Last month, I published an update to my 2011 Forrester Wave™ on talent management because the human resource management (HRM) market has experienced tremendous consolidation and many top-rated vendors have become part of other very large organizations. I defined “talent management” as encompassing performance, learning, succession planning, and career development. When I published my current Wave in March 2013, I continued to call it the “Talent Management Wave.” This has caused confusion, because in the past two years, the word “talent management” has morphed to include recruiting, which also has seen incredible growth and change. As the Wave is a deep dive into more than criteria and focuses on 10 vendors, I could not include recruiting within the parameters of the Wave. Recruiting is also very different, with many integrations with small boutique vendors that provide important services. But the questions kept coming: “Where is recruiting?”
I decided that the title, not the content, was the problem. Therefore, this Wave has a new, more representative, title: “The Forrester Wave: Learning And Talent Development, Q1 2013.” This title better describes my effort to showcase the suite vendors that own both performance (often including succession and career development) and learning applications and have devoted tremendous energy and resources to unify the two applications (with various degrees of success). Ideally, this means that a manager can identify an employee knowledge gap and, right from the performance app, select the best learning opportunity that will address the gap, and the activity or course appears on the employee’s individual learning plan. These applications look and feel like one application.
My colleagues and I talk often about social collaboration and its tepid adoption. The fact is that it’s hard to get employees to use a tool unless they see a real use for it. This is certainly true in learning. Most of the learning management vendors have some kind of social offering. The uptake depends on the efforts made by the learning department staff to integrate social, and how appropriate social is to the specific learning content. Another stumbling block for learning and social is that using social tools is a change from a typical online learning experience, and it demands some change management. Most people don’t embrace change; they need help in learning to use the tool and they need to see that social has positive effects on their learning.
The purpose of social learning is to provide an environment in which learners share experiences and resources and work together. A social learning environment supports conversations, discussions, and learning from each other. I see a number of ways that organizations are beginning to use social learning.
Wrapping a discussion group or instructor blog around an eLearning course. An instructor poses a question related to lesson content; learners react to questions and to comments from their classmates. They may agree, disagree, or provide an alternative viewpoint.
Using social learning in project work. Instructors involve online students in project work. They collaborate with their fellow students in planning, developing, and presenting the project results.
Tapping the experts. Often called expertise location, employees use a keyword search of employee profiles to identify other employees who have expertise in a certain area. They contact the expert(s) via social media, phone, or email for an asynchronous discussion.
For Christmas, my daughter Sarah gave me a book of photos of last summer’s family trip to Cape Cod. Each page was beautifully designed with descriptions of the events captured in the photos: the great lobster feast . . . the trip to Martha’s Vineyard . . . the day at Old Silver Beach playing in the water. Each page was a different color and had graphics appropriate for the theme conveyed by the pictures. How did she do this? It was a photo book with backgrounds, layouts, and embellishments that she had customized just the way she wanted them. It was template-based and Sarah rearranged pictures, added captions, and chose preset layouts. Tools allowed her to easily organize the page. There’s even spell check and autofill to instantly arrange pictures on a page.
As I read through the book for about the 10th time today, I thought, “This is what we need in online learning simulations!” Subject-matter experts need to be able to create interactive and adaptive game-like simulation activities through easy-to-use tools that use templates with many design options. We know that when learners engage in a simulation, the retention of learning is much longer because they have been involved in learning by doing. Examples include nurses learning how to use a defibrillator to save lives, machine operators recertifying their skills by operating the machine in simulated activities, or bank management training through a suite of simulated psychological activities.
ERP vendors are showing strong interest in the HRM SaaS market. They are either attempting to build a solution (as Oracle is doing with Fusion) or looking to acquire HRM functionality (as SAP is about to do with SuccessFactors). Talent applications — including offerings like performance, succession, and learning — are not easy to build. The niche players have been laser-focused for years on building these solutions or integrating acquisitions, and generally they have done a good job. Now we see other vendors that want this functionality buying up these niche players to offer a complete end-to-end HRM solution. The HRM market is hot! My colleague Paul Hamerman and I have authored research that shows performance growing faster — at 16.5% — than any other HRM segment (HRM Solutions: Traditional Models Clash With Next Generation Processes And Technology). Executives know that having highly skilled employees who know the business and can execute well on strategy is critical to business growth.
Daily, we hear about more layoffs and downsizing. Along with this comes scrutiny of all internal budgets including learning and development. Companies are not lopping off learning as drastically as in previous recessions. Companies know that skilled employees make their business successful. But, at the same time, some budget cuts are inevitable. This is where eLearning comes in. Most organizations already have some eLearning but they are not using the full capabilities like the rapid eLearning tools or the virtual classroom from their Web conferencing provider, or the informal learning using collaboration tools like blogs, podcasts, and wikis.
Yes, classroom training will be cut since travel costs are a quick savings. But this doesn’t mean you can’t have effective learning . . . via a different approach! This is good time to take stock of what tools and features you have but haven’t used from your LMS or your online meeting providers and exploit these online synchronous and asynchronous forms of learning.
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In the beginning of the year, Harvard Business Publishing launched a collection of online simulations as part of its curriculum that expose learners to real business situations and enforce essential corporate skills. Learning simulations are interactive models of real-life processes, events, or interactions that have distinctive learning outcomes. Users can manipulate variables that change the state of the model — they can make mistakes, learn from them, and try again — emulating a real "learning by doing" approach. With these online simulations, learners can engage in common business situations within realistic scenarios, and learn how to fine-tune their communication, analytical, and decision-making skills.
The first simulation, Universal Rental Car is a pricing simulation focused on teaching employees pricing skills in a managerial environment, as learners take on the role of regional marketing manager at a rental car agency, and are tasked with pricing rental cars in cities across Florida. Sample the Universal Rental Car simulation (login = user, password = user) for three rounds, and explore the Prepare, Analyze, and Decide tabs.
Organization’s learning leaders hear the words “informal learning” or “eLearning 2.0” and think, “Oh my, now we have to change the way we provide training!” Yes, you may want to make some changes but, more importantly, you need to look at existing learning within your organization and determine what is training and what is education or development. I see two distinct types of learning that are both complementary, but also dramatically different. Today’s knowledge workers need both.
Training refers to the learning that employees access in order to do their job. This includes traditional mandated training for fields like accounting or pharmaceuticals. But a large percentage of training should be the “just-in-time” kind that gives the employees the information or knowledge refresher that they need to continue their work task. This informal learning is driven by the employee and is generally not tracked except to indicate the number of employees who have accessed the sites. Examples include online mentoring, clicking on the “just-in-time” learning related to the work topic for a three-to-five minute learning nugget, accessing the context-sensitive learning built into the application, or clicking on “expertise location” on the intranet to find a person in the organization who has the expertise to help. This kind of training or knowledge seeking requires a good search engine to find a document, PowerPoint, video, blog, wiki, etc. on the organization’s intranet site. A good practice is to make the five to ten-minute learning objects or course components searchable so an employee can find the exact part of a module or course that will provide the assistance they need.
After we leave formal education settings, 80% of our learning is of the informal kind; yet only 20% of corporate education dollars are spent on what is most important to us as employees.Why are corporations spending 80% of their employee education dollars on that modest 20% of the learning we do?
So, what is informal learning? It’s that unplanned discussion with a colleague over an issue you don’t understand and glimpsing a new perspective on how to deal with an issue that has arisen. It’s sending an IM to a remote colleague to get information on how the company is implementing a procedure, and then setting up a 10-minute phone discussion to go deeper. It’s bouncing ideas for a new project off a colleague, then asking her to question your perspectives—like a kind of informal coach. These sound like things we do every day, right? Some corporate cultures actively encourage and support these informal ways of learning through trust, technology—IM, Expert Location, or good intranet search capability—and a supportive culture, while others frown on “taking time away from work” to talk to colleagues.
Lotusphere was inspiring. The investment and effort that IBM Lotus has made in social computing with its announcement of Lotus Connections is visionary. Although learning is not a part of it in a formal way yet, it’s coming. I spent a number of hours in the Research Lab with researchers from all over the world looking at their ideas; some were more developed than others. These thinkers have taken the step forward in looking at learning as something that is informal, contextual, controlled by the employees, and available when employees need it so they can be successful at a task. 2007 will bring more developments and I’m betting that informal learning will be an important part of Lotusphere 2008. Of course, all this is going to require a culture change within organizations. Companies that encourage people to explore new technology for use as a business tool will be the first adopters. Those, for example, that still don’t allow IM most likely will watch from the sidelines. A knowledge management or collaboration evangelist or champion is important to get social computing started within an organization.