Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Vendor Management Systems – Good Riddance

Truth be told, I hate Vendor Management Systems (VMS). For specialized staffing and consulting firms they rob everything that I have worked my career to build. They dictate who I can speak with and when, what I can charge, how much I can make, and invariably require more time to service my clients. While I understand the motivation behind clients seeking to control costs, the people making the decisions to implement these systems and methods do not account for economic market conditions, the effects of supply and demand, staffing cycle time, and ultimately what you are getting for what you are paying for.

Here are the Top 4 reasons that I believe that Vendor Management Systems will either be phased out by many corporations or significantly restructured over the next 12-24 months.

  1. Market Conditions and Supply and Demand: History tells us that during times of low unemployment, wages increase. This is due to a greater demand for quality talent than exists in the marketplace. Very often the bill rates quoted by the companies employing VMS’s are significantly lower than those that I can charge other clients. The pay rates indicated are similarly lower than what I would normally pay. When market conditions are such that solid candidates and consultants are readily available, the job requirement is of greatest importance. The opposite is true in times of low unemployment. Unless the client is offering incredible volume I envision more and more staffing companies shying away from clients dictating inadequate bill and pay rates. Corporations are either clients or sources so I also envision these corporations facing more efforts to lure and recruit employees away.
  2. Cycle Time: Another thing that occurs in times of lower unemployment is that staffing cycle times increase dramatically. Great people that are available locate new opportunities very fast. Wise companies know that they need to act fast. My relationships are so solid with some hiring managers that I will get a call on Friday and have the consultant begin the assignment on Monday. The level of trust is so deep that they know that the consultant we supply will continually provide services that meet or exceed their expectations. With the implementation of the VMS, that cycle time has lagged to an average of three-five weeks. This additional time also involved requiring many more hours of effort on the part of the hiring managers. Companies employing vendor management systems will find that they will lose the better candidates more and more due to time inefficiencies.
  3. Value: In most cases you get what you pay for. The quality of candidates that a client will receive at these below market rates will in the long run cost more than a better-skilled higher paid consultant. These higher skilled consultants will in almost every case have a faster ramp up time frame, will produce more output, and with higher quality. I know of no procurement or HR departments that perform these types of analyses when evaluating the performance of the VMS. Any evaluation of a hiring decision must include output, speed and quality relative to cost. To not do this is misguided and detached from the realities of accurately evaluating talent decisions.
  4. Specialization: I have been servicing my niche marketplace for over 30 years. The fact is that the person doing the first line screening is rarely fully competent to make accurate assessments on the resumes that they review. It is unreasonable to think that this person could be fully competent in all of the areas that they may be supporting – they cannot be experts in the nuances of finance, software development, training, and legal departments – to name just a few. So what happens is that talented candidates are missed and inappropriate candidates are called in for interviews. Excluding the hiring manager from these decisions costs valuable time and money.
Companies using vendor management systems will either need to increase the rates they pay to remain competitive or they will see a deep decline in the quality and caliber of the consultants that they bring on board. If they do not improve their business processes to greatly increase the speed of their hiring decisions they will miss out on more and more quality candidates.

To vendor management systems I say good riddance.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Your LinkedIn Profile Is Who You Are - Until It's Not

Last year we employed well over one hundred consultants. In just about every case we reviewed the consultants' LinkedIn pages to try and gain more information or insight into their experience or skills. One of the beauties of LinkedIn from a recruiting standpoint is that it quickly and easily gives you a good idea about the persons' core skills, experience, education background, interests and involvement within their professions. I find that I am thrown to making quick assessments, both positive and negative, based on the persons' profile:

Positive assessments are generated from things like having an easily understood summary section,  a large number of professional recommendations, having a clear career progression, graduating from top-tier universities, and listing some of the tools that are in demand within my industry. When these items do not appear, I am thrown to making negative assessments.

What is important is that neither the positive assessments or negative assessments that are generated are necessarily true. In my industry having the ability to create an excellent LinkedIn profile is not one of the core competencies we look for. The fact that a number of professional recommendations does not appear on the page does not mean that the person is not highly qualified with a number of peers willing to rave about their skills and experience. But it is important to know that your LinkedIn profile will produce an assessment so you want to do whatever you can to generate a positive assessment as often as possible. There are a number of excellent resources out there for how to create a great, impactful LinkedIn profile and I will leave it to the experts to weigh in there.

For all intents and purposes, your LinkedIn profile becomes your public persona. That is until the information contained cannot be validated. We are all responsible for every word that appears on our LinkedIn profiles and every word needs to be factual and verifiable. We recently had two instances where the exact opposite occurred. 

In checking professional references we asked to speak with one of the people that had published a recommendation on the candidate's page. It turned out that the conversation was very different from the words that appeared on the LinkedIn page. It turned out that the person that left the positive comment had only worked with that person for 2 months and they were only peripherally working on the same project. I just don't know why you would want to publish a recommendation from someone in this kind of situation. Additionally, why would you have not mentioned the fact that you had only worked with that person for a couple of months and offered up another person that could speak in greater detail about your skills and experience? The entire experience left me wondering about who and what I was potentially hiring. This should never be the case after checking a professional reference.

The second instance came when we conducted a background verification on a consultant for one of our clients in Illinois. The consultant indicated that they had a bachelors degree and listed the year the degree was awarded. Our background verification company was not able to verify the degree and it turns out that the consultant had completed all the class work but not all of the graduation requirements. Had the LinkedIn profile listed "All coursework completed" or some other qualifier there would not have been an issue but that was not the case. None of this was an indication of the person's skills and experience. But it did raise questions about their judgment and integrity - questions that could have been easily avoided with more care in what appeared on their LinkedIn page.

So the big takeaway is that everything that appears on your LinkedIn page needs to be accurate and verifiable. You and only you are responsible for what appears on your page and also what it provokes. Many of us work in niche marketplaces and industries with broad networks of people that span a large number of companies. More and more employers are tapping into that network to gain insight on potential hires. When situations like those listed above occur, people remember. It makes absolutely no sense to include information on your LinkedIn page that can cause negative assessments, or in the worst case, sabotage your chances of landing a job or assignment in the future.

Friday, April 1, 2016

2016 eLearning Salary and Compensation Report - What Does It Tell Us?

The eLearning Guild recently released the 2016 US eLearning Salary and Compensation Report (Survey available for members here). The report summarizes the finding from 3,536 respondents living in the United States and presents analyses on salary and compensation broken out by a variety of criteria including location, gender, sector, and industry. 

I am not a statistician nor do I know the attributes required to have a compensation study be relevant, accurate, and sound. As I reviewed the findings, some of the analyses presented didn't ring true with my experience as a staffing professional with many years dedicated to the Learning space. In a number of cases I was left wanting more information on what went into the analyses and whether we were dealing with "apples and apples." 

For instance, while there may be some disparity in wages between male and female learning professionals, the report indicated that the US Average Salary by gender was $75,561 versus $88,347 for men. When I looked into this analysis it revealed a flaw that I believe effects most of the report. 

In my experience, salary is the compensation level placed on a candidates' value within the marketplace. This value is impacted by several factors: the candidates' breadth of skills and experience, their perceived ability to produce value for their employers, and supply and demand forces in the marketplace. While there are exceptions, the general rule is that candidates possessing more experience and skill will garner higher salaries and compensation. 

When you look at the analysis provided on Average Salary by Gender there is no indication on the average skill and experience level of the male and female respondents. To gain a valuable and insightful analysis of the differences in gender and pay you would need to evaluate male and female respondents with similar skills, experience, geographic location, etc. There is no indication given in the report on any of these very important factors. It would stand to reason that if, of the 3,536 US respondents, a larger percentage of the male respondents possessed more experience, their corresponding salaries would be higher. The report does not provide this vital data necessary to accurately evaluate any gender bias when it comes to salary.

This same issue and others exist in a large number of analyses reported. For example:
  •  US Average Salaries by State - How many respondents reported from each state and were the numbers sufficient to draw any conclusions? How did the average experience level of the respondents vary by state?
  • Average Salary by Industry, US Average Salary by Sector and Average Salary by State - What was the average experience level indicated by the respondents for each industry and sector cited? Where did these respondents live?
It is important to note that the report does include an analyses of salary by job level and gender. This analysis again leaves me wondering what went into the numbers - the number of people included in each job level, where they were located, and similar factors that could easily skew or validate the analysis.  

I do not doubt the accuracy of the analyses and numbers presented. The eLearning Guild should be commended for undertaking this survey and research. At the same time, I find myself lacking the grounding to know what to make of the analyses. Without knowing more about what went in to the source data it is impossible to know if any valuable conclusions can be drawn from many of the analyses presented.

 As always, your comments are welcomed.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Association for Talent Development: Is This the Right Move?

So the American Society for Training and Development's (ASTD) has been retired and in its place we now have the Association for Talent Development (ATD).  The re-branding of the association is intended to reflect the wider influence that learning and development professionals have within their organizations. I question how this will play out over time.

Clearly, the training and development profession has seen great changes over the past decade or so. The distinction of learning versus training has taken hold to the point where some shudder when they hear the function still referred to as training and development.

We have seen an epiphany of sorts where "progressive" learning and development professionals have come to realize that learning interventions need to be tied to the business drivers, challenges, and breakdowns an organization faces. This realization has led to an expansion of skill sets to now include business analysis and performance consulting. The validation of learning and development interventions has resulted in much more emphasis placed on measuring and evaluating the business impact than ever before. And this too, has required an expansion of the traditional learning and development skill set.

So what is my concern regarding the new branding of the ASTD? With Talent Development, the ASTD jumps into the Talent Management world which appears to me to be a re-branding of the traditional Human Resources and Personnel function. Check out any Talent Management department and you will see a Talent Development or Training / Learning function built into its design.

When I think about it, how can you develop talent effectively unless you understand what the ideal talent looks like, how to find them, how to motivate them, how to develop them, and how to promote them? Will the ATD seek to expand the core competencies and skill sets of their members. I don't see how it cannot. This would imply a new set of skills that would include:

**  competency modeling

**  organization development and organization effectiveness
**  recruitment and selection
**  professional development
**  compensation
**  leadership development
**  succession planning

A very small percentage of the ASTD members that I work with today have this skill set. This is much more of an HR skill set. So I am left wondering if the ATD understands the full ramifications of grabbing onto the Talent Development movement. How will the ATD distinguish Talent Development from Talent Management? How will they differentiate themselves from ODNET, SHRM, or other talent management associations and societies?

The other concern that I see is that Talent Development is primarily focused on internal staff. Corporations and organizations seek to develop their talent. But not all of us are focused on internal users. I guess in its most abstract definition, learning and development groups focused on external users are also interested in their client's talent development. But in fact, they are mostly focused on providing learning solutions that enable their customers to optimally benefit from their company's products or services. Talent development is not really the concern so the new branding misses the mark for that significant percentage of the ATD membership.

I understand what the ATD is trying to do. They probably could have achieved the same goal by a more simple re-branding which replaced Training with Learning. Learning and development professionals provide a uniquely focused service to the communities and entities that they serve. Over the past decade or so the profession has made great strides in being seen as differentiators in the marketplace and not just an expense to an organization. I wonder if in the long run, this new re-branding will be counter-productive to the gains the profession has achieved. Time will tell how this all shakes out. What do you think?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

2012: Emerging Trends, Roles and Responsibilities in Learning and Development

The following summarizes the comments received during an informal survey of Learning Leaders in the New York Metropolitan area on the anticipated changes and new developments in the Learning & Development and User Support fields.

The comments are presented in two categories (along with an indication on the level of consensus from the Learning Leaders surveyed):

  1. Roles and Responsibilities that will be in demand over the next 12 to 24 months, and
  2. Emerging Trends in the Learning and Development space over the same time period.

Emerging Roles and Responsibilities:

  1. Performance Consultants to ensure alignment between business goals, challenges and breakdowns, and learning and development initiatives. Most survey participants noted a critical need for learning and development professionals that can speak the language of business and understand profit and loss challenges, staff management and professional development concerns, and business operations. Are we better served to have L&D professionals with an MBA focus or MBA professionals with an L&D orientation? There was universal consensus on this role.
  2. Community Engagement Managers to promote, coordinate, organize, and manage user and subject matter involvement involved in social learning initiatives. Some survey participants indicated that this role and responsibility may be incorporated into the job description of existing L&D positions. There was broad consensus on this role.
  3. Project and Program Managers with the ability to oversee global and virtual team initiatives. Going forward, the concept of the team may include employees, subject matter experts, business partners, clients, business stakeholders, and third party vendors. These Project and Program Managers will manage team members with varying cultural perspectives and alternative work arrangements. There was broad consensus on this role.
  4. Talent Management / Human Capital Management Specialists to provide broader organizational design and organizational effectiveness to existing internal clients. These professionals will provide expertise in "hire to fire" strategies including topics encompassing competency modeling, recruitment and selection strategies, compensation, professional development, leadership development, and succession planning. There was broad consensus on this role.
  5. Knowledge Managers / Content Librarians to oversee, manage, update, and determine access of organizational knowledge and learning assets. This role is a morphing of the Knowledge Management discipline and the current Curriculum Manager role. There was some consensus on this role.

Additional roles and responsibilities noted included:

  • Learning Systems Integration Specialists to ensure seamless integration of learning systems and applications with enterprise systems. These specialists would serve as the primary liaison between Learning and Development and IT and third party vendors.
  • Learning Evaluation and ROI Specialists to assess the business impact of Learning and Development initiatives.
  • Online Learning Designers and Developers with expertise in rapid development tools.

Emerging Trends:

  1. Social Learning encompassing the utilization of social media tools to enhance learning and retention. Most survey participants are currently involved in the development or prototyping of social learning solutions. Some of the challenges mentioned included concerns over how information is shared and accessed, conformance to regulatory and compliance guidelines, productivity loss, and the reliability of the knowledge being shared. All survey participants saw social learning as a current and emerging trend.
  2. Greater reliance on User Generated Content: Most survey participants envision pushing more of the content creation responsibilities to the end-user and subject matter expert community. In this scenario, traditional Learning and Development departments would be responsible for: (a) the development of toolkits, templates, and training solutions to support the user community in the development quality content and learning deliverables; (b) serving as mentors and coaches to the user community on content and learning development activities; (c) quality control activities
  3. Mobile Learning: With the explosion in usage of smart phones and mobile computing devices, a great majority of survey participants see mobile computing as a significant emerging trend. With mobile learning (mLearning) come significant challenges including usability design concerns, security and compliance concerns, network reliability and speed, and the lack of an established mobile learning pedagogy and standards. Additional concerns were noted by David Wentworth of the Institute for Corporate Productivity who wrote, "Mobile learning is not without issues, though, most of which boil down to very tactical, practical application and the ever-present challenge of garnering the support of senior leaders. Do content owners now need to develop a mobile application for every piece of content they create? If so, does there need to be versions that can run on iPhones, an Android device, BlackBerrys and Windows phones? What about tablets? Are there authoring or content creation tools that make this easy? How do we manage all of this - through our existing Learning Management System (LMS)?" (http://www.i4cp.com/trendwatchers/2011/05/06/mobile-learning-anywhere-anytime)
  4. Additional reliance on Outsourced Services: All survey participants indicated that they anticipated lean and mean times ahead. With continued economic uncertainty, staffing levels will be managed closely and Learning and Development departments will be pressed to continue to deliver quality solutions with limited funding. In order to meet these challenges, Learning and Development leaders will need to enhance their reliance on third party vendors and outsourcing partners. This will require (a) investigation of overseas or lower cost providers of quality services; (b) Learning and Development professionals skilled at managing outside vendors; (c) staff members skilled in managing overseas vendors and virtual teams

Survey participants included learning leaders from corporations representing the Healthcare/Hospital, Aviation, Insurance, Financial Services, Professional Services, Education, Manufacturing, and Real Estate sectors.