ATD Blog

The Key to Innovation in Talent Development

Friday, November 20, 2015

We’ve seen the same thing happening in many areas of our lives: the emergence of new technologies that make things work better, faster, and cheaper. Therefore, it’s no surprise that chief learning officers have been investing heavily in technology. According to the ATD’s 2014 State of the Industry Report, 38 percent of corporate training is now delivered via technology, up from 26 percent a decade ago. 

However, you might be surprised to hear that business and HR leaders say that their corporate learning capabilities actually deteriorated last year. Here’s the rub: shiny new toys like bite-sized video content and gamified LMSs don’t actually fix anything if we keep trying to cram these new square pegs through old round holes. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what’s happening. Brandon Hall Group recently reported, for example, that talent development executives are still more likely to invest in mobile e-learning modules than in less familiar alternatives, like mobile apps or performance support tools. 

What’s really missing from L&D innovation, it seems, are new ways of thinking, leading, managing, and working. But it can be done. Just take a look at these four innovative L&D leaders. 

Thinking Differently 

Truly innovative L&D leaders—like Tesla Motors' Director of Learning & Development Beth Davies—think differently. Beth is challenged to keep up with the onboarding needs of a fast-growing workforce and the training demands of a constantly evolving product line. Here’s where she’s different: her first instinct is not to add more L&D and HR. Instead, she prefers to streamline the employee learning experience by looking for ways to reduce demand for formal training and to create less content, not more. Everybody wins.  


Leading Differently 

MasterCard's Chief Learning Officer Janice Burns also thinks differently. Consequently, she leads differently, too. Janice pushes her team to explore new methods and technologies: 

  • to prioritize learners' needs along with organizational ones
  • to value diversity as well as efficiency
  • to make smaller but more frequent bets
  • to learn from failure, not punish it. 

By adopting an experimental approach to L&D, Janice and her team are helping to build a more entrepreneurial culture across the entire company. 


Managing Differently 

Innovative learning executives also manage differently. Consider Susie Lee, Bank of America's senior vice president of learning and leadership development product management & initiatives. She runs a team of product managers that have varied backgrounds from marketing and technology. Like their counterparts in technology or retail companies, her team integrates business needs and employee insights to deliver products that are relevant and engaging for employees. 

Working Differently 

Crucially, innovative learning professionals make L&D initiatives work differently. Xerox Services already has a track record of investing in new technology. To get the most out of it, VP of Learning Strategy and Delivery Kerry Hearns-Smith and her team are now re-skilling their staff to do more than just design, build, and deliver courses. They're teaching learning consultants, instructional designers, and trainers to manage social learning communities and equipping them to curate learning and guide career development

These talent development executives (and many others) are helping their teams navigate disruption by doing exactly what L&D people are supposed to do: learning and evolving. New technology and content are only the start of this evolution. To paraphrase one CLO, “if you want something different, you also have to do something different.” 

About the Author

VP Product Marketing, Degreed Todd Tauber is the VP of Product Marketing at Degreed, the world's first enterprise learning portal built with the learner in mind. Before joining Degreed, he led the enterprise learning practice at Bersin by Deloitte, Deloitte Consulting's human capital research business. His thought leadership on corporate learning and development (L&D) has been featured by Chief Learning Officer magazine, SHRM, the Association for Talent Development (ATD) as well as The Wall Street Journal.

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