5 Things I Learned @ATDps 2015

Note: Originally published on LinkedIn.

On Wednesday, I attended the Association for Talent Development (ATD) Puget Sound Chapter’s 2015 Workplace Learning Conference. It was a great experience for a newbie to the field like myself, and I left the event with a new perspective on learning, change, and the future of both in the workplace. Here are five of my favorite takeaways from the day:

1. Engagement is at the heart of team cohesiveness, productivity, and ultimately, job satisfaction.

An engaged employee is more likely than a disengaged one to produce great work, contribute thoughtfully in meetings, and stay with a company for a longer period of time. How do you measure engagement? Theresa Kinney of BlessingWhite introduced the ‘X’ Model of Employee Engagement, which maps individual goals and organizational goals to help identify how engaged an employee is. Depending on where your employee falls on the spectrum, you can employ different tactics to reinforce engagement or address problem areas – for leaders, this typically involves asking tough questions and really listening to the responses. It’s especially important, though, to watch out for your own engagement levels. As Theresa said, “a dead battery can’t jump start another.”

2. Change is difficult, but workplace learning is valuable and worth the monetary and time investment.

In her keynote presentation, Sheila Delaney Duke presented “the case for the status quo,” which I sum up as, “change is hard and expensive.” Yes, it certainly is, but the payoffs are immensely valuable. As a lifelong learner myself, I know the importance of continually bringing new experiences, perspectives, and information into my sphere of influence. But sometimes it’s tough to translate that into clear ROI, to convince budget-conscious directors and executives that nurturing change will pay off in the end. To that end, an afternoon breakout session led by Lisa Ann Edwards and Nicole Davenport focused on how to measure both employee satisfaction and the monetary impact of learning and development.

3. Social and environmental responsibility is important to younger generations, and this is rapidly changing the landscape for businesses.

In an afternoon session, Lisa Fisher presented some emerging corporate frameworks, including B-Corps and Deliberately Developmental Organizations (DDOs), alongside the fact that incoming talent is increasingly interested in social entrepreneurship. According to the 2015 Deloitte Millennial Survey, approximately 3 out of 4 millennials choose their employer based on the company’s purpose, and those companies with a stronger sense of purpose performed better financially, saw higher levels of employee satisfaction, and attracted more new talent than companies without. This changing landscape will directly affect how leaders approach talent acquisition, learning, and development.

4. Employee surveys can do more harm than good if you do nothing with the results.

To get a sense of where strengths and opportunities lie, leaders often rely on employee evaluations, workplace surveys, and other data collection tools. The problem arises when data gets collected, but you do nothing with it. This can happen for any number of reasons – resources may be exhausted, priorities might shift, the person leading the charge could leave the company – but beware of making empty promises! Honor your employees’ contributions to the effort by analyzing the results and taking steps to tackle challenges so no one feels their input is being ignored.

5. The little things are the big things.

Keynote speaker Lisa Ann Edwards began her presentation by introducing and honoring her mentor, who supported and guided her career with “mundane” things like going out for coffee, forwarding interesting articles, and calling to say hello. These small gestures did not disrupt his life or negatively impact his work, but they had a huge impact on Lisa. As leaders, remember that what seems like a little thing to you may make all the difference in your employee’s life. Take small steps to help others take bigger ones.

The ATD conference reinforced for me the value that coaches have in the workplace, and I consider myself lucky to work for a group that is dedicated to learning and development. If you need help with employee engagement, change management, evaluations, and surveys, please reach out to Marquis Leadershiptoday!