Allen’s Highlights from ATD 2015

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As a newcomer to the training industry, going to the 2015 Association for Talent Development (ATD) Conference and Expo was a fun look into a world I’m still getting to know. Luckily, in an industry that’s undergoing some major disruption, I wasn’t the only one learning new things.

This year most of the information seemed to center around how new technologies and a better understanding of neuroscience could help trainers get better employee engagement. Some of the most popular sessions looked at social learning, leveraging video and other rich media, neuroscience of learning and employee engagement. Ultimately what everyone was looking for was how to get results and change behavior.

“In developing talent, you give people the capability to change their lives.”

– Tony Bingham, ATD president and CEO

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Importance of Innovation

ATD-2015-InfographicGeneral session speakers Andrea Jung and Sugata Mitra both emphasized the importance of innovation and honesty throughout lifelong learning. Mitra’s stories of young children in India and England self-directing their education on topics as wide-ranging as programming and genetics should inspire us to take a new look at the way we communicate and educate employees.

Jung also mentioned the importance of upending traditional management roles. She said, “Influence is very, very different from power. Power is easier. Influence is a differentiator between managing and leading.” By demonstrating integrity and communicating well, you create a more social equitable learning experience where the learners are part of the solution, rather than feeling like they are being forced into something.

Social Learning

Social learning was a big hit both as a topic at the conference, and as a practice. More than 2,800 of the 9,600 people at the conference sent 10,500 tweets about #ATD2015. Social technology had filtered through the conference from people live tweeting sessions to social games at several of the exhibitor booths and social interaction encouraged by some of the presenters.

Industry Disruption

But talk on changing how we approach learning was not limited to social media. Kellye Whitney, associate editorial director for Human Capital Media, said, “ATD 2015 was all about disruption. It seemed to run through all facets of the conference, from the keynotes to the sessions to the conversations in the hallways. Embracing change—big and small, in technology and in approach—and figuring out how to use it to enhance learning was the idea du jour.”

One of those changes to embrace was a bigger focus on employee engagement and how to achieve it. Many people have discussed how to get the outcomes they want from learning and development, and engagement is the word of the day. In her session on employee engagement, Britt Andreatta, director of L&D at lynda.com and senior learning consultant at LinkedIn, talked about the costs of disengaged employees and how to improve engagement. Giving feedback, recognizing efforts, reducing stress and overwork and increasing confidence in senior leaders are all key to helping improve engagement in your organization.

“ATD 2015 was all about disruption. It seemed to run through all facets of the conference, from the keynotes to the sessions to the conversations in the hallways. Embracing change—big and small, in technology and in approach—and figuring out how to use it to enhance learning was the idea du jour.”

– Kellye Whitney, associate editorial director for Human Capital Media

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It’s time for the training industry to rethink the traditional ways to do things. As Whitney said, it’s time to embrace changes in technology and approach. Doing so will help us reach learners and improve engagement across our organizations.

What changes are you making to create better training?



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