May 20, 2014

Talent Development Isn’t Just About Training

Back in 2001, Britain’s Royal Mail — that venerable institution of postal delivery throughout the United Kingdom, originally conceived and put into service by Charles I in 1635 — decided to change its name to Consignia.


The Chief Executive Officer at the time was John Roberts. He publicly stated that “the new name describes the full scope of what the post office does in a way that the words post and office cannot.”


You can’t make this stuff up.

Needless to say, Royal Mail was resurrected from the lost mail bag name a year later.

That’s an example of a name change gone terribly awry.

Recently, however, another name change has sparked a relative fury for professionals in the learning, talent and HR space.

ATD_logo_webThe ASTD — American Society for Training and Development — recently announced it was changing its name from ASTD to ATD, or Association for Talent Development.

To be clear, this is not an example of Consignia or Royal Mail. In fact, this change is rather refreshing. One might say it’s needed.

ATD got its start in 1943 as the American Society of Training Directors. As Wikipedia suggests, “The organization began in New Orleans during a training committee meeting of the American Petroleum Institute in 1942. The following year, a group of 15 “training men” met for the first board meeting of the American Society of Training Directors.”

From there, it morphed into the American Society of Training and Development and it now possesses thousands of members in more than 100 countries. In the US alone, there are over 120 chapters. There are 26 global networks in other countries as well. In a nutshell, it’s a large, international and community-driven organization supporting  the professionals who aspire to help all facets of professional development inside profit and not-for-profit organizations.

I’ve never liked the term or the acronym ASTD. I felt it did not do justice to what this organization does, and will continue doing for professionals and workers in today’s organizations.

The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is a far superior and clearer name than ASTD or American Society for Training and Development. Aside from the obvious — which is dropping the myopic view of an American-only association, which it never was — the graduation from ‘training and development’ to ‘talent development’ is necessary.

Talent development is not solely about training. Furthermore, when one is developing, delivering or designing ‘training’, I wouldn’t subscribe to it being the only form of talent development.

Talent development is much broader than training.

A training and development only mindset is akin to believing workers in today’s organizations only learn inside of a classroom or a learning management system. It’s as though there is only one form of pie at my local bakery. I may love pecan pie, but from time to time, I love a sky-high lemon meringue pie or the sweet crumble of an apple pie.

Whether via the Pervasive Learning model from Flat Army or through the myriad different ways workers have proven that learning is part formal, informal and social, it all comes back to talent.

Talent is developed inside and outside of ‘training and development’. It comes in the form of coaching, mentoring, job shadowing, wiki’s, blogs, rotations, lectures, books, articles, job aids, leadership models … the list literally goes on and on.

I want an array of pies at the bakery. I believe talent development is that bakery. I believe ‘training and development’ is one type of pie, but the ATD is a bakery that provides all sorts of pies for us to enjoy.

In 1924, a company by the name of Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation decided it would be a good time to rename itself. Leaders thought the name was limiting. Leaders believed they had to expand the definition of the company to include a more international flavour. They also believed they were a one-pie bakery.

What did the Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation change its name to?

Ninety years later, you may be more familiar with the name International Business Machines or IBM.

ATD – not your one-pie talent development bakery.


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