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Implement a Three-Pronged Approach for Successfully Managing Training Compliance in SuccessFactors Learning

by Eric Wood, SAP ERP HCM/SuccessFactors Solution Architect, Presence of IT

July 26, 2016

Efficient management of compliance training is a critical need for many organizations looking at best-of-breed learning management systems. Discover how three SuccessFactors Learning tools can improve organizational training compliance through automated administration, at the same time reducing historically high HR administrative efforts and associated costs.

Benjamin Franklin is credited with coining the adage that only two things in life are certain: death and taxes. Within the world of corporate learning, there is one other certainty—regulatory compliance. I know few HR professionals who get excited by the topics of regulation, compliance, and the training they must manage to keep auditors, legal departments, and their CEOs happy and satisfied. However, just like death and taxes, corporations, regardless of size, have to deal with the complex and oftentimes expensive administration and management of compliance training.

While certain types of risk can be healthy and necessary for corporations to take on in order to grow and mature, high risks associated with non-compliance isn’t one of them. The cost of non-compliance can be great, especially depending on the industry. In extreme cases, it can take just one incident of non-compliance to completely change a company’s balance sheet, or, more importantly, completely change the lives of individuals affected by non-compliant and improperly trained employees.

So while the importance of training compliance is clear, it doesn’t change the fact that it can be extremely hard to manage. Small organizations can struggle with managing and administering compliance training simply due to having fewer resources dedicated to managing employee training. While larger organizations may have more resources, other challenges begin to creep in as organizational size increases, putting more strain on finding a cohesive way to manage the process effectively. Regardless of the size of an organization, three challenges are typically seen when it comes to managing compliance training: those involving time, money, and measurement of effectiveness.

In today’s HR world, there is an increasing emphasis being put on HR to be more strategic. Training departments should be no different. However, there is an increased demand on learning resources that is a direct result of the growth in regulatory compliance training management.

While learning management systems (LMSs) are not new, the tools they provide to manage compliance training can differ greatly. A key strength of SuccessFactors Learning, in my opinion, can be found in the features provided in this LMS for managing and administering compliance training.

In this article, I look at the three primary mechanisms within SuccessFactors Learning that can be leveraged in the administration and management of compliance training. These are:

  1. Assignment types (for classifying types of training assignments to employees)
  2. Assignment profiles (for automating the assignment of training items, programs, and curricula to groups of employees)
  3. Period-based curricula (for the automatic management of re-training assignments for training that, once completed, requires periodic re-training for maintaining the compliance status) 

Assignment types provide administrators the flexibility to categorize training assignments to meet business requirements for administration, tracking, and reporting purposes. Assignment profiles alleviate the notoriously high-cost and high-risk administrative tasks of assigning required trainings to employees to ensure regulatory compliance training requirements are met. Finally, period-based curricula allow for periodic retraining calculations and assignments that are continually managed by the system for employees as they complete particular courses that require retraining, ensuring ongoing training compliance remains high.

This three-pronged approach to managing and administering compliance training within SuccessFactors Learning provides organizations with increased organizational compliance while decreasing the administrative costs for learning administrators.

Assignment Types

Assignment types in SuccessFactors Learning provide the ability to classify the criticality of learning-item assignments to users within SuccessFactors Learning. The relative importance of a learning assignment can be conveyed to users by assignment types, while providing learning administrators with the ability to classify assignment types to meet compliance and reporting needs of the organization. Items in SuccessFactors Learning can have default assignment types specified for them. An item’s assignment type, then, when used in curricula, dictates whether an item must be completed successfully by a user in order for the curriculum to be considered complete.

Assignment types are fully configurable for organizations implementing SuccessFactors Learning. When defining assignment types, the level of differentiation between types should be balanced between what administrators may require or think is beneficial to learning administration versus what will be easily understood by learners referencing the learning assignment types on their learning to-do lists.

In SuccessFactors Learning, assignment types are configurable references, and are managed in the Learning administrator interface, reached by following menu path References > Learning > Assignment Types (Figure 1). Here, administrators can search and edit existing assignment types, as well as create new assignment types, as illustrated in Figure 1. Regardless of the terminology used for the assignment types within the SuccessFactors Learning, all types are flagged as either required (Yes) or not (No).


Figure 1
Configuring assignment types

When it comes to compliance training, different organizations may have different needs when it comes to how they track training assignments. In the simplest terms, having one assignment type for Required (Y) and another for Optional (N) may suffice, allowing organizations to segregate required versus non-required training assignments. However, many organizations may wish to differentiate further, especially within the required assignment type classifications. For example, here are four possible examples of required training assignment types:

  1. Compliance-required classification – This type is assigned to required training assignments for compliance-related training (general).
  2. Policy-required classification – This is assigned to required training assignments for employees who need to maintain compliance with organizational policy and procedures.
  3. Safety-required classification – This is assigned to required training assignments for safety reasons (Occupational Safety and Health Administration [OSHA] or other regulatory agencies’ requirements).
  4. Manager-required classification – This is assigned to training assignments from managers that are required for completion per a discussion with the employee. 

When configuring assignment types within SuccessFactors Learning, each type can be associated with an optional priority, which can be a numeric level used to further differentiate item and curriculum assignments for employees in SuccessFactors Learning. If desired, organizations may use priorities to further communicate training needs and requirements to users. Mapping assignment types to defined priority levels allows for priority designations for training assignments to be made implicitly through an item or a curriculum assignment.

The proper use of assignment types within SuccessFactors Learning is beneficial for both users and administrators. Assignment types allow for quick and easy understanding of the importance of each assigned learning item to a user in their Learning Plan. Users also have the ability to filter learning items within their My Learning Assignments tile by assignment type (Figure 2). When tied to priorities, learners can sort their Learning Plan by priority to rank their training assignments separately from their due dates. For administrators, effective use of assignment types allows for better management of required training versus optional/recommended training, allowing administrators to classify assignments accordingly, and then filter and report on different types of training assignments as needed. 


Figure 2
Assignment types and their priorities in a user’s learning plan

Assignment Profiles

The second prong to effectively managing training compliance in SuccessFactors Learning is the administration of training assignments—or more specifically, the automatic administration of training assignments. One of the most time-consuming processes for learning administrators can be ensuring that the right employees are assigned to the right training at the right time in order to meet compliance requirements. For companies without an LMS, this has traditionally been a cumbersome manual process. For medium to large organizations, this task alone could be a full-time job for learning administrators. It’s a time-consuming, expensive process, and one prone to error due to the fluidity of employee movements and organizational change.

Simply having an LMS at your disposal does not mean that the problem of automatic training of assignments is magically solved. In the case of SAP Learning Solution, for example, this function was something that SAP Learning Solution historically struggled with. For example, while courses could be assigned to employees through job relationships, you quickly ran out of standard options for assigning training based on further criteria.

Qualifications can be used in SAP Learning Solution to manage the need for re-training as qualifications expire. However, this process was more reactive than proactive in SAP ERP HCM, focusing on when the qualification expired instead of on the advanced assignment and transparency of the training required to maintain the qualification before expiration.

The assignment profile functionality in SuccessFactors Learning, however, provides a greater ability to automatically manage training assignments than what is offered by SAP Learning Solution. The assignment profiles option allows administrators to specify assignment rules that determine what training is assigned to which user group. At the same time, it also allows you to assign numerous types of SAP Learning entities to users through its automatic assignment process. These assignment profiles facilitate the ongoing management of learning assignments as well, meaning that they are not one-time-only assignment tools. As employees move in and out of the criteria set by the assignment rules, the respective training assignments within a profile are automatically added and removed from users’ profiles by the system, as needed.

The first part of defining the rules for an assignment profile is to specify which user domains that the rules should use in determining the initial user base for the assignments. In SuccessFactors Learning, domains are entities that are used to limit/define administrator security to other entities/records in the system. For users, every user record is assigned to a domain. Once that happens, then administrator security roles within SuccessFactors Learning can be set up to allow user-level access to the administrator’s role based on the domains to which they are authorized (through the use of domain restrictions). Domain structures are defined for use across all entities, including users, in SuccessFactors Learning, for the primary purpose of restricting administrator security. They can be defined as simply as one general global domain used for all entities, or they can be composed of a much more complex, custom hierarchy structure that segregates administrator access per the company’s requirements. As every user record is assigned to a domain within SuccessFactors Learning, the domains that are selected as part of an assignment profile provide the profile with a group of users to further evaluate through rules and various user criteria in order to define the exact individuals to which to assign the desired training.

(Note: Every user in the SuccessFactors Learning is assigned to a domain, and by specifying various domains for use in an assignment profile, you are implicitly selecting all the users belonging to those domains to be further evaluated by the rules set up in the assignment profile.  The users assigned to the selected domains form the base user population to be evaluated for an assignment profile.)

After defining the user domains that are to be used in an assignment profile, you can add additional criteria to refine the user population for the profile by creating new rules. By using the assignment profile rules, organizations can look at numerous user record attributes to further narrow the selection criteria for the resulting training assignments as may be required. This is where the assignment profiles’ functionality really shines, by giving flexibility to learning administrators to make learning assignments that were not previously possible.  

To illustrate the use of domains and rules within assignment profiles, Figure 3 shows how a Health and Safety assignment profile is defined in relation to two domains—Manufacturing and Operations—thereby first considering all users assigned to these two domains. Rules, in addition to the domains, are further defined to refine the user group to which to assign the desired training, specifying users who have a certain job code (SAFETY) and are also full-time employees within the noted domains.


Figure 3
Defining domains and rules in an assignment profile

A number of standard user record elements can be used within the rules of an assignment profile, in addition to the custom columns (fields) defined for user records within SuccessFactors Learning. Table 1 lists the attributes that are available within the rule definitions for an assignment profile. 

Attributes available for use in rules for assignment profiles

User ID

Address Data

Region

Domain

Organization

Employee Status

Employee Type

Is Full-Time?

Regular/Temp

Job Code

Alternate Job Code

Job Location

Hire Date/Month

Supervisor ID

Item Completion

Is Supervisor?

Custom-defined user fields

Table 1
The list of available attributes for use in assignment profiles 

After you define the appropriate domains and rules for determining the user population of the assignment profile, any number of training assignments can be made to the defined group by the assignment profile. This can be much more than just single training courses; you can include items, curricula, user role, programs, and recommended items, among others. Once an assignment profile has been set up completely, all it takes is a simple propagation and scheduled synchronization process (SuccessFactors Learning terminology to activate and keep profiles up-to-date) and the assignment profile does all the heavy lifting from that point forward. Figure 4 illustrates the process of finalizing an assignment profile.


Figure 4
Assign and update training in the assignment profile using related objects for assignment and propagation/synchronization actions

Take these steps in the screen in Figure 4:

  1. Specify the related entities you wish to assign to users via the assignment profile, which can include items, curricula, and programs, among others
  2. Once completed, click the Propagate link in the Actions area of the assignment profile record 

A big part of the task of managing an organization’s training compliance comes down to the determination and assignment of required training courses to employees. Assignment profiles in SuccessFactors Learning provide much needed flexibility for organizations to manage these assignments automatically, resulting in substantial time savings for learning administrators. Examples of possible training assignments through assignment profiles include some of the following use cases:

  • Assigning a set of required items/curricula (training) to all employees in a managerial role/function, that they must complete.
  • Assigning chemical-safety training course requirements to all employees in an engineering role (Job Code) in specific departments.
  • Assigning on-boarding-related courses to all new employees who have been hired since the start of the current year.
  • Assigning advanced training courses/curricula in a particular discipline for all employees who have completed the beginner course available on the same topic. 
Period-Based Curricula

The third and last of the three prongs for managing training compliance with SuccessFactors Learning is a very good tool that proactively manages required re-training assignments systematically, called period-based curricula. It’s one thing to identify and assign initial training assignments for employees as they move about an organization. When re-training requirements are thrown into the mix, however, tracking periodic training assignments and re-training requirements by hand (or spreadsheet) becomes nearly impossible.

Legacy SAP Learning Solution companies may think that using expiring qualifications, coupled with its standard capabilities provide sufficient ability to track required re-training requirements for employees systematically. However, you can do so much more with SuccessFactors Learning when using the period-based curricula tool.

Curricula, at their core in SuccessFactors Learning, are very similar to the curricula objects in SAP Learning Solution. Curricula allow administrators to group sets of items, requirements, and sub-curricula into a single, assignable unit within SuccessFactors Learning. By grouping these types of objects within a curriculum, they can be tracked and reported on as a group. Curricula are then considered to be complete or incomplete in status with respect to individual employee assignments, depending on an employee’s status against the individual elements of the curricula and how they are classified.

The power of using curricula for managing compliance training lies in the individual settings that can be made for items and requirements within a curriculum for period-based assignments. The term used by SuccessFactors Learning for this feature is period-based curricula. These individual settings for elements within a curricula allow organizations to specify two things about how each element is assigned within a curriculum. These are:

  1. Initial assignment
  2. Re-training 

Initial assignment settings are used to define how the item or requirement within a curriculum is assigned to an employee when the curriculum itself is first assigned. The initial assignment is driven by one of two methods: event basis or calendar basis. With event-basis initial assignments, an event is used to assign a calculated due date to each employee assignment for the assigned training. Initial-assignment events can either be the date the curriculum was assigned to an employee, or it can be the hire date of the employee receiving the assignment. Administrators can then define the period from the event date used by the system in calculating the desired required by date. The required-by dates for initial assignments that are calculated based on events (events basis) can then be varied by users who are assigned a particular curriculum. This is because the user’s assignment date or hire date can be different from other users receiving the same curriculum assignment.

If administrators want to set a consistent required-by date for an item or requirement that is assigned to all users by a particular curriculum, they should use the Calendar Basis method. By specifying a Basis Date and a period to be used for an individual element’s initial assignment within a curriculum, all users assigned to that curriculum have the same calculated required-by training date regardless of assignment—or hire—date (e.g., all employees who are required to complete a particular item by the end of the current calendar year).

Additional criteria can be used to define the thresholds for the initial assignment. This puts in place a buffer for any initial assignments made within a specified amount of days until the calculated required-by date rolls over to the next period (interval). In this case, that is the next calculated date for initial calendar-based training assignments of the system. In other words, users who are assigned the item using the Calendar Basis method within 30 days of a calculated required-by date (i.e., the end of current calendar year) are automatically rolled over and required to complete the training by the end of following calendar year.

While these capabilities for calculating initial assignment dates for items and requirements within a curriculum are great on their own, SuccessFactors Learning also provides similar capabilities for calculating required re-training dates for elements within a curriculum. It is here where companies new to SuccessFactors Learning see substantial benefits and time savings involving the automation of administration efforts to manage required re-training compliance.

To calculate required re-training dates of an item or requirement within a curriculum, you again can use either the event- or calendar-based methods. When using Event Basis, the event date used for re-training calculations is the date the user last completed the item. Administrators can then specify the period to be used in the re-training calculation to calculate the required re-training date for a particular item, based on each individual user’s completion date of the training in the curriculum. For example, this could include calculations for required re-training to be completed within 365 days after successful item completion.

The calendar basis method for re-training is again driven by the defined basis date and a period that is used by the system to calculate consistent re-training dates for employees as they complete an item/requirement in the curriculum. The system uses this defined basis date and re-training period (i.e., one year, six months, and so on) to create intervals that are used to determine the required re-training dates. This is done by completing the current period or interval during which an employee completes the training, and then calculating the end date of the following period to determine the required retraining date to be assigned to an employee. Admittedly this calculation can be a little tricky and counterintuitive to new SAP Learning administrators, so it pays to take your time and understand what the system is able to calculate for assignment dates within period-based curricula in order to determine the best way to apply the logic to meet your needs.

To illustrate how this works, Tables 2 and 3 provide example calculations for determining required-by dates for initial assignments (using the event-based method) and re-training assignments (using the calendar-based method). The concept of completing the current period or interval before adding the defined period (to determine a required-by date) is used in both initial assignments (Event Basis) and re-training (Event Basis and Calendar Basis) calculations. Both examples below illustrate how this concept factors into the determination of required-by dates under the respective methods.

Initial period

Initial number

Calculation

Days

90

  1. Complete current period: May 15, 2016
  2. Add initial assignment: 90 days
  3. Required-by date = August 13, 2016

Weeks

4

  1. Complete current period: Week ending May 15th
  2. Add initial assignment: 4 weeks
  3. Required-by date = June 12, 2016

Months

3

  1. Complete current period: Month of May
  2. Add initial assignment: 3 months
  3. Required-by date = August 31, 2016

Quarters

2

  1. Complete current period: Quarter containing May (Q2)
  2. Add initial assignment: 2 quarters
  3. Required-by date = December 31, 2016

Years

1

  1. Complete current period: Year 2016
  2. Add initial assignment: 1 year
  3. Required-by date = December 31, 2017
Table 2
Examples of initial event-based assignment-date calculations

 

Period

Number

Calculation

Days

182

  1. Current interval: January 1, 2016 – June 30, 2016
  2. Next interval: July 1, 2016 – December 29, 2016
  3. Required re-training date: December 29, 2016

Weeks

12

  1. Current interval: March 25, 2016 – June 16, 2016
  2. Next interval: June 17, 2016 – September 8, 2016
  3. Required re-training date: September 8, 2016

Months

6

  1. Current interval: January 1, 2016 – June 30, 2016
  2. Next interval: July 1, 2016 – December 31, 2016
  3. Required re-training date: December 31, 2016

Quarters

3

  1. Current interval: January 1, 2016 – September 30, 2016
  2. Next interval: October 1, 2016 – June 30, 2017
  3. Required re-training date: June 30, 2017

Years

1

  1. Current interval: January 1, 2016 – December 31, 2016
  2. Next interval: January 1, 2017 – December 31, 2017
  3. Required re-training date: December 31, 2017
Table 3
Examples of retraining calendar-based assignment-date calculations 

The scenario used in Table 2 is:

  • Initial assignment – calculation of required-by dates (event-based method)
  • Assignment (event) date = May 15, 2016 

The scenario used for Table 3 is:

  • Re-training assignments – calculation of required-by dates (calendar-based method)
  • Basis Date = January 1, 2016
  • Event Date (date of item completion) = May 25, 2016 

The capabilities provided to organizations for managing initial assignment and required re-training dates for learning items and requirements within a curricula are quite extensive. Being able to distinguish between the two—mixing the methods to suit individual assignment requirements (e.g., to assign an item to an employee to be completed 30 days from hire and also to be completed periodically at the end of every calendar year)—provides a lot of flexibility for organizations to administer complex training assignments automatically.

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Eric Wood

Eric Wood is an SAP ERP HCM/SuccessFactors Solution Architect at Presence of IT. He has 11 years of experience in corporate and consulting roles, focused on the strategy and development of HRIS solutions, specifically SAP ERP HCM. Eric is also a frequent conference speaker at SAP conferences in the U.S., Europe, Australia, and Singapore.

You may contact the author at eric.wood@presenceofit.com.au.



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