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10 Years of SAP SuccessFactors Training Development

Ten years ago, SmarterMedium signed a services agreement with SAP SuccessFactors to provide custom, end-user training to SuccessFactors clients. Some 500 projects later – spanning every language and touching all types of industries, workforces, skill levels and modules that SuccessFactors offers – we have learned from some of the biggest, brightest and most innovative companies in the world.

A look at SuccessFactors logos through the years. And after ten years of creating custom training materials to support SuccessFactors and helping to launch them through their storied success, we have a few insights we’d like to share about training and learning.

1) Ask the right questions.

Our very first project was with Frankford Hospital in January of 2004. This client launched performance planning for all of their employees and managers. They could have used standard materials or powerpoints trainings from the pilot, but instead chose to craft something specific, direct, simplified, and unique for their hospital and their employees.

Insight: From this project we developed the basic questions whose answers form the base on which a training is built still today: How will your employees and managers use the system? What do you hope they will get out of the system? What is the simplest way we can provide that?


2) Mirror the success you want to have.

Over the years, we have worked with many clients who created and used fake personas to showcase their teams and act out worklife on screen. We once developed a performance review for Harry Potter and cascaded goals from the coach of the New York Yankees to share with his players. We even presented a junior employee’s ambitious plot to take over as CEO! The goal for these clients was to put more life into the screen and mirror how the system should be used.

Insight: Everything put before the learner needs to convey realistic meaning and effort. By using exposition and creativity to mirror the expectations you have for your employees, you’re able to convey the level of detail and effort you expect. If the goal is to teach a manager how to write performance comments, present a realistic situation that a manager may face with an employee, and give an example from which they can learn.


3) Features are sometimes just features.

We worked with a client who was developing training for employees in their second year with the company. The client stated their goal: “I just want my managers to talk with their employees.” Everything in the training was secondary to this goal so we turned off features, removed instructions, and simplified forms and workflows. The training launched to support, foster and assist conversations and helped to document those conversations only.

Insight: Many clients initially focus on the richness of features and the system’s ability to handle complex processes and workflows. But the ability to simplify workflow is just as important. If the data you can collect isn’t relevant or helpful, turn it off and simplify.


4) Think ahead: how can we support future performance.

In a scoping meeting in which we discussed guides, powerpoint and elearning, the client’s request was this: “We want the content to be in chunks that can be copied and pasted easily.”

Insight: This client was thinking well beyond the initial training to how they can create material to leverage in the future. The client wished to avoid a scenario in which a manager or employee is handed a deck or cumbersome guide in an attempt to answer one question when instead, targeted and specific answers to questions can be shared easily from already curated content.


5) Respect your employee’s time.

I had the opportunity to sit in on a presentation at a technology conference where a SuccessFactors client was showing how they landed a rover on Mars. The presenter used the same corporate PowerPoint template that was used to deliver their performance development training some months before. Did this scientist really need to spend half a day in a training discussing smart goals and milestones?

Insight: Assume your end-users are doing really cool stuff in their regular job and keep training to a minimum. Consider how fast you can convey the necessary knowledge and then get them back to their day jobs. They don’t need to be SuccessFactors rocket scientists, THEY ARE rocket scientists.


6) Assume competence so you can coach for brilliance.

While working with a major pharmaceutical company, we received an impactful comment in an early draft: “We assume our people will figure out the system. Our training doesn’t need screenshots or step-by-steps.” The client’s goal was to teach managers and employees how to discuss and agree on goal-setting. Rather than focusing on steps in a process or system features, they wanted focus on the preparation, action and outcomes that surround the performance process.

Insight: Every field, comment and form in a SuccessFactors program has a description and title that identifies its purpose. If the description needs explanation, change the description. By assuming that what is there is understood, you can move beyond step-by-steps to provide insight and coaching. While writing this blog I reviewed the SuccessFactors quick reference guides, which are now 8 years old, and they are still relevant to the system in use today.


Looking back.

Among all of our projects, the best training outcomes were driven by:

  1. a desire to improve the working relationships between employees and managers with respect for their time
  2. went beyond the simple step-by-step instructions in order to set expectations of purpose, usage and outcomes
  3. put in the added effort of customizing and distilling the information down to only what was necessary
  4. added meaningful insight toward engagement, culture and performance in the learning experience

These factors greatly improve engagement and increase usage, which consistently allows you to achieve the strategic objectives of the program and report on results.


Looking forward. What’s next?

Organizations are making huge investments in strategic performance and outcomes, which require buy-in from teams, employees and managers. They need to understand why they are using a system and appreciate that the benefits and outcomes are more critical than ever before. To achieve this, training should now focus on onboarding new users and provide engagement for user adoption.

As a result of this insight, we have created a series of customizable courses that focus on engaging employees and managers on their terms, with information specific to their roles, and that provide tips for getting the most out of the SuccessFactors program. These courses focus on successfully integrating performance, recruiting, succession and learning processes into every workday and are ready to deploy on your LMS or web hosting. Contact us to learn more.