Training & L&D pros, remember to tie learning into business goals. Here’s why.

An ATD Houston Fall Conference Recap

“The Future of HR Strategies” Steve Werner, Professor & Department Chair, C.T. Bauer College of Business

Before getting into key takeaways from the ATD Houston Fall Conference + Expo, it’s important to recognize all who came together to prove that the community is #HoustonStrong, following the devastation that was Hurricane Harvey. Prior to the morning keynote, the entire crowd chanted, “Houston Strong, Houston Strong!” A message offered by ATD President & CEO Tony Bingham was certainly one of hope and strength. Onward, Houston.

BlueBottleBiz had the pleasure of attending the ATD Houston Fall Conference + Expo last week Thursday, Sept. 21, where we caught up with authors, talent development professionals, and speakers — and learned a thing or two about the best ways to weave collaborative learning into corporate training initiatives.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Create the Future”, and included two keynotes and 16 breakout sessions — four taking place at any given time. Overall, the day was full of collaborating with peers to develop new ideas — two things we’re especially passionate about here at BlueBottleBiz.

An emerging theme

By mid-morning, it was clear to see a theme emerge among the various keynotes and breakout sessions. That theme was:

Be sure to link learning and talent development initiatives back to overall business goals.

This seems obvious, right? We want employees to learn the skills and concepts that will help them better perform, and thus positively impact the business and its bottom line. But, with learning initiatives or team trainings, how many times have you been asked (or got the sense that your employees were wondering), “So, what’s the point of this?”

Not only is it crucial for learning and talent development professionals to tie learning initiatives into overall business goals, it’s also crucial that the goals are clearly communicated down to even the most entry-level employees. When goals are clearly communicated, it’s easier to help employees understand the importance and relevance of recommended readings, group discussions and team trainings.

At the end of the day, employees who understand business goals will likely feel more energized and engaged in learning. They’ll strive to better themselves as a valuable team member, and will also be proud to be included in the larger picture. The feeling that one is making a direct impact on the business is a key cultural positive in today’s workplace.

Ties between training & collaborative learning

We talked about the importance of clearly communicating company goals, and helping employees see that they have every ability to make direct business impacts. But let’s take this concept a step further — outside of facilitated trainings and into the realm of self-directed learning.

Let’s say your organization facilitates training on a quarterly basis. But in addition, it also supports training with an open, collaborative learning environment that equips employees with the content, tools and networking capabilities needed to learn on their own (or with peers).

From a self-directed, collaborative learning standpoint, what’s the sense of equipping teams with the necessary books, videos and tools for learning, if employees don’t understand their next move, or what skills can help them contribute in the greatest capacity? How can they really maximize their time spent self-learning?

In order for employees to get the most out of their time spent learning on their own or with peers, it’s crucial that they be reminded of the skills and concepts that are necessary both today and “tomorrow”, in order to make the largest impact on growing (and growing with) the business.

No matter if it’s a training or if employees learn through self-direction, they have to be reminded of why they are learning. Understanding their current and future places within the organization leads to career longevity. Understanding why also leads to greater work outputs and career fulfillment. From a talent or learning management perspective, laying out broader objectives gives managers the ability to groom promotable, successful employees.

The concept discussed above — tying learning and training back to business goals — served as a valuable reminder for learning and training professionals, that whatever is instituted within organizations should be done so with the broader business goals in mind. Everyone — all departments, employees and leaders — should be working toward common objectives. This is the foundation of a successful business.

Outside of this lesson, there were other key takeaways that L&D and talent development professionals may find useful. We’ve compiled a brief list below.

ATD Houston Fall Conference takeaways

From “Becoming the Greatest Trainer”, with Bob Pike, chairman & founder of the Training and Performance Forum

“Become the Greatest Trainer” Bob Pike, Chairman & Founder, Training and Performance Forum

Pike opened his keynote by explaining a necessary shift from the “HDB principle” to “BDH”. The HDB mindset means to think “if only I had _____, then I’d be able to do ______, which would allow me to be_______”. However, it’s important to adopt the following instead:

“When I become ________, then I’ll be able to do _________, which will allow me to have ________.”

At the end of the day, people are more impressed with who we are than with what we have. The BDH mindset puts more responsibility on trainers (or any professional!) to be successful or to fail. It’s because of who you are, not what you have, that allows you succeed as a professional.

From “Lean Talent Development”, with Kent Nuttall, president of Torch Training Solutions

“Lean Talent Development” Kent Nuttall, President, Torch Training Solutions

Nuttall says that a key for trainers is to create promotable employees through learning. And to do this, talent development professionals must make learning a part of the process that leads to a successful business solution. He emphasizes the importance of minimizing wasteful training because if the training doesn’t produce results, it minimizes the impact on employees. To reduce waste, Nuttall suggests to adopt “blended solutions”, like social learning paired with training, for example.

Nuttall also says to implement talent development initiatives for sustainment. Talent development professionals need to enable employees to act upon what is learned, and to revisit content in order to retain and continuously implement what is learned.

How do your employees act upon what is learned?

At BlueBottleBiz, members read a book or view a video, discuss the learned concepts in groups or private messages, and collaborate with peers to reiterate concepts and develop new ideas.

Were you at the ATD Houston Fall Conference or another recent talent development event, and would like to share your key takeaways? If so, leave a comment below. If you like what you’ve read here, please share this article with your networks.