Winter 2017
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CTDO Magazine

Turning to Learning in Times of Change

Friday, December 15, 2017

Advancements in technology are helping talent analytics transform—from descriptive to predictive to prescriptive.

Most organizations experience change in some form. Seven in 10 organizations have seen a major change in the past two years, whether that change comes from expanding, downsizing, restructuring, or merging. The battle is knowing how to navigate it.


When major changes occur, it often falls on talent development to help protect and shape culture. ATD Research and the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) surveyed 533 talent development leaders to explore how organizations tap learning during times of transition. These insights were published in the research report Culture and Change: Protecting and Shaping Culture During Transitions, sponsored by Workday.

The report data reveal that 60 percent of organizations include talent development in defining culture and planning for culture modifications. Talent development is most likely to use learning content to meet this challenge: 72 percent of respondents address culture issues that arise from change by developing new learning content and adding topic areas, and 71 percent adapt and revise existing learning content. Learning delivery is another area for modification, as 66 percent explore new learning delivery methods. The report finds that when change occurs, organizations would do well to re-evaluate their learning strategies to ensure that they align with the post-change culture.

One of ATD Research's 10-Minute Case Studies examines how an organization tapped learning to manage change. In 2014, Sonic Automotive launched three pre-owned car dealerships and implemented a new business model that focused on making the customer experience more efficient and enjoyable. The company's talent development team responded to this change by working with its learning and development team to create fresh learning content to train employees at the added dealerships on the business model, company culture, and job skills.

Specifically, Sonic Automotive's L&D team partnered with an external supplier to develop instruction that would train employees on the new business model, along with position-specific learning content. The core instruction was delivered via face-to-face traditional training, and the team used the classroom time as an opportunity to start developing the new dealerships' culture as well, which emphasized treating peers with personal and professional respect.

Their approach was a success. Customers left positive reviews on websites like Yelp and praising the dealerships' low-pressure environment and timely service. Furthermore, employees at the new dealerships enjoyed the positive work environment set by the culture, evidenced by a retention rate of 70 percent, which is 10 percent higher than the industry average.

Major Changes Most Companies Experience

72%: Significant change in organizational structure (other than merger or acquisition)

37%: Significant workforce downsizing

35%: Merger or acquisition

28%: Domestic expansion (added locations in HQ country)

18%: Regional expansion (added locations outside HQ country, but within same world region)

17%: Global expansion (added locations outside HQ country and in a different world region)

30%: Other

Six Ways Talent Development Addresses Culture and Change

ATD Research and i4cp asked study respondents what strategies their talent development function applies to address culture-related issues arising from change.


72%: Develop new learning content and add topic areas

63%: Increase communication to employees

71%: Adapt and revise existing learning content

58%: Develop new messaging to employees to support the current culture change

66%: Explore new learning delivery methods

54%: Adapt existing learning delivery methods

Read more from CTDO magazine: Essential talent development content for C-suite leaders.

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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