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ATD Blog

The Path to Endless Learning


Mon May 22 2023

The Path to Endless Learning

Narrow your focus and use the Talent Development Capability Model to choose your career direction.

Did you make New Year’s resolutions? Or write down goals for 2023? If not, it’s not too late to set a goal for your professional learning. What do you want to do? Maybe, as a leader, you want to improve your ability to listen with empathy or further your cultural awareness capacity by broadening your personal viewpoints.


In this era of change, layoffs, and quick mind shifts, you may aspire to learn how to create an organizational change strategy or become more experienced with some aspect of business acumen. Perhaps you want to expand your skills to create positive learning environments. Or you may be eager to dive into the latest learning technologies.

To narrow down your focus and decide what the next step for you to take should be, the Talent Development Capability Model is one of the tools that can help. It is a broad model with all the capabilities a TD professional should be familiar with to be successful in the field. Note that you can download and translate the definitions of the 23 capabilities into any of six languages: Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, and Spanish.

Take the model’s self-assessment to identify critical skills for your success. Are you, for example, exploring how your organization provides customer service and meets customer satisfaction? Do you consider your proficiency level to be informed, capable, advanced, or an expert? Such questions help you reflect on what you want and need to learn to meet your definition of success.

While the model covers a range of capabilities, certain roles within the profession require a greater proficiency in certain skills—consider, for example, a coach or talent development manager. Thus, different roles will emphasize different skills.

After you complete your self-assessment, choose from one of nine learning pathways: coaching, e-learning professional, HR/OD professional, independent consultant, instructional designer, learning technologist, talent development manager, or trainer/facilitator. You can also choose to prepare for the Associate Professional in Talent Development (APTD), Certified Professional in Talent Development (CPTD), or create your own path. Choosing one of the pathways is key to creating the best plan for your professional development.


As Morgean Hirt, director of credentialing for ATD, explains, “To take \[roles\] into account, ATD created nine role-based paths, as well as two paths for those pursuing certification. Each of these paths was developed from our occupational research, with each path laying out the ‘ideal proficiency scores’ for someone on that path. While each path will cover the entire model, it will take into account the knowledge, skill statements, and capabilities for a particular role where more depth and understanding is needed and where less emphasis is required.”

Therefore, this tactic may result in higher target proficiency scores in learning sciences for an instructional designer, but lower target proficiency scores in performance improvement for that same role. “This is why choosing a path is important,” Hirt continues. “It will help the tool recommend the most-targeted ATD resources to close the gaps most relevant to the role you have—or the role you want.”

ATD staff have curated a list of resources to align with each learning pathway based on an individual’s current expertise level. The “My Learning Path” on the Talent Capability Model page lists your current status along with your target goal. Select resources from among courses, publications, articles, videos, and more. Check out the resources when you have time or add them to your plan for future completion.

If you feel like you have many gaps, ATD recommends starting with just two capabilities to focus your development: one area that will give you added knowledge that you can use on the job today and a second area that covers something that ignites your curiosity or passion.

ATD designed the tool to be an iterative process. You can change your path at any time to see what new gaps it presents. Choosing a new path will not change what is on your current plan; you can always remove resources or reset your entire plan. Remember, learning never stops.


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