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Bridging the Gap between Learning and Performance Management Systems

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Paul Hawkins
on August 17, 2012

Few would argue that a central goal of a learning management system (LMS) is to help provide the knowledge and skills employees need to succeed in their respective jobs. These systems are all about employee empowerment, and, indirectly, improving the bottom line through excellence in execution.

Conceptually, as it relates to human resources, LMS and human capital management (HCM) systems are complementary products. In a best practice, organizations:

  1. Hire employees,
  2. Define their development plans so they can meet the career goals,
  3. Compensate employees based on their goals being met,
  4. Assess their skills gaps,
  5. Provide training and learning opportunities based on gap identification, and
  6. Make changes to staffing levels accordingly.

Unfortunately, many organizations see learning and performance, a key HCM competency, as separate systems with separate objectives and processes.  As a result, neither process directly communicates with each other, which prevents the valuable exchange of employee performance/training data between systems. Although training can be scheduled, completed, tracked and reported upon, it doesn’t serve the key HR goals of identifying top performers, identifying key succession candidates for specific positions, or making the connection toward increased opportunities for additional compensation. In short, it becomes a silo’d process, and breaks the chain in the complete talent management lifecycle.

How did this happen? One key reason is the differing stakeholders and system champions within the organization. LMS endeavors are championed by training departments, and systems fall under the guise of Human Resources or Organizational Development. Each of these different departments has differing goals: the former is to ensure that employees are trained to execute their job in a satisfactory manner; the latter to ensure compliance, compensation management, tracking of performance goals and succession planning.

As the value of increased training becomes apparent in a dynamic economy, however, organizations are learning that performance without learning and learning without performance (as it exists within HCM/TM/PM) is simply not feasible. The two need to be one, and the bridge between performance and learning becomes the development plan. The result of such a strategy becomes a single talent profile, which becomes the system of record for the employee’s skills, competencies and results. Once this is established, the HR cycle is complete, including hiring employees, defining their development plans so they can meet the career goals, associating training to the goals to ensure that the goals can be measured with tangible data, compensating them based on their goals being met (required training completed), assessing skills gaps in the organization and recruiting accordingly.

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