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ATD 2019 Session Summaries

Thursday, May 23, 2019

When to Measure
Don’t measure for the sake of measuring; it may be a sign that you don’t know what you should measure. Dave Vance presented “Talent Development Reporting Principles: Your Guide to Measurement and Reporting for L&D,” discussing how to use data to your advantage.

Vance splits rationale for data collection and distribution into four categories: inform, monitor, evaluate, and manage. Your data don’t need to answer every business-related question if they aren’t all challenges that need to be addressed. He also views data as measuring effectiveness, efficiency, or outcome. Effectiveness begins with a measure of satisfaction, with impact and return on investment as high-level evaluations. Efficiency generally deals with offering as many X variables as possible. Last, outcome can be viewed as synonymous with impact, which isn’t always essential to consider.

Your goals in regard to what to measure and why it’s being measured will then dictate how it’s presented. For example, a dashboard is a good way to show metrics on informative metrics or those that you wish to monitor. In terms of specific initiatives to measure, compliance learning can include number of participants, completion rate, and completion date for efficiency and Level 2 (learning) for effectiveness. The outcome may be irrelevant, unless there’s a particular change that you hope compliance training will drive.

Who Owns This Bot?
Have you heard of robotics process automation (RPA)? That was the first polling question asked of attendees in the session “Leveraging Automation to Deploy Scalable Learning Programs and Increase Learning Function Efficiency.”

Rebecca Knuth, manager, and Minal Voyer, senior manager, both of people advisory services of EY, gave participants a glance into their experience with using RPA in their word.

RPA leverages software to mimic human behavior to help reduce repetitive and time-intensive tasks that don’t require cognitive thinking, allowing employees to take on more strategic, higher value work.

According to McKinsey & Company, 85 percent of a typical firm’s more than 900 processes can be automated. RPA can add value to a variety of people functions—at the hiring stage as it relates to onboarding (for example, Voyer mentioned the creation of employee IDs, ensuring that new employees have a workspace and computer, and generating an email to the manager).


The first six months of Knuth and Voyer’s dive into RPA were rather haphazard, admitted Voyer. At that point, they began to take a more structured approach. They realized processes would need to change or they would need to implement new ones—such as around ownership of the bot or automation. There also were policy issues to consider relative to the bot. If learners need to complete course A before course B, by what time: the day before, 8 a.m. the day of and in what time zone?

Note: This presentation was for the purposes of enhancing knowledge and did not represent EY’s views.

Ready, Set, Activate
ATD 2019 attendees could spend an entire day talking about barriers to making the most of talent. In the session “Challenge, Engage, Ignite: How to Leverage Blended Learning Solutions to Activate Talent and Drive,” among the pain points raised were not having the right people in the right roles, shifting or changing priorities, lack of transparency, and not having the necessary data. John Aquilino, manager of skills gap training, and Elizabeth Thurman, manager of product development, both of DeVryWORKS, facilitated this exhibitor session.

While training is singular, insular, and a quick fix, talent activation is intentional, consistent, ongoing, and organization-wide. Talent activation doesn’t necessarily require a large budget or a lot of time. But what is required is an executive sponsor. Without that person, nothing will get done.


The presenters walked attendees through several talent challenges, such as retention and engagement and customer service and communication. The facilitators then explained L&D pathways for each challenge. For example, for the automotive industry manufacturer with challenges around supervisory development, a program was built that included the DiSC assessments that were a core component of the organization’s earlier development program, but the assessments were incorporated into a larger blended learning program as touchpoints.

Following the case studies, participants were asked to work through an exercise that included the “challenge, engage, and ignite” elements for a multigenerational workforce that needed to improve soft skills.

Enhance Your Pre-Workshop Experience
As important as training programs can be, employees often go into them with the wrong mindset. In “Secret Trainer’s Business: How to Excite Learners Before a Workshop,” Tania Tytherleigh from Master Trainers Institute Australia provided useful strategies for providing engaging content up front to keep learners interested.

One step that could go a long way is including an impressive welcome video. Put some thought into where to film, what to say, and when you’ll say it.

It’s also important to keep pre-work simple. Tytherleigh typically has learners watch the welcome video, view a relevant Ted talk, and list three challenges they have on the subject. Overall, here are some goals that you should have for your pre-work content:

  • Introduce your topic.
  • State the name of the workshop and details about it.
  • Share the purpose of the video and outline the program.
  • Define why the topic and content are important.
  • Send any necessary task related to the content—this tends to get them invested before they begin.

Tytherleigh also recommended using the lumpy mail method. This method makes your standard shipped item stand out against the rest of the recipient’s mail, often due to larger packaging. It also improves open rate, albeit at a financial price. None of the pre-work and reminders you set forth matter if learners don’t see them.

About the Author

The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is a professional membership organization supporting those who develop the knowledge and skills of employees in organizations around the world. The ATD Staff, along with a worldwide network of volunteers work to empower professionals to develop talent in the workplace.

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