Tuesday session image Conference Daily

Reporter's Notebook: Summaries of Tuesday ATD 2019 Sessions

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Innovative Initiatives to Address Talent Shortages
We’ve all heard about the talent shortage we’re likely to face—that is, if we’re not experiencing it already. A group of talent development professionals provided insight into their organizations’ innovative initiatives to obtain talent from largely untapped sources.

Tiffany Curry, North America Dealer human resource consultant with Caterpillar; Abby Davisson, senior director, Gap Foundation; Megan Hansen, senior vice president of people, MOD Pizza; and Kevin Scherer, senior manager, employee & corporate social responsibility, Tyson Foods, served as panelists for the session “America’s Got Hidden Talent: How to Recruit, Retain, and Advance Employees From Hidden Talent Pools.” Nicole Trimble, managing director of talent rewire at FSG, moderated the panel.

A mere 11 percent of American adults attained their four-year college degree within five or so years. We are building jobs for a talent pool that doesn’t exist, noted Trimble. Tyson Foods is one company that has a diverse worker population, in part required because most of its facilities are in rural areas. The company needs to hire—and promote—the talent that is available. The necessary development for its frontline workers isn’t so much around traditional competencies and skills, said Scherer, but about personal stability. So, ways to manage healthcare and taxes and interact in the community are important.

A key part of “This Way Ahead,” a Gap Foundation program focuses on 16 to 24-year-olds from low-income areas, is peer support. The program teams up a “big sib” with a new employee. The big sib often participated in the program as a new employee, explained Davisson. Gap provides a checklist for both the new hire and big sib to assist them with their check-ins.

Several participants emphasized that managers, too, need training. Davisson mentioned using role play with managers for the issues they should be coaching their new employees on. Setting aside time for intentional coaching helps to ensure that these conversations occur.

Caterpillar reshaped its leadership development to begin as an internal process. When asked about recruiting, Curry explained that her company goes to low-performing minority schools for potential new talent.

Panelists also provided best practices for others on starting programs to find hidden talent, including offering some of their company’s statistics on return on investment. Expect imperfection, Hansen explained. Also important, she added, is “being authentic with what you’re doing.”

Curry suggested that organizations “think fast and act slow”—that is, pilot a new program with a small group first. Davisson suggested measuring from the start. Enrollees of the program are tagged and followed through their employee journey. This helps compare longevity, advancement, and other aspects of employee populations.

Scherer echoed other panelists’ comments and advised to “learn the love language of your C-suite”—that is, learning about its pain points and what leadership wants to see measured. Look for partners and relations that are not just synthetic but also empathetic.


Get Good at the Game
Standard e-learning has always had its flaws, including its inability to engage learners. In “Beyond Gamification: Think Like a Game Designer to Create Engaging, Meaningful Instruction,” Karl Kapp of Bloomsburg University walked attendees through ways in which learners gain interest in and retain information most effectively.

During the session, Kapp practiced what he preached. Within a gamified design, attendees were split into two groups—one for each of two fictional students—with the goal of finding their professor, who was lost in an unknown part of the world. Whichever team answered the most questions surrounding best practices as an instructional designer was declared the winner.

Along the way, Kapp’s design revealed many facts surrounding the use of gamification—some better known than others. His approach proved that curiosity, control, fantasy, cooperation, competition, and recognition were among the top stimulants for learning; this is known as Thomas W. Malone’s Theory of Intrinsically Motivated Instruction.

During the game, he also taught attendees the art of spaced retrieval (spreading out your learning, as opposed to cramming) and retrieval practice (repetitive techniques, such as self-quizzing). When combined, the two practices increase retention by an average of 46 percent. In addition, he noted that success in the game should be difficult to stretch learners but achievable. Learners are more likely to take on more challenges after overcoming a small one.

Correct Your Collaboration Techniques
For some time, collaborating on files at work has been harder than it should be. In his session “Office 365: Unravel the Mystery and Get More Done!” Mike Song, from, introduced attendees to the many features within Microsoft Office 365 that employees and employers alike should be leveraging.

First, he clarified that attendees can use Office 365 from three different platforms: desktop, browser, and mobile—which he labels as “DBM.” While the desktop version is the most familiar to users, the browser functionality improves auto-save, auto-sync, sharing, multimodal, and shortcutting capabilities. The mobile version also simplifies quick edits and email perusing.


Song discussed some best practices in saving files, such as when to use OneDrive and SharePoint, numbering files by priority or chronologically to override alphabetical arrangement, and creating shortcuts.

He also strongly emphasized utilizing Teams, which he views as Office 365’s improved version of Skype. Messaging within Teams is much the same as Skype, but you can also more easily view your personal activity, search through archived conversations, and share links and files within conversations. Your teams within Teams can be as large or small as you want and can also contain sub-channels. In essence, Teams has the ability to eliminate the need for email.

Develop, Rather Than Critique, Employees
Performance-related discussions are often difficult for employees and managers. In “Reimagining Performance Conversations: Fair, Focused & Frequent,” Janice Burns of DDI and Cory Kreeck of BeachBody drove home the importance of employee development as opposed to strictly performance critique. You shouldn’t be afraid to have difficult conversations, in part because you may be making them too difficult.

DDI research has uncovered that being fair and transparent at all levels, focusing on development, and having continuous (not yearly) conversations should be the top three practices for performance management. However, only 34 percent follow all three rules. Rating systems also can be counterproductive in performance management, but only 19 percent of organizations have moved away from them.

Kreeck sees the move to true performance management as a four-pronged process, starting with making goals matter. You must also create transparency, establish a coaching culture, and deliver accountability.

In the case of BeachBody, the company’s initial switch was to set goals the same way they always had but triple the frequency of conversations from annually to quarterly and center them around coaching. They also began to set SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely) goals and have employees critique leaders’ goals. Over time, that evolved into having employees set three to five business goals, one career goal, and one leadership goal based on whether a leader’s team collectively reached its goals.

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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