Purpose, Technology, and Data Drive Talent Development–Three Key Takeaways from ATD ICE 2018

Drive Talent Development

After an exhilarating four days in San Diego at the 2018 Association for Talent Development International Conference and Expo, the TPC team was buzzing. ATD pulled out all the stops for their 75th anniversary, complete with keynote speakers Barack Obama, Marcus Buckingham, and Connie Podesta. 13,000 learning and development professionals from around the globe gathered to share ideas and celebrate an industry brimming with empowerment, innovation, and camaraderie.

When we weren’t preparing for TPC Founder Janine Kurnoff’s Data Visualization breakout session on Tuesday, we popped into several sessions to get inspired and up-to-speed on the latest trends in talent development.

Here are are top three takeaways from ATD 2018:

ATD 2018 Recap 01   The modern workplace is all about purpose, values, and meaning

By 5:30 Monday morning, the line at the San Diego Convention Center had already snaked around the building. Eager attendees wanted to be among the first in the door to see President Barack Obama. And Obama didn’t disappoint! He kicked off the conference with a nod to his wife: “I saw the line from my hotel room. At first I thought maybe Michelle was speaking!”

As he settled in to a conversation with ATD President and CEO Tony Bingham, he offered this simple yet powerful advice: Be kind, work hard, show compassion, and have fun. And he advised us all to “Think about what you can do, not what you want to be,” focusing our careers on our purpose, meaning, and values, instead of money and titles. Referencing Bill Gates, he told the crowd, “He didn’t start out wanting to be a gazillionaire! ‘But this computer thing is really interesting to me and I want to create software. I want to create the best software.'” Obama’s encouraging words and refreshing optimism left the audience reflecting upon how we can make our workplaces even better using guidance as simple as staying true to our values and purpose.

Barack Obama Quote ATD 2018

Strengths-revolution pioneer, Marcus Buckingham emphasized the importance of purpose in his energizing keynote, Love + Work. Buckingham told an appreciative audience that work is for discovering what is unique about you, and how to contribute to your role by starting from that place. Sharing his research on what makes high performing teams successful, he underscored that people perform at their best when they combine love with work, and cultivate the things they do best.

Britt Andreatta echoed this sentiment in her interactive session, Wired to Become: The Neuroscience of Purpose. Andreatta explained that purpose emerges from our core values, and explored why finding purpose and meaning at work is now more important than ever. Not only do employees need to be engaged, but they need to be fulfilled. Fulfillment leads to higher productivity and quality. We attended two of her sessions and like always, Andreatta cut through the “fluff” and backed her findings with scientific evidence, even when crediting the millennial workforce for leading this radical cultural shift that work should be, well…enjoyable. Thank you millennials, and count us in!

ATD 2018 Recap 02   The future is all about scale… And digital will take us there

In How to Scale Coaching Beyond the C-Suite, Tracy Hutton of The Marcus Buckingham Company and Robert Kovach of Cisco shared a case study of scaling coaching across the workforce at Cisco in part by holding coaching sessions online. The innovative, team-based, online model allowed them to scale coaching, change coaching along with inevitable business changes, and personalize/individualize it to people’s needs. And by focusing efforts on strengths, they are able to drive outcomes identified by Cisco’s senior leadership. They credited the program’s biggest successes to amplifying what people are good at rather than trying to fix where they are bad.

The idea of artificial intelligence and working alongside robots is nothing new – just ask George Jetson. But the emphasis on social and digital learning is one that couldn’t be ignored at this year’s conference. Modern learning is on the cusp of a digital revolution, and much like any other revolution in history, it’s critical that we prepare our workforce for this massive shift. The digital transformation is more than just bolting-on new technology. It’s enterprise-wide, cross-functional, and will require companies to rethink long-term training and business strategies as we re-skill our people to work in conjunction with technology. Artificial intelligence will penetrate deeper and deeper into our work, and we all must be ready to embrace it.

Here at TPC, we’ve been preparing for this shift for quite some time and are excited to launch digital workshops for corporate storytelling and data visualization. Our digital platform is powered by NovoEd and features a cohort-driven, collaborative environment including coaching, manager check-ins, and 24/7 access to resources and supportive tools for ongoing learning.

ATD 2018 Recap 03   Data, data, data

Ideas were backed by data at nearly every presentation we attended. Over the past few years, there’s been an enormous shift in the way we collect, analyze, and communicate data. And for good reason. Data is being produced and gathered at higher rates than ever, thanks to new trends like adaptive learning that allow us to gather information in the moment. And for learning and development professionals, this should be music to our ears. Why? Because data democratizes decisions. It allows us to put aside biases and make a strong, objective case that may impact budgets, training programs, and ultimately learners. For those of us challenged with demonstrating the return on investment and and business impact of training, we must be prepared to not only collect data, but interpret and transform it into a compelling story that engages our audience and drives key messages.

We saw this need for data storytelling skills first-hand in our session, Turn Numbers into Narratives through Data Visualization. Nearly 400 people packed the room on Tuesday, eager to learn data storytelling and data visualization techniques from TPC’s co-founder Janine Kurnoff. We loved the audience’s and their passionate engagement, along with plenty of smart questions and ideas. It’s days like these that make our hard pay off, and we are beyond grateful to have had the opportunity to be among thousands of inspiring learning and development professionals all working towards a common goal: Creating a world that works better.

And with that…see you next year in D.C.!

Janine selfie on stage at ATD 2018