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.

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