Posted tagged ‘outsourced learning’

Top Topics at Last Week’s HRO Europe Summit

November 22, 2010

Although a working trip for me – as a learning session co-presenter with Raytheon, and on two panels, one on learning and one on RPO – I can easily say last week’s HRO Summit Europe got great marks in my book. About 40 percent of participants were buyers – a rare occurrence at conferences these days – with the balance being presenters, providers, analysts, press, researchers, staff and others. Discussions were lively and engaging, and…need I say anything about the beauty of Amsterdam, especially its architecture and canals?

My co-presentation with Raytheon, a learning outsourcing session called, “Bridging the Customer-Provider Divide,” was immediately followed by the learning panel, and witnessed buyer questions including: 1) What role does the retained HR learning organization play, including the role of the retained learning director, HR business partners and governance team?; 2) What lessons learned should a buyer that has just implemented a learning BPO contract incorporate?; 3) Why we are seeing more selective LBPO contracts and less full LBPO contracts?; and 4) What role does LBPO play in retaining knowledge as more employees will inevitably begin to retire? 

While tracks and presentations covered the HRO gamut, two of the major focuses were talent issues and RPO. Dr. Peter Cappelli, Director of the Center for Human Resources at the Wharton School of Business, opened the conference with a keynote entitled, “A Question of Talent.” He began by discussing that, in the 1950’s and 1960’s, 24 years of service with just one company was the average tenure per employee. At the time, companies invested heavily in continuous training, and believed in lateral and upward mobility. He then moved to the sobering stats of today’s workforce. Companies of course still want loyal employees, yet very few do little to give their employees in-turn loyalty, and only one in four of succession plans are utilized. The result is organizations spending thousands of dollars in employee development, only to lose them to competitors.

It almost feels as if organizations accept this as a looming cloud norm in today’s workforce environment. But I vehemently oppose that viewpoint. If you look at the pure financials alone, conservative estimates are that it costs one and a half times as much of an employee’s salary to replace that individual due to the cost of recruitment, development, learning curve, etc. How can that possibly be perceived as good business? I am feeling like an evangelist as I’ve written about it so many times in my blogs, but employee satisfaction and robust initiatives focused on talent retention are vital to competitive advantage and business growth.

One of the largest and most well attended tracks at the conference was on RPO. I was also a member of an RPO panel discussion entitled, “Deep Dive: Driving the Future State of RPO,” along with Alexander Mann Solutions, SourceRight Solutions and a professor from Lancaster University. One question posed by a buyer member in the audience was how RPO has evolved. Each panelist, of course, had its own answer. Mine, not surprisingly as an industry analyst, is that by providing what I call “value-added services” or what I consider to be the “richer RPO services,” you are a true end-to-end RPO provider. This means: 1) services on the front end in workforce planning, talent strategy and employment branding to ensure the right employees with staying power are hired; 2) services in the middle to manage internal recruiting/mobility; and 3) services on the back end, including robust onboarding and ongoing, bi-directional employee engagement.

There are other shifts occurring, including interest in global RPO, and I will cover more on that and learning outsourcing issues discussed at the conference in upcoming blogs!

Gary Bragar, Lead HRO Analyst, NelsonHall

HRO (and overall BPO) Total Contract Values up in Q1 – Q3 2010

October 14, 2010

During NelsonHall’s recent quarterly BPO Index Call, our CEO John Willmott stated overall BPO contract values were up for all BPO sectors, including HRO, both on a rolling twelve-month basis from 2009 – 2010 as compared to 2008 – 2009, and up year-to-date Q1 – Q3 2010 as compared to Q1 – Q3 2009. This is all good news, but not a surprise given that we are beginning to see some recovery from the recession.

Looking specifically at HRO, total contract value (which includes the value of the full term contract plus any renewals) in Q1 – Q3 2010 was up nine percent. The growth came primarily from North America, while Europe declined as it is coming out of the recession a bit slower and clients in that region continue to be more cautious about outsourcing their HR processes. Although its total contract values isn’t as large as in North America, contracts are still being awarded in Europe, e.g., wins in Q3 by Logica, Midland HR, HR Access, Raet and CPH Consulting, as recently cited by my colleague Linda.

HRO growth in Q3 2010 was particularly led by RPO, similar to numerous other points during these tumultuous times. But here, I’d like to take a quick look at why the learning services market is starting to recover (please see Linda’s October 5 blog entitled, “Recapping the Not-so-Dog-Days of HRO’s 2010 Summer” to see a few of the recent learning contract awards.)

In learning, providers are introducing new training offerings largely focused on certified training courses, primarily technical areas including IT. Training is coming back to life, and the initial emphasis is on strengthening direct job-related skills. Making sure IT professionals can keep up with professional certifications can also be a way to build engagement and head off turnover as the employment market improves. There was also some introduction of new leadership development courses, perhaps indicating a return to a focus on the future by investing in management skills development. Finally, social learning is continuing to make inroads, and Expertus introduced its new platform, ExpertusONE, which facilitates communities of practice, expert networks and mentoring, in addition to normal learning system functions. Other new learning offerings introduced in Q3 included those from Raytheon Professional Services, QA and Edvantage Group.

It will be interesting to see, at the end of Q4, which HRO processes, regions and industries are the leaders and laggards. But much, much more to cover before then, including my “Targeting Learning BPO Market Analysis” to be published later this month.

Gary Bragar, Lead HRO Analyst, NelsonHall

Smart HRO Buyers and Providers Strengthening Focus on Employee Engagement

September 24, 2010

In my April 29 and August 26 blogs I talked about grim levels of employee satisfaction and engagement, and a couple of ways in which HRO providers can help employers raise these levels.

Well folks, sadly, recent analyses show that employee sat and engagement are still exceptionally low in most world geos, and continue to drop. Hewitt  last month announced that approximately half of all companies around the world showed a significant drop in employee engagement as of the end of 2Q10, the largest decline it has seen in the 15 years it has been conducting employee engagement research. And Kenexa Research Institute’s 2010 WorkTrends Annual Report, released earlier this week, cited that India ranked highest in employee engagement at 71 percent, Japan the lowest at 38 percent, but that when employees report they follow effective leaders, the average employee engagement index score is 91 percent. Bleak numbers, and dangerous for employers as they try to recover from the economic downturn and emerge in a position of strength.

But some forward-thinking companies are taking steps to increase their employee engagement levels, and they serve as models for the types of things other organizations may want to consider doing. For example, Unilever contracted with Kenexa to conduct in 2010 and 2012 an employee engagement survey with 140,000 employees around the world, and also to help with action planning to address issues identified per the surveys. MphasiS India awarded Kenexa a contract to provide a 360-degree survey program. And Vodafone’s operating company in Qatar engaged Kenexa to deliver a leadership program to help 65 senior managers more effectively lead by minimizing misunderstandings and cultural conflict.

Further, a variety of providers are improving their talent management capability, including Mercer, which launched Human Capital Connect (powered by Peopleclick Authoria), a rewards and talent management consulting and technology solution, and ADP’s acquisition of Workscape is strengthening its performance management capability.

And speaking of strengthening performance management, in recent interviews for my upcoming learning market analysis, several vendors around the world have cited increased demand for leadership and performance management training. For example, Australia-based provider The Learning Factor stated that companies are trying to reinvent themselves and are investing in management programs, including performance management, across all countries and regions. One of its clients recently implemented a new performance management system, processes and required training for all managers. The training includes how to set goals and objectives, and how to provide feedback.

During the recessionary crisis of the past two years, organizations have been functioning in survival mode, focusing on cost cutting and downsizing rather than being proactive in practicing what they preach – “people are our most important asset.” Yet top leaders and companies are starting again to walk the talk. What are you walking and talking?

Gary Bragar, Lead HRO Analyst, NelsonHall

Learning 2.0 Portals – From Buzz to Abundant Value to Increasing Innovation

September 16, 2010

In blogs earlier this year, I wrote about “The Buzz About Learning 2.0 Portals” and “The Abundant Value of Learning 2.0 Portals.” We’re now seeing providers building increasingly innovative components and capabilities into their learning portals, which can exponentially increase their value and usage.

For example, just yesterday Expertus announced it was recently awarded a virtual instructor-led training (ILT) contract by a large global software provider. Expertus will develop a virtual ILT program to train the client’s sales force on new products, and to educate technical sales architects. Delivered over the ExpertusOne social learning platform, components of the program include hosted live events around the world, live chat with international subject matter experts, hands-on labs, virtual classrooms, online proctors and technical support. And the client’s anticipated cost savings – through elimination of worldwide travel and events expenses – is up to $5 million. While these types of portals of course require a financial investment, such potential hefty cost savings provide justification.

Other examples:

• OCLC, a nonprofit, membership-based computer library service and research organization needed to bring together library staff and organizations around the world, and provide a venue that would allow them to engage in discussions, participate in groups, share content and engage in collaborative learning development. The solution it selected was Plateau’s Talent Gateway platform, which integrates social tools, content management, Plateau learning management, customer management and virtual meeting spaces. It’s enabling OCLC members to connect with colleagues across the library community using social tools, create custom content, join in conversations, create ad-hoc communities and learn relevant skills.

• Liberty Mutual is using Cornerstone OnDemand’s Cornerstone Connect to facilitate informal learning as part of the company’s front line management training program. Participants take part in an in-person, weeklong program, supported by supplemental online courses via Cornerstone’s learning management system. Using Cornerstone Connect, Liberty Mutual’s team has created a management community to maximize and extend the benefits of the training program. Components of the Cornerstone Connect platform include rich user profiles, status updates, live feed views, communities of practice, discussion boards, blogs, wikis, podcasts, rating and sharing of content, knowledge management, tag clouds and RSS feeds.

One of the common, and critical, capabilities across all these platforms – as well as those already offered or under development by other providers – is engagement. In an isolated e-learning environment, it’s all too easy for the mind to wander (“Did I remember to send that memo?” “Hum, I wonder if there’s any cake in the break room?”) and equally challenging to feel a sense of connection (“Is anyone else unclear about that point the instructor just made?” “Who can I ask, other than my boss?”) Social media capabilities such as discussion boards and live chats with peers and subject matter experts can significantly enhance engagement in, and the resulting value of, e-learning.

Expect to see an increase in uptake of Learning 2.0 portals that enable engagement via social media capabilities. The rapid deployment, learning enhancement and cost savings value prop is über compelling.

Gary Bragar, Lead HRO Analyst, NelsonHall

Employee Satisfaction is Tanking…Can HRO Help?

August 26, 2010

Per the results of the most recent Spherion Staffing Services Snapshot survey, released yesterday, employee satisfaction in the U.S. is bleak. In fact, the subhead of the press release stated only five percent of those surveyed – a sample of 896 full-time and part-time working adults aged 20 and older – enjoy what they’re doing and wouldn’t consider another job. More sobering survey stats:

• 62 percent feel less secure about their job compared to a year ago

• 56 percent did not take a vacation in the past year, and of the 44 percent who did, one-third indicated they did not completely disconnect from their job responsibilities

• 30 percent worked from home the last time they called in sick

• 57 percent said their company does not help/support their effort to have a good work/life balance

• 95 percent would consider looking for a new job in the future or are actively looking, regardless of whether or not they enjoy their job

• 53 percent have had to assume additional responsibilities or workload during the recession due to co-worker layoffs, and 93 percent of those who had to assume additional responsibilities did not receive additional compensation

• 57 percent who have taken on additional responsibilities feel burdened and overworked, and another 53 percent said their job or workload affects their health in a negative manner

With this, borrowing the famous and oh-so understated line, “Houston, we have a problem” from the movie Apollo 13, seems appropriate. In this case, “Houston” is employers, senior managers and first line supervisors. And the problem – as I’ve written about and as we all know – is that lacking an engaged, committed, compensated, rewarded, respected and energized workforce, morale decreases, productivity plummets and highly talented employees jump ship. This is all too obviously a losing proposition for companies.

So what should employers do, and how can outsourcing help? While there are many process areas to cite, I’ll touch on just two here.

First, I’m currently working on a learning BPO study, and was pleased to hear from several companies I’ve interviewed thus far that they are providing performance management training to managers and senior leaders to develop, reward and retain employees.

Second, the results of a Mercer study released yesterday found that 30 percent of the respondents – headquarters representatives of 114 multinational organizations from a wide range of industries – are increasing employee involvement in design of their organizations’ benefits plans. It’s a big move in the right direction – even though only 30 percent of respondents are currently doing so – to include employees in benefits-related decisions and options, whether for health insurance, health-related assistance options, defined benefits plans, defined contribution plans, etc.

Benefits outsourcing providers are not only able to help senior leaders determine the most advantageous benefits plans for their company and their employees, with eyes on both cost-effective options and employee retention, but also evaluate and administer the decided-upon plans.

My call to senior HR executives? Don’t wait…engage your employees! And if you’re outsourcing or considering doing so, engage your provider in helping make the right decisions for your employees. I still believe that employee satisfaction = customer satisfaction = profitability.

Gary Bragar, Senior HR Outsourcing Analyst, NelsonHall

The Abundant Value Proposition of Learning 2.0 Portals

May 19, 2010

In my February 11 blog on “The Buzz about Learning 2.0 Portals,” I referenced research conducted by Expertus and Training Industry, Inc. which found that within the next two years, 45 percent of survey respondents plan to upgrade their existing learning portal and 14 percent plan to launch a new learning portal. And based on the results of a Learning BPO research study I recently launched, this comes as no surprise as the value of learning portals is becoming increasingly clear.

Learning 2.0 portals have a lot of functionality and can deliver significant benefits to the end-user company and its employees. Here is just a sampling of what I found to be noteworthy capabilities per a recent demo of Expertus’ customizable, web-based, social learning platform:

• The ability to consolidate learning information from what may be multiple legacy systems into one portal to view:

«   All mandatory company training programs along with due dates, a brief description and time required, and a click-of-a-button launch of a selected training program

«   Recommended learning and ratings by peers who have already taken programs. Imagine the value of this, for example, to a salesperson who has to quickly learn about a new product for an upcoming meeting with a prospect

«   The latest blog on topics related to specific interest areas or job functions

•  The ability to obtain insights from and ask questions of peers via a chat feature within the portal

•  The ability to access subject matter experts 24 x 7 – via the portal – for assistance when new learning programs are launched and a question arises. Imagine…no more needing to determine who to email or call and then waiting for a response, or getting caught in an IVR menu jungle

•  The ability to link training to talent management and create career paths and development plans, etc.

Need tangible proof of the value of learning 2.0 portals? One Expertus client achieved in four months a 388 percent increase in course registration volume, a 178 percent increase in new courses offered, and an increase of 123 percent for new learner registrations.

Of course there are many learning 2.0 portal providers in today’s marketplace, including Norway-based Edvantage Group which just yesterday announced a contract to provide a learning portal for MOT. MOT is an educational organization working with young people in Norway and South Africa to improve school environments via social learning methods such as peer-to-peer communication, exercises, stories, role playing and dialogues with other young people. 

A word of advice here to buyers. If/when you decide to implement a learning 2.0 portal, don’t pick a provider based solely on its technology offering, as technology is only as good as it is used. You’ll want a provider that can teach you how to or manage for you: 1) putting all the different learning environments, curricula and social networking functionality into the portal; 2) ensuring that content is continually updated; and 3) communicating the value of the portal throughout the enterprise, and conducting virtual learning demonstrations on how to use and best leverage the portal.

You’ll also want to make decisions on other portal-based aspects such as whether you want to provide all employees with unlimited access to learning or add in certain restrictions, whether all courses will be free or some will be fee-based, etc. A savvy learning provider can guide you through these types of decisions and build them into the system for you, as required.

Have you implemented a learning 2.0 portal? If so, I’d very much like to hear comments on your experiences, what worked well, what didn’t, what challenges you encountered, how the portal has been received by your employee base, the value you’ve achieved to date, etc.

Gary Bragar, Lead HRO Analyst, NelsonHall

Kindergarten, HRO and Learning for the 21st Century Workforce

April 8, 2010

“All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” Ah…if only it were as simple for the 21st century workforce as the title of Robert Fulghum’s book! Opportunities for learning the skills necessary to excel in one’s selected career have become more challenging in the past several decades – think of the skyrocketing costs of a university education! – and since the beginning of the recession, employers have significantly cut back on their training programs.

This is why I was very pleased to see just this week three HRO service providers’ announcements on what they are doing today to help both clients and the public at large to improve their learning skills. A quick look at these three examples:

First, Manpower sponsored the “Skills for the 21st Century” knowledge track at the Ashoka Future Forum. According to the announcement, the track was “designed to harness the intellectual power of thought leaders across all sectors to create a common vision for how to prepare U.S. talent throughout the education system, and how to build a culture of lifelong learning among adult workers that ensure the U.S. workforce is able to adapt as rapidly as the global economy is changing.” And during a session entitled, “Putting Adults on the Path of Being Changemakers,” Manpower gave a demonstration of MyPath, its free online career development and social network.

Second, Expertus expanded its collection of free learning webinars. Intended primarily for corporate training professionals, the company has just added three new webinars: “Numbers Don’t Lie – 4 Truths of Learning Measurement Success”; “9 Ways to Trim Operational Expenses to Fund Strategic Learning”; and “Secrets of Successful Learning Systems.”  The gratis webinars are available as recordings and come with presentation slides.

Third, RWD established the Vanguard Leadership Forum, a “center of innovation that provides access to thought leadership around improving the way people work.” The Forum, available free of charge to RWD clients, will focus on topics including Leadership and Team Development; The Performing Organization; Performance-based Analysis and Design; Knowledge, Content and Learning Management; eLearning and Mobile Learning; Simulation and Gaming; Workplace and Social Learning; and Learning Technologies and Tools.

Why was I so encouraged by these announcements? The technology we utilize in our jobs, the way we operate and the skill sets required to perform our jobs are dramatically different than they were 30 years ago, 15 years ago, five years ago, even one year ago, and they will undoubtedly continue to change. Thus, helping foster an environment of continuous learning is imperative for:

•  Current employees and candidates looking for jobs to continually learn new skill sets, including career development and how to leverage social networks

•  Employers, as they need to know how to implement better ways to learn, with better technology and to do so cost effectively. Further, to maintain competitive advantage, employers must adopt a culture of continuous learning

By looking at just these three examples, it appears the tide is turning to a renewed acknowledgement of the importance of continuous learning and improvement of employee skill sets. Yes, we all learned not to run with scissors and not to drink finger paints when we were in kindergarten. But, wise employers create a learning culture, and wise employees seek out learning opportunities that will launch them into and keep them in the top quartile.

Gary Bragar, Lead HRO Analyst, NelsonHall