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ATD Blog

Relationship-Based Consulting: A New Approach for a New Era

Monday, May 15, 2023

“These are unprecedented times” is perhaps one of the most overused and misunderstood expressions of the last three years. The phrase is so often used to describe circumstances surrounding the global pandemic that we’ve become numb to its significance, especially as learning professionals. So let’s unpack this phrase.

“Unprecedented times” means never before seen or experienced. It’s true that learning professionals are experiencing an unprecedented opportunity to create a unique culture of learning in today’s workforce environment. Data and research studies demonstrate that employees seek opportunities for development while employers need to retain their workforce talent.

A recent article in Harvard Business Review (HBR) indicated that “in 2022, business leaders faced an increasingly ‘unpredictable environment,’ with evolving return-to-office policies, higher employee turnover, and a burned-out workforce.” In 2023, organizations will continue to face significant challenges: a competitive talent landscape, an exhausted workforce, and pressure to control costs amid a looming economic downturn. “How employers respond,” HBR notes, “could determine whether they are an employer of choice.”

In a recent Society for Human Resource Management article written by Lisa Rabasca Roepe, professional development was number 2 on the list of needs for the coming year. “Professional development will help companies prepare for a period of economic uncertainty, and instead of hiring new talent, managers will train workers to have the needed skills to sustain their business [es].” Employees value the ability to learn new skills so much that 83 percent of workers rank it as their top priority for 2023, according to a recent study by Boston-based research firm Workplace Intelligence. The study also found that 74 percent of employees are willing to leave their current jobs due to a lack of skill building and career mobility opportunities.


Savvy learning professionals will leverage this reality to create and sustain a culture of learning through intentional relationship building. In our session at ATD23, Relationship-Based Consulting: A New Approach for a New Era, we’ll explore shifting from order-takers to order-getters by cultivating intentional, ongoing relationships. We’ll discuss how to maximize an organization’s awareness of learning and development opportunities and how our roles support and advance an organization’s goals.

Join this interactive session on Sunday, May 21, at 10:30 a.m. as we discover the benefits of a relationship-based approach in these unprecedented times.

About the Author

Sandra Marsh-McClain is a seasoned professional with 20+ years of speaking experience. Currently a learning specialist with UPMC, Sandra develops learning opportunities for new and aspiring leaders and staff. Previously, Sandra held roles as a senior program manager in workforce development as well as a staff development specialist in higher education. Sandra holds a MSHRM in Organizational Learning, Development and Change Management and is a member of the Board of Directors for the Pittsburgh ATD Chapter.

About the Author

Jennifer Kennedy is a trainer and coach with over 15 years of experience in learning and development in the education technology, non-profit, and health care industries. Her expertise is in leadership development, creating engaging learning experiences, and utilizing technology in learning. Jennifer holds a Master of Arts in Education (Curriculum and Development) from California State University Long Beach and a Professional Coach certificate from Duquesne University.

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