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Are Your Learners ‘Over Qualified’?

By: James Rocha, SAP Product Sales Manager

Many customers choose SAP Enterprise Learning (or Learning Solution) because of the qualification and competency integration with SAP HCM.  This helps customers create and manage integrated Talent Management strategies for top talent development, certifications and new hire on-boarding (once we all start hiring again). With continued focus on Talent Management initiatives in 2010, a common question is, ‘how many qualification and competencies are right for our employees?’  Since most of us rely on shared experiences, I’ll share one and invite the HCM Community and SAP EL Influence Council to share theirs, too.

In 2002 Cisco System branched beyond tradition routing & switching business into several ‘emerging technologies’.  These emerging technologies did not meet sales expectations and our team was approached to help close the gap (we were responsible for sales & technical enablement).  During an operations review with sales leaders, we discussed strategies and tactics of how we could improve the sales force’s acumen to drive the emerging technologies.

The recommendation was to expand our 15 standard HR competencies to include ‘sales specific’ qualifications around six ’emerging technologies’ and launch a major development initiative.   After socializing this with our global sales leads, the catalog included even more skills (solution selling, negotiation, etc) and expanded technical competencies. By the time everyone weighed in, there were over 60 sales & technical qualifications, grouped into 6 clusters using a five point proficiency scale.  To manage this initiative, a separate competency database & web based platform was designed to manage the qualifications and ‘interface’ with the LMS (non-SAP).

Each salesperson was assessed on all 60 qualifications using the 5 point scale and had a development conversation with his manager.  Managers were able to determine their employee’s development areas, whether or not it was related to selling emerging technologies.  However, there was not enough courseware to meet the needs of every qualification, at every level of the scale. The course catalog became unmanageable, the LMS had pages with ‘Coming Soon’ banners and none of the new qualifications or development plans showed up in the HR system.  After the second assessment cycle, the sales force lost interest and the initiative collapsed. This coincided with the inability of sales leaders to see and respond to talent gaps, as well as the slow sales ramp up of new technology.

We learned some tough lessons; avoid ‘over qualifying’ your learners with competencies that aren’t relevant to the initiative, and don’t create competency catalogs in a standalone portal or LMS.  This makes learning a fractured activity and provides limited visibility for business leaders to take action.  Start by creating a simple qualifications catalog focused on your current year business priorities. This will allow you to have training content immediately available, track the progress, close the largest competency gaps, and show the impact of your development programs on the business.

SAP Enterprise Learning provides an integrated qualifications catalog that customers can use across learning, performance management, HCM and BI reporting.  I would be interested to hear how SAP Learning customers, and non-customers, are assigning and managing qualifications in their organizations.

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