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Forrester rates HCM performance and learning management software

SAP SuccessFactors, Cornerstone OnDemand and Saba Software receive top scores in a Forrester Research evaluation of cloud-based HR learning and performance management vendors.

SAP SuccessFactors, Cornerstone OnDemand and Saba Software garnered top ratings in a new report that rates providers...

of learning and performance management.

SumTotal, PageUp, PeopleFluent, Talentsoft and Halogen Software offer competitive options, while Haufe lags behind, according to the 16-page report by Forrester Research, which evaluated the vendors on 34 criteria.

New cloud-based tools in performance and learning management software are becoming more vital at companies, said Claire Schooley, author of the report and principal analyst at Forrester. She said performance management software and learning are tightly connected, since a performance review often can indicate a need for more training, which can be noted on the tool by a manager and employee.

"For organizations thinking that way, it is important to have the learning and performance together," she said. "That is why I highlighted vendors that do a very good job of integrating the two areas."

Performance management and learning, likewise, are tied to succession management, she said. If the employee learns and performs better, it can lead to a promotion.

Learning improves engagement

Learning is also important for improving employee engagement, which can help improve profits, she said. A good learning program sends a message that an employer cares about employees' careers, possibly sparking improved customer service and extra effort, she said.

Claire Schooley, principal analyst at Forrester ResearchClaire Schooley

The report, called "The Forrester Wave: Learning and Performance Management, Q4 2016," includes vendors that sell performance and learning management software together or separately as subscriptions over the internet. Learning and performance management work well together, but some companies want to keep the modules separate, she said.

Many of the vendors reflect a newer type of continuous performance management and learning management software, with next-generation tools that allow social collaboration, intuitive navigation and powerful search, machine learning that pushes content and short videos, the report said.

The report scored the vendors on five items in each of three categories, including current offering, strategy and market presence.

In learning content and delivery, Saba Software was rated first, ahead of Cornerstone OnDemand and SAP SuccessFactors.

SAP tops in performance management

For competencies, goals and performance, SAP SuccessFactors was No. 1, trailed by Saba Software and then PeopleFluent.

Saba Software, which was purchased by private equity in early 2015 after a former CEO and two former CFOs resolved charges of accounting fraud, is doing well under new leadership, the report said. The vendor is making a big effort to make the product simple and flexible for users, according to Schooley.

While it needs to improve in performance management, Saba Software stands out for "personalized learning," a key trend in learning often involving machine learning algorithms that recommend content to employees. Saba, headquartered in Redwood Shores, Calif., uses an automated character, The Intelligent Mentor, which becomes smarter and more predictive as employees engage with it, she said.

The vendor also is strong in social learning, another hot topic in learning. The product provides discussion groups and online meetings, and it enables employees to share videos and other content, she said.

Machine learning delivers training

Cornerstone OnDemand, based in Santa Monica, Calif., also offers machine learning through Cornerstone Insights with a dashboard for predicting employees who are poised to succeed in new roles. The vendor is also noted for its partnerships to deliver learning content, the report said. The talent management provider is also distinguished for its machine learning to deliver personalized training and a social application that allows employees to exchange videos or articles, the report said.

Cornerstone OnDemand is working toward a continuous coaching tool and also needs to address support for micro-learning content, the report said.

SAP in late 2011 purchased SuccessFactors, which itself earlier that year bought Plateau learning management software. Schooley said SAP's integration of SuccessFactors was rough sledding for users for a while, but it now is doing well.

SAP SuccessFactors's learning, performance and succession software use the same source code, and provide a user interface that is intuitive and adaptive, the report said. The products support mobile, including offline mobile access and search that allows users to find content they need.

SAP SuccessFactors is a longtime world leader in performance management, she said. The vendor can meet practically any need in performance management with software for annual reviews and ratings, for example, and a new application for continuous performance management, she said.

Algorithms spot career paths

SumTotal Systems, based in Gainesville, Fla., has invested heavily in learning and performance since it was acquired by Skillsoft in 2014, the report said. SumTotal, which still operates as a separate company, has a new user interface and extensive capabilities for creating learning assessments, the report said.

PageUp People offers a Career Path tool that uses algorithms to identify the most common and successful career paths for employees. The company, headquartered in Australia, also puts a priority on mobile in all product development. Its software, for example, can allow managers and employees to complete performance reviews on mobile devices even when they have no internet connection, the report said.

PeopleFluent, based in Waltham, Mass., leads its competitors in support for video and talent applications, the report said. It has a robust assessment tool, including templates that can be modified to build a new quiz or assessment. Social learning is well-developed and includes a good "find a mentor" capability, the report said.

PeopleFluent also has excellent software for managing goals, the report said.

Halogen Software is noted for its online libraries that describe competencies, knowledge and skills that employees need to succeed in jobs in various industries, as well as tips for managers and employees. Ottawa-based Halogen also facilitates integration between learning and performance during reviews and assessments, one-on-one meetings and development plans, the report said.

Talentsoft, a core HR and talent management provider based in Boulogne-Billancourt, France, offers performance and learning as an integrated product following its merger last year with e-doceo, an e-learning vendor. Talentsoft makes good use of video for learning and allows users to create and share their own content, the report said, adding that the company still uses separate code for learning and performance, causing some technical issues.

Oracle and Workday not in report

Several big HCM vendors were not evaluated in the report.

The Oracle Learning Cloud, a product introduced in early 2015, was still in its early stages in spring of last year when Schooley began research for this report, and Oracle made the decision not to participate in the report.

She said Workday, which released Workday Learning last year, and Ultimate Software were excluded because they do not sell performance and learning management software separately, only as part of a suite.

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