SumTotal Blog

Kim Jamerson (4 Posts)

Kim Jamerson

Kim is SumTotal’s customer communications manager. As a recovering talking head and TV news reporter, there’s nothing she likes more than uncovering a good story. She enjoys working closely with customers to produce videos and case studies that celebrate their knowledge, experience and successes to promote peer-to-peer learning.

HR Lessons from 10K Feet

My decision to hurl myself out of a perfectly good plane at 10-thousand feet may seem crazy to some. But for me, it was the culmination of 20 years of desire wrapped up in a present to yours truly. I did it to mark my 40th birthday.

While I’d wanted to try skydiving for decades, money-, time- and life-constraints always seemed to get in the way. Thank goodness I overcame those hurdles and took the plunge!

But funny thing happened on my way up and down…I encountered one of my coworkers, Akio.

Akio is a SumTotal IT wizard who I’ve called on many times to solve my computer, phone or other technical difficulties. It turns out that he also has a secret set of skills – Akio freelances as a high-flying photographer/videographer. He happened, by chance, to be the guy who immortalized my first jump.

Kim Jamerson on her first sky diving experience
My first skydiving experience captured by the talented Akio!

So as I nervously prepared for my inaugural skydive, Akio’s presence calmed me. Then, as the plane circled and climbed, it got me thinking about a lot of random things, like the skills gaps that many organizations face within their workforce and how many unknown employee skills might be hiding within those organizations that go untapped. (Warning: These thoughts may represent a need for me to take a real vacation.)

The Skills Crisis
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that we can fix the global skills shortage simply by uncovering hidden talents. The gap is just too big:

  • McKinsey Global Institute projects that the global labor market will face a deficit of nearly 85 million skilled workers within the next five years.[1]
  • Another report, which examined the disparity between our educational systems and the job skills employers’ need, noted that, in the US, 45% of employers said lack of skills was the “main reason” for entry-level vacancies.[2]

But I am questioning how many organizations have enough insights into their own talent pools to make educated decisions about initiatives that are designed to close those gaps.

Know Thy Employees
Here at SumTotal and Skillsoft, we’re dedicated to helping organizations provide the learning and development their employees need to be better at their current jobs and advance in their careers.

But as a manager, and someone who wants my company to succeed, I believe doing that effectively begins with taking a step back. I mean, the only way you can close gaps is to really know what skills and competencies your employees have, right?

That requires:

  • Encouraging managers to have conversations with employees
    These discussions must go beyond annual reviews. You need to understand what employees want to do moving forward, enable them to get down that path, and uncover the hidden interests and skills they may have that could help them find new opportunities within your organization.
  • Capturing employee information
    Who cares if you ask if you can’t act on the answer? And what about the questions that go unanswered? Organizations must take steps to document, extract (such as from third-party sources like LinkedIn), and mine this information so they can use it to find the next great “fill-in-the-blank employee.”  Detailed talent profiles will help you ensure you’re not wasting valuable resources searching for external talent when you have it within your own organization.
  • Celebrating talent mobility
    Most organizations reward managers primarily, if not solely, on what their departments accomplish. Managers rarely receive much recognition for enabling their people to find jobs in other areas. Meanwhile, Bureau of Labor Statistics research shows that younger workers change jobs every 1.8 years. If your organization isn’t giving managers incentives to grow employees and help them move into new positions outside of their purview, your best people are likely looking outside your organization for their next position.
  • Training to fill gaps
    No organization that I’ve ever known has a set of employees that can fill open positions as is. If you’re an exception, congratulations! But if you’re among the rest of the 99% (made up stat), you need a better picture of your workforce’s talents and interests. Armed with that information, you will be able to develop and retain employees to fill many of your gaps.

Here’s why that’s important. Studies have shown that internal hires:

  • Perform significantly better the first two years on the job
  • Have a 20% lower turnover rate
  • Are substantially less expensive

Take Measured Risks
Skydiving is, hands down, one of the most exhilarating and life-changing events that I’ve experienced to date.

But I hope this post, and my epiphany with Akio, means that you won’t need to plummet to the earth at 120 miles per hour to learn from my experience. That said, I highly recommend it, and I want pictures if you do!

Related Resources

[1] McKinsey Global Institute. 2012.

[2] McKinsey Global Institute. 2012.

TotalConnection: Not Your Average Conference

When I headed to TotalConnection 2013, I didn’t know what to expect. Sure, I’d attended many conferences in my career, but this marked my first vendor-hosted user conference, and boy, what an amazing difference!

Profession-focused conferences certainly provide the opportunity to gather with folks who have similar interests and goals, but user conferences, like TotalConnection, take it to a whole other level. TotalConnection 2013

Perhaps I’m biased, as SumTotal’s customer communications manager, but I think it’s our customers that make this event standout.

Here are my top 5 reasons, in no particular order:

  1. Customer Presentations: I got to hear firsthand from our customers of the creative ways they’re addressing their HR and human capital management (HCM) challenges, and specifically how they’re using our technologies to achieve their goals. From keynotes from Praxair and Howden to breakout sessions from Lowe’s and City of Boise, it was great to see the excitement customers felt in sharing their stories and the engagement from the audience in learning new ideas. This year’s agenda is shaping up to be equally, if not more, informative and entertaining.
  2. Customer Videos: There’s nothing I like better than having an opportunity to share our customers’ successes, and I’m grateful that many customers feel the same. A handful of them, including McAfee, Good Samaritan Society and Tokyo Electron, sat down with me in front of a camera to talk about their business challenges and how they’ve overcome them. View other customer videos.
  3. Customer Innovation Awards: You can’t be in the HR business and not understand the importance of recognizing people for a job well done. That’s the idea behind SumTotal’s Innovation Awards. Last year’s 20 finalists and six winners, including Duke Energy and Univar, demonstrated how to create outstanding value with HR programs and technologies. I can’t wait to see the variety of submissions we get this year. Submit your application before August 18.
  4. Customer Appreciation Event: Who doesn’t want to unwind a bit after several information-packed days? Last year we celebrated our final evening at BB Kings – the photos say it all. This year, prepare for an awesome beachside “Cirque du SumTotal” celebration.  Circus/street performance acts with the smell and sound of the ocean? I can’t wait!
  5. Customer Connections: I think you’ll be hard pressed to find an event more aptly named than TotalConnection, because that was the real value I took away. It offers fantastic opportunities to connect with peers, customers, partners and SumTotal executives and experts.

In a world in which relationships are increasingly built virtually by phone and the Internet, there’s something to be said about having a chance to put a face to the name. I had the pleasure of doing just that with dozens of customers last year. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with them and making even more connections this October. I hope to see you in Miami!

Do you have more to add? Tweet me (@KimJamerson) or @SumTotalSystems using the #SumTotalTC14 hashtag or leave a comment below!

Summer: Not a Vacation for Workforce Scheduling

Let’s face it. When summer rolls around, most folks are looking to cash in on their PTO banks and take some well-earned time off. And good organizations know that giving their employees vacation time pays off.

A CCH Human Resources Management study demonstrated that more than 50% of employees feel more “rested, rejuvenated and reconnected to their personal life” and that nearly 40% of workers “feel more productive and better about their job” when returning from vacation.Beach (more…)

And the award goes to… you!

Oscar producers went with a more traditional approach for the show last night. And while it lacked some of the entertainingly awkward moments from last year, with the exception of Jennifer Lawrence stumbling for the second time, I found it hard not to get caught up in all of the excitement as I kicked back on my couch to watch it.

When Lupita Nyong’o gave her heartfelt acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress and later Bette Midler sang “Wind Beneath My Wings,” I admit it, I got a little choked up. But, I also smiled as the married songwriters and Best Original Song winners rhymed their way through their thank yous, and laughed at Ellen’s epic selfie, which apparently crashed Twitter.

Most of us will never experience the pageantry of the Oscars, but beneath all of the glitz and glamour, the Academy Awards really boil down to one thing – peer recognition for a job well done. And that’s something that we all can and should go after for our customers, our organizations and ourselves.

Here at SumTotal, we’ve placed a bigger emphasis on that recently, and it’s paid off.

Best Original Screenplay: Customer Kudos
In April we launched our first Innovation Awards program and honored 20 customers, including our winners McAfee, Univar, Praxair, Duke Energy, Lowes and City of Boise, at our TotalConnection customer event. (Check out the photos)

Their creative approaches to Talent Expansion™ deserved recognition, and we were thrilled to give them a platform to showcase their initiatives. They earned acknowledgement for their innovation and other attendees walked away with new ideas. Win, win!

Speaking of which, we’re accepting nominations for the 2014 SumTotal Customer Innovation Awards through August 18. 

Best Producer: Organizational Success
In the past year, we’ve been honored with more than a dozen awards, including:

That third-party validation, of course, helps the organization in terms of sales and marketing opportunities. But this industry recognition also boosts morale.

I felt a sense of pride with each of these announcements, and as one of the people responsible for sharing them internally, I can tell you that other employees did too. Email replies like these make my day:

“This is so exciting!”
“Can you feel the momentum building?”
“Another reason SumTotal rocks!”

Best Leading Actor/Actress: Individual Accolades
Putting together a winning application is important for personal reasons too. Not only does it feel great, (“I was jumping up and down in my cubicle when I heard our name,” is what one customer emailed after learning they’d won), it’s also an opportunity to get internal recognition for your team’s efforts and is another way to strengthen your personal brand.

Find Your Academy Award
There are dozens of awards programs out there, from industry publications to analyst programs. I encourage you to research them to find ones that fit with what you and your organization are trying to achieve.

Make note of deadlines and application requirements. Mark your calendar with reminders. Then, throughout the year, file away examples of successes to make it easier to build your application. Having solid metrics matters, so be prepared to demonstrate measurable results of your programs.

With preparation and a little luck, you might just walk away with your own “Oscar.” And in the words of Best Actor winner Matthew McConaughney, that would be “All right, all right, all right.”