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Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Dear Abby, or Keith

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Dear Abby died last week. For those that remember her acerbic wit you may understand why she holds a special place in my heart. What you didn’t know was that when I was a young Marine overseas we wrote Dear Abby to complain about how people back home forgot about us – which by the way ended up with us receiving thousands of letters from available young women back home. I miss Dear Abby. 

In honor of her departure, I thought I’d share some of the “mail” I have received and answer some questions. So – here we go:

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DEAR KEITH: We want to purchase a LMS in order to have our employees better trained as well as provide some reporting so we may track progress, certifications and some annual compliance courses. Can you suggest the best LMS for me? 


DEAR LOST: Have you considered just sending them to a puppy trainer? Sending someone “better training” means absolutely nothing to your business. Ensuring people USE the training and measuring the business impact is what you should be concerned with. Just because you can measure the training or even the better test scores won’t ensure that their managers are reinforcing what they’ve learned, that the skills are actually tied to your business goals or even if they slept through the training and just answered the post-test correctly. Consider integrating your LMS with an automated Employee Performance Management System (EPMS). This will allow you to align goals and cascade them throughout the business, identify competency gaps, provide and track the development and measure the impact on performance AND the business. If you’re only measuring cheeks in the seats you may want to dust off your resume – you are at risk for becoming a former employee. Oh and there is no BEST LMS – it all depends on your business needs, infrastructure and culture.  Best advice is to hire someone that specializes in LMS/TMS selection for a living.


DEAR KEITH: We conduct employee engagement surveys bi-annually to understand how our employees feel. We also use our intranet to communicate with employees on business related issues. All employees receive email newsletters so they know what is going on. Why should we look at anything else? 


DEAR KNOW: So every two years you ask them to be completely candid with you and the rest of the time you’re telling them what you want them to know? Are you in HR or Politics? First of all, I have news for you; employees have something to say 24/7/365. If your only vehicle of communication occurs every 2 years, your competition is going to kill you. With baby boomers retiring and millennials entering the workforce, you should consider social learning & collaboration. It democratizes communication, allows “experts” to share and repurpose knowledge and allows leaders to get almost instant feedback from anywhere in the organization. And, from a learning & development perspective, it takes your limited staff of instructional designers and adds, oh…. your entire employee population to those who may create relevant content. And don’t talk to me about worrying about what employees will say on your social site…they’re saying it now only you can’t address their issues. Imagine a post complaining about how terrible HR is for not allowing access to YouTube because no one trusts the employees. Would you like to address this and explain how it’s not an issue of trust, but if everyone started to view videos online that the hamster that runs our IT connection will die of exhaustion? Give the power to the people. You trust them to meet your goals and make you money; you should give them a voice and the opportunity to let you hear (and address) about the challenges they face. You don’t know what they know but you can ask, listen and respond…and you just might be better off for it.



DEAR KEITH: You’ve mentioned integrated solutions and talent management strategies, but the LMS/TM vendors tell me the systems are turn-key. Don’t they know more about their own systems than you do?


DEAR POKE: Of course they do – why in the world would a sales person ever tell you something that was less than true? I’m not in sales and I’m not a tech geek – I’m just a simple TM practitioner who has been down this road before and stepped on a few landmines along the way. Talent Management systems are awesome – but only if you have an identified strategy and understand what processes you can and can’t migrate. Here’s an example – you want to automate your performance review process online (EPMS) and you integrate it with your HRIS. So you know what review goes to who based on position, geography, even line of business. As part of the process, you want your HR business partners to review each submission and possibly even “push-back” reviews because some manager wrote that an employee was “out of his depth in a car park puddle.” How does the system know to send the review to the HR person to begin with? Typically organizational charts as we visualize them are not replicated, exactly in a HRIS. So, if the data in the org structure of your HRIS doesn’t match an HR business partner to each and every employee, how will your EPMS know where to send the review? Let me help you: IT WON’T. And now your system admin is not going to be too happy with you as they have to MANUALLY create a few hundred new system groups. So, CAN the system automate reviews, sure, easy peazy lemon squeezy. But you forgot to ask what will it take, any manual work, do I have all of the required data, what processes do I have now that won’t translate online? Hmmmmm? There is no such a thing as a turn-key system. All of them require some level of configuration and more if you refuse to leverage the efficiencies of the system and want to stick with your old processes. And, if that is the case, why in the world did you go online to begin with? Feel free to trust the sales person, but be prepared when you discover what you didn’t even know you should have asked.

Until next time.


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