SumTotal Blog

Steve Wainwright (4 Posts)

Steve Wainwright

Steve Wainwright is Managing Director of Skillsoft (and SumTotal, a Skillsoft company) in Europe, Middle East and Africa. He is primarily responsible for overseeing Skillsoft's direct and channel sales operations in the region, including business development, sales, marketing and the successful implementation of Skillsoft's products and services across EMEA.

Learning In The Flow Of Work- The Age Of Learning On-Demand


In this age of learning-on-demand, it is only right that I reflect on our annual user conference EMEA #Perspectives18 before the dust settles on another hugely successful event. In the shadows of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Chad Gaydos (Chief Operating Officer) kicked off the biggest and best EMEA Perspectives to date.  Hundreds of learning professionals from across the region joined us for a packed day of exciting content and platform announcements, industry insights, analyst findings and plenty of networking opportunities.

In his opening keynote, Chad reflected on the transformational work completed by former CEO, Bill Donoghue in his two years with the organisation, before his retirement earlier this year. Bill’s vision of producing beautiful technology and engaging content was the cornerstone of Skillsoft and SumTotal’s latest product offering. Chad discussed the impact of our world-class content delivery platform Percipio and its just-in-time, game-changing browser plug-in ELSA. The audience heard how SumTotal was committed to staying ahead of the curve, displaying remarkable speed and agility by delivering three annual platform updates. Both Skillsoft and SumTotal have ‘accessibility for all’ at the forefront of their design philosophies ensuring that no other content and platform provider is poised to deliver digital capability to your organisations.


I was inspired to hear Apratim Purakayastha,  Skillsoft’s Chief Technology Officer introduce a new motto – learning in the flow of work, learning in the flow of life explaining that in this fast-moving digital economy, learning rarely takes place at your desk. Today it happens on the train, on your mobile, just before entering a meeting – even in the evening when you get home from work.

When Skillsoft’s Chief Content Officer, Mark Onisk, took to the stage he described “our mission to help people achieve their fullest potential through learning.” In addition to the hyper-successful Watch. Read. Listen. methodology, Mark unveiled Practice – designed to help learners apply the knowledge they have acquired through practical scenarios. Furthermore, Skillsoft’s hyper-current 90-day content roadmap was highlighted, ensuring that customers always have access to up-to-date learning solutions at the point of need.

There were several themes repeated through the day from our speakers and attendees alike: agility, digital transformation, and talent. A huge thank-you to our #Perspectives18 customer panel hosted by Snehanshu Shah, SVP, Industry Value & Solutions Practice, Skillsoft, with customer participants Craige Heaney, Group Head of L&D – Centrica, Sue Hawke ,Senior Manager, Head of Global Learning Technologies – Linklaters LLP, and Dr Chantelle Brandt Larsen, Senior Digital Engagement Lead  – Capgemini.

The panel was hugely engaging and interactive and shed light on how employers in the marketplace must be innovative, adaptable and agile when hiring and retaining talent. Roles change as a reaction to industry conditions, but organisations must offer their employees re-skilling opportunities to improve and stay relevant. I am immensely proud that Skillsoft and SumTotal continue to partner with such forward-thinking enterprises.


Keeping the focus on our customers, it was overwhelming to see the impact Skillsoft is having on organisations such as National Trust. Jon Townsend, Chief Information Officer, outlined how in the eight months since they rolled out Percipio, they have transformed the effectiveness of their IT team, implemented a GDPR re-permission campaign and improved their apprenticeship offering.

Gavin McQuillan (Head of Learning – Royal Bank of Scotland) offered a wonderful quote: “Change is hard, but irrelevance is harder.” He discussed how Skillsoft was a part of their journey to becoming a digital organisation and that for every £1 spent with us, they have returned £17, a mind-blowing statistic that further enhances our reputation as the global leader in eLearning.

Before I draw to a close, I must mention our other excellent speakers from the day:

  • Harriet Minter, Journalist & Women in Leadership Advocate (@HarrietMinter) who comprehensively smashed a multitude of myths about women in the workplace.
  • Andy Lancaster, Head of L&D, CIPD (@AndyLancasterUK) shifting attitudes towards mobiles devices at work. Why do we still assume employees are distracted when they’re using their phones?
  • David Wilson, CEO, Fosway Group (@dwil23) who, as always, gave an excellent overview of the state of learning. L&D must move away from a habit of delivery and concentrate on agile learning experiences.
  • Laura Overton, Founder and CEO, Towards Maturity (@LauraOverton) who inspired our audience to make 2018 the year of transformation.

As I end this moment of reflection, I return to Chad Gaydos’ comments from the opening keynote:

“When our partners are successful, we are successful”.

Skillsoft and SumTotal have proved again that our customers are always front of mind. Customer feedback is integral to our content and platform design philosophy as we strive to provide our users with a world-class experience and the tools they require to reach their potential. Here’s to a fantastic EMEA Perspectives and a successful 2018.

What I Learned at Learning Technologies 2018


If there is any doubt that L&D is moving towards a digital world, a cursory glance around the Learning Technologies 2018 event last week will eradicate that viewpoint. Most of the vendors, the speakers, and the attendees were talking about one thing – technology and how to make learning truly digital is a key L&D challenge.

Day One’s keynote speaker, Rohit Talwar, CEO of Fast Future, spoke in great detail about how advances in science and technology are changing the way we live, work and learn. He wonders how we as humans will navigate this change, this emerging new world where our very existence is under threat. He suggested that ultimately we may find ourselves having to prove our value; that for us not to be replaced by AI, we will have to understand that it isn’t just that the game is changing, but the very rules themselves.

And organisations will need to ask and answer this question on a much larger scale: How are they future-proofing? How much are they even aware of how much they need to future-proof? Talwar suggested a timeline for this which builds upon the premise that this is an ongoing journey, which companies need to consistently look to the future, to understand future drivers and create a mindset that encourages talent, agility and an innovative culture.

We know humans look for a more in-depth purpose, search for meaning and this might just prove to be the key differentiator between humans and technology. We may need to capitalise on it if we are to survive or at the very least compete with AI. Furthermore, to even out the competition with AI, we may see a rise in the use of supplements, or bio-engineering and cognitive enhancers. Which in turn means that L&D professionals may need to begin including such considerations in the design and implementation of their learning opportunities.

The exponential rise in technological advancements also means we have to ask whether our L&D departments fully understand the opportunities this brings not just to work, but learning too.  For example, have we considered how blockchain will impact L&D, particularly in the area of credentials and professional qualifications?

Talwar also asked us to consider how the Internet of Things will change the learning landscape. “Smart Machines” may soon be central to our existence and we will need to learn new skills, new ways to manage all this information. What happens when every app is a learning platform? How then will L&D evaluate this?

In short, L&D will play a pivotal role in an organisation’s successful journey into the future, which begs the question, does L&D have the resources to prepare for this?

The rest of the conference explored and repeated many of the insights and issues raised by Talwar. Towards Maturity’s Laura Overton acknowledged this as she presented their latest research report, The Transformation Curve, and their findings which demonstrate the challenges faced by L&D and suggest ways to overcome them.  Laura began by acknowledging just how omnipresent the subject of Digital Transformation is, reminding everyone in the room that as an industry L&D need to fully embrace and understand the implications of this for their future and the future of learning. Digital engagement is no longer optional; it is absolutely necessary for survival. She then went on to talk about Towards Maturity’s latest research which demonstrates, yet again, that the blue-chip organisations – those companies who perform best in benchmarking tests – are still the ones getting the best results from their learning opportunities. Laura explained, for everyone else issues like costs, lack of skills and IT concerns are preventing them from achieving optimum results.

Day Two’s keynote was given by Ulrich Boser, author of Learn Better, who was on a mission to share the ways we can all learn more effectively. During his presentation, we played games, took quizzes and got to know a little about the inner workings of a toilet. More importantly, he gave the ten principles of learning. I think all of us working in L&D really need to understand how these must underlie any learning programme; if you want to achieve results, you cannot ignore the way the brain works. While many of the principles seem obvious – make it meaningful, respect emotions – I think too often we forget or overlook the power of feedback, particularly negative feedback. It can be hard to take what any perceive as criticism, but it has been proven time and again as one of the best ways to learn.

Towards the middle of the day, I attended a session by Andy Hurren, npower’s Head of Learning and a Skillsoft customer. Given the universality of the challenge, it wasn’t a complete surprise that a large crowd had gathered to hear how to make self-directed learning successful. While Andy acknowledged that he didn’t have all the answers, he was able to tell us what npower had done and what worked for them. To achieve their objectives, this is what npower found:

Motivation + Collaboration + Access = Success

My last conference session was a panel discussion that included L&D professionals from Sainsbury’s, Linklaters and Pandora, each discussing either an overhaul or a complete change of their LMS. For Linklaters, an international law firm and a SumTotal customer, it was a system upgrade. While on the surface this may appear simple enough, the reality was far more complex. Now at the other end of the journey, they were able to recommend some tips for others thinking or embarking on a similar journey. Chiefly it is all about: planning design and communication of change. Both presenters, Sue Hawke, Senior Manager of Global Learning Technologies, and Suzanne Hamblion, LMS Adviser, stressed the importance of getting IT involved at the very beginning and to think about what exactly you want from the new design. They also highly recommend looking internally, to your current communications teams to enlist them and utilise their expertise and experience to the fullest.


My very final act of Learning Technologies 2018 was to, and I am delighted to say this, donate £2,110 to the Make-A-Wish foundation. Over the two days of the conference, anyone who visited our stand was invited to share their HR or L&D wish, and for every one declared, we promised to donate £5 to this incredible children’s charity. This effort raised £1,050 which I then decided to double as a token of my gratitude for all the incredible work this charity does.

So thank you to all those who participated and see you all next year!

Got Questions About the Apprenticeship Levy?



The Apprenticeship Levy kicked in early last year.

How is your organisation doing? Have you got it all worked out?

If you have, congratulations! You are one of the few.

A recent British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) study found that despite all the news and press surrounding the new system, many organisations still do not understand how it works. The majority surveyed hold little hope of recovering money owed, despite the fact that the levy regulations would say it was due to them.

UK employers are required to pay the bill. If they don’t use it, they lose it, so it’s crucial to gain a better understanding of the levy, how it works and how it can benefit you.

For some, part of the confusion centers around the issue of the training, or rather, the providers of the training. Jane Gratton, head of business environment and skills at the BCC believes, “low awareness and understanding of the levy has not been helped by uncertainty faced by training providers tasked with delivering apprentices to business.” She further suggested that some companies are regarding the levy as an additional employment tax that is deflecting training budgets away from other important needs.

It is in the best interest of each organisation to be better informed, to fully understand how the levy works, and to know what they should be doing to maximise its potential and ensure it is serving its original and intended purpose.

To help give you this understanding and explain in greater detail the training element and requirements of the levy, Skillsoft is hosting a webinar on 6th March.

In this webinar you’ll learn:

  • Where the levy stands today
  • How to make the best use of the levy
  • What the best-in-class companies are doing with the levy
  • How our content can help to support your apprentices. At Skillsoft we can map our award-winning content to regulated apprenticeship standards and provide vital reporting tools that provide proof of completion and pass rates.

To register for this important webinar, click here.



Mark Your Calendars and Join Skillsoft and SumTotal at Upcoming European Events


As the new MD of Skillsoft EMEA, I’m thrilled that my first blog post gives me the chance to talk about some of the exciting events taking place over the next few weeks.

Learning Technologies 31 January – 1 February 2018, Olympia, London, UK

To begin, there is the Learning Technologies conference and exhibition, which is Europe’s leading showcase of organisational learning and the technology used to support learning at work, and the place to be if you have any connection to L&D. This year’s conference promises even more to see and do because not only is it the biggest show in the learning sector, it is also the best attended and the fastest growing.

And it’s a big year for us too. Both Skillsoft and SumTotal have undergone significant change and growth over the past few years and now is a great time to let us share with you our story and our journey.

Stop by Stand B6 to hear about our new products, services and the chance to demo Percipio, our Intelligent Learning platform that just won the Brandon Hall Groups’ Gold for Best Advance in Learning Management Technology and the 2017 New Product of the Year from BIG Awards for Business.

Percipio offers a unique learning experience, contains over 50,000 micro-learning assets and has a search mechanism that is continuously refined based on a combination of keyword matching and user behaviour. It really is something special that needs to be seen and experienced.

We’ll also be involved with a number of sessions at the event.

If you’re still a little unsure on the Apprenticeship Levy then join Nicola Luke, an independent apprenticeship consultant and Anna Shaw, Customer Success Consultant Manager, Skillsoft on Wednesday. They will explain in detail what the Apprenticeship Levy is, the way it will be collected, the options available to your organisation and how to integrate apprenticeship opportunities within your workforce. They will also cover how best-in-class organisations are utilising the apprenticeship levy and the ways in which Skillsoft can support your apprentices.

On Thursday, Npower’s Head of Learning Andy Hurren will share the story of how they implemented self-directed learning at their organisation, their successes and the challenges they encountered and will talk about how L&D can support such efforts. He’ll also outline his top tips for encouraging employees to get involved in self-directed learning.

Also on Thursday, Sue Hawke, Global Learning Technologies, Senior Manager and Suzanne Hamblion, LMS Adviser, both from Linklaters, will be participating in a panel discussion on learning systems. This session covers everything from how to implement new systems and software to reach large numbers of geographically dispersed people and yet engage them enthusiastically. The group will also touch on how to use a Learning Management System to drive digital learning and provide information regarding managing rapid implementations against a backdrop of organisational change.

LearnTec – 30 January – 1 February 2018, Karlsruhe Trade Fair Centre, Karlsruhe, Germany

But it isn’t just London and Learning Technologies where you can catch Skillsoft, SumTotal and Percipio. We are also going to LearnTec in Germany, another comprehensive and exciting showcase of all that digital education has to offer. Packed with over 280 exhibitors from a myriad of countries, LearnTec is unique as it provides a real deep insight into the technology behind eLearning and how technology is exponentially changing the learning landscape. Skillsoft and SumTotal will be at Stand D11 in Hall 1.

At Skillsoft we’ve just launched Digital Transformation Fundamentals For Business, a comprehensive course series that will ensure organisations successfully navigate the digital transition and includes over 40 new courses covering a myriad of topics from data science to digital marketing and communications. Our Digital Skills programmes ensure learners have the skills needed to keep agile in today’s workforce. Stop by Stand D11 in Hall 1 for a demo of the new content.

This is the ideal opportunity to meet our Skillsoft and SumTotal customers and I’m looking forward to meeting you all!