Friday, May 30, 2014

Association for Talent Development: Is This the Right Move?

So the American Society for Training and Development's (ASTD) has been retired and in its place we now have the Association for Talent Development (ATD).  The re-branding of the association is intended to reflect the wider influence that learning and development professionals have within their organizations. I question how this will play out over time.

Clearly, the training and development profession has seen great changes over the past decade or so. The distinction of learning versus training has taken hold to the point where some shudder when they hear the function still referred to as training and development.

We have seen an epiphany of sorts where "progressive" learning and development professionals have come to realize that learning interventions need to be tied to the business drivers, challenges, and breakdowns an organization faces. This realization has led to an expansion of skill sets to now include business analysis and performance consulting. The validation of learning and development interventions has resulted in much more emphasis placed on measuring and evaluating the business impact than ever before. And this too, has required an expansion of the traditional learning and development skill set.

So what is my concern regarding the new branding of the ASTD? With Talent Development, the ASTD jumps into the Talent Management world which appears to me to be a re-branding of the traditional Human Resources and Personnel function. Check out any Talent Management department and you will see a Talent Development or Training / Learning function built into its design.

When I think about it, how can you develop talent effectively unless you understand what the ideal talent looks like, how to find them, how to motivate them, how to develop them, and how to promote them? Will the ATD seek to expand the core competencies and skill sets of their members. I don't see how it cannot. This would imply a new set of skills that would include:

**  competency modeling

**  organization development and organization effectiveness
**  recruitment and selection
**  professional development
**  compensation
**  leadership development
**  succession planning

A very small percentage of the ASTD members that I work with today have this skill set. This is much more of an HR skill set. So I am left wondering if the ATD understands the full ramifications of grabbing onto the Talent Development movement. How will the ATD distinguish Talent Development from Talent Management? How will they differentiate themselves from ODNET, SHRM, or other talent management associations and societies?

The other concern that I see is that Talent Development is primarily focused on internal staff. Corporations and organizations seek to develop their talent. But not all of us are focused on internal users. I guess in its most abstract definition, learning and development groups focused on external users are also interested in their client's talent development. But in fact, they are mostly focused on providing learning solutions that enable their customers to optimally benefit from their company's products or services. Talent development is not really the concern so the new branding misses the mark for that significant percentage of the ATD membership.

I understand what the ATD is trying to do. They probably could have achieved the same goal by a more simple re-branding which replaced Training with Learning. Learning and development professionals provide a uniquely focused service to the communities and entities that they serve. Over the past decade or so the profession has made great strides in being seen as differentiators in the marketplace and not just an expense to an organization. I wonder if in the long run, this new re-branding will be counter-productive to the gains the profession has achieved. Time will tell how this all shakes out. What do you think?