The ATD International Conference and Exposition is undoubtedly one of the best shows for learning and development pros to attend, and this year was no exception. Last month, I had the opportunity to travel to Denver and attend 26 sessions at ATD. From the opening keynote to the individual sessions this is a great show offering many broad choices and opportunities for everyone to learn something. Reflecting on the overall experience, there are three major themes repeated throughout the event that anyone can apply today and see immediate results.
1. Make it Easy
Your success depends on making it easy for your customers, whether they are learners, executives, team members, your staff or your supervisor. Here’s how you can make it easier:
- When communicating get to the point quickly and be succinct. Apply this at every level, whether it’s presentation and approval for a major project, content development, a blog entry, or an email to a colleague.
- Learn to speak the language of your audience, rather than asking them to translate what is familiar to you. Besides making it easy, meeting them on their turf in this way builds good will and respect.
- Make is easy for stakeholders to say yes when seeking approval of projects and initiatives. Provide supporting data, anticipate objections, and address skepticism up front. Success metrics make it easier for stakeholders to understand the need and impact of your proposal because they’re in their language, not yours.
- Learning content must be easy to find, easy to consume, and easy to apply. This is huge for end-users! On the content curation side, sharpen your marketing skills and optimize discovery of your content. People don’t have a lot of time on their hands, so think about developing micro content wherever it’s possible, or break large courses into smaller chunks.
- Identify your allies and champions and make it easy for them help you. Going beyond providing tools and resources that help managers diagnose skills gaps by offering recommend training that predicts what the team needs to learn based on their profiles. This will strategically build your team’s skills, making success easier for everyone involved.
2. Leverage Resources You Already Have
Budget dollars are at a higher premium than ever, so don’t underestimate the power of your creativity and allies to kick start a virtuous cycle of success that pays off with access to the financial resources you need. Here’s a few tips on how to leverage the resources you already have:
- Extend your project influence and success with stakeholder allies. By speaking their language, asking what success looks like to them, and understanding their concerns up front you can make it easy for them to support you.
- Extend your learning engagement through early adopter allies. The secret to successful engagement is to find champions who believe in your goals and are willing to help, and then winning them over and keeping them engaged by making it easy for them to assist.
- Extend your content development resources by harnessing subject matter experts and user generated content. Timely content of minimum quality beats high quality content delivered too late. Define a tiered quality structure based on urgency, audience and legal or regulatory needs. Develop tools, resources and review processes appropriate to each tier.
- Stay focused on one goal to help limit complexity and resource consumption.
A little creativity goes a long way when you’re trying to squeeze more money out of your budget, justify costs and achieve success! Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.
3. Begin With The End in Mind
Addressing big organizational challenges is hard, and many of the largest and well attended sessions had teams sharing the keys to success. The number one key to success they all had in common was know your end goal and stay focused on it. Some examples of how this was successfully applied are:
- One popular session shared the experiences of a large retail franchise reinvigorating an existing learning management system (LMS) to stream video training sessions. They initially started the project to replace their existing LMS, and along the way they discovered their existing LMS had the capability to meet their goals. However when the software was implemented years earlier their goal of streaming video didn’t exist. With the goal of prominently displaying video based content at the forefront of their minds, they relaunched their LMS and grew engagement providing a much better return on investment.
- Another organization shared their experience with implementing an LMS for the first time. They founded the project by measuring how profit was correlated to learning. Building on this revenue metric, as well as the importance of engagement, they minimized implemented features and maximized internal marketing. By continuing to measure their profit to learning metric and sharing out results broadly, they created a cycle of gaining more allies, stronger internal marketing, more resource availability and expanded features.
- Achieving Kirkpatrick level four isn’t easy, but I attended multiple sessions where organization’s shared their success in achieving level four. The common theme among those who achieved level four is that they started by figuring out what success at level four looks like to them, then defined success at each lower level before implementing the improvement program. They made it easy for their customer by using the customer’s definition of success and existing success metrics, then correlating learning to those measures.
Rolling out major learning initiatives can be an overwhelming task, but if you focus on making it easy, leveraging the resources you already have and begin with the end in mind, you’ll be in a better position to achieve success.
What did you think of ATD 2016 this year? Leave a comment below!