2016 ATD Conference summary: Day three
By Staff Writer


The following article was written by Tom Merritt, Principal at Latitude CG:

Latitude was in attendance at the 2016 Association for Talent Development (ATD) conference in beautiful downtown Denver. I'm excited to share a little bit about what I learned from the sessions I attended to provide some insight into what's going on in the Training Industry. Each week I will feature one action-packed day filled with my experiences while attending the four-day ATD Conference.

Day Three Observations
I’ve noticed a thread that seems to underscore every session. This industry is struggling to justify its existence and expense to the organizations it serves. That’s why there is such a hunger for more business data in the training; the people responsible for training want to demonstrate that they are significantly impacting the bottom line for their companies, not just how many people have been trained and when. Thus Eliot Mazie’s comments about instructional designers re-thinking themselves as “Organizational Performance Architects”…

My take on this is that the industry needs to think more creatively about what training means; instead of trying to make more interactive PowerPoints, offer training in more modalities (mobile, in-person, collection of real time feedback data from training events). There needs to be more thought about how to make sure the knowledge of Subject Matter Experts and other sought-after information is made easily available to everyone. This is what training systems should seek to improve.

Session One: ROI in Sales Training
This was conducted by the global program leader of IBM sales training in a very large ballroom, and it was very poorly attended. A few doors away, Google instructional designers ?”) were conducting a session on how to design training content in an even larger ballroom, and it was full 20 minutes before the session started. Was it that everyone wanted to know what Google was doing, but had no interest in the IBM dinosaur?

Those who skipped this session really missed out, it addressed the very things most of these sessions have been saying need to be done in training. Dave Jenkins, the IBM program leader, presented a session on what he did to design, implement, deploy and measure the impact of a global training improvement program that cost $2.8 million but actually increased sales by $163 million. And the results weren’t confirmed not by his own claims, but by an external analytics company hired by another area of IBM to confirm the impact.

The way they accomplished this was to:

  • Contact all the sales subject matter experts within IBM and extract from them best practices and innovative approaches to improving sales.
  • Linked the training program back to the metrics they wanted to impact (sales volume and new clients).
  • Aggressively went out to the sales organizations throughout IBM, promoted the training and what they were trying to accomplish, got these groups to decide which salespeople to enroll in the training (in some cases, those who were underperforming; in other cases, they enrolled everyone, and in yet other cases only those sales staff who were targeting new markets were enrolled) and delivered the training. Finally, they also did some skill gap analysis to find out who else might benefit from the training.
  • Included as part of the training meetings with the SME’s in the areas that the salespeople needed to target.
  • Provided scheduled follow-up “coaching” sessions with the SME’s mentors.
  • Tracked results, not just in terms of who completed the training, but also who completed the follow-up sessions, did the homework, participated in peer sharing and mentoring, and sales results.
As you will note from above, the training was VERY successful. Not because there was great initial content (meaning, a trained speaker who motivated people), but because they created a program that involved initial training, follow-up, mentoring, reinforcement and connection with mentors.

Session Two: Approaches to Social Media for Training
This session was led by two instructors. The Chief Instructional Officer for Lexis Nexis, North America’s largest provider of legal research resources for lawyers and government, and the global training program lead for Ericsson (which built most of the cell phone infrastructure around the world and sold it to Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, etc.)

Lexis Nexis makes extensive use of social media groups to reinforce training. He can’t mandate participation in social media, but he strongly encourages it, and provides many links to join the various groups during whatever training occurs.

They have internal Facebook-like portals for people to join and share information about:

  • The tools and services that Lexis Nexis offers to their clients (employees need to know how these work if they responsible for support to clients)
  • Sales best practices
  • Social media advisory group (employees had to apply to get chosen; after being chosen they had a free 2-day trip to Twitter and Facebook to learn how to better leverage these in the company).
These social media groups are almost exclusively intended to reinforce and explore new ways of applying previously consumed training. He said they are invaluable to reinforcing what is taught. I went to speak to him afterwards about how they track all this, and he said that they don’t really track the social media participation, because they don’t want employees thinking the company is monitoring every single post they make. Thus, they don’t track this information in their LMS. However, they do post leaderboards identifying who is doing the most posting and who is the most active in the social media groups. (CAVEAT: During my second day here in the Eliot Mazie presentation, he indicated that his research showed that the people who are most active in social media are critics, belligerent and disaffected people, so be careful how much you encourage and set up competition for participating in social media; you may get exactly what you did NOT want!)

The presenter also mentioned that he doesn’t try to create new communities, but rather provide a way for existing communities to collaborate more easily and post information.

Next was the global training program leader for Ericsson. Their issue was sales; the infrastructure for telecommunications networks is pretty much built out at this point, so there isn’t a lot of new business there. The company needed new ways of developing revenue by providing additional value to existing clients. There needed to be a culture change in the way they thought about new sales and new markets/services.

She had little time to deploy a program; 6 months to get thousands of sales staff through training. She didn’t speak very long due to time constraints, but she mentioned she used blogging, seminars, brown bag sessions, Ericsson Online Academy and other venues to disseminate and reinforce the training. They had to get 8,000 sales staff through this training in 6 months. They didn’t make the training mandatory; instead, they spent a lot of time doing PR and marketing to their sales staff to get them to participate. They decided to go with online learning content (2.5 hours), on many different platforms, through many different distribution mechanisms. She said they exceeded their sales targets (doubling revenue).

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