When Talent Management meets Open Source

By Conor Gilligan, Global Head of Division Professional Services, Webanywhere

Many companies are looking more than ever for talent; this has become a vital component to running a successful business today. The term ‘War on Talent’ was coined by Steven Hankin of McKinsey and Co in his book in 1997. This describes the increasing competition for hiring, managing and developing talent. The old Talent Management model was to procure an enterprise Learning Management System as part of a Human Resources suite from a single vendor. This has changed. More and more, CIO’s are looking for the best of breed for their company, with the API (Application Programming Interface) space becoming much more mature, this means companies can benefit from choosing different applications for different needs.

Open source has been something which companies have tried to avoid, why? I’m not really sure, but mainly fear around support if the system goes down. But, then that’s why you’d employ a partner with a Service Level Agreement I guess.

What’s more, Open Source software is already being used by some of the most successful tech companies globally, think, Red Hat, Twitter, Facebook and Google.

Within the Talent Management space, a new breed of Learning Management System (LMS) has been born, 100% open source, and here to stay. The platform is called Totara LMS, and already is being used by many corporates globally including, EasyJet, Tesco, Sony, Vodafone, Sky, Kohl’s, jetBlue, Clas Ohlson, National Health Service (UK), Dollar General, Safeway Inc and much more.

All of these companies are realising the benefits of open source software. The first being cost, savings have been made, up to 80% based on the fact none of the Totara LMS subscribers pay a single license fee. This means CIO’s can invest this saving elsewhere.

Another factor taken into consideration is the community this brings, CIO’s are benefiting from the open source sharing model, this means, companies if they choose to, can share code within the community. This leads to a lower total cost of ownership for everyone.

Finally, Totara LMS is bringing no vendor lock-in, this is critical in today’s marketplace and gives companies the freedom to switch if they are not happy with their current vendor. For example, there are over 60 global Totara LMS partners, they are based on levels from Bronze to Platinum and have different specialties. If you want to understand the competitive landscape, you can send your Request for Proposal to all of them.

Some of the key features of Totara LMS include:

  • Flexible design capability – because the core platform is open source, you can tailor this to your specific requirements. One of the major criticisms of a corporate LMS is the fact they are very linear in design; this isn’t very helpful when you are trying to engage a large workforce. Also, the learning path needs to be interesting. With Totara, you can customize your own, this means the learner is more engaged from the start.
  • Audience Management – I love this tool, in fact, Webanywhere (the people I work for), helped build this out and added it to core working with the Totara team. This tool lets you quickly assigning learning modules to your ever growing workforce. For example, you can assign learning based on geography, position (and yes secondary position!), level, division/ department and much more. There are over 400 different rules set. The beauty of this is then not having to manually assign learning, once you have set this up, it just works.
  • Learning Plans – These are helpful, as part of your appraisal review process (yes, Totara has one built in also) you can create a bespoke learning plan or templates. This means each employee has their own personalized learning path.
  • Appraisals – I find it annoying having a separate appraisal platform from your corporate Learning Management System, why is this? Well…your learners are in a different place to where the learning is actually happening. This can become problematic when you are trying to assign learning based on ‘gaps’ from your appraisal. With Totara, this problem is fixed, the entire process is in one place.


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