should be a top priority among organizational leaders and human resources professionals. But often, we don’t know where to start.

Last week I sat down with the very funny and very savvy folks over at Fistful of Talent to get the scoop on The Great Fistful of Talent Employee Turnover Predictor! Kris Dunn, Laurie Ruettimann and Tim Sackett shared some great advice on how to predict at risk employees and how you can motivate them to stay.

Side note, we’re going to be at #HRTechConf October 7-10th in Vegas! If you’re at the show, be sure to swing by the SumTotal Booth 1511. My colleagues and I will be there ready to talk about your HR challenges! And, be sure to stop by the Skillsoft booth 2457 at the show.

Added bonus! Steve Boese, Tim Sackett, Laurie Ruettimann and Kris Dunn will be speaking at SumTotal TotalConnection 2014 in Miami Beach, October 27-30. Register now and check out their Panel Discussion: The 5 Faces (or Heroes) you need to have in your HR Department.




HR Lessons: What we can learn from The Mafia

When searching for leadership and management tips, it may seem counter intuitive to look at organized crime for inspiration. But, if we look past the immoral, high-risk crime the mafia is known for, there are a few fundamental things we can learn.

The Godfather, Goodfellas and The Sopranos all have underlying characteristics that help strengthen their organization – unconditional loyalty, respect and accountability to name a few.

Who wouldn’t want those traits to be the foundation of their HR team and organization?

This week we sat down with the folks over at Fistful of Talent to identify some of the greatest elements at the core of the mafia’s organization that can be used in more legitimate business ventures.

Take a 20 minute break from your day and listen as Cara Lucas, Paul Hebert, and Dawn Hrdlica-Burke identify what makes a tight-knit organization like the mob function and elements that you can take back to your workplace.

(Note: We do NOT recommend redefining employee ‘termination’.)

Have anything to add? Leave a comment below or tweet us using the hashtag #HRHangout!

Also – don’t forget to tune into next week’s #HRHangout – The Great FOT Turnover Predictor on Wednesday, October 1st at 2:00 p.m. ET.

HR Rants – What Drives HR Pros Crazy!

We all have those pet peeves that drive us crazy. You’ve grumbled about them at the water cooler and complained to your dog after work. We took a leap and talked about them in our recent #HRHangout and recorded it for all to see!

We were joined by the great minds of Fistful of Talent for an perceptive and entertaining look at some of the things that drive HR pros crazy. Ranting is one thing, but exploring the core of these issues is what helps find ways to keep the industry moving forward.

Kris Dunn, Tim Sackett, and Dawn Hrdlica-Burke dig deeper into these challenges to talk more about why they’re steaming over these issues and how they would like to see industry standards evolve to address them. They don’t all agree (just ask Tim how he feels about Sourcers), but take a 20 minute break from your day for insight on their analysis.

Have something else to add as an HR Pro? Tweet with the hashtag #HRHangout to join the conversation!

Join us for next week’s #HRHangout – Your Worst Job: Both In and Out of HR. We’ll be talking about the best things we’ve learned from our worst jobs.

#HRHangout: HR Confidential

There are a frightening amount of HR horror stories in the workplace, and we managed to pull together some of the funniest and most cringe worthy moments in our latest #HRHangout.

All too many HR professionals have encountered a nightmare interview, inappropriate gestures/behaviors, and more.  Everyone loves to chuckle at those experiences, but during our chat with the members of Fistful of Talent, we dug a little deeper to uncover how to handle those crazy moments and what you can take away from them.

Watch the video to hear the hilarious stories yourself and benefit from the misfortuneate experiences of Kris Dunn, Tim Sackett, and William Tincup so your next wacky HR incident won’t catch you off guard.

Join us next week for the next SumTotal #HRHangout: A Few of Our Favorite Things, where Fistful of Talent team members will clue us in on their favorite apps, websites, and productivity tools – Wednesday, August 27 at 2:00 p.m. ET!

Brain Food Rx

It’s 3:00 p.m. – my stomach is rumbling, my mind is exhausted, and I want nothing more than to leave work, go home, and have a snack. However, that’s just not going to happen today – I have a 3:30 meeting with the boss and at least two deadlines that have to be met by the end of the day. Time for some brain food!

Here are some great solutions that will get your brain back on track to get you out of the lull – and a few that will also satisfy that rumbling stomach:

Brain Block: “I can’t remember what I was supposed to do.”


Solution: Write things down – whether you use a traditional notepad, post-its, or a digital reminder such as an email, text, or organizer, let the tools remember the details for your so you can focus on the task at hand.

Snack Rx: Blueberries contain compounds known as flavonoids that help improve memory, learning, and general cognitive function. Eat them by the handful. Just remember,  that blueberry muffin doesn’t count.

Brain Block: “Oooh, shiny!”

Quick Fix: If you are having trouble focusing, remove distractions. Temporarily turn off the web and hide your phone in a drawer.  Clearing your desk space will also remove distractions. (Don’t sort through the clutter, just set it aside – that sorting is just keeping you from the task at hand!)

Snack Rx: Peppermint candy or tea stimulates the brain to promote concentration. It has been used by schools to help students perform better on tests and to aid those who suffer from ADD.

Brain Block: “I can’t stop worrying about ____.”

Solution: Take your to-do list and pick one thing to work on (ideally, the one that you can’t get off your mind) and start working on it in small pieces. Reward yourself by taking a small break every 20 minutes and continue until you are done, then move onto the next item on your list.

Snack Rx: Yogurt contains the amino acid lysine, which can help to calm the nerves and lower anxiety.

Brain Block: “I don’t have the energy to think about that right now.”

Solution: Take a quick walk around the building. Stepping away from your work space and getting some fresh air will help bring some energy back and get blood flowing. You’ll return refreshed and ready to take on the afternoon.

Snack Rx: Nuts like almonds and cashews contain magnesium, which is essential for oxygen and blood flow. Getting that blood flowing will help invigorate your mind.

Now that you’re refreshed, go out and tackle the rest of your day!

TotalConnection Miami: More than cool tchotchkes and hot weather

Last week I had the refreshing opportunity to spend three days chatting with attendees, thought leaders and colleagues about training development trends and challenges at ASTD (now ATD!) in Washington, D.C.

After having so many great conversations, I couldn’t help but be reminded of TotalConnection and the invaluable opportunity attendees will have to learn, network and share ideas. Then I realized TotalConnection is only 5 months away. (more…)

Make the Case for Your Trip to TotalConnection

If you read my last blog post, you’ve heard me rave about how life changing it will be to attend TotalConnection 2014. But do you find yourself wondering how best to pitch the idea to your boss?

We know there is a lot to gain from attending this three-day event. From opportunities to hear from industry experts and get more details around the product roadmap, to networking with peers and thought leaders, TotalConnection promises to be one of the most important HR events this year. (Plus, did I mention it was in Miami?) (more…)

Living the Dream at TotalConnection 2014

The warm tropical sun heats up the sand slinking between my toes. A light breeze passes by as I sip a fruity drink and watch the waves crashing with the tide. It’s the most beautiful day I’ve ever seen – and it’s happening in just a few short months.

With all the cold and snowstorms, it’s hard to imagine that this dream of mine will soon be reality. When I recently joined SumTotal and was invited to be part of TotalConnection, I jumped at the chance to be surrounded by amazing people amongst one of the most gorgeous landscapes in North America.