SumTotal Blog

Kurt Jones (6 Posts)

Kurt Jones

Kurt Jones is the Senior Manager of Product Marketing for Learning Solutions at SumTotal. Kurt brings a long history in the HR Technology space having held product, marketing and sales enablement roles for a number of HR Technology providers including SumTotal. He has a passion for helping HR Leaders drive their organization’s talent strategies by maximizing the impact of their HR technology investments. Prior to moving into HR software product marketing, Kurt was an HR practitioner with a focus on Talent Acquisition.

Multi-Generational Workforces Mean the End of the One Size Fits All Learning Approach

Five generations now work alongside each other. Accommodating the different expectations and demands from each group is no small task. As the demographics shift and millennials and Gen Z together begin to outnumber the other groups, it is increasingly evident that companies need to restructure their learning opportunities to better align to this disparate group.

The shape of the new career path

One noticeable difference in how distinct generations view career progression is that most modern employees no longer see the career path as linear. Today people are looking to move through their career, acquiring new skills and conquering new challenges, and that journey can take many directions. What this means is that now, more than ever, employers must be committed to providing ways to grow, improve, and nurture their people. When employers can do that, they earn employee engagement and loyalty, tenfold.

However, developing such an approach doesn’t mean that more traditional employees should be left by the wayside, either. Today’s HR leaders must create multi-faceted engagement strategies that harness the ambition of their most driven employees. They must also allow more traditional individuals to grow in a “slow and steady” manner.

Create an opportunity-rich culture of learning

There are several steps organizations must take to ensure every employee sees a future within the company.

Here is a list of the top five measures HR and L&D must prioritize:

1. Allow self-directed career pathing

Online multi-modal content, training and conference opportunities are great ways to provide fuel for career growth. It also helps HR leaders see which individuals are motivated, and which are ready to step up and learn.

2. Provide learning opportunities to all your people and deliver it in ways relevant to each employee’s learning style

This means mobile-friendly, it means micro-learning AND deep-dive content. Today’s education needs to be available for employees whenever they have time to access it and in a way that is convenient for them.

3. Define your organizational needs and areas of future growth

One of the best ways to help direct and encourage challenge-oriented people is to know where you need them. By doing the work and identifying areas of high-priority growth within your business, you can also share this information in the workplace.

4. Allow digital tools to support your process

Digital tools provide a vast array of personalized learning options and can act as your main educational driver. Today’s leading organizations offer a comprehensive and personalized learning-centered talent development solution spanning the entire employee lifecycle. This means attracting the right employees, engaging them, training them, tracking their progress and rewarding them.

5. Measure organizational progress

Leading learning management systems provide intuitive learner experiences and expansive content libraries to employees. They also track their development and provide HR leaders the analytics they need to prove ROI and overall business value to their C-suite.


Let HR Drive Agility in Your Workforce

Let HR Drive Agility in Your Workforce

In the last 15 years, almost a third of corporations on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were replaced. Failure to adapt was one of the critical contributing factors to their demise. The frenetic pace of change is a massive concern for all enterprises, and how your organization handles this challenge will determine whether or not your business is sustainable.

Central to any organization’s business sustainability is implementing a talent strategy that enables growth in an ever-shifting workplace environment. Business leaders already know that many former industry giants are failing in this rapidly changing marketplace. The key to reducing vulnerability and becoming “fail-proof” is through retention and maximization of talent.

In other words, HR’s fundamental role is now critically aligned with business strategy. A recent Market Cap survey of 1,600 global organizations found that the percent of C-Suite members who discuss talent management related strategy and issues with investors has increased to nearly 70%.

Simply recognizing HR’s critical role is not sufficient. HR must be allowed to build a culture where individuals are trained and ready to tackle change. One that empowers employees to take ownership of their development so they can acquire new skills sets. It also needs to provide employees with limitless career opportunities.

HR must be allowed to:

#1 Make talent a top priority

Leading organizations focused on business sustainability must hire the right talent with an intuitive and customizable requisition process; screening, interview and application tools; and the ability to search and manage pools of external and internal employee candidates. It’s not about “headcount,” it’s about the right heads, sitting in the right chairs. As any experienced HR leader knows, that requires tremendous organization and a frictionless recruitment process.

#2 Promote from within 

We know it is less expensive to upskill an existing employee than to find someone new, and employees are making it clear that they want employers who offer career opportunities. Watch Derek Blake, Sr. Director of Global Learning at PSAV, explain how they are deploying career functionality to plan their future workforce.

#3 Develop the skills your organization really needs 

Before embarking on any learning initiative, it is essential first to understand the skills needed both now and the skills required to take your organization into the future. Complete an inventory of the scope of the skills your employees currently possess – this includes those skills they have but do not utilize in their current capacity – and share the findings with the key stakeholders to develop an accurate picture of the necessary skills.

No one understands people like HR

Morné Swart, Vice President of Global Product Strategy & Transformational Leader, SumTotal, recently published Why Leading Organizations Need HR to Drive Business Sustainability. This free eBook provides a game plan to:

  • Position HR at the helm of business sustainability by being an expert in the boardroom
  • Explain why digital transformation has changed talent management and what it means for your organization long-term
  • Gain more in-depth knowledge of why innovation, automation, and adaptation are the keys to a robust talent management and business sustainability strategy
  • Make talent development the top priority for decision-makers within your organization
  • Empower your people to take control of their careers and fully engage with their roles

How to Use an Employee Value Proposition (EVP) to Attract Top Talent

How to Use an Employee Value Proposition (EVP) to Attract Top Talent For Your Organization

In an era of skills shortages and low unemployment rates, the task of recruiting employees is getting more challenging. Plus potential employees have access to insight about a prospective company on an unprecedented scale. Glassdoor is a wonderful tool and a real boon to candidates wondering if they should take a job with one organization or another. While I am happy that such transparency means job seekers can make a more informed decision, I am also acutely aware of the pressure it now places on employers and often HR, in particular, to rethink just how the organization presents or markets itself to new potential employees.

The answer to how enterprises can effectively market themselves to job candidates lies in the concept of employee value proposition (EVP). Not to be confused with an employer value proposition, this EVP “refers to a combination of benefits and rewards that an organization offers to its employees in return for their work and skills… a strong EVP also includes intangible components such as culture, opportunities for personal and professional development, and more.”

With an EVP, employers create talent personas which cater to the specific roles they need to fill and highlight critical components of the job most attractive to these personas. Think of it like this, designers tend to be most interested in working with companies who have a strong sense of identity, brand and aesthetic, while engineers and programmers are more likely to favor companies that prize and highlight their commitment to innovation and cutting-edge technologies. Tailoring EVPs to specific roles and individuals helps organizations stand out in a big way.

The Five essential characteristics of an EVP

According to Gartner, EVPs portray the value of working in an organization across five attributes:

  • Opportunity: Can I learn and grow here? Is the company growing?
  • People: Will I connect with my co-workers, manager, and can I see myself here? Do I have confidence in upper management?
  • Organization: Is the company socially responsible? Do I connect to the causes it promotes? Are the products or services from the company those I place value in?
  • Work: Will my new role facilitate a work-life balance?
  • Rewards: What sort of compensation is on offer? What is the salary, the health benefits package, and how much paid time-off is included

Be sure to communicate your EVP

A 2018 poll of 12 Fortune 500 companies found that 59% of employers neglect to provide information on why employees would want to work for them. Ignoring your EVP is a lost opportunity for HR to attract and retain top-performing employees and build positive brand awareness and ambassadors. Highlighting the benefits offered is important, but framing the value and perks of your company through a lens of differentiation is the most powerful way to harness these traits. EVPs are not only about what an employer offers to its workforce; they are also about how these offerings make a company different from its competitors.

How to strengthen your EVP

Leading HR research firm Mercer simplifies what it means to have a compelling EVP into three components: contractual, experiential and emotional.

Contractual rewards are basic salary and benefits like healthcare and PTO. Most companies phrase their EVP only in terms of these contractual rewards, and these are features that make your company competitive. While salary and benefits are essential, they’re the baseline for competitiveness in today’s world. Research shows that money isn’t your best stronghold against attrition. For every 10% rise in pay, employees are only 1.5% more likely to remain with their employer.

Tip: Make sure your salary and benefits are competitive in your market for each role. Be sure to consistently review your remuneration scales. The current competitive marketplace means changing salary benchmarks. Falling behind may leave your organization at a competitive disadvantage.

Experiential rewards are essentially to “reflect how employees experience their organizations, both in and outside of work.” Included under this category are wellness benefits, retirement savings, 401K plans and social interaction in the workplace. These are some of the benefits that can help differentiate your organization.

Tip: Make sure you deliver a robust set of non-traditional benefits. These include wellness benefits and other suggestions, such as parental leave.

Emotional rewards are the most meaningful, useful and powerful components of an EVP. These rewards characterize the actual level of engagement an employee feels to their employer and work. These are often intangible but are the things that make an employee feel as though their work is purposeful. Many times, organizations that excel in the emotional rewards, and therefore have the strongest EVPs, are socially oriented companies. It’s the social capital of employers like this that galvanizes a sense of fulfillment and purpose in work. Organizations who articulate their business objectives into a broader societal purpose tend to foster a heightened emotional connection between organization and employees.

Tip: While emotional rewards are tough to articulate, employees appreciate acknowledgment from managers and colleagues of a job well-done, which contributes to creating a culture where employees feel valued.

Leading global employers and HR departments are using the EVP to answer the all-important question, “how does the organization I work for, work for me?” If you have not established your EVP, attracting and hiring new talent will get even more difficult, and your oversight will be the competition’s gain.

Want to learn more about the strategic value of a clearly defined EVP? Read the new whitepaper, The EVP is the New MVP, by Jim Poisson, SumTotal’s Senior Director of Product Management.


Diversity in the Workplace: Good for People, Good for Business


Diversity in the Workplace: Good for People, Good for Business

A few years back I attended a panel presentation featuring many prominent business executives discussing diversity and inclusion (D&I) to an audience of HR leaders. At the time I was impressed how at each of the organizations involved, D&I was successfully incorporated into the overall HR strategy.

Fast forward to today where organizations around the world are waking up to the fact that workforce D&I is not an HR initiative, it is an intelligent business strategy, a strategy that must permeate throughout the organization, led and supported from the top. HR’s role now is to drive execution.

Diversity and inclusion (D&I) is good for business

A recent BCG study found that companies reporting above average diversity on their management teams also reported innovation revenue that was 19% points higher than those with less diverse teams. The most significant gains arising from changing the makeup of leadership cohorts regarding national origin, the range of industry backgrounds, gender and career paths.

Need more convincing?

Cloverpop conducted comprehensive research on inclusive decision making and its effects. The results demonstrate the benefits of including more diverse employees in business decisions at all levels:

  • Inclusive teams make better business decisions up to 87% of the time
  • Teams that follow an inclusive process make decisions 2X faster with 1/2 the meetings
  • Decisions made and executed by diverse teams deliver 60% better results
  • Compared to individual decision makers, all-male teams make better business decisions 58% of the time, while gender diverse teams do so 73% of the time

The bottom line according to Erik Larson, CEO and founder of Cloverpop, is ”research found that decision making effectiveness is 95% correlated with financial performance.“

In other words, D&I lifts everyone’s game.

However, despite all the overwhelming evidence that’s available, many managers and employees fail to make the connection between these research findings and their day-to-day jobs. Taking a look at two case studies discussed during that panel I mentioned earlier, we can gain insight into some real-world execution of workforce D&I strategy and its results.

Case study one: rising healthcare costs

A major Midwest healthcare organization that manages multiple hospital facilities had conducted a thorough analysis of their costs in their acute care facilities and emergency rooms. What they found was staggering. More than one in five patients discharged from their hospitals were re-admitted within 30 days. The cost to the hospital and Medicare was in the millions of dollars annually.

After a meaningful review, the healthcare organization came up with a multi-step plan to address the readmission problem. One of the central tenants of the solution focused on the makeup of the clinical staff at each hospital. Among the insights gleaned from their reviews was that the communities that each hospital served were becoming increasingly diverse. As a result, the number of patients admitted that either spoke English as a second language or no English at all had increased dramatically. What hadn’t changed was the number of clinical staff who reflected the patient population or had the necessary language skills to communicate appropriately with patients. Think of the fallout from a patient who only speaks Portuguese receiving complex home-care instructions in English. Their readmittance is highly likely since the patient does not understand or can’t follow through on their care plan. The result was that the organization needed to overhaul its recruiting, training and patient processing procedures. Once this happened, the organization could execute a talent strategy that helped to significantly reduce costs within their hospital network while increasing overall patient satisfaction – real strategy with bottom-line results.

Case Study two: remain or leave?

A Fortune Global 100 organization was struggling to determine the best option to address the business strategy for one of their retail business segments. The brick & mortar business dealt in consumer medical products and pharmacy distribution. The firm was at a crossroads due to a massive demographic shift happening with their workforce. Its workforce was primarily white male baby boomers. Based on its workforce analysis projections, a significant percentage of the staff planned to retire over the next 5-7 years.

While the solution may appear simple – hire new staff to fill the vacant roles, there was another factor impacting the retail business. Similar to the healthcare example, the demographics of its customer base had changed dramatically. Its workforce, to succeed in the new retail environment, needed to reflect again the diversity of the communities where they operated. Now the organization was faced with a choice. Do they undertake the talent acquisition strategies and outreach programs to support a diverse consumer base or, do they leave the retail space altogether, sell off this division and cash out on this business line?  The business opted to stay, and a team of executives led the way in driving major D&I initiatives that spanned all areas of their retail business. From talent acquisition strategies, community outreach and job fairs, to supporting local education initiatives to drive more awareness and future potential employees in their communities, the company implemented a policy that embraced diversity for the business value it brought.

HR tools to execute and measure successful D&I strategies

Incorporating a more diverse and inclusive approach to talent is a proven business strategy. HR, supported by management, plays a vital role in ensuring the success of any D&I initiatives. No technology or product solution can “make” your organization diverse and inclusive. There are tools that help HR professionals execute well-articulated and supported D&I strategies and, equally important, help measure the progress your company is making.

SumTotal’s learning and talent development solutions give HR the ability to:

  • Utilize SumTotal Learning Management to provide all employees with unconscious bias training,  access to mandatory compliance training around legal requirements and help develop leaders who prioritize and understand how to assemble, encourage and manage diverse teams.
  • Use SumTotal Talent Acquisition to attract, hire and retain employees with diverse backgrounds to avoid “like for like” hiring.
  • Take advantage of SumTotal’s social capabilities to enable groups and individuals to come together for special initiatives like mentorship, employee resources groups to help all employees feel more connected to each other and the organization.

Regardless of where your organization is in their drive to build a diverse and inclusive workplace, D&I is sound business and HR strategy. Reach out and ask how SumTotal can help you execute to drive positive business results.

Career Pathing Is Your Best Employee Retention Strategy

Career Pathing Is Your Best Employee Retention Strategy

Think the war for talent is an overused term describing the challenges recruiters face to fill open requisitions? Think again. In the United States alone, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has consistently shown monthly job growth for years. Meanwhile, wage growth is starting to inch up, a trend that seems unlikely to stop given the rise in demand for skilled workers, making it more expensive for employers to fill open positions. These challenges have a real and direct impact on every organization’s bottom line.

Furthermore, the problem doesn’t stop once you’ve attracted the top talent. Employers now need to work at making it a priority to retain employees. A recent survey by the global staffing firm Robert Half found job-hopping is a significant trend in the marketplace today with 64% of workers, 75% of those under 35, believing that frequent job changes will have an overall benefit to their career. The consequences of this for business leaders are enormous. HR must now execute a candidate-centric recruiting experience, package together salary and benefits offerings that deliver a competitive advantage and provide clear opportunities for career development and growth. In short, HR leaders must address challenges that have a direct and profound impact on business performance and financial results.

How to retain employees

Employees, once you get them in the door, want meaningful development opportunities. Transparency and relevance are crucial to delivering the experience each employee expects. Listing career development on a corporate values poster will not cut it. Gallup research finds that 87% of Millennials and 69% of non-Millennials rate “professional or career growth and development opportunities” as important or very important. However, too many organizations are missing the mark with career development. The same Gallup study found less than half of Millennials strongly agreed that they have had opportunities to learn and grow in the previous year. Moreover, only one-third reported their most recent learning opportunity was “well worth” their time.

Ryan Bonnici, the former senior director at HubSpot and now Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of G2 Crowd, explains his philosophy on career growth with his staff:

“When I make clear to my employees that I want them to consider all options for their careers, they see that I’m genuinely committed to helping them learn and grow. They know it’s not lip service; I care about their development. If I think they’ve gotten to the top of their learning curve on my team, and I can’t figure out a way to help them grow, I will support their efforts to get a job somewhere else.” 

Regardless of the outcomes, the fact is successful organizations are not only providing their employees with L&D opportunities, they are also doing so systematically and methodically. Technology is making this possible. Here at SumTotal, we offer employers a way, a tool, whereby they can easily and efficiently provide their employees a clear designated career path and one that progresses upward with learning. This career pathing capability allows employees to choose aspirational career opportunities and receive a personalized learning plan from which they can build the skills and competencies required to move to their next step.

It’s not just about the employees either. Organizations benefit exponentially by having a well-trained and motivated workforce. Not only are such employees more productive, they also grow in their role and build capabilities and expertise that the organization needs to adapt to changes in its business environment. Furthermore, as Josh Bersin pointed out during his keynote at our Perspectives 2018 conference, research from Deloitte illustrates that internal employees can develop the same skills as an external hire at one-sixth the cost.

In other words, investing in your hard-won talent is perhaps one of the most critical moves an organization can make in the current tight labor market.

Here’s David Blake, senior director of global learning for PSAV, explaining why he believes the ability to systemize career development is a game-changer and one his organization is using to gain a competitive advantage.

Want to learn more about how to manage talent in today’s competitive labor market? Read our whitepaper on How Learning Drives Talent Development and Growth: Creating the Talent You Need In-House

How Technology Enhances Employee Performance & Engagement

How Technology Enhances Employee Performance & Engagement

Gallup research revealed that it is an employee’s manager that influences 70% of their engagement. This statistic suggests that it is the relationship between manager and employee that is the crucial factor in determining why performance varies so wildly from one group to another. As a result, organizations now recognize the importance of the manager-employee relationship and are challenging HR leaders to produce ways to better understand, measure and influence these relationships and in turn drive performance, productivity and engagement.   

HR leaders, in turn, are looking to technology to find the solution. Today there are a wealth of innovative solutions on the market that enable HR to accomplish this task.

The role of technology in performance & feedback

Employee expectations are driving the pace of innovation in HR and in recent years we’ve seen incredible growth in employee survey and feedback tools. Most of these tools try to measure employee Net Promoter Score (NPS) and/or employee engagement and are designed to provide anonymity to facilitate honesty and candor. These surveys measure how employees feel about their organization, company leadership/strategic direction, their direct managers and the role the employee is performing at the organization.

These tools, when used well, can help executives and managers understand areas of focus that require attention for creating better cultures, improving communication and morale, and ultimately improving retention. While important, this technology and the data it produces do not solve the problem. Instead, they provide evidence that managers need to develop action plans for improvement. When management does make any company-wide changes based on employee feedback, it makes employees feel connected and gives them a sense that their opinions matter.

There’s also been a dramatic shift in the thinking and strategy behind performance management. For decades, it consisted of the dreaded annual review which did nothing to improve or enhance employee performance and productivity. Yearly reviews are now archaic. Today, performance management is about facilitating a more consistent and frequent interaction between the employee and their manager. The result of more frequent communication is the ability to address, in real-time, performance areas that can be improved, measured and developed if skill gaps exist. More frequent performance and feedback reviews allow managers and employees to be more agile with the goals they set. Taking an agile approach to performance and feedback also helps managers and employees stay aligned with rapid changes in corporate strategic objectives due to the pace of digital transformation and competition. 

Technology as a facilitator

Thanks to technology, organizations now can institutionalize the process of collecting feedback/input, manage the process of initiating interactions, and provide the tools and plans that enable employees to develop and improve. At SumTotal, performance combined with personalized learning and development planning is a core focus and one that leads to career growth, engagement and increased retention. To learn more about this concept and get some practical advice about performance reviews and the benefits that come from focusing on people not process, read our new white paper on Improving Performance Reviews: People Strategy Now Outranks Business Strategy in Helping Companies Achieve Desired Outcomes.

My only word of caution is to remember that no technology solution can replace the value and impact of human interaction, specifically the interaction between employee and manager. In every organization, it is critical that the employee-manager relationship is, at its heart, a human one and focused on achieving shared goals.


Using SumTotal’s 360 Degree Feedback employees can reach their full potential.  To learn more, request a demo and see for yourself how we can help build a strong and nurturing relationship between manager and employee that will ultimately lead to positive business outcomes.