Archive for the ‘2000_Learning’ Category

SAP SuccessFactors Compensation Exam – How I Passed it

October 30, 2015


The SuccessFactors Compensation Exam Certification: How I passed it and how I prepared for it

This article has three parts. In the first part I write about my personal experience of the test. In the next part I talk about my learning journey and in the last section I speak about my learning strategy. I will also share my key learning’s recommendations.

  • The certification test experience

I have written in detail about my test experience of the SuccessFactors Employee Central Exam in a previous blog post. I have learned from my past experience and now had the smoothest log in ever.

Again I had 180 minutes time to go through 80 multiple choice questions and I needed to answer at least 44 (55%) of the questions correctly to become certified. For each multiple choice question it was indicated in writing how many answers were expected. A radio button tells you if only one answer is required. Boxes are used if more than 1 answer is correct. 3 were the maximum answers I came across.

SAP provides a lot of information on the certification exam here:—successfactors-compensation-g/

As well you will find a link to 9 example certification questions.

Overall it took me 80 minutes to pass the test. I went through question by question and I skipped a question when I was not sure about the answer yet. Then I went backwards from 80 down to 1 and checked each question again if I was confident about my answer(s) and reworked those that I was still not 100% sure of. Of course I answered all the ones that I had skipped. Each question I read at least two times before I made my choice.

  • Learning Journey

I began with the course THR86_EN_Col52 SuccessFactors Compensation Academy on October 9th and finished by October 15th. I scheduled my exam for October 23rd at 13.45 hrs CET.

In the week before the exam I read the Compensation Implementation Handbook carefully. I further read the chapter about Compensation in the book “SuccessFactors with SAP ERP HCM” by Amy Grubb and Luke Marson was very helpful because it gave me the big picture. This way I could much better structure and oversee all the details given throughout the course and in the Compensation Implementation Handbook.

Further I watched 4 Videos on the SAP Learning Hub in the Compensation HCM Academy Learning Room. The videos were XML Plan Navigation Guide, Setting up YouCalc in Comp Form, Adding Custom Fields, and Adding Guideline and Catch All Formula. If you do not have access to a sales demo instance of SuccessFactors I would highly recommend you to watch at least the XML Plan Navigation Guide video. This is an excellent walk through of the Compensation Configuration XML file by Kate Wilson. The videos are all located in the Content area in the folder Video Tutorial Library.

2 days before the exam I went through my notes three times. I passed the exam on October23rd at 15:05 hrs.

My timing worked perfectly. I had one week to prepare between the end of my course THR86_EN_Col52 SuccessFactors Compensation Academy and the exam.

  • Learning Strategy and Recommendations

I have written in detail about my learning strategy in the a blog post and what research it is based on.

Again for everything exam relevant I created practice questions for myself. In total I came up with 321. I have published my practice questions this time in a blog post here:

I would recommend you to read at least the Employee Central Implementation Handbook. Pay special attention to the info section that are highlighted in light red / pink colour.

If you do not have access to the SAP Learning Hub yet I have collected also some free resources on Successfactors here:

About me:

My vision is to build a truly integrated HR in the cloud. A truly integrated HR is the key enabler for organizations to maximize their business outcomes.

…WhatsApp Calls – How to Reduce Data Volume and Save Money and Data Roaming Fees ? – Quick Guide for Dummies and Impatient People Like Myself

October 26, 2015

openSAP Run Simple HR with SuccessFactors Employee Central MOOC – my key learnings

October 20, 2015

This course runs from October 13 to November 11 2015. If you want to get a record of achievement you need to follow the timeline of the course. Each week you have to pass a multiple choice test otherwise the test will be closed. However if you do not have time to go through the course right now I would recommend you to still go to the download page for each week and download the videos, slides and transcripts. The download is the second last page in a course before the final assignment.

What I have learned from this course:

Week 1: Steve Babcock lead through this week’s course.

In the first video he gave an overview of Employee central.

In the second video he showed some employee use cases. One was about address change (5:59 min into the video) and the other about Time Off (10:38 min) into the video.

Video 3, 4, 5 and 6 were for me the most interesting videos of this week.

In video 3 Steve showed how a manager will use the system. The first user scenario was about a promotion of a direct report (04.20 min onwards). The second scenario he walked through was about sending a direct report on a global assignment (08:25 min onwards) and the third was about a termination in the form of retirement (10:38 min onwards). And to assure my HR colleagues all those changes have to go through a workflow and need to be approved in one form or another by HR.

The Video 4 is now for HR and is one of my highlights of the week. Steve started off with Workflows and touched on stalled workflows (03:27 onwards) which is one of my favourite topics :-). At least now with SuccessFactors you have an easy way to see where your workflow is stuck and what you can do to release it. I find this piece very user-friendly. The next scenario was about mass changes (05:29 onwards) in the example of a location change of employees. In the third scenario Steve showed how to create a new screen on the portal (interface) for employees without programming (08:32 onwards) in less than 7 Minutes. Not that I have something against my IT colleagues, but having this ability without involving them is in this case a matter between minutes or weeks to months.

Steve created a new organizational unit in Video 5 (03:26 min onwards) with departments.  Then he demonstrated how to create a new position (09:21 onwards).  And then he showed how to add a new field and attached a workflow to it (13:38 min onwards). This all was done without programming. And again this a matter between minutes without IT or weeks to months with IT involved.

In the Video 6 it was about creating new business rules (01:49). Steve’s example was about having a country specific workflow triggered for address changes. Then he showed how to add alerts (07:28 min) when a local job title is changed. And last Steve went through how to create a new workflow (14:10 min onwards). And again all the three items: trigger a country specific workflow, set up an alert for a field, and configure a new workflow is done without programming. Don’t let me repeat my mantra of minutes versus week or months again.

Week 2: Delivered by Tim Wassink, Principal Solutions Consultant in the HCM SuccessFactors line

In Video 1 Tim gave an overview of Employee Central and some of the key features.

Video 2 had some more information on Employee Central Payroll. Tim showed four examples of payroll solutions in different countries. It was on an employees working in the US (11:45 min onwards), UK (14:21 min onwards), Germany (16:05 min onwards), and Saudi Arabia (17:09 min onwards). What was most exiting form my perspective was the error handling in the Payroll Control Center (18:25 min) onwards. It looks like a piece of cake now….at least much more user-friendly.

Video 3 was about deductions and advances. Tim demonstrated the functionality and how to create deductions (03:52 min onwards) and then advances (09:07 min onwards).

In Video 4 Tim focussed on reporting and analytics. My personal highlight was the headcount reporting. One customer said in this video (02:47 min onwards) that instead of weeks it takes now only minutes to have a headcount report. And they do a lot of acquisitions.

And a large part of their workforce do not have access to computers, yet these employees all have now their own mobile phones. (02:52 min onwards). With mobile you are now able to reach this workforce while before you had to rely on cascading via their managers and pen and pencils. How much easier must global employee surveys become to roll out and administer or supply important information when you do a change to your standard processes and systems? Just to name a few examples.

My highlight in this video and maybe of the whole week started when Tim logged in as an HR business partner (03:44 min onwards). It is now so easy to create your own report and then export it to PowerPoint for example. How much easier does it now become to use reports to support your strategic HR work. I think back at how much time it took to come up with reports and how many people to involve. Given all the other tasks often this intend was finally dropped if it was not driven by key stakeholders in the top management team. Tim showed how to create a report from scratch (07:58) and without any complex programming or SQL queries. The whole process is very user-friendly. Then he demonstrated how to design your reports with the report designer (10:59 min onwards).

Video 5 dealt with benefits administration. Tim showed examples from employees working in the US (05:22 min onwards), Germany (07:23 min onwards), Australia (08:42 min onwards), France (09:55 min onwards), and Brazil (10:54 min onwards).

In Video 6 Tim showed how to configure country-based benefits (07:39 min onwards). He explained how to add pay components and then configure business rules (13:21 min onwards). As an example he set up different car allowance amounts in Germany for employees working in the business unit Corporate, contractors and all other cases. He did it purely by the user interface and without any programming. The other example he configured was the a leave and travel allowance for India (16:12 min onwards).

Week 3: hosted by Debi Suslow, Senior Solutions Consultant with SuccessFactors

Week 3 was all about Time & Attendance

In Video 1 Debi demonstrated how to use Absence Management as an employee via a mobile device (04:53 min onwards). Absence Management is called Time Off in Employee Central. It is very user-friendly and I valued the opportunity to see immediately who else in the team will be absent. How often did we have to appoint one member in our team to collect all the absences and present it in an excel file in the next team meeting.

Then Debi showed how the manager will work with Time & Attendance (08:14 min onwards) when she receives a request from an employee. And afterwards how the HR administrator is working with this tool (09:46 min onwards).

In Video 2 it was about Time Sheets. First how an employee enters data into her time sheet (03:25 min onwards). Again very user-friendly compared to the ERP on premise solutions I had to use so far for my time recordings. Then Debi showed how the HR administrator will work with these time sheets (08:34 min onwards) and how this integrates with payroll (11:36 min onwards).

In Video 3 Debi demonstrated how the HR administrator can configure the absence management in Employee Central (05:01 min onwards). She created a custom field in the employee time object for the sick leave request and also how to put a filter on a field so that it only shows in that particular situation in the employee screen (07:01 min onwards). Then she explained how to create a country-specific workflow rule for the sick leave request (08:44 min onwards.). Then she added the rule to the sick leave request screen (13:18 min onwards.) Again all the task were done via the user interface without programming. Through proxy into an account of an employee she can test immediately the changes.

Additionally she updated the policy of sick leave and the attached notifications to the HR administrator / HR Business Partner (15:52 min onwards). She explained how to raise an alert message in the system (19:03 min onwards). I stop telling you again how easy this configuration task was.

Video 4 was about time sheets and work schedules. First Debi added a custom field to the employee time sheet entry object (01:01 min onwards). Then she created as an HR administrator the work schedule (03:01 min onwards). Afterwards she assigned the customized work schedule to an employee (05:56 min onwards). In the last step she showed how the HR administrator can submit time sheets on behalf of the employee (10:40 min onwards). In order to do that she had to set up the permissions in the role-based security section (10:53 min onwards).

Video 5 was a recap of the whole course.

What Corporate Learning & Development can learn from Education Hackers and Employees?

October 6, 2015

My interview with the CEO Nicole Le Maire of NewtoHR on education hacking versus corporate learning?

If you would have asked me about Education Hacking a year ago, I would have probably called your HR Manager and informed the internal security department to have your user account locked. By that time I had seen headlines like: “Teen Used Smartphone, Hacked Department of Education And School To Change Grades” or “Obama to Call for Laws Covering Data Hacking and Student Privacy”.

My perspective totally changed when I attended the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) “Learning How to Learn” The course leader Dr. Barbara Oakley from the University of California introduced two so-called education hackers.

The first, Scott H. Young, was able to complete a 4 years degree program in Computer Sciences at MIT in just 12 months. Scott used the open education resources (OER) from MIT to achieve this amazing result while spending only 2000 USD overall.

The other, Benny Lewis, learned with the help of the internet to become fluent in a new language in just 3 months and was able to do this at a much lower  cost compared to the traditional language acquisition programs.

In this context the term Education Hacking stands for the self-directed search for a smarter and faster way to education, for personal but also for professional skills.

I was intrigued by these astonishing results and set out to use these freely available resources and tools myself. To my surprise after only 2 months and less than 32 hours of net learning time I was able to read my first book in Chinese. After 7 months I knew more than 2000 Chinese characters and was reading my first newspaper article in Chinese.

When I talked with colleagues and employees about my amazing findings I was quite surprised to hear that most of them were already using all these freely available high quality education resources for their own professional development.

As a large number of academic institutions around the globe, as well as large corporations and startups provide more and more of such educational resources the number of employees who turn into independent learners continuously increases.

What does this new trend in employee education mean for the corporate learning & development organization and for professionals working in this area?

Before I go deeper into this topic let`s start by looking at how it all began.

(Title Picture: Creative Commons License Mozilla in Europe Hack-a-Thon

1.    Open Education Resources (OER) – a global movement

One of the main initiators of this OER movement and also one of the forerunners in the academic area was the MIT in Boston with its OpenCourseware project started in 2002. Even though it got a lot of media attention and by 2006 more than 61% of non-US users were accessing it, there was no noticeable attraction for employees. Two things happening from 2004 onwards gave this whole movement a new push.

The first was Salman Khan who published short lessons on K12 mathematic topics on YouTube for his nephews to use in 2005. These short videos attracted more and more viewers over time because parents and children were looking for easy to understand learning resources. Soon the number of viewers surpassed the 100 Million mark. Khan then decided to establish the Khan Academy in 2012.

Khan also influenced Sebastian Thrun at Stanford University to open up the class on Artificial Intelligence to everyone with access to the web. In 2012 Thrun used a similar technology and offered the same instruction online as to his class students. Thrun was surprised and overwhelmed by an online audience of more than 160 000 students worldwide who had signed up. The new term MOOC* for Massive Open Online Course was coined.

This overwhelming success took all the leading universities by surprise and let to a change in mindset. They now fully embraced the idea of open free education resources and started to offer more and more MOOCs. By 2015 there were over 4000 courses available. Additionally this movement was supported by venture capital financing Udacity led by Sebastian Thrun, Coursera and others. These startups provide services for creating MOOCs to universities. In addition aggregators are now providing platforms for an efficient search and easy access to these OER.

Besides MOOCs a lot of investments were made in the area of foreign language acquisition in the recent years. There are several language exchange platforms for people free to use. All they need is internet access and Skype. Online spaced repetition tools help to memorize vocabularies more effectively. And other platforms allow people to correct each other’s written sentences in a foreign language. Last but not least there are now a number of mobile apps available. Almost all of these tools are free and support a specific area of language acquisition, either in the domain of speaking, listening, writing, reading or understanding. What makes them now so attractive to users is the application of the latest research in gamification, social learning and neurosciences.

Clearly this movement has staying power and it will rather increase than decrease over the next years to come.

* Additional Remark: Depending on the view the first MOOCs were actually created and offered by Stephen Downes and George Siemens in 2008 or by Alison in 2007.  

1.1.                   The Impact on Learners

The biggest impact on learners is the democratization of education and the free access to high quality resources. A large part of the offers in the beginning was oriented on personal skills, school topics or academic fields. But the variety of topics in the curricula of MOOC providers is growing. Innovative new content is available faster and large MOOC platforms and OER aggregators make the search and access quite easy. Further new courses target now education of people working in jobs. To give you an example the aggregator class central lists at least 6 MOOCs in the top 10 most popular MOOCs in 2014 that are also relevant for professional development:

1.2.                   The Impact on Corporate Learning & Development

After having a sound education base like a degree or a vocational training certificate employees turn to these new education resources for closing skill gaps or acquiring more knowledge and skills. Often they do it without consulting with their supervisors or HR departments. This can have many reasons. Maybe the internet use policy of the firm allows the use of the internet also for private matters, or because it is generally free and no approval is required or the employees just think that their supervisor or HR departments lack the understanding.

Will thus corporate learning & development departments have to face competition from the internet now?

The answer is yes, but it depends on the view of the corporate learning & development department. Do they see OER as another opportunity to embrace or do they see it as a threat in becoming less important to the development of their workforce?

Let’s look at the benefits first.


One clear benefit that I see is the effectiveness of these tools. People can learn faster and at a much lower cost. They have access to topics that corporate learning & development could not provide on demand and in such a variety. The topics range from soft skills to business acumen to language acquisition. Here lies an opportunity even during periods of economic downturn to engage the workforce by allowing them the freedom to use free available resources on the internet for their development.

Coursera and Udacity are targeting now continuous education for people already at work. They offer so-called Nanodegrees. While attending their online courses is still free, people have to pay for the degree. This is their business model. Facebook and Google honor these nanodegrees. You can say their corporate learning & development organizations have truly embraced this new opportunity.

As it is still early days there are issues to face. For some of them there is a resolution already emerging.


A basic issue is the required internet access. There is a substantial number of companies where users have no or very limited internet access at the workplace.

The misuse of working time for private development with no direct benefit to the company can also become a challenge.

Another key problem of OER is the assurance of their suitability and quality.

Here a resolution is emerging. Renowned providers, quality labels and acknowledged certificates that can be earned are providing a first rating. In addition the social component like openly available user feedbacks and ratings can help.

The recognition of the competencies acquired by people using OER is also something to resolve. Tracking and documentation of OER is not as easy as progress and completions are only tracked within a provider’s platform and no official standard for documentation exists. Public cross-provider LRS (Learning Record Stores) are an answer for this – the first solutions are emerging in the US and more will follow in the near future, also in Europe.

And last but not least the sustainability and ongoing availability of an OER can be a risk. A substantial number of OER come from academic or non-profit organization where funding is not always assured and is a critical topic.


As OER are often focusing on more generic topics in employee development the need to offer these topics by corporate learning & development will surely decrease in the near future. This is an opportunity for corporate training departments to increasingly focus their efforts on strategic, regulatory and other corporate specific topics.

If education becomes more self-driven the people working in corporate learning & development currently handling more generic topics can be freed up in the near future. I will see a shift in responsibilities of the corporate learning function. Their role will include aspects like coaching employees to find the right learning strategy for their employees and evaluating or curating content with users to identify and get access to suitable OER for their development.

Additionally people still need guidance on how to effectively learn and how to best use the internet for learning. Here the corporate learning & development department could offer guidance and workshops for their employees.

Further they could organize an online community on continuous learning on their intranets or if available in their internal social networking platforms for their employees.

Last but not least they should revisit their learning & development policies. What is the acceptable use for the company of these OER resources? Do people need approval from their line manager or their team? What is the freedom of choice? What will they officially support, which degrees will they honor and from whom they expect to use this new type of learning?

Some companies might go as far as giving employee’s unlimited time at work to learn under the condition that they still deliver on their tasks. This is similar to what some silicon companies like Netflix or Virgin offer their employees in the area of time off. They give unlimited paid vacation time to their employees under the condition that they still deliver on their tasks and have an agreement with their team members and supervisor for cover.

To enable the use of OER in the organization the corporate learning & development departments will of course have to familiarize themselves with the specifics of OER and their application. You will find a list of links at the bottom of this post. A good start e.g. is the MOOC on Learning How To Learn.

2.    Conclusion

There is a huge shift from in-house training to the internet and from guided learning to more self-directed learning by our employees. Something that will not go unnoticed by the corporate learning & development departments even though it is early days and even though there are still a number of issues to be tackled.

Education Hackers have shown to an highly interested mass audience that you can accelerate your learning and professional development with the help of OERs. More and more employees are turning to these resources in order to take the initiative of their own development in their own hands.

If people in corporate learning & development see OER as a threat and deny employees the use of these resources for their development, they will in the near future lose the trust of line management and employees.

At least it is now the time for people in corporate learning to familiarize themselves with these new available opportunities.

Have you recently used a YouTube video to learn a specific technique?

Have you searched for MOCCs or other open educational resources lately?

Have you enrolled in a MOOC with a topic relevant to your personal skills in the last weeks?

If you answer one or two of these questions with yes you are on the way to become an education hacker yourself and a trusted source for your employees.

2.1.                   Steps forward

For those not yet familiar with OER and / or MOOCs the best way forward is to try it yourself. There are OER on a variety of topics related to the jobs of learning professionals and HR or training departments.

Corporate Learning 2.0:

Flipped Classroom: :

Dynamic Educators:

Learning How to Learn:

If you are interested in gaining more insight or already convinced that OER is something you want to use please look at the following offers:

Whitepaper on Use of OER

A whitepaper with tips and tricks of the different resources and tools and how to use them within your company will be available shortly. Please connect with me on LinkedIn: or on Xing: or leave your email in this Google form:

“Education Hacking” Workshop

Additionally a two days pilot workshop on Education Hacking is planned. It will address how to be a more effective learner and how to best use OER and other tools in a corporate environment. With this knowledge you will be able to coach your employees or provide a similar workshop in-house or online to your employees. If you want to get more information or participate in it please click here

The final step could be to search for OER to recommend to learners in your organization or even to integrate in your internal offers. Please find some selected links below.

At this point I’d like to thank Leopold Kause from DidacDesign for his expertise provided on OER, his other valuable contributions and the review of the article.

About me: My vision is to build a truly integrated HR in the cloud and leverage the cloud for learning.

I will give a keynote  speech at on 17.09.2015 at the HR exhibition Zukunft Personal in Cologne on Education Hacking vs. Corporate Learning.

3.    Links and Resources

Generic links:


Beispiele (in Deutsch):

Non-profit examples:

Non-Profit Beispiele (in Deutsch):

Aggregator examples:

Aggregator-Beispiele (in Deutsch):

MOOCs über MOOCs oder OER (in Deutsch):

OER-Award in Deutsch:

All links have been accessed and verified on September 2, 2015.

Becoming a SucessFactors SaaS Consultant Part 1 and Part 2

October 5, 2015

Luke Marson wrote a blog post about the skillsets a SaaS Consultant should have. In on-premise projects there are 5-10 different roles from program manager to hardware consultant while in a SaaS Project all is covered by just one person. This person needs to understand the business process, the technology and how to configure it, how to problem solve, how security works and how to secure data. The person also needs  to know how to manage the project. In summary this SaaS consultant needs a broad knowledge at a relevant level.

Jarret Pazahanick says people underestimate what it takes to learn to become a cloud consultant. A consultant works usually on multiple projects, two to three at the same time which is different to the on-premise projects. The work is done more and more remotely. The person needs to apply agile project management methodology. To have business process knowledge is great, but that is not what the business hires a consultant for. They have the knowledge themselves.

After three weeks of training in successfactors and getting certified a consultant cannot lead immediately a workshop at the client. The client will ask very specific questions if the system can do this and that and how the consultant would recommend to setup this. These questions are best answers by a consultant who has done several successfactors implementations. His recommendation is to join an experienced consultant for a few projects in order to learn before the new consultant leads his or her own project.

The consultant also needs to keep up with the new releases. SuccessFactors has 4 releases per year. Change is a constant and it is so much faster compared on-premise software. Every release comes with 200-300 powerpoint slides about changes. This person needs to have the aptitude of a life-long learner to keep up with this pace of learning.

Becoming a SuccessFactors SaaS Consultant Part 2

What I learned from this video:

John Reed: Do you need industry specific knowledge?

Jarret Pazahanick: Industry specific knowledge is not need in HR, there are only small nuances. There are bigger differences between the different SuccessFactors modules. A consultant needs to know about recruiting or learning. So most consultant focus on a niche area and not the whole spectrum of HR and successfactors modules.

Yet areas compared to the on-premise HCM solutions are pushed together.  If you take for example Successfactors Employee Central which is Core HR the consultant needs to do personal administration, organisational management, employee self service, manager self service, workflow and security. In the on-premise HCM world this was done by 4-5 different consultants.

Staying compliant is much easier now with the cloud solution. Changes in country laws are reflected always in the latest version.

When hiring a consulting firm there can be huge price differences. SaaS Implementation are much cheaper than what customers expect. You need less consultants than before and they can do much more work remotely. Companies purchasing these services still need to learn this.

Jarret Pazahanick focuses on Employee Central and Employee Central Payroll.

Training for non successfactors partner and certification ?

SAP Learning Hub costs 3500 USD / Year to use the learning material. You need provisioning rights to use SuccessFactors. You get the rights only if are certified. It costs 500 USD to take the certification exam. You can do it from your office or home. The certification exam can be taken without having gone through the SAP Learning Hub. After the certification the consultant will have to take a delta exam twice a year.

Luke Marson is a certified Employee Central Successfactors consultant.

Luke Marson’s Blog and Jarret Pazahanick’s Blog. And visit the SuccessFactors Useful Resources and Documents maintained by Luke Marson.

The SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central Certified Application Associate Exam: How I passed it and how I prepared for it

September 2, 2015

This article has three parts. In the first part I write about my personal experience of the test itself in more detail because I would have welcomed such insights before my exam. In the next part I talk about my learning journey and in the last section I speak about my learning strategy. I will also share my key learning’s and what I would do differently the next time.

NEW Update: 28. November 2015
At the bottom of this post I have included a link to a post by Sarika who wrote about her very recent experience taking the exam test. Highly recommended to read as well.

My certification test experience

I was able to take my test from my home office. This is such a big improvement because I did not have to drive to a test centre which in my case is far away and where I can only take the test on specific days in the year. Instead I scheduled my preferred time in the certifications section on site.

Another good thing is that I could even change the start time just shortly before. This means if ever anything unexpectedly happens you can reschedule quite easily.

In order to do it from home I needed to have a webcam and a reliable and fast internet connection.

In the certification exam section I used the link to install the required questionmark secure browser 4 days before. Additionally I tested the system by connecting to a proctor to confirm it is working. A proctor will be the person to welcome you to your exam and give you advice as well as continue to watch you the whole time. SAP will allow you to do the system test up to 4 hours before your exam.

It takes a few clicks to get to the page where I launched the certification test. I logged in in as suggested 15 minutes before my start date on 14.00 hrs on Friday, August 14. You do not have be on time. SAP will allow 15 minutes after the start time to log in before you will be denied entrance. In total you are allowed to take 6 exams in one year. If you miss one you have 5 more opportunities.

On the SAP Certification Hub Page where the examination process is described in detail I needed to click on the link C_THR81_1502 on the left side of the page. This then opened up a page with a menu at the top. This menu contains a link to the “Exam Appointments”. This is also the exact same way to take when you schedule for an exam. I opened up “Exam Appointments” where the upcoming appointment is listed in a table with the following headings “exam title”, “booking code”, “exam date” and “start exam”.

Around 15 minutes before the exam date a green arrow should appear in the row “start exam”. This wasn’t the case for me. Therefore I contacted Technical Support and was advice to reboot my computer or even use another web browser.

I rebooted my computer but had to use Internet Explorer again the only browser currently installed on my computer. And yes after several minutes later and past 14.00 hrs. I was back to the same page. The green arrow did appear but when I clicked on it nothing happened. The secure questionmark browser does not start when other programs like outlook or skype are running. Even though I had switched off those programs before yet in my case skype always starts up again when my computer restarts.

Therefore my recommendation is to disable the auto launch of such programs. I quit Skype but to my surprise it took the questionmark secure browser a few minutes to launch. This was much longer time compared to the system test I did with a proctor a few days ago. You can guess how exited I got and how my blood pressure went up during those moments.

I would recommend you to boot your computer 30 minutes prior to such an event and hope that the green arrow is there 15 minutes before your scheduled time.

Additionally I had forgotten to have my two official identity documents with a picture ready to show to the proctor. The proctor was so kind to wait and let me get my passport and my driving license.

The proctor would then explain the key rules: If my connection would break down during the test I had 5 minutes to get back in and if I had technical issues I had another 5 minutes to contact the technical support. After this time my test would be cancelled. Also I was told not to leave the room during the exam. In a test centre someone can accompany to the rest room, but at home the proctor needs to rely on your presence in order to prevent any unfair test taking practices. I also had to show that I was alone in the room with my webcam by turning the camera 360 degrees. Further I had to point the webcam to my desk to proof that it was totally clean of any supporting material.

After this phase the proctor activated the test button. I now had 180 minutes time to go through 80 multiple choice questions while being watched all the time by the proctor. I needed to answer at least 50 (63%) of the questions correctly to become certified. For each multiple choice question it was indicated in writing how many answers were expected. A radio button indicates if only one answer is required. Boxes are used if more if more than 1 answer is correct. 3 were the maximum answers I came across. SAP provides a lot of information on the certification exam here:—cloud-hcm-employee-central-g/

As well you will find a link to 9 example certification questions.

Overall it took me around 85 minutes to pass the test. I went through question by question and I skipped a question when I was not sure about the answer yet. Then I went backwards from 80 down to 1 and checked each question again if I was confident about my answer(s) and reworked those that I was still not 100% sure of. Of course I answered all the ones that I had skipped. Each question I read at least two times before I made my choice.

Usually I read out questions aloud and write the question again on paper in order to uncover any hidden traps. But these practices are not allowed in the certification exam.

Learning Journey

On June 24th 2015 I got my access to the SAP Learning Hub ( ). The first course I had to take was the THR80 Foundations of SuccessFactors HCM. I passed this course on 29th of June.

As I had holidays scheduled from 11th of July till 1st of August I decided not to take the THR81 SuccessFactors Employee Central Academy before. I began with this course on August 3rd and finished by August 7th.

I scheduled my exam for August 14th at 14.00 hrs. In the week before the exam I read the Employee Central Implementation Handbook carefully and skimmed through the Employee Central Country Specific Implementation Handbook, Role Based Permission Handbook, Data Objects: Quick Reference Tables and the Metadata Framework Implementation Handbook. 2 days before the exam I went through my notes three times. I passed the exam on August 14th at 15:50 hrs.

During my holidays I read a few articles by Luke Marson: the SuccessFactors Employee Central Organization Structure, The SuccessFactors Employee Central Pay Structure, The SuccessFactors Employee Central Position Management feature, Extending SuccessFactors with the Metadata Framework and Rules and Picklists in the SuccessFactors Metadata Framework. You find the articles here at: SuccessFactors – Useful Resources and Documents

If I had to do it again I would not take a holiday between the THR80 Foundations of SuccessFactors HCM course and the THR81 SuccessFactors Employee Central because content from THR80 Foundations of SuccessFactors HCM is still part of the exam. It is best to keep these courses as close as possible together.

At least I would read the Employee Central Implementation Handbook thoroughly and schedule the exam as soon as possible after the end of the THR81 SuccessFactors Employee Central course.

At minimum I would leave a week between the end of the course and the exam. Yet I believe the longer you wait with the exam the more likely you will forget the content of the courses.

In total I invested 3 weeks net over a time of 8 weeks while still working on demanding projects at the same time and looking after my family.

Learning Strategy and Recommendations

As I have a very strong background in Learning & Development and a passion for continuous learning I used all my wisdom to make my learning journey as effective as possible. I have read all the major and current research on human learning and I have read a number of books written by world class memory champions on mnemotechnics and learning.

The first fundamental principle I follow is frequency over duration. Instead of learning on one day in a week for several hours I spread it out and learn every day at least for 5-10 minutes and if possible I do this several times a day if time permits. The only time I broke this rule was during my holidays. Only in the last few days of my vacation I started to read the articles from Luke Marson.

Further I use spaced repetition and the PQ4R method (Preview-Question-Read-Reflect-Recite-Review).

Everything that I found to be a good content for a question I wrote down. I came up with 200 items. Which brings me to my second fundamental principle of vivid associations I apply in learning. I used the method of loci ( to memorize it all. But before memorization I first and foremost try to establish logical rules to understand and connect the new knowledge. Sheer memorization is dedicated to exceptions and key underlying information chunks to build my knowledge or so called mind map.

And the third fundamental principle is called overconfidence in learning. Often when I listen to a trainer or read a document I come out feeling that I have understood everything and it will be easy to recall. Then a few days later I come across a question and I realize that I am not so sure anymore how to answer it. In order to overcome my overconfidence I created my own set of 212 questions to test my learning progress. I used those questions again just the last days before my exam.

If you would like to see my set of practice questions I am happy to share with you my document. Either send me a message on Linkedin Peter Palme or connect with me on Linkedin and let me know in your invitation that you are interested or enter your email address in this google form: My SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central Practice Questions.

. Here are some of my sample questions:

  • Are all Foundation Objects effective-dated?
  • Is NationalID an MDF object?
  • Can one person have more than one active employment at the same time?
  • Can you assign a workflow to a field in a foundation object?
  • Can you assign a workflow to the payCalendar object ?

I would recommend you to read at least the Employee Central Implementation Handbook. Pay special attention to the info section that are highlighted in light red / pink colour.

If you do not have access to the SAP Learning Hub yet I have collected also some free resources on Employee Central here:

Further Experiences Shared

Sarika Jadhav: My Successfactors EC Certification Journey

About me:

My vision is to build a truly integrated HR in the cloud. A truly integrated HR is the key enabler for organizations to maximize their business outcomes.

I will give a key note speech at on 17.09.2015 at the HR exhibition Zukunft Personal in Cologne on Education Hacking vs. Corporate Learning.

Free Learning Resources to Help You to Become a SAP Successfactors Consultant

May 19, 2015

I will collect all relevant resources in the best sequence to help you to become a SAP Successfactors consultant. Additionally you find my notes on what I have learned from these free resources.

Update 06.10.2015: I have written a post on “The SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central Certified Application Associate Exam: How I passed it and how I prepared for it

And in October there is a new free course Run Simple HR with SuccessFactors Employee Central on available. The course starts on October 13, 2015. More details here.

Becoming a SuccessFactors SaaS Consultant Part 1

What I have learned from this video – see Becoming a ScucessFactors SaaS Consultant Part 1 and Part 2

Luke Marson wrote a blog post about the skillsets a SaaS Consultant should have.

Luke Marson’s Blog and Jarret Pazahanick’s Blog. And visit the SuccessFactors Useful Resources and Documents maintained by Luke Marson.

You will find a summary of the key skills in Thoughts on the SuccessFactors consultant skillset by Luke Marson

What I learned from this article: The most successful of SuccessFactors consultants should be able to understand and manage:

  • Customer needs and challenges
  • Business processes
  • Product capabilities
  • Configuration
  • Security and authorization
  • Extensibility
  • Integration
  • Soft skills: creative, problem solver
  • To create process or configuration workarounds need to understand logical calculations and rules
  • Able to create complex business rules in SuccessFactors

Recommended Book: SuccessFactors with SAP ERP HCM: Business Processes and Use (2nd Edition)

openSAP An Introduction to SuccessFactors Solutions

This course is aimed at HR Business Partners, people managers, and executive leaders who want to improve their overall HCM strategy.

My key learnings from attending this course.

SAP Learning Hub free Discovery Edition

Sign up here.

You will have access to all openSAP courses. The real plus is you can go to the SuccessFactors Admin Tools and see all Admin Resources for SuccessFactors for free.

SAP Learning Hub Admin Tools

SAP Learning Hub Admin Tools

Successfactors Training Sessions SAP SuccessFactors Online Training Demo | SAP SuccessFactors Overview

What I have learned from this video:

User based licensing fee for Successfactors. Walmart with 2 Million users is the bigget customer.  Successfactors supports 53 languages.

If you use the Talent management solution you need to provide the employee masterdata to the Successfactors cloud solution. See the next video below 2015 02 04 19 59 SAP Successfactors Online Training Feb Batch on how to import the employee master data. This is called the data integration concept.

You can also run a hybrid setup through Netweaver with your existing on-premise SAP system. This is called process integration as you will move between the SAP Screens and the Successfactors screens in the talent management process. You have a single sign on via your Netweaver portal.

Successfactors supports 4 main processes:

  • the core HR process
  • Talent Management
  • Social Collaboration
  • Analytics

The different modules can be grouped in three categories:

Employee Transaction Management: Core HR, Payroll, Benefits administration (Strategic Partnership with Benefitfocus) , Time & Attendance (Strategic Partnership with WorkForce Software)

Talent Management: Performance Management, Goals Management, Compensation, Recruiting, Learning, Social Collaboration, Succession

Workforce Intelligence: Workforce Analytics, Workforce Planning

Everything can be accessed via the Successfactors home page. The user can setup the homepage individually by moving around the tiles, display new ones or remove them from the home page. There is no limit to the amount of tiles on this page. The Company Logo can be customized.

The admin can search for employees, configuration notes and data maintenance notes.

Every Screen has a show me option. The admin can record a video (max. 5 min) to show how to use the particular tile, how to navigate in this section for the end user.

Add new employee is used to run the hiring process in Successfactors.

The configuration of Successfactors is now template driven. In the template the admin can set the authorization for fields or for steps.

Successfactors Training

What I have learned from this video:

Introduction to Mastery

You activate all the modules in the provisioning system that the client has licensed. You need to be certified by Successfactors to  access the provisioning system.

How to remove tiles from the home page. Click on the Tile “Tile Browser” Add/Remove tiles. You will see the list of tiles. Select the one you want to remove. Click the button Remove.

Proxy: SF Admin can log in as one of the employees in the systems. In AdminTools see Menu SF Admin.

In Options (SF Admin Menu) you can set who can proxy in for you, your start page, set your sub tabs, set if you want to receive notifications,choose your language and set the numbering scheme.

How do the upgrade of SuccessFactors and how to manage permissions of the users.

How to set detailed reporting privileges and compensation management privileges.

How to import users. How to do mass proxy.

How to upload the company logo.

How to do text replacements. (starts at 29 min in the video).

How to set the rating scales (starts at 30:40 min)

How to set up the performance management process (starts at 33 min).

How to set up Password Login Policy. (38:20 min)

How to manage the homepage. (45 min)

How to set up Security (1:02:50 hr)

Goal Management (1:04:50 hr)

Competencies (1:26:30)

Performance Management (1:39:30)

2014 11 02 10 03 SAP SUCCESSFACTORS Webinar


  • History of Successfactors
  • Why SAP is interested in acquiring Successfactors?
  • Cloud Solution – SAAS Model Applications
  • Bizx Suite
  • Technical Architecture of Successfactors
  • System Architecture of Successfactors
  • Deployment Options
  • Integration Solution
  • Role of SAP Successfactors Consultant
  • Career Prospects
  • Q&A

Successfactors Overview

2015 02 13 20 02 SAP Successfactors Online Training Intro Mastery Module

Route Map and Rating Scales

2015 08 05 21 15 SAP Successfactors Employee Central Online Training

Introduction to Employee Central

Walk through of the 14 Steps Implementation Process for Employee Central

2015 06 08 20 50 SAP Successfactors Online Training

How to create the different administrators and how to grant privileges.

2015 08 06 21 16 SAP Successfactors Employee Central Online Training

How to configure the four different types of objects in Employee Central:

  • Foundation Objects (Org/Pay/Job Structure)
  • Employment Objects
  • Personal Objects
  • Generic Objects (MDF)

2015 08 07 20 51 SAP Successfactors Employee Central Online Training

Working on the configuration workbook and how to customize location in the corporate data model.


MDF = Master Data Framework


What I have learned from this video:

The LMS is a stand alone solution.

The  Video is an introduction to a 20 day training programs and what topics will be covered.

Scribble CaseStudy – Can a Amateur Like Me Learn to Write a Viral Blog Post?

May 11, 2015

Is it really possible to learn how to create viral content or is it sheer luck? Does is need a magic gift that only few possess or is true craftsmanship ? I wrote this blog post for all those amateur bloggers like myself. My goal is to have a proven methodology, a validated process, the right tools and all the key ingredients in one place. So whenever I set out to write my next “viral” content I do not have to put all the relevant bits and pieces of advice from various resources together. I have come across a number of very good research and case studies lately. These insights also confirmed to me to incorporate the experiences of Leonardo Da Vinci. He followed a very systematic approach in order to create the most famous paintings. For Leonardo Da Vinci patience is the first key ingredients to mastery. Most painters he observed where rushing to complete their paintings instead of having the patience to focus on the quality of their drawing. The second key ingredients is science. He measured intensively all the objects and human beings to find out about their  proportions. He studied people until he identified the key face muscles involved in their emotions. Up until a few days ago though I believed that viral content is either created by magician with a divine gift or pure luck. Then I came across a blog post with the title “Case Study: How to Increase Your Traffic by 226% in Just 60 Days” by  on (350 Total Shares – Buzzsumo) . Guy Kawasaki had shared this case study on Linkedin. The title itself  isn’t really attractive, yet the content is. It changed my view and got me exited to dig deeper into the subject.  on shared his research insights on what makes a blog post become viral. In summary it is: – Length of content:  2000-2500 words – A Case study performs better than author advice – Number of Images: 15+ and they need to be relevant – Lists perform better than feature articles – Titles should be long and descriptive – The author should have credibility in his domain At least I am very credible. I have never a written a blog post in my entire blogger life of seven years that went viral. I didn’t even write one blog post that was shared by anyone except myself. I was intrigued. Can someone like me learn to write a viral blog post at all or am I a lost case? The article is full of practical and extremely useful advice, but I was lacking answers still to a number of questions. What is the effort required to write such a long and sharable article? What additional research tools do I need to create the content for this article? Where do I find all these relevant pictures for my post? What is the threshold when a blog post is considered to be a viral one? What are all the process steps from beginning to end? Well, I started to dig deeper into the subject and found this article “Why Content Goes Viral: What Analyzing 100 Million Articles Taught Us” by Noah Kagan at OkDork. 7200 Shares on social media (buzzsumo) It is a research done by Buzzsumo. Their conclusion is:

  1. Inspire awe, laughter, or amusement.
  2. Appeal to people’s narcissistic side (think BuzzFeed quizzes)
  3. Long-form content has less competition, and more shares on average. 2000 words+
  4. List posts and infographics are more likely to be shared.
  5. Make sure your article inspires trust. Have a byline, and bio. Make sure you have a professional logo and design as well.
  6. Mix text with visually appealing elements.
  7. Implement social metadata such as the Facebook preview image
  8. Reach out to influencers before you write your content.
  9. Promote your articles after it’s been published for a week
  10. Tuesday is the best day to publish and promote content

In the next step I look even further into the research. There is one researcher that stands out – Jonah Berger. Include a short description of his research and his book. Contagious… written by Jonah Berger + Kary Milkman and their research “What Makes Online Content Go Viral?” link to PDF Research Also John Doherty What Kind of Content Gets Links in 2012 showed that long posts over 2000 words receive more links. Lot’s of more great findings what the characteristics of a viral blog posts are. But still again what is the best way to put those into practice? I decided first of all to work on a concrete example. This is the best way for me to learn new concepts and methods. At the end of this journey I want to have a blog post that has all the potential to turn into a viral one. For my project I chose the topic of Learning To Read Chinese. Oh, wow how attractive is that? Noop. Definitely there needs to be some more magic sauce to this title. But this is something left to the end of the journey towards the viral blog post. What is viral ? How do you measure it ? Before I set out on the journey I need to understand what are the key performance indicators that make a blog post to be considered as viral? Look at the most shared content – what is the maximum? Share the suggestion of one blogger to benchmark against own content and then multiply by 10, or use tools like buzzsumo and see how related content performed, what is possible with the topic. It is about number of sharing, number of links not views (could be through Web searches), not number of comments. If you want more comments usually shorter posts perform better) 3 Secrets To Writing Blog Posts That Go Viral by Bryan Hutchinson at WriteToDone suggests a viral post has an extremely high number of shares compared to the number of shares for your average post. Example if you had a total shares of 10  in average for your blog post and you receive 10-20 times more shares for your blog post you can considered this as a viral post. How to write quality content ? Link to the MOOC on effective writing, mention the Harvard article on the phases of effective writing and link to the most shared article on effective writing. Mary Jacksch 200 000 Shares(?) How to create viral content ? “Even if nine out of 10 read the first few paragraphs and leave, the 10th person would be enough to begin building a loyal following.” Time Urban/Andrew Finn founder of Wait but Why. Ezine Article – How To Create A Viral Blog Post – Advise improve on what went viral already – and here how the process looks like Noah Robertson Fastcompany: Buzzfeed, PlayBuzz, ViroaNova, Upworthy Example: Wait but Why has 63 articles with over 2000 words, average of 300 000 to 600 000 shares , Comments in the 1000s Wait but Why Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy   2000 000 shares Tim Urbans advice: you need to be exited about your content. Content needs to be in easy digestible chunks separated by images. Maximum eight big paragraphes per chunk. Effort: About 50-100 hrs research and disuccion, about 80 hrs to write and edit it.

1.  Scribble – Empty Your Head The first step I usually take is to scribble like the baby in the picture. This is the phase of the “right” brain. The right brain is used for creative and meta thinking while our left brain is our judge, our analytic side. The key is to be wildly creative. If you start researching and start reading other posts you will frame your mind. It will already focus you in one direction. Become the madman (see Harvard Business Review). I write down everything I already know about the topic and the questions I still have. In this phase I do no worry about structure, grammar, spelling, format and design and of course not about the main title. In my concrete example I wrote down that it took me below 32 hours to learn to read my first book, that it can be done faster, the first book I read, how amazed I was and the question: how to teach others, has someone else written about the subject, where do people talk about this subject, who are the expert in this field? If you are unsure if this topic is really in demand you can go to step 3 research. There are number of tools to find out about the current interest into your topic. Before you finally decide you might go back and think if there is a different way / perspective to look at the subject and if there is a link to a subject that is currently trending. 2. Outcome You might also at this point start to think about the outcome. What do you expect out of your post? leads, subscribers, page ranking, income, learning, new contacts, networking, pleasure, …. see Buzzfeed’s guide to viral content on 10 Brilliant Strategies to Writing Viral Content outcomes (Deborah Jian Lee) are: form of readers, subscribers, advertisers, raising awareness for an important issue, brand recognition and financial success. In my case I would like to help people to learn to read Chinese more effectively, draw attention to my mission and if possible create an extra income. I would also like to see how my viral blog post process works out and how much effort it required. Especially in my case I have a full-time job and a family. Blogging just needs to happen on the side line. Also I am interested on the macro economical impact. A lot of people do all this work for free, yet they have indirectly an impact on the GDP. But we do not account for it in our statistics. Blog posts can lead to other people become more effective and efficient in their work. 2. Mind mapping

3. Research I collected  advise from the Top 50 Blogs to Learn Blogging – The Ultimate List of Blogging Blogs by Joseph Adediji at I was looking for advice on research tools and how to create viral content. Yet most their advice is focused on traffic. The Must-have Blog Post Topic Generation Tool by Eric Siu of Evergreen Search Weekend Project: Research the Audience You Want … but Don’t Have by Logan Marshall of the Free Life Project Buffer Social: 39 Blogging Tools To Help You Work Faster Write Better , And Land More Readers by Kevan Lee Where is the topic discussed and what is the challenge? Quora Yahoo Answers Amazon Reviews – look specifically for the negative ones Reddit LinkedIn Pulse Ezine Articles Research Tools: I am using the following research process.

First I would do a search via a Google. In my example I use learn to read Chinese, read Chinese book, learn Chinese. I enter the search term and all the urls into an excel file. In this phase I also highlight words that I think could become part of my title. For example I noticed a lot of people look for free resources on Chinese.

Second for each of the search result I would write down the unique urls found in the search results. I usually take the first 20 Google search results.

In the third step I go to Alexa and determine for each url their global ranking in their best country ranking.

Fourth I look at the top 5 keywords that drive traffic to their side.

And in the fifth step I look which side the visitor came from immediately before?

And sixth I note down the top 5 sites that link to this site. In the last step on Alexa I look at what sites are related to this one. Next I would take all these urls from the google search and run  each through Buzzsumo. Buzzsumo will tell me what was top most content shared from this website.

A short remark at this point. In your research it can happen that you come across a topic that is even more exiting. In this case you would just restart the whole process again or merge the two topics. This happened to me. I came across the artificial language Toki Pona that can be learned in just one day and mastered to fluency in two days. I immediately started a scribble for this new topic.

You have done all the research around the main domains related to your topic. Now you can check Buzzsumo again directly with your search words from your google search. I was surprised to find sites that were totally unrelated to the topic but achieved extremely high shares around a post on their site. In my case it is “Market Research”:

How popular is the content ? Google+ Trending Twitter YouTube

Social Media Shares: Buzzsumo SocialMention Google Trends  and Social Mention

Twitter trends: Topsy, Twittorati

Facebook or use the Content Strategy Generator Tool  from Daniel Butler SEOGadget. It will search through Twitter, Goolgle Search Trends, YouTube Trends, Reddit, Google News,  Rad URLs, All Things Now, LinkedIn Pulse, Digg and some other sources in one go and display the result in a google spreadsheet. Audience of a specific blog and top posts: Alexa showed me the global rank and how the site ranks in the US. Also what are the key search words and which are the key sites that drive traffic to it. Quantcast If the publisher hasn’t implemented Quantcast Measurement it won’t show of course any results. Semrush Gives you the most detail about the website 4. Influencer & Experts Reach out to all the people you mention in your blog post or you link to. Also reach out to all the photographers. Influencers: Guy Kawasaki, Elon Musk, Richard Branson People who produced viral content: see Jack Shepherd, editorial director Buzzfeed, Huffington Post also Tim Urban at Wait but Why. Neetzan Zimmermann most popular blogger posts 10 to 15 times per day 5. Write Don’t go for quantity go for quality. No need to write 2000 words or more if you can explain the problem you want to solve for the reader in less words. See Structure: Summary at the beginning who, what, where, when, why Guy Kawasaki/Peg Fitzpatrick The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users explain what happened, explain what something means, explain how to do something and surprise the reader see According to Nielson users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average web page visit Make sure your first point is as strong as your last. Under promise and over deliver. 6. Emotions What emotion do you evoke with your post? Emotion that arouse (high-arousal) the reader awe, anger, anxiety see Jonah Berger What is awe? See definition Jonah Berger Book and Blogpost Ian Lurie on how to write emotionally 7. Design Content is King ? The Content is King Myth Debunked – Research by Elizabeth Silence: 94% cited design problems Check your design vs. content shared in your niche and try to outperform if possible Also considered the user-experience Formatting: see Marketing Tip: How to Write the Article that Will Go “Viral” Read an F Pattern Top and and left of page then Z Pattern Zoom to charts ?. Include Pictures Buffer Social: 39 Blogging Tools To Help You Work Faster Write Better , And Land More Readers by Kevan Lee ?. Keyword Suggestion Tool Ubersuggest Google AdWords Keyword Planner Keyword Tool ?. Title 100+ Blog Post Title Templates That Grab Attention : How to Write The Perfect Headline: The Top Words Used in Viral Headlines by Kevan Lee at buffersocial Ripenn analysis 62 characters average length of a viral headline Portent Title Maker HubSpot’s Blog Topic Generator Emotional Marketing Value Headliner Analysis ?. Quality Check Hemingway Grammarly ?. Check Outcome Define next minimal action the user should take and the maximum next step. Next minimal step could be share the post, leave a comment or maximum step give me business.

Mona Lisa, by Leonardo da Vinci, from C2RMF retouched

Mona Lisa, by Leonardo da Vinci, from C2RMF retouched

?. Publishing ?. Distribution see Kawasaki/Fitzpatrick: two or three sentences on Google+ and Facebook and 100 characters on Twitter Neetzan Zimmermann repetition, repost on twitter Buffer Social: 39 Blogging Tools To Help You Work Faster Write Better , And Land More Readers by Kevan Lee Timing: 9 am and noon EST best time for posts , Tuesday, LinkedIn Monday EST X. Follow Up Neetzan: Thank and favourite or retweet those that have shared your content – follow them back. Offer thoughtful comments Storify  How-To: Write Articles That Go Viral On Social Media (10 Tips) by Daniel Zeevi at Effort: I am now at 712 words. So far I spent 6 hours on research and 2 hrs on writing this article. This is a scribble. Therefore it is work in progress. What would you think how much time it will take to write a viral blog post? What key steps to take to get there? What viral content have you created? Do you want join the quest? Do you plan to create your first viral content? Plus 5 hours Plus 2 hours Writing Services: see How to make content go viral Bio: Peter Palme – Change & Development Manager. My passion and ambition is to help companies harness the power of the internet for learning. contact:

The Fastest Way to Learn to Read Chinese

January 8, 2015

I have met many people who became fluent in speaking Chinese in 6 months. Chinese does not have very complex grammar rules such as the slavic languages. It was also quite easy for myself. It took me longer to become fluent in French and I gave up on Russian at some point, because of the complex grammar. Benny Lewis, who is a well-known polyglot and blogger on rapid language acquisition achieved an okay fluency even in three months – see his blog. Benny Lewis also wrote an excellent bestselling book about his process and tactics of rapid language acquistion. Fluent in 3 Months: How Anyone at Any Age Can Learn to Speak Any Language from Anywhere in the World.

What is much more challenging is to learn to read.  This is not only a challenge for foreigners but also for the Chinese as well. Especially Chinese growing up outside chinese speaking countries find this particular difficult. It takes the first four years in school for chinese children to learn to read and write their first 1000 characters! This is not a fun process because it is mainly through continuous rather boring rote learning.

I found a way to learn to read the first 950 most important characters in 2 months and even had a lot of fun with it. All in all it took me just under 32 hours of my time. Now I am reading my first Chinese Book without consulting a dictionary . Actually I could have even done it in much less than 32 hours. As I am travelling a lot I used my iPhone mostly where I only type with one finger. On my laptop where I can use my ten fingers I am of course much faster. Usually I spent around 3-5 minutes to work on my course and I have done so several times a day. When I wait for the train, when I am in the train, when I wait for the plane, when I am in the plane, when I have a short coffee brake, when I am in the bathroom, when I wake up or before I go to sleep. You will be surprised how many 3-5 minutes slots you can find each day which I didn’t noticed before. I done all this while having a 120% job, a family and a few days a week when I look after the children and the household while my wife is on a business trip.

I only had a slight advantage as I knew still a few (less than 100) of the most important characters from my Chinese Studies at University 20 years ago.  In 2014 I also had picked up frequency lists on the internet and tried out the books “Remembering Simplified Hanzi: Book 1, How Not to Forget the Meaning and Writing of Chinese Characters” by James Heisig and Timothy Richardson and the beautiful book on Chinese Characters “Chineasy: The New Way to Read Chinese” by Shaolan, “Turbo Chinese (English Edition)” by Saurabh Sharma and the well known Tuttle Learning Chinese Characters: A Revolutionary New Way to Learn and Remember the 800 Most Basic Chinese Characters. I had no success with these books because by the time I started to learn the 1000 most important characters I had forgotten almost all of them.

To sum it up even if you have never learned any Chinese characters before you would still need roughly the same net time as it took myself. But what could differ is the period of time. Instead of 2 months maybe it will take you two to four weeks longer. It all depends on the amount of characters you can learn per day and the frequency.

So what was the method I used to finally succeed with? I signed up for the course “Chinese words spoken by frequency 0-1000” by Ben Whately on Memrise. Memrise uses the state of the art of the latest in neurosciences and learning research. It uses the right spaced repetitions, learning chunks, social learning methodologies, reward system and mnemonics to keep learners engaged. And on top of all it is free.

The course is broken down in 136 levels. Each level contains maximum 15 words. In the odd numbered levels you will learn the characters and their meaning in English and in the even numbered levels you will learn the pronounciation in pinyin and the meaning in English.

When you start learning you will learn around 5 characters per round until you completed the level. Then the pronounciation will be trained in rounds of 5. You can stop anytime and save where you have left of. Each time you get it right you will receive a number of points. This instills some competition as memrise will show you how you compare to other learners in the same course and where you rank. As I am a competitive person this was very motivating.

Additionally in both levels an audio pronounciation of the character or pinyin (pronounciation) that you are currently learning will be given. You will also have various ways to reply. Sometimes you need to select from a list similar to multiple choice or you need to type it directly into a text box. The system will show you the character and ask for the English word or show you the English word and ask for the character or the pinyin.

But this is not all. For each new word that you learn you can see how other people used mnemonics to learn and retain these words. This can be stories, pictures with text or links to useful resources or sentences where the character is used in, etc. If none of these are suited for your need you can create your own mnemonics so called mems.

Memrise was founded by the Memory Grandmaster Ed Cooke who taught Joshua Foer to become the US memory champion and Greg Detra a PhD at Princeton University neurosciences.

Also Joshua Foer used Memrise to study a new language in just 22 hours.

My mission for 2015 is to help you overcome the first threshold to start to read Chinese. Once you start reading you will constantly add often without really noticing it more and more characters and vocabulary to your memory. To do that I will add small excercises for each levels of the memrise course over the next months.

Reading Exercise 1 Level 1 for the Course: “Chinese words spoken by frequency 0-1000” by Ben Whately on Memrise
These are the first 15 Characters/Words you will learn in Level 1. 的 我 你 是 了 不 在 他 我们 好 有 这 就 会
Before you do the below reading exercise you should first learn these words in the memrise course.

I will use these words from level 1 to form small sentences or fragments of it below:
这 是  zhe4 shi4   this is
这 是 我 的 zhe4 shi4 wo3 de5   this is mine
不 是 bu4 shi4  is not
是 不 是 你 的 shi4 bu4 shi4 ni3 de5   is this yours
不, 不 是 , 这 是 他 的 bu4, bu4 shi4, zhe4 shi4 ta1 de5  no, it is not, this is his
是 的 shi4 de5   yes it is
你 好 ni3 hao3  hello
你 有 ni3 hao3  you have
我 有 wo3 you3  I have
我们 有 wo3 men5 you3   we have
我 会 了 wo3 hui4 le5   I know how to do it (now)
我们 不 会 wo3 men5 bu4 hui4  we don’t know how to
我 在 wo3 zai4  I am in/at
我 不 在 wo3 bu4 zai4 I am not in/at
我们 在 他 的 wo3 men2 zai4 ta1 de5  we are at/in his….
就 是 jiu4 shi4  exactly (this word you will actually learn in later level in memrise
好 不 好 hao3 bu4 hao3  alright? or okay?
不 好 bu4 hao3 not good
我 是 不 是 你 的 wo3 shi4 bu4 shi4 ni3 de5  I am not your

Now over to you – try to come up with new combinations. And if you enjoyed the exercise may I ask you for a small favour to share your new combination in the comment section below the post. Thank you.

Another way to boost your chinese readings skills is to start to learn the first 100 most important radicals. These are the small components of a character and help you understand the meaning of the characters much better. I have developped a mnemonic system to make it quite easy and rapid for you. Please see The Fastest And Easiest Way To Learn Chinese Characters.

The best book to read after the course on memrise?
The easiest book to read after the memrise course is The Secret Garden: Mandarin Companion Graded Readers: Level 1, Simplified Chinese Edition. It is so far the best way to start to use your new character and word skills. I was able to recognize 98% of the characters. As I am reading the book on Kindle I can click on the underlined characters that I see for the first time and will be directed to a word list where the pinyin and English translation of the character or composite characters will be given. I am 21% into the book after just one day and I consulted this word list twice so far  and basically it was only to check if I had grasped the meaning already of the new characters while I was reading the sentence. I haven’t yet red the other Level 1 graded readers book of the series but I would assume this to be a similar experience. You can a look inside the book here or download a sample in the kindle store. It is my first book that I can just read without consulting a dictionary and it feels very similar like reading any book in a language that I am totally familiar with: No big effort, no headache, no drag of energy, just fun.

What is the first book I am reading? A very good start to practice your new reading skills after your memrise course is by Marina Chan: First Chinese Reader for Beginners Bilingual for Speakers of English (Graded Chinese Reader Book 1). I am reading it on the Kindle. You can download a sample version first before you buy. The sample version convinced me to buy it and practice my reading skills. You can also take a look inside the book.

There are very few characters in the text that haven’t made it in the 1000 most frequently used words in Chinese. The 1000 words are based on the analysis of Chinese Film Subtitles. Researcher have confirmed that these subtitles match the actual most common words used by the population in China. I think this is no surprise as the film reflects the current vocabulary and in return as film and TV is the most consumed media in China influences back on the use of vacabulary in daily life. If you want to know about the research follow this link.

I can read between 90%-95% of the text in the book immediately. Some of the words I can guess through the context. But of course there are a few that are new. As an example the words for the different colors or words regarding touristic items. I guess in daily life they do not talk a lot about colours or hotels.

At the beginning of each chapter Marina Chan provides a list of characters, the pronounciation in pinyin and the English word for it. Additionally below every sentence in Chinese Characters there is also the pinyin. The translation of each of the sentences is provided at the end of the chapter.

Let’s take the first chapter of the book. From the 90 characters used only 9 were new. So most of the new words you would already be able to read all or at least a part of it. So some of them you could guess out of the context of the sentence. Being at this level it is so much easier to read than if you need to stop every second word to consult the dictioniary.

New words in chapter 1 that are not in the 1000 frequent word list in memrise are:
公园  gong1 yuan2   park – the second character yuan2 is not in the 1000.
商店 shang1 dian4  shop – the first character shang1 did not make in the top 1000, dian4 did
星級 xing1 ji2 – means star – used to say how many stars a hotel has. The second character ji2 is not in the 1000.
酒店 jiu3 dian4  hotel – both characters are in the top 1000, only the combination for the word hotel is not. So you can read the characters but might miss the meaning when combined.
文本 wen2 ben3 text – the first character wen2 is not in the 1000.
桌子 zhuo1 zi5 table – the first character zhuo1 is not part of the top 1000.
窗口 chuang1 kou3 window – the first character chuang1 did not make it into the 1000.
笔记本 bi3 ji4 ben3 notebook – all characters are in the top 1000, only the combination for the word notebook is not – one could guess the word out of the meaning of the individual characters
绿 lv4 green
自行車 zi4 xing2 che1 bike – all characters are known, only the combination to form the word bike is not – also here one could almost guess it from the individual characters used
蓝 lan2 blue
鼻子 bi2 zi2 nose – the first character bi2 is not in the 1000 words list.

I have found a newspaper for the intermediate level in Chinese. It is a dedicated section in the online edition of Global Times called Target Chinese. So far I can understand between 70-80% of it. I still need a dictionary to look up missing words.

To read your first book of the mandarin companion series – vocabulary:

On Skritter you can find the vocabulary of the series:

The Fastest And Easiest Way To Learn Chinese Characters – How to Really Use Mnemonics For Learning Chinese

October 30, 2014
Chinese Radicals

100 Frequently Most Used Chinese Radicals related to Human Subcategory

For any novice learner of Chinese Characters the first time he or she will see a page of Chinese Characters this will be overwhelming. It looks nice but for the brain it is pure chaos. At this stage we do not know what patterns to look for in these characters. It is the same for a child who sees a page of text before they know any type of letter. What do children usually do in these cases ? They will look at the pictures instead if there are any.

Our brains are made to recognize pictures and our brains are geniuses when it comes to store images. Our visiual memory is the fastest and the biggest storage system we have. With the help of the mnemonic system below you will be able to tap into this powerful learning system.

This way you will accelerate your learning and also retain the memorized characters much longer.

The best way to start is with the most important patterns called radicals. These radicals will also help you to identify the characters in the chinese dictionary.
There are 214 radicals. Yet it would be best to first learn the 100 most frequently radicals first and not learn the more exotic radicals that will hardly come across you when you start to read your first chinese texts.  See Kickstart your character learning with the 100 most common radicals by Olle Line.

I have categorized these 100 radicals into subgroups. With the help of the subgroups you will be able to build the memory palace that will hold all these images that will remind you of the characters in the future.

There are the following sub categories that you can choose a sub locations for: (The full list of these characters and sub categories is here)
1. Related to human
2. Related to human activity
3. Related to human appearance and situations
4. Related to house or household
5. Related to space/area/nature etc
6. Plants
7. Related to animals
8. Related to numbers
9. Related to colours

The Method
I have chosen a three step approach:

First step is to find a vivid image for each of the characters connected to the meaning in English.
In the second step you will associate for each of the syllables a memorable person (celebrity or people that you remember well)
In the third step you remember the tone of the syllable by association of the connected memorable person performing a task which is related to the meaning of the word and the tone.

I give you an example for remembering the syllable and the tone:
The word sickness has the chinese syllable ni4. Ni I have associated with Nikita Chruschtschow.
To remember the fourth tone of ni I see Nickita Chruschtschow falling down on the floor because he suddenly became utterly sick.

The Art of Memory - Giordano Bruno Mnemonic

The Art of Memory – Giordano Bruno Mnemonic

First Step – Create Images and a Place in Your Memory Palace:
Let’s build our memory palace and images for all the 100 most used Chinese Radicals together.
We start with the subcategory 1. related to humans.
It includes the following characters:

or human
or heart (Radical 61)
orhand (Radical 64)
right hand
thumb or inch
human legs

In total these are 18 Characters. Just to put those in memory without mnemonics would take quite a number of repeats. Usually we can hold maximum 7 plus or minus two items in our short time memory at once. With mnemonics you will overcome this barrier.

I have created the following images and path to store these characters one by one.
My memory palace is a house in China, yet it is build in an European Style. I live under the roof in the second floor.

One day I was sleeping on my huge silk white bed with my legs open . (I see myself as a human.)
I wake up and stand straight up in my bed. Unfortunately it is just under the roof so I hit my head against the roof and this hurts a lot.
I see myself as a human with the roof above.
I need to sit down in my bed straigth with my legs stretched in front of me, when I realize that I have eaten a baby cradle and I now look
like a woman 女.
When I stand up from the bed I suddenly feel enourmous pressure in my stomach because the child feels squashed by the cradle I have swolled and it stretches out his arms while having to pull in his head because of the cradle. .

I am shocked and just before I fall I get hold of my bookshelf opposite of my bed. The pain is so big that I open my mouth to scream. My mouth has been replaced by a artifical square roboter like mouth piece. .
Terrified I jump a way into the middle of the room. This is when I realize that my heart starts to pump heaviliy out of all three venes and spill blood all over me. . Some of the blood springles into my mouth so I have that sweet tast of blood on my tongue.
I feel panic and I want to go downstairs to get dressed. When I reach out with my hand to hold on to the wall I see that it was turned in an artifical antenna with three lines. .
No I think, I cannot go downstairs with this type of hand, so I screw off my right hand and put it in a nice chest   that stands on this two nicely shaped feet just before the stairs.

I walk down to the toilet. When I enter the toilet I see my eye in the mirror was also turned into an articficial triangle with rectangular lids around  it. . When I want to take a leak into the toilet I suddenly realise that I can hardly sit down because I am totally wobbly on my feet. They are mounted on a large woman stilleto with a spring. .
It is a nice idea to be able to take very large steps like with the seven miles boots and thus be much faster than walking in normal shoes, but it is not a good idea for going to the toilet and trying to sit down.  Only after many fruitless tries and holding to the bathroom tub I finally manage to sit down.  But to my dismay my corpse falls over because it is more heavier above and very thin below. .
I had enough. I wash my left hand. While washing it I realize that my thumb was also turned into antenna which is one inch wide and when I do a finger print of it it will only leave a dot on the paper. .

Damm I think I need to have a bath to relax from all this stress. Once I come out of the bath tub my legs become strangely flexible. I had forgetten that they also very now artificial. So they look like this .
I walk over to the mirror and put my tongue out which I regret badly. The tongue that comes out of my square mouth also has an antenna on it with two lines  and it has a bitter taste.

I am very annoyed and hungry and go downstairs into the kitchen. Unfortunately when I entered the kitchen I fall and a needle sticks through my skin in my stomach and scratches the baby cradle. . This is so painful.
I leave the kitchen and go to the living room to make an emergency telephone call. When I put the phone to my ear I realize that it was also exchanged with a rectangular antenna objects with two inside stripes and two longer ones on the outside. .
What a strange day to start with.

The mnemonic stories work the best when you create your own images and memory palace. Instead of using a house it could be any place that you are very familiar with. It could be your way to work, or if you walk through your favourite zoo, museeum, etc. The key is to have one image that is very memorable and preferrably animated and it has a unique place for storage.

Second Step Associate Memorable People to the  Syllables:
I make the following associations. The number indicate the tones. In Brackets the intuitive English Pronounciation. For all Pinyin Syllables look here.
cun4 Carl Gustav Jung   (tswnn)
er2 Erdogan President of Turkey (urr)
er3 Erdogan President of Turkey (urr)
kou3 Cowboy John Wayne (koh)
mu4 Muhammed Ali (moo)
nv3 Oliver Neuville (former German Soccer Player) (nyoo)
pi2 Pia Zadorra (pee)
ren2 Rene Descartes (rnn)
she2  Sheela Indian Film Actress (sher)
shi1 Shia LaBoeuf (shrr)
shou3 Schubert the composer (shoh)
xin1 Xindi are peole from the planet Xindus in Start Treck (sshin)
you4 Neil Young (yoh)
zi3  Zig Ziglar (dzrr)
zu2 Peter Zumtobel Swiss Architect (dzoo)

Again the same as above choose the association of people for each of the syllables that work best for you.
Tone 1 means to have a steady straight pronounciation when you speak the syllable. In Tone 2 you go up with your voice when you say the syllable. For tone 3 you are up and go down and up again when you pronounce the syllable. And tone 4 means you start high and go down when you speak the syllable.

For the next step I have associated the tones with actions such as for tone 1 the action performed by the memorable person will be a straight line. Example would be laying me on the back on the floor. For tone 2 it has an action that puts me somehow up. Tone 3 is represented by any action that is somehow connected to up and down and up movments and for tone 4 it is something that will put me down. It will become clearer when you read the following story.

Third Step – bring it all together into one final story:
One day I was sleeping on my huge white silk bed when Rene Descardes came and lifted up my two legs and spread them across my bed because he wanted to examine how people sleep when their legs are laid out in a perfect triangle 人 ren2. I see myself as a human.
I wake up and I am pritty annoyed with Rene Descartes. Instead of leaving me alone  Rene Descartes put me straight up in my bed . Unfortunately my bed is just under the roof so I hit my head against the roof and this hurts a lot. I am now very angry with Rene Descartes.
I see myself as a human with the roof above 亻ren2.

Oliver Neuville comes to my rescue and takes me in his arms and shakes me like a baby to calm me then helps me to sit down in my bed straigth with my legs stretched in front of me, when I realize that I have eaten a baby cradle and I now look
like a woman 女 nv3.
I start to cry. Zig Ziglar hears it and tries to lift me up and down to get me overthrow in the hope that the cradle comes. I feel an enourmouse pressure in my stomach because the child feels squashed by the cradle I have swolled and it stretches out his arms while
having to pull in his head because of the cradle. . zi3.
I am shocked and just before I fall I get hold of my bookshelf opposite of my bed. Suddenly I hear Cowboy John Wayne approaching with his horse. He jumps right behind me and starts pushing my stomach in and out. The pain is so big that I open my mouth to scream. My mouth has been replaced by a artifical square roboter like mouth piece. kou3.

I let you finish the story by yourself.

Mnemonics works best if you find the associations that work best for you.
There is a great guideline on creating memorable images for mnemonics on the Hacking Chinese Blog: Memory aids and mnemonic to enhance learning by Olle Linge.

Once you are able to walk through the 16 Characters forward and backwards I would recommend you the first exercise. Read a Chinese Text printed out on paper and mark each of the learned radicals in the characters.
Here an example text based on the the first 100 most frequently used Chinese Characters and Words in Film Subtitles:


And this is the result of the above text analysis based on the 16 Radicals you have mastered by now:


Quite a number of characters that will include one of the radicals you have just learned.
You will notice there are already a few characters that are only made up of the radicals you know by now.
Example: 好, 如,从

And if you have mastered all the 100 Radicals this would be the result:

100 Most Frequently Used Words in Film Subtitles containing Elements of the 100 Most Used Radicals

100 Most Frequently Used Words in Film Subtitles containing Elements of the 100 Most Used Radicals

Planned updates:
I will add further exercises and examples
More on learning the most used words and characters in Chinese

Frequency List of Chinese Characters based on Film Subtitles



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