Saturday, May 10, 2014

ASTD becomes ATD: It is more than just dropping the "S"

On Tuesday afternoon May 6, ASTD President and CEO Tony Bingham, announced the rebranding of ASTD to the Association for Talent Development (ATD).   An ASTD name change was not unexpected.  Everyone recognized for a long time that this was an international organization that continues to grow outside of the US.  So we all knew the "American" part of the American Society for Training and Development was done.   We also suspected that the word "Training" was likely over as well.   Many of us in the industry had stopped referring to ourselves as trainers long ago.  Our work has become much broader in scope and impact.   Yes, we provide training when needed, but it is just one element of what we do to help people learn, grow, and perform better at their jobs.

The new word added to the name is "Talent."  This was a surprise. Judging by the mixed reactions both at the conference immediately following the announcement and via social media this week, the jury is still out on this one.

Personally, I'm comfortable fitting the definition of the work that I do under the name "Talent Development" but it is not ideal.   I usually refer to myself as a "Workplace Learning Professional."   I see my job as helping people learn what they need to either perform better at what they are currently doing, or develop their skills to be able to take on new roles or tasks so they can grow in their careers.  This will still take some getting used to. There are connotations with "Talent" that don't quite feel like a fit to me.  "Talent Management" as a function inside a business often includes recruiting, which is not something that I do.   "Talent Development" can include many activities that are not specifically learning related, but in which learning takes place.   This could be things like 360 degree feedback, coaching, mentoring, performance management activities, etc.   My team gets involved in supporting this type of activity - usually by helping people learn how to do it - but it is most often led by people who are more likely be members of SHRM rather than what was ASTD.

Still, I feel it is close enough to call what I do Talent Development.  "Development" is a good word.  I do feel my work helps people develop and grow.  But "Performance" is a good word too.  I do help people perform well to succeed in their current jobs and to help my company ultimately be successful.   That would have been a nice word to bring into this change.  And of course "Learning" is my favorite word to use in describing what I do.  I help people learn no matter what their goal is.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

#ASTD 2014: A Mix of Old and New

Embracing my new association.
Even as I was making my way up the escalator to Hall D in the Washington Convention Center on Tuesday to hear Tony Bingham deliver the Big Announcement, I had already decided that the theme for this blog post to summarize my experience at ASTD's 2014 International Conference and Exposition (ICE) was going to be: a mix of the old and new.  Tony himself had started me on this path with his introductory remarks about change before yielding the stage to Arianna Huffington for a poignant, humorous, and inspiring keynote address derived from her new book, Thrive. "Change is important," he said.  "L&D professionals must get more involved in change management."  He was setting the stage not just for Ms. Huffington, but also for the announcement he would deliver at the end of the second day.

Change would be a recurring theme throughout the conference.  We heard it in the excerpts from Thrive as we were asked to focus on well-being, wisdom, and wonder to prepare ourselves for success. We heard it again in Tuesday's keynote address from General Stan McChrystal.  He expressed it as "the need to adapt" which he clearly illustrated using examples such as the Jet Blue crew landing their plane safely in the Hudson River, and the completion of the raid on Osama Bin Laden's compound by the Navy Seals, even after one of their helicopters crash landed at the beginning of the mission.

Change links the old and the new.  If we do it right, we discard tools and behaviors we no longer need, in favor of new ones.  But we also carry forward experiences and wisdom that can still serve us well in the future we are trying to create.   So here are examples of the juxtapositions of old and new I experienced during this year's conference:

  • I stopped by Ken Blanchard's booth in the Expo Hall on Tuesday.  It was his 75th birthday.  He was surrounded by many of the books he has published over the years.  They are those short, easy-to-read type books that seem commonplace nowadays.  But those of us from my generation remember them as groundbreaking alternatives to the large textbook-like business books of the time. It is the same way the session leaders at ICE were advocating the idea of short learning bursts as opposed to full-blown courses today.
  • I attended a session on Designing Learning for a Global Audience.  Alongside new information about addressing language and cultural differences, the session leaders were presenting design principles from Clark & Mayer's e-Learning and the Science of Instruction (and I'm not entirely sure they knew that!)
  • In another session I attended on Social Learning, I heard ideas presented that came right out of Gloria Gery's Electronic Performance Support presented while Jane Hart's Comet's Tail of Workplace Learning Trends was being shown on the screen.
  • On my trip home from the conference, I posted a tweet to illustrate what I had learned in Jane Bozarth's  Show Your Work session.  Jane's recent and current work inspires me to think creatively about learning.  My tweet was favorited by the Bob Pike Group.  Bob's Creative Training Techniques course and handbook provided similar inspiration to me as a new trainer early in my career.

  • Finally, in announcing that ASTD is changing its name to the Association for Talent Development, Tony Bingham talked about "where we've been" and "where we're going." That was clearly illustrated when we arrived at the conference center Wednesday morning to see all of the old ASTD banners and marketing collateral had already been replaced with new ATD branded material.
As I stated earlier, if we go about change the right way, we bring a mix of old and new with us as we move forward.  For me, I find it easy to identify with being part of ATD.  The new name encompasses the work that I've done so far in my career and it embraces the wider possibilities of supporting global audiences with a broader range of services.  I think I can live with that.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Want to Learn Something at #ASTD2014? Attend a Forum Session

It is that time of year again.   Learning & Development professionals from all corners of the globe make their annual migration to attend the ASTD International Conference & Exposition (aka ICE; aka #ASTD2014).  This year's event is in Washington DC.   It offers a great line up of key note speakers,  hundreds of concurrent sessions to choose from, and more learning vendors assembled in one place than you can ever possibly want to see.

Like many of my industry colleagues, I'm looking forward to exhausting myself trying to get as much out of the event as I possibly can. (Here are my key takeaways from last year's conference.)   For many of us, that means spending a lot of time in rooms that have rows of chairs facing a dais with a jovial speaker presenting information using a PowerPoint presentation on a giant screen.  It is ironic, that this is the primary format for session delivery in a conference that is focused on learning.  Granted, this is a conference, not a learning event per se, but we do all go there to learn something.

If you are looking for a break from the rows of chairs, and you want to really learn something.  Check out one of the four sessions being hosted by the ASTD Forum.   The Forum is  a consortium of senior learning professionals from about 50+ member companies who connect to collaborate and share best practices on learning.   I'm in my third year of membership and it has been richly rewarding for my company and for me personally.
The Forum Sessions at ICE offer a true learning experience.  When you walk into the room, you will notice the difference immediately.  The Forum sessions are set up with round tables, not rows of chairs.  There is interaction and engagement between the participants and with the facilitators.  You'll leave with tangible takeaways.

Here are the topics that will be covered in this year's Forum sessions.  Each one is delivered in a unique format:

  1. Monday, 1 PM - Selling Learning's Value Proposition (format: Whiteboarding with Visual Icons)
  2. Monday, 3 PM - Building a Culture that Supports Learning Innovation in Your Organization (format: Force Field Analysis)
  3. Tuesday, 10 AM - Onboarding - Practices that Get Results! (format: Zing Rounds with 4 member companies)
  4. Tuesday, 1:30 PM - Creating a Global Mindset as a Leadership Competency (format: Creative Matrix)

They are all being held in room 101, so please come by and check one out. But you better get there early. Like all good learning events, we limit group size to ensure participants can maximize their learning experience.