SumTotal Blog

Anthea Ross (3 Posts)

Anthea Ross

Anthea Ross is SumTotal Systems’ marketing specialist for Mainland Europe, Middle East and our EMEA channel. As a multilingual marketing generalist she is responsible for delivering English, French and German demand generation campaigns and events, as well as French website maintenance and partner support from a marketing point of view. As a member of the EMEA staff social committee she regularly contributes cakes to Monday Munchies and the SumTotal Reading Bake-Off.

Winning the War for Talent in the Middle East

The war for talent is a challenge faced on both global and domestic levels. Whilst there are similarities on a global level (i.e. the disparity between the availability of talent and required skills) each geographic region or even country has to deal with additional issues, which can include differences in demographics, diversity, nationalisation, education, engagement and economic outlook.

The Middle East is a prime example of how the war for talent is different at a geographical level. According to the PwC 2014 Global CEO survey1, 72% of Middle East CEOs are focusing on creating a skilled workforce over the next 3 years. This is one of the highest percentages across the globe. However 70% of CEOs in the area have identified availability of key skills as a potential business threat to their organisation1.  At the same time, the youth unemployment rate in the Middle East is the highest in the world2. In fact, one in four Arab youth are unemployed with a median age of 241!Bright Colors - Business People

Organisations in the region must work towards meeting Nationalisation targets for the private sector. Within the 6 member countries of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) about 13 million foreigners make up about 70% of the workforce.

The age of the local workforce, the nationalisation targets and the globalisation of labour offer an interesting battle field in the war for Talent. To create a skilled workforce organisations need to get better at building and engaging their talent to ensure a consistent and capable pipeline of ready people to develop tomorrow’s workforce.

Here are 5 steps to developing top talent:

  1. Understand your organisation’s talent profile. Understanding your talent’s profile goes beyond capturing information in the talent acquisition process. Almost every organisation has a wealth of talent information hidden across multiple HR systems.  It’s important to get a comprehensive view of your people, from internal and external data sources, including social networking sites like LinkedIn.  
  2. Recognise your true talent needs.  Yesterday’s talent needs are not tomorrow’s talent needs. The talent profile needs to evolve continuously to take into account nationalisation, diversification, globalisation of various sectors, as well as the current and future business needs. In the complex labour market in the Middle East you may also need to recognise that there are desirable and realistic talent needs.
  3. Perform regular gap analyses. To develop tomorrow’s workforce and win the local war for talent you will need to regularly identify key competencies required for outstanding performance and success in each area, so you can create a list of learning activities that can help to develop each competency. Regularly examining the gaps between existing talent and true talent needs allows organisations to be agile in reacting to business, economic or regulatory conditions, resulting in increased engagement, internal succession and productivity.
  4. Integrate talent and learning to drive engagement. Organisations in the Middle East have a very diverse workforce and individuals are different, even if they work in the same organisation at the same job. But most organisations’ training and development programmes, when they exist at all, are still one-size-fits-all and are often detached from the talent management process. By putting learning at the core of talent management programmes, employees are provided with learning opportunities which will enable them to close skills gaps. Delivering training to the workforce, when and where they need it will ultimately help to drive employee engagement, enhance compliance, increase retention and improve productivity.
  5. Reward leaders who drive internal talent mobility
    In the Middle East personal networks are extremely important and this can influence employment or advantage in the workplace, which can undermine the whole talent management strategy. Most managers are rewarded on what their organisations accomplish, but to drive internal talent mobility they should be recognised for enabling their people to find new jobs in new departments to ensure that the best talent is always in the most important role.

What do you think? Did I miss anything? Leave a comment below! And, if you’re looking to learn more about how to win the war for talent in the Middle East read – Developing Tomorrow’s Workforce: Winning the War for Talent in the Middle East.


1 PwC Middle East CEO Survey 2014: Fit for the Future
2 Arab Thought Foundation: Enabling Job Creation In the Arab World
3 YalesGlobal Online: An Empowered Middle East – Part 1 (10 January 2008)


Finding your Perfect Match

A few weeks back at a SumTotal offsite I was having dinner with a few of my colleagues and we started joking about online dating and how much it reminds us of the interview process. When I come to think of it, recruiting can be much like internet dating. It is almost impossible to find the ideal candidate or partner without being proactive and widening your search net.

Recruiting and hiring comes down to chemistry.  As Tim Sackett says, “hired doesn’t equal the most skills, it equals the most connections made with those interviewing you.”love computer

So how do you find someone who is passionate about what you are passionate about?

Figuring out what you want: Online Profile = Job Description
The process starts very much in the same way. First you market yourself. You write your profile – listing off your personal attributes, skills and interests and what you seek from your potential partner.  This is also very important when looking for the ideal candidate. The recruiter needs to work closely with the hiring manager to understand the job spec and build the right framework a potential candidate would fit in, such as job experience, industry experience, education and soft-skills. You have to know what you want to get what you want.

Putting yourself out there: Posting
After the profile has been posted, the match making begins! People will contact you based on requirements and interests and vice versa. This is identical to posting and advertising a job vacancy and doing your own recruiting and networking for potential candidates using recruitment databases and online sources, such as LinkedIn (which is basically a professional version of eHarmony). This is where you really need to widen your net because the more potential candidates you find/who find you, the more chance you have of converting one of them to a “hire” (a.ka. relationship).

Opening the lines of communication: Emailing = Screening
So, you begin looking at the profiles of people who match your requirements or contacted you. Based on your impression, you initiate contact.  Once you start emailing with someone you like (the personal version of the screening stage in the recruitment process) you will have found people (candidates) who not only match your interests (the job-spec), but who are also interested in you (the role and company).

Getting to know each other: Dating = interviewing
So, now it starts getting exciting! Some of the people you’ve been emailing would like to meet up for a date! Hopefully the date will go smoothly. Either you enjoy each-other’s company and a next date is set or you both leave feeling disappointed. So, going back to the search for the ideal candidate, the first date is almost exactly like the first in-person interview.

It’s a numbers game
Don’t forget it’s a “numbers-game”, so whilst you email people and go on first dates (a.k.a interviews), you will need to maintain the top of the funnel and keep looking for your perfect match (dream candidate), because if you don’t do this concurrently it will take an awful long time to find “the one”. In the business situation the recruiter will be busy increasing the number of qualified resumes, whilst the hiring manager and other stake holders work through the interview process.

Making it official: New relationship = new hire
After lots of dates with different people, you meet someone you really like and they like you too! You’ve been on several dates, the chemistry is there and you commit to a relationship. In the business world, the candidate has had multiple interviews with different stakeholders, who all not only buy into their experience, but also into their personality and everyone feels that there is a match with the skills required for the role, as well as the candidate being a cultural fit. So the offer has gone out and has been accepted and the ideal candidate has been found. Both parties are very happy!

The most important part: Good chemistry = good cultural fit
Having that chemistry or a cultural fit is just as important as any experience or skills. Many a parting of ways in both relationships and business situations happens because there was no chemistry and people didn’t listen to their gut-instinct, but looked at things rationally (like hiring on experience or a skills tick-list). By hiring people who are passionate about what they do and believe in the company, you are more like to ultimately create a highly engaged workforce.

People who are more passionate and connected to their companies are far more likely to be committed to the business?

What do you think?



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.