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4 Pitfalls to Avoid When Tracking Professional Development Credits and Compliance

Craig Maurer

Craig Maurer is an Associate at Educe. With over 20 years of experience in the learning industry, Craig specializes…

Companies in many industries struggle to stay in front of tracking employees’ professional development credit requirements. Rules are often voluminous and audit requirements rigid. Systems built to track professional development compliance generally consist of multiple integrated applications and data repositories. Designing, implementing, and maintaining your system is a significant investment of both capital and resource time.

Companies seeking a more effective approach for managing credit tracking would do well to consider where other companies struggle. Here are 4 pitfalls that can be avoided when rethinking your approach to tracking professional development compliance.

Pitfall 1: Tracking Professional Development Credits Through Manual Processes
Most companies start small, using the tools readily at hand. Often, these tools are ill-suited to the job – from using spreadsheet templates, to administratively-curated repositories, to repurposing collaborative tools, such as SharePoint, to drive complex and multi-faceted workflows.

These solutions can be inexpensive in the short run. The true cost, however, is realized down the road when the templates and manual workflows start to diverge and break down. Process champions change roles or leave. Repositories begin to fill with incomplete and inaccurate data. Then, as a compliance deadline looms, the budget solution becomes a chaotic scramble to determine where individuals and the firm truly stand.

Pitfall 2: Reinventing the Wheel
Home-grown software solutions may seem like a straight-forward answer for tracking professional development compliance. Perhaps you already have team members on staff that have development-related skillsets. Maybe your organization has a history of creating its own custom business solutions.

This choice means that your organization is accepting the responsibility of architecting, developing, hosting, implementing, and supporting the software throughout its operational life – not to mention, the need to grow and adapt the software to meet future needs. To make this work, an organization will need to learn all the many lessons that have already been overcome by external vendors who specialize in building and maintaining software.

Once you agree that you do not want to own the software development, then you need to consider the alternatives. One option is to hire a software development shop to build a custom application from the ground up. Just as it is not practical to build your own automobile, it is not advisable to build your solution from a blank sheet of paper. Will that shop provide ongoing support for the custom application – or just hand over the keys? Will that shop commit to partner with you to grow and adapt as the rules change?

Another better, quicker, and cheaper option is to leverage an existing and proven compliance tracking solution. The needs of your organization will be similar to other organizations in your industry. Look for a product with a track record of integrating multiple systems: Human Resources data, learning management systems, compliance reporting mechanisms. The product needs to be comprehensive in its application of credit calculation and tracking logic, but flexible enough to adapt to your workflow needs.

Pitfall 3: Not Understanding the Rules
The adage “The devil is in in the details” could not be truer. There are many entities that establish credit tracking rules for given industries. Volumes of complicated guidelines must be understood and properly applied. Most large organizations have in-house specialists who guide the firm in rule application.

Given that knowledge of the rules is essential, be wary of external software development shops without a compliance background. Determine if that external partner has the experience and commitment to stay abreast of your industry’s rules as they evolve and the expertise to interface directly with your in-house team to advise and guide the effort.

Pitfall 4: Lack of Governance
Push and pull between internal teams is a fact of business life. Professional development compliance tracking is a business function that calls for centralized governance. All too often, processes for tracking professional development compliance are allowed to diverge to suit the exceptions and wants of different business units. Different administration teams are allowed follow slightly different standard operating procedures. Or worse, documented procedures do not account for all possible scenarios – thus enabling data processing teams to call audibles when faced with undocumented situations.

The result is inconsistent, inaccurate, and incomplete data. Managing compliance periods and audits quickly descends into a legal and ethical minefield.

These Pitfalls Can Be Avoided
How? It all comes down to a handful of critical realizations:

1. Limit as much manual administrative overhead as possible.
2. Take a comprehensive systems approach for solving the compliance tracking problem.
3. Do not start from scratch.
4. Find an experienced partner to own the complexities of creating and maintaining the software. Build an enduring relationship with that partner to tightly integrate the compliance tracking solution into your existing HR, learning management, and reporting systems; provide day-to-day operations support; and grow and evolve the system as the business landscape changes.

With a well-informed and considered approach, there is no need to put yourself (…or your firm) through the struggles represented by these common pitfalls.

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