Learning Revisited: Kenexa Adds OutStart to Its Fold

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At the beginning of 2011, I predicted that it would be the Year of Learning – learning revisited in all its various corporate guises.

The talent management providers took this to heart:  the addition of learning management has been one of the hottest acquisition areas in tech this last year.  And it continues:  today Kenexa, the HR management software and services company jumped into the “gotta have learning” fray with the acquisition of e-learning provider OutStart.  Boston-based Outstart delivers interrelated mobile, social and learning knowledge solutions.

The integration of learning into talent management systems makes sense. The automated link between assessments, either for new hires or longer term employees, to educational offerings to fill gaps or add skillsets is only logical. Similarly, the integration of performance review outcomes to training for remediation or fast-track curricula for high-potential employees all support an integrated single view of the employee, the group he or she is in, and make growth paths transparent.

Kenexa is only the latest technology company to add learning management to its portfolio of talent management:  SuccessFactors acquired Plateau, Taleo bought Learn.com, PeopleFluent acquired Strategia. The ERP companies have long had integrated learning as part of their human capital management solutions. The need for corporate learning now is particularly pivotal. 

Companies have long provided training – but now they are upping the ante, as it were—and for good reason:

  • Despite continuing unemployment, corporations report their inability to find the skilled talent they need. 
  • New graduates are not leaving school with the skillsets they had in the past.  This is especially critical for corporations that rely on lightly skilled hourly workers, such as retail and hospitality, and industrial skilled labor for manufacturing and repair services.
  • High-potential candidates and current leaders who kept their positions during the recession often saw cutbacks in bonuses and career development, including internal training.  They see their own corporations as failing to invest in them just at a time when outside recruiters are honing their skills in sourcing the passive candidate.

New emphasis on succession planning for corporate leaders highlights educating candidates internally to ensure an understanding of the organization and its culture. This plan to address smooth management transitions relies on a “building” rather than “buying” strategy.

While corporations are investing in building their talent bench strength when they cannot buy it, the technology world is more often buying the learning systems they need rather than building them. The key to their success will not be in the “Look, I have one too!” approach – but in the skill they demonstrate in integration, fairly swift integration. 

Learning management was left to the side for too long—now its time has definitely come—as a vital part of integrated talent development and management. 

And if you missed 2011 as the Year of Learning, you have another chance:  let us help you drive your learning initiatives for 2012!

Christa Degnan Manning

Vice President, Solution Provider Research Leader / Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP

Christa leads technology and service provider research for Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP. In this role, she helps businesses align their workforce support strategies with appropriate third-party software developers, service partners, and governance models. A 25-year technology industry veteran, Christa’s expertise assists organizations in creating functional capabilities and employee experiences that increase productivity, engagement, and workforce efficiency. Frequently cited by business and trade media, she has presented market research on business to business trends, leading practices, and expected challenges and benefits at industry and user conferences globally throughout her career. Christa has a bachelor of arts in English from Barnard College, Columbia University, incorporating studies at University College, University of London. She also holds a master of arts degree in English from the University of Massachusetts and has completed executive coursework on business metrics at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

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