Learning Plans: The missing piece of your employee retention strategy

Learning Plans: The missing piece of your employee retention strategy

Did you know that over 60% of employees feel that they are not provided with opportunities to learn and grow! (Gallup) Learning accelerates employee development, fuels prosperity, and is about much more than continuing education credits. By offering the right learning opportunities for your employees, you can ensure your firm is leading the industry and that your teams will be ready to take on the next new project.

Learning plans are an underutilized, but powerful tool. According to HR Magazine, companies that invest even $1,500 on training per employee can see an average of 24% more profit than companies who invest less. Learning opportunities go hand-in-hand with employee engagement. They increase the productivity of individuals, teams, departments or locations; prepare the workforce for the planned turnover of key leadership positions; and align learning with employee development plans and goals.

Providing learning opportunities to your employees will drive a variety of positive business outcomes across the firm from onboarding to organizational alignment.

#1 Learning and Onboarding

Learning plans should be used to support the onboarding process. You can shorten the length of time it takes to get new hires up-to-speed and assigned to billable projects. Help new hires feel you are willing to invest in them by sharing all of the learning options your firm offers. By focusing on learning and development during onboarding, you can help your new hires get acclimated to their role (initial or transitional) and integrated into your firm’s culture. 

You also have valuable information regarding skill and competency gaps for the initial role and an understanding of how the employee envisions bridging existing gaps quickly. You may have asked about the new hire’s preferred learning style and how they best implement learning and knowledge gains, as well as their preferred frequency, style and methods for receiving feedback.  Effective interviews and early new hire feedback sessions will help you understand what motivates them to succeed and what you can do to incentivize them.

#2 Connect the Dots between Learning, Development, & Performance

Want to have a serious impact on your organization? One of the most overlooked opportunities to increase engagement is by shifting focus to development plans during performance reviews. We all know the traditional performance review process. Employees meet with their manager to discuss the results of their previous year’s performance, and learn their new goals for the next review. How effective is this retrospective approach? Does is motivate your employees and project teams to do exceptional work? Probably not. Instead, focus on the future with a forward-facing strategy to help your employees recognize a tangible benefit.

Development plans, when leveraged consistently, can help you to facilitate alignment between your business goals and employee performance and growth. Learning and development plans help to prevent stagnation in your workforce, which results in increased employee engagement AND improved client satisfaction. As a result, you will be able to more accurately identify the key strengths (and weaknesses) of your employees and course-correct to utilize those strengths or address the gaps.

#3 Learning is Larger than Certifications and Professional Licenses

Many of the industries we serve have very credentialed workforces, so tracking and maintaining the certifications, licenses, and even security clearances needed can be a handful. Regardless of tenure, career path, or level within your business, your employees need so much more than certification tracking.

Leverage learning plans throughout the employee life cycle to address gaps, and to prepare employees for stretch projects and growth. As part of employee growth, learning and development plans should also be used to prepare an employee for a lateral transition or promotion.

#4 Fuel Prosperity and Support Organizational Goals

Learning and development plans wrap objectives together to ensure an employee has accomplished a set of variable items, including things like internal learning, external learning, certification, stretch assignments, and shadowing, on-the-job learning, and skill and competency gains.

Managers need to balance corporate goals with an employee’s personal development goals to ensure the company’s success.  Once the manager fully understands the employee’s career goals, they can collaboratively create a learning plan that will assist the company in reaching their growth goals, but also includes training and development for the employee to reach their personal goals. 


By leveraging learning and development plans, you will gain the competitive edge you need to win the next contract or project by keeping your workforce on the cutting edge of your industry. A focused learning strategy will help your firm to attract even more great talent by cultivating a development culture that helps establish your employer brand in the talent marketplace.

Client Spotlight Series

Client Spotlight Series

Our Client Spotlight series features casual, interview style conversations with current Brilliant HR clients to share best practices learned firsthand through their experience with Brilliant HR software. This Spotlight features Corey Gilchrist, Director of Compensation and HRMS at Shamrock Foods Group.

Key Takeaways

  • Effectively introducing Brilliant HR’s Compensation tool and best practices
  • Building relationships to cultivate employee loyalty
  • Personal experiences showing the value of having a thorough compensation practice at your organization

Missed the webinar? Watch it on demand now!

Compelling Reasons to Switch to An ATS

Compelling Reasons to Switch to An ATS

The Old and the New Reality in the War for Talent

happy smiling group of colleagues and work group together as a team

Are you feeling overwhelmed by trying to keep track of open requisitions, or the candidates you have in the interviewing process?  Not to mention the candidates with unanswered offer letters or those that have accepted or declined an offer. There are a lot of moving pieces in the acquisition process, now add to that the expectations of the candidates themselves and you could end up spending more time writing emails and making phone calls than actually recruiting anyone!

In their book “The War for Talent,” Ed Michaels, Helen Handfield-Jones, and Beth Axelrod tell us more about the new reality created by the war for talent. Within the old reality, people needed companies; machines, capital, and geography were the competitive advantage; better talent made some different; jobs were scarce; employees were loyal and jobs were secure; and people accepted the standard package they were offered. However, within today’s new reality, there is a shift more towards focusing on and keeping employees because companies need people; talented people are the competitive advantage and better talent makes a huge difference; talented people are scarce; people are mobile and their commitment is short term; and people are demanding much more.

While the employee/employer relationship of today impacts every type of business, it has an even more profound impact on project based organizations. You rely on your people to deliver world class projects every day. Without them, your projects suffer, your customers suffer, and ultimately, your bottom line shows the negative consequences. BUT, there are better ways to cope with the challenges of talent acquisition.

With this new reality in mind, let’s cover what you can do to stay ahead of the curve and secure the strongest candidates in the marketplace. Firstly, you need to expedite the talent acquisition process, secondly, understand how talent pools can help you keep track of those highly specialized roles, and finally, how optimizing employee branding and the candidate experience can make a huge difference for your organization.

Expediting Talent Acquisition

The days of candidates flocking to your website to apply for positions is over. Remember, if they are a great employee, you can bet you are not the only one trying to convince them that your organization is the best place for them. Mindsets have shifted. The dialogue is no longer “why should we give you a job”, instead it’s “why our organization will be a great place for you to build your career.” This means we need to rethink our hiring process completely to understand how to present a strong value proposition to prospects. People want to work where the culture is strong and the projects are interesting. How are you communicating that to prospective employees?

All this change gets a whole lot easier when you leverage technology to track and adjust your processes.

To get a clearer picture of your talent acquisition process, take a look at it and break it down into intervals of time between each of the steps between the job posting and the first day on the job – from when a candidate was sourced, to when they were screened, to when they were interviewed, etc.

Considering you have this information available – both the steps and time to fill – a part of the equation you might be missing is how long it takes you to complete each step. This piece of information lets you know right away if there are any steps that are consistently taking longer than others, and gives you a chance to evaluate your processes to make them more efficient. According to Dr. John Sullivan, the steps that tend to hold up the process the most are:

  • Approving new job postings
  • Resume screening
  • Scheduling interviews

Each of these steps can be tracked in an ATS, a great tool to aid you in the reporting of this information.  Reporting on the average amount of time in each step can help to identify blockages and where to focus to improve processes and efficiency for future hires. At the end of the day, it’s all about having the right people available at the right time to keep your projects staffed and running smoothly.

For example, through reporting you can identify if you are indeed struggling with approvals of job postings, where to make improvements to the process and if the changes you are making are improving the timing.

How Brilliant HR’s Talent Acquisition solution can help:

  • When creating a requisition, approvers for that requisition can be established.  These approvers then receive email notifications to accept or reject the requisition, with reminders if they do not take action.
  • You application process can include screening questions that score applicants as they apply to the requisition. These can be used to auto-screen candidates, or you can review these responses as a part of your initial review.
  • When it is time to interview a candidate, the Brilliant HR ATS gives you the ability to select dates and times to send to the candidate, which they can then accept or reject online.
  • You can also report on how long each of these steps takes, and evaluate if there are areas you can improve.

Talent Pools

Another area an ATS can assist with is in building and maintaining talent pools. Deltek’s Clarity research shows that finding qualified talent is a top challenge for project based firms and establishing talent pools can really help to flag candidates that you want to stay in touch with for future opportunities.

As resumes are added to your ATS, you can review and then flag those that would be a good fit for future openings.

Maintaining talent pools by continuously accepting and flagging resumes from strong applicants can help you move faster when you win a new project, or when someone leaves unexpectedly and a succession plan for that individual is not in place. In his post The Smart Move for Growing Companies Is to Always Be Recruiting Talent, David Ciccarelli further expands on how having a pipeline in place can help, and some techniques for expanding the pipeline.

In the example of where someone leaves unexpectedly, this is where having a pipeline of candidates can be critical, filling that gap sooner rather than later. There is nothing worse than having to delay a project start date because you lack the appropriate resources!

How our Talent Acquisition can help:

  • When you review a resume, you can add that resume to a pool so that you can easily find them in the future.
  • Pools enable you to keep lists of candidates with specific requirements, helping you stay in touch with those job seekers with email communication.  These lists can be generated manually or through the use of search agents that automatically add to the list.  They can also be shared for easy access to information.  Inviting job seekers in these pools to apply to job openings they are a good fit for and have the appropriate skill set.  Again, potentially filling a position quicker by already having the talent defined by using Talent Pools.

Employee Branding and Candidate Experience

It is very important that you are attractive to candidates as an employer; their experience moving through your online application and hiring process can have a huge impact on this perception. An ATS can help you identify areas where applicants drop from the process and make it easier to keep in touch so that your organization avoids giving candidates the “black hole” experience.

A recent Forbes article gives some insight into some of the things that job seekers found negative in the process.

  • 60% of employers “never bothered letting me know the decision after the interview”
  • 43% of candidates found out during the interview “the job didn’t match what was written in the job ad”
  • 34% of the candidates said the company representative “didn’t present a positive work experience”

This is where a focus on your branding and candidate experience aided by an ATS help to ensure that your offer is the one that gets accepted!

How our Talent Acquisition can help:

  • You are able to create your own email templates for notifications, and then tie those to different steps in your recruiting workflow to make sure that you are keeping candidates informed.
  • You can access your listing of job descriptions when starting a requisition, and use those descriptions to fill in your job description and requirements within the requisition form.
  • Talent Acquisition can assist you with your career center – the Brilliant HR and Deltek teams work with you for a branding experience that matches your company’s needs, while providing you with the ability for applicants to find and view jobs online (including on their mobile device). This also includes an application process, where you drive the steps and information collected from your applicants.
The Year of Employee Experience

The Year of Employee Experience

group of people working on a bright human resources poster showing teamwork(If you only pick one focus in 2018, let it be this…)

Out of curiosity, I did a Google search to find out what the almighty internet had to say about the top HR trends for 2018.  The results were pretty interesting and relatively consistent.  The one trend alluded to in every article was that companies need to focus on creating a holistic employee experience. 

If, like me, you have never worked in HR, you may ask why this is so important.  Or you may feel more concerned about what impact this trend could have on profitability.  Maybe you hate the sounds of this and would rather put everyone back in their cubicles (eek!). 

We can all agree that employee disengagement statistics vary, but it’s reasonable to say that around half of the workforce is disengaged.  This costs millions in lost productivity annually!  It’s clearly time to make a paradigm shift that will only make our companies more prosperous.

Here’s why:

#1 Authenticity breeds creativity and innovation

The old adage about leaving your work life at work and your home life at home is finally becoming obsolete.  The idea that you are one person professionally and a different one personally never resonated with me.  What about the strength we all bring to the table as whole individuals?  What about the power of authenticity in leadership, creativity, and innovation? 

We hire people.  They don’t become something else when we change their status to employee.  We need those same people engaged and contributing at work.  Every step we take toward total inclusion of the human experience in the workplace is a step toward authenticity.  Who can be innovative or creative with their authentic selves buried behind an outdated belief that what we do and who we are exist as separate identities?

Make authenticity part of your culture by:

  • Incorporating flexibility in formal/informal policies
  • Opening up the possibility of remote working arrangements, when possible
  • Supporting your people when they need it most (bereavement, illness, divorce, etc.)
  • Empowering your mangers to develop trusting relationships with their teams


Talent Management
for Dummies


#2 “If you build it, they will come”

How many of us have worked for a company that had a great vision statement on their website, but once you were hired you couldn’t find a trace of it with a microscope?  Why do we spend so much time and money defining mission, vision, and values, if we aren’t going to live and breathe those sentiments?  Think about it, these core beliefs can shape culture if allowed to permeate the company.  What does that mean?  Well, let’s dive a little deeper. 

If your organization truly wears its values on its sleeve, you will attract your team.  You will attract the team that fits your vision.  That isn’t to say that there won’t be differences of opinion or individual contribution.  I’m speaking to a partnership between the core values of your company and the core values of your people.  Don’t underestimate this, really.  People, well millennials at least, want to work where they feel connected and aligned.  If you ever wondered how to retain high potential millennial talent, this is a big piece of the generational puzzle.  By the way, have you noticed that millennials now make up the largest segment in the workforce?

Broadcast your vision and values to attract top talent:

  • Live and breathe your values by making them a key part of your performance feedback cycle
  • Create powerful employer branding that puts your values front and center for all those perspective employees out there
  • Treat prospective employees the way you would treat prospective customers or clients
  • Utilize available technology to communicate your employer branding and to give prospective employees an incredible application experience

#3 Acquire, retain, develop…rinse and repeat

For years we have heard that job-hopping millennials have one proverbial foot out the door and aren’t worth investing in.  Whoa!  Hold on, have we really been treating the largest cohort in the workforce with such little regard and compassion?  The oldest millennials are now in their mid-30s.  They aren’t kids fresh out of school anymore.  This might sound crazy, but recent statistics show that as millennials age they would prefer to stay with a company longer term.  Insane, I know!  What they really want in order to stick around is an opportunity to grow, develop, and advance within the company.  Seems reasonable and familiar…

With this negative mindset about millennials permeating organizations, it’s no wonder they don’t stick around.  Loyalty and investment go both ways.  Let’s be honest, most companies will say they have at least a partial succession plan for some roles, but if someone else left suddenly, gaps would be obvious.  I’ve seen this happen.  So, we have a workforce that isn’t prepared for turnover and we are practically escorting millennials in one door and exiting them out the back!

Stop the revolving door

  • Throw out the mindset that all young employees want to leave
  • Create collaborative development plans for your employees that are beneficial for both the individual and the company
  • Shift from annual feedback cycles to continuous feedback discussions
  • Allow employees some visibility into succession planning and involve them when appropriate

#4 Humanize HR with Technology?  Really?

Most of us have had the unfortunate experience of applying for a job and then hearing crickets.  Or getting all the way to a third interview…and then crickets.  It’s a common tale and it isn’t a great experience for the top talent that we are trying to recruit.  As the workforce moves toward higher numbers of alternative arrangements, like contracts and contingent workers, candidates will require more touch points and communication.  The trouble is that our HR departments aren’t necessarily able to scale up and meet the demand for, what can only be described as, customer service.  Enter technology.

It may seem counter intuitive to enlist the help of a great Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to humanize the applicant experience, but let’s talk through it.  Some companies at least send a notification that an application has been received.  Take that a step further and send additional notifications when an application is viewed or allow for status changes that are communicated to the applicant.  Schedule interviews and extend offers with the touch of a button.  Who has time to manage all that?  Your handy ATS can do it.  What happens most of the time now is akin to what the kids are calling ghosting on social media platforms.  One minute you’re chatting and hitting it off and the next?  Crickets.

Using a great Applicant Tracking System is just one example of how technology can help your HR department meet the demand for their time and help your applicants and employees feel more connected.  Do you have a Talent Management Strategy?  Many companies say they do, but struggle to execute it effectively and consistently.  Again, enter technology.

Here are a few ways that a great Talent Management System can humanize HR:

  • Employ transparent and collaborative goal setting that can be monitored and adjusted
  • Use continuous feedback cycles to encourage your managers and employees to build strong trusting relationships by meeting regularly
  • Create Employee Recognition incentives that will allow anyone in the company to recognize a job well done
  • Align learning plans with development and goals for all employees.  If you’re further down the path, you’ll even be able to create and manage learning content or connect to external learning portals.

Technology is meant to enable HR to do more than drown in emails and paperwork.  A comprehensive Human Capital Management solution will empower your HR team to optimize the greatest asset you have, your people. 

Engagement and Retention: “The Mystery” Solved

Engagement and Retention: “The Mystery” Solved

woman speaking at a conference at the podium

Try a keyword search on “employee retention statistics” or “employee engagement statistics” and find yourself inundated with a ton of data that all basically points to the fact that, guess what, this stuff is important. And, as you read those articles in greater detail, you can always find “tips” on what to do to drive these incredibly important measures. The connection many of us fail to make every day is that our professional lives are in reality very similar to our personal lives. Certainly, professional relationships are different in some ways than our personal relationships and have different boundaries due to employment law (see every article in 2017 related to celebrity or workplace harassment, ahem); however, our approaches to mastering both should be, to no surprise, quite similar.

What are some characteristics of engaging individuals in the workplace? Authenticity? Credibility? Ability to be forthright? Passionate? Charismatic and supportive? Hmm, do these sound like characteristics of people you would also prefer to surround yourself with in your personal life?

So the question we must then ask, and subsequently answer, is why don’t we think of things in these terms more often? Far too often we start with a question like “Who do I want to be as a Manager?” Perhaps the questions we should start with are “Who am I as a person? Or “What characteristics, traits, skills and competencies do I value in life?” We need to start with those qualities we hold/value and seek to surround ourselves with, and build from there.

These qualities or characteristics come in different forms. Some of them are natural to us. Some of them require hard work for us to gain/achieve or are simply not possible to acquire. Additionally, there are skills and competencies we have or must develop in order to perform in our daily lives, both personally and professionally. How do we develop these? How do we keep our focus in life to know where we are, where we want to go, and how to get there? How do we know what can realistically be learned vs. who we just are as individuals? Finally, I know what you’re thinking, “I thought we were talking engagement and retention here?”

So let’s tie it all together. We want to be around engaging people who treat us like we matter and who demonstrate care and compassion. We want to work for an engaging organization that values our input and contributions. We want to work in a position that excites us, allows us to grow our skills and competencies. Simultaneously, we are looking for the same thing in our personal lives/relationships. We seek opportunities to just be authentic because, in those moments, we are comfortable and we flourish. When we find these things…care, compassion, mutual respect, value, growth, excitement, etc., we tend not to let them go. We retain these relationships and environments.

Bringing this into a workplace discussion, we need to facilitate environments where culture and development are a focus. If we can foster the environment where we show care, compassion, mutual respect, value, growth and excitement, we will be engaging most of those who join our organizations, and retaining them for significantly longer periods of time. Keep in mind though, as stated earlier, authenticity is key. We can’t manufacture culture and care. It has to be genuine and it has to be “who we really are and are capable of being”.

So we need to ask ourselves the following questions?

  • Is our culture largely based on our values that we have defined and hold employees accountable for demonstrating? Does it feel authentic? Do we hire for and foster reinforcement of these values and characteristics?
  • Is our organization currently prepared for and/or investing in development, specifically doing so to develop the characteristics, skills and competencies employees are desiring?
  • Are we investing in this so our employees can become more valuable to themselves (i.e. selfless development) and our organization?
  • Are our employees becoming well-rounded, increasing their engagement, increasing their billable rates, and performing at higher levels?

We can develop out plans for our business that create the framework necessary to achieve our cultural, engagement and retention-based objectives. From a true HR perspective, engaging onboarding programs, career pathing, development plans, and learning plans are staples in your engagement and retention strategy. They are, simply put, “must haves” in order to show your employees you care about their growth and development. Of course, having the technology to back up your efforts can make a huge difference, and Deltek has made a commitment to help our clients become high performing organizations with our solutions. But, at the end of the day, the onus is on an organization’s leadership to build a culture that fosters a happy and healthy workplace.

In short, a plaque on the wall showcasing a company’s values is a nice sentiment, but without the actions to back it up, they are simply words. It matters most what we do, not what we say we do or what we say we want to do/be. No matter the size of the company, every employee should feel valued in their everyday tasks, and understand just how much they matter to the company’s mission and goals. As Dale Carnegie once said, “Throw yourself into some work you believe in with all your heart, live for it, die for it, and you will find happiness that you had thought could never be yours.” While the “die for it” piece is a bit extreme professionally, if you largely believe in this sentiment, it is no different for your personal life. Let’s work to be authentic and find that balance where we can flourish personally and professionally. As employers, let’s foster that seamless transition from personal life to the workplace through creating a genuine, authentic environment, driving accountability to exemplify that culture. Let’s use technology when we can to help us facilitate that culture and drive growth and development. If we can do just that, your engagement and retention numbers are certain to soar!

Employee Disengagement – The causes, the risks, and the solutions

Employee Disengagement – The causes, the risks, and the solutions


In the HR world, our job is people – their jobs, their income, and yes, even their engagement at work.  We’d like to think that when people come to the office, they come to actually work, to contribute to their team and organizational goals, and ultimately just to “be engaged”. However, whether we like it or not, employees have a life outside of work, and chances are, they care about that life with their family and friends a whole lot more than the 8+ hours a day they spend at the office. That is the life where they are able to create their own goals, set their own priorities, and manage their own work load.

The mistake that many companies make is thinking of their employees simply as cogs in the great clock of overall organizational success, handing out orders and rules, tasks and projects, drowning employees in the miserable world of red tape and company policies. This “dual life” of employees, according to Mr. Jacob Morgan at Forbes, is the root cause of employee disengagement. The clash between being the master of one’s self in one life, to becoming a mindless replaceable cog in another life, taking orders from managers simply to collect a paycheck, can make anyone a disengaged employee. As Mr. Morgan says, “It’s no wonder that the majority of employees around the world don’t like their jobs and there is one key reason for that. Work practices, attitudes, values, strategies, technologies, and ways of working are evolving and changing at a rapid pace. whereas organizations remain stagnant when it comes to adapting to these changes.”

Organizations don’t think of their employees as living, breathing people – and it has to be the mission of HR to start this revolution of thinking, starting with the manager level, and working all the way to the top.

There are different levels of disengagement, and each comes with its own set of risks. There are those that are simply “not engaged”. In the U.S. and Canada, according to a survey by Gallup, a staggering 54% of employees are not engaged, with the numbers steadily rising. Employees who are not engaged are those that go through the motions but lack motivation and innovation. They make no effort to contribute to organizational goals, or improve their own contributions, and are essentially just leeches on the company’s profit and goals. Even more threatening are the “actively disengaged” employees. Luckily, they make up a smaller number, about 18% of the workforce, and the number has started to drop. The damage they can do, however, is not minimized. These employees harbor bitter feelings towards their company for one reason or another, and actively sabotage projects or undermine their coworkers.

Whether or not the statistics are true for every organization, it is clear that the problem needs be addressed immediately. The good news is that most companies are already fairly successful even with these disengaged employees… Imagine what they could accomplish if they could turn even half of those employees into engaged employees! So what can we do to start turning the tides?

  1. Engagement starts at the top. Employees need to see that their leaders are actively engaged so that they have someone to look up to and follow. 
  2. Mission and vision statements are a way of living. They aren’t simply words to mindlessly spit out to clients or investors. Employees need to understand what they mean in the way they do their everyday jobs.
  3. Create harmony between the “dual lives” of the employees. If the babysitter isn’t able to pick up their children from school, they shouldn’t be punished for having to leave early for their family. They shouldn’t have to choose sides between work and family.
  4. Communication is key. Employees want to receive feedback and direction from their leaders. If not, they assume their work isn’t valuable to the company, and they will simply stop trying. 
  5. Invest in your employees’ future careers. Employees not only want to know that their work is appreciated, but that they can grow in their position. Creating development plans, and actively working towards grooming each employee as a future leader will give them the motivation and vision of the future that they need to excel. 

With all this in mind, HR is burdened with the task of turning these statistics around and creating a fully engaged workforce. It’s not going to happen overnight, but simply making it a priority is a huge step. Just one employee that is converted from being actively disengaged to engaged can make a world of difference.