Technology helps employers track knowledge transfer, employee education

Reducing 'brain drain' when baby boomers depart workplace

The imminent retirement of baby boomers presents Canadian organizations with an important challenge: How to ensure crucial information is shared among employees and passed down to younger workers who will soon be the backbone of corporate Canada.

HR executives, with one foot in the boardroom and the other in day-to-day business operations, need to develop up-and-coming employees while meeting increasingly stringent regulatory requirements. The choice is clear — develop and train staff members and quantify their skills, qualifications and certifications or face irrecoverable “brain drain” along with work interruptions.

Fortunately, technology can help HR support employee education and knowledge transfer. Gone are the days when HR applications only handled basic employee record-keeping, payroll and benefits management. In their place are sophisticated human capital management (HCM) systems that can serve as a central hub of workforce-related information. With access to this information hub through the corporate portal, employees can take an active role in their training and development. Organizations can seamlessly transfer skills and knowledge needed to support both employees’ career aspirations and the organization’s strategic objectives.

Spread the word through portals

With HCM systems, organizations can easily empower employees with self-service, allowing them to manage their own personal information online as well as select and enrol in training and development courses.

HCM systems offer services that span the entire training and development realm. Using these services, companies can:

enable employees to enrol in traditional classroom, virtual classroom and web-based courses through a browser;

allow employees to demonstrate their understanding of subject matter online;

collect digital signatures from employees attesting they have completed required courses, and then date- and time-stamp the signatures for auditable reporting purposes; and

update skill and competency profiles immediately upon successful completion of courses.

Educating employees about education

To ensure organizations and employees receive the most benefit from emerging learning technologies, companies must do more than present employees with training and development offerings and expect them to make the right decisions. Employees are casual users of these systems and, understandably, are focused on day-to-day responsibilities. They need tools, guidance and prompts to trigger enrolment in certain courses or to take specific actions, for example, to renew critical certifications.

HCM systems can help employees and managers make timely decisions about training opportunities. The systems can automatically track the validity period of a certification and notify employees when their certifications are about to expire, by e-mail or through the organization’s portal. In addition, employees can use the portal to compare their skills and competencies to their job’s ideal profile or to another job they aspire to within the organization.

By identifying skills gaps and finding training and development programs that will help bridge those gaps, employees can prepare themselves for greater responsibilities, higher salaries and more challenging roles. Companies, in turn, can monitor the development of their workforces and identify potential weaknesses ahead of time.

Empower managers with self-service

HCM systems also offer manager self-service, which can play a key role in automating training-and-development processes. Self-service is generally consolidated with other manager-based services, such as performance management, making it easier for managers to access all processes and information, including training and development, from one familiar place.

Using self-service, managers can make certain courses mandatory for employees in their business unit, or mass-enrol all of their direct reports in a particular course. Managers can approve enrolments and later verify skills or certifications were actually imparted to employees.

Analytic “dashboards” can help managers track expiring competencies and certifications, course participation and completion and pass/fail rates for employees.

Many organizations in regulated industries are using HCM systems to track and audit each employee’s certifications to perform certain jobs and handle specific materials. But by enabling managers to take an active role in training and development processes, organizations can encourage employees to learn new skills and competencies beyond what regulations require. In doing so, organizations help reduce accidents or incidents and avoid lawsuits. Integrating HCM systems with health and safety applications can actually help organizations measure the payback on courses, for example, by displaying incident rates for employees who have completed safety courses versus those who have not.

Action plan

So, how can organizations take advantage of new HCM technology to enhance training programs?

First, identify the biggest workforce-related pain points, such as retirements, compliance or safety issues. Second, pinpoint which training and development programs can be leveraged to address that pain point. Third, use a combination of HCM, portal and e-learning technology to ensure the necessary training and certification programs are easily available to employees. Finally, measure the training’s impact. Did safety training help reduce incident rates? Did an updated “how-to” course reduce scrap rate? These kinds of measurements enable HR executives to illustrate to senior management that HR has contributed to organizational success.

Managers and employees need more than HCM technology — they also need guidance. By providing strategic input, HR executives can help organizations transfer knowledge to employees, build a comprehensive corporate knowledge base, improve employee morale and performance and avoid regulatory issues.

David Ludlow is vice-president for HCM solution strategy at SAP Canada in Toronto. He can be reached at [email protected].

Training success story

Hydro-Québec takes training online

When Hydro-Québec, a Montreal-based utility company, recently launched an initiative to better meet changing customer requirements, it realized it would need to replace existing business processes as well as 200 different business systems. It addressed the associated training challenges by deploying training courses online for close to 3,000 employees.

By March 2008, the company is expected to have delivered more than 38,000 employee-training days in a flexible, modular e-learning format. Employees use the new solutions to more effectively answer client requests and maintain greater control over everyday tasks and the new system is saving Hydro-Québec $20 million per year.

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