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Thursday Snapshot: Highlights of Virtual Conference Sessions

Thursday, June 4, 2020

The Association for Talent Development’s Virtual Conference offers 100 hours of on-demand content, and many of these sessions are eligible for certification and recertification points. Here are highlights of some of the sessions. To explore all on-demand content, visit

Doing the Work of Engagement
Track: Learning Sciences

It’s not enough to get learners to take part in digital learning experiences. What’s important is that they are engaged. And while engagement isn’t the only metric by which talent development professionals measure the success of digital learning experiences, it is the most fundamental.

In her session, “Driving User Engagement in Digital Learning,” Becky Willis, founder and principal at WillLearn Consulting, highlights ways to drive engagement.

By and large, the importance of engagement is readily understood in the talent development community. Instead of making the case for why engagement is important, Willis focuses her discussion on the steps to take for establishing or refining a sound engagement strategy. She points out that there are five areas to address when seeking to drive engagement in digital learning: need, content, champions, marketing, and metrics.

She notes that she has facilitated entire workshops on each of those five elements. Her Virtual Conference session is an overview designed to help professionals better understand engagement and its deeper mechanics.

“Engagement is work,” says Willis. And as we become more futuristic and contemporary in delivery, she wants the talent development community to know that it’s not the technology that will drive engagement but rather careful planning and strategy.

Onboarding Reboot
Track: Talent Strategy & Management

Not only is the way we work changing, so is the workforce. Millennials are moving into leadership positions, and a whole new generation is making its grand entrance into the work world. In his session, “Onboarding the Next Generation of Talent,” Phil Gwoke, keynote speaker and generational consultant at BridgeWorks, articulates how organizations can optimize the onboarding experience for Generation Z.

Prefacing this presentation with a caveat, Gwoke notes that while individuals vary, generational cohorts share commonalities. He dedicates a good portion of his session to helping attendees understand each generation’s communication preferences. Using that information as a springboard, Gwoke then discusses how those differences affect their work ethic.

For Gen Z, Gwoke says companies cannot tackle onboarding in one-day or one-week events and suggests key objectives for different stages of a more holistic process. Also, he challenges the common stereotypes associated with Gen Z, helping listeners see them in a new light.

Yes, we’re in a multigenerational workforce, but it is often the youngest generation that tends to have the greatest influence on challenging and changing what society thinks is important in the world. Having a general understanding of Gen Z’s values, workstyles, and other information is key to creating a harmonious work culture that everyone can enjoy.


Neuro-insights Into Relationships and Learning
Track: Global Perspectives

In the session “From Hype to Performance,” Margie Meacham, Ria Van Dinteren, and Stella Collins—the Brain Ladies, as they are called (Katelijn Nijsmans, managing partner of The Tipping Point, is a fourth member of the group)—lead a primer on neuroscience and how the brain works, especially during times of change. Meacham, chief freedom officer for Learningtogo, emphasizes that our brains are changing all the time. Currently we’re in an almost unprecedented time when everyone around the world is having to deal with a similar challenge at the same time.

David Rock’s SCARF (status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, fairness) model helps us understand and collaborate with each other. Van Dinteren, director for Breinwrk BV, explained what each of the five letters stand for.

A manager can, for example, take into consideration how team members feel about status when making a change. If there’s a reorganization that will eliminate “senior” from some employee titles, thinking about how that will affect people can help the manager deliver the news. Van Dinteren is from The Netherlands and says, to her, titles don’t make that much of a difference, but to others that may very well be important.

Certainty and the ability to predict the future are limited in our current worldwide situation. This is true for leaders. However, they can be transparent with employees, letting them know when they will be able to share additional information.

Also during the session, Collins—chief learning officer for Brain Ladies—provides guidance on keeping the brain healthy, describing the different brain frequency levels and the related activity. While all brain waves are present at all times, some will dominate depending on the activity.

For example, slow delta waves are present in the individual who is sleeping, as are theta waves, which occur when people are dreaming. Faster brain waves are the beta waves, which are present during physical and mental exercise and challenge. And gamma waves are present during light bulb moments. To keep the brain healthy, we need a mix of these activities.

Creating a Canvas for Your Learners
Track: Virtual Training

If you’re looking for tools to add to your facilitation toolkit, Joshua Davies, founder and lead conversation architect of Knowmium, offers many during his session “Radically Remote: Take Your Virtual Training From Basic to Bold.”


It’s no surprise that live, online learning has seen an uptick in recent months. This has been brought on, in significant part, by learner demand.

Given everything that is occurring with corporate learning, and more specifically with the shift to increased online learning, Davies poses the question: Is the way we did things before the way we’d like to do things next?

He invites L&D practitioners to change their thinking about online learning to make it more about the learner experience. That learner experience comes at the confluence of motivation, interaction, and landscape.

Learners’ needs are always important, but they are even more important when you shift your training online, he says. When facilitators do so, they all too often focus on the technology, rather than on adhering to familiar strategies and “getting teaching right.”

How can you make online learning meaningful and create a canvas for interaction and engagement? To do this, Davies says to consider three facets: technology, human element, and expectation setting.

Give learners the opportunity to play with the tools ahead of the course, he advises. That way they won’t feel shame for not knowing how to use them during the training. Ensure that learners know they are expected to be participants and not passengers. And in advance of the training, let learners know the what’s in it for me aspect.

Davies spends the final several minutes of his presentation demonstrating tools that can help integrate a canvas into the training landscape. This can get you away from a participant-crowded Zoom screen and help redirect our thinking about online spaces. One tool he points to enables you to create different training spaces.

If you’re new to online training, Davies recommends giving yourself permission to be in beta stage. As long as you are authentic, learners will cut you some slack and be your co-collaborators.

Share your ATD Virtual Conference experience on social media. #ATDVirtualConference

About the Author

Connection Point is the daily news source written by ATD staff for the ATD Virtual Conference, relaying news, session coverage, and other updates.

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