Synchronous and asynchronous training, mobile learning and gaming, gauging training's return on investment, and a NASCAR pit crew experience were among the highlights at this year's Training 2007 Conference & Expo at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort and Convention Center in Orlando, FL, February 26 to 28. Here, from our editors' notepads, a recap of the show, which drew more than 2,300 attendees to learn from more than 150 session speakers and to visit with more than 100 exhibitors.
>> A networking breakfast to kick off the show included a panel discussion with learning executives from Booz Allen Hamilton, IBM, Ritz-Carlton, Lockheed Martin, Verizon Wireless, and Wyeth Pharmaceutical. Booz's Aimee George-Leary spoke of her firm's use of its Employee Development Framework; IBM's Nancy Lewis described "reinventing" sales learning; Ritz-Carlton's Diana Oreck illustrated her company's approach to "casual elegance"; Verizon's Lou Tedrick put the spotlight on tuition assistance; Lockheed's Marilyn Blackburn described the company's executive coaching model; and Wyeth's Mack Thompson discussed the process of conducting a skills gap analysis.
>> Thomas Stewart, editor and managing director of Harvard Business Review, was "Talking About What Matters Most" as the show's first keynoter. Emphasizing a global shift in demand to the east to countries such as Russia, India, and China, and a generational sea change with the impending mass boomer retirement, he says companies are facing a "demographic headwind." "How do you get the knowledge of one set of heads into another?" he asks, encouraging trainers to do the same. To aid in answering that question, he says to consider "The Three Pillars of Knowledge": Knowledge as what companies consume and produce; as an asset that separates winners from losers; and knowledge as it defines work.
>>"Making Training Stick" was on the mind of Carolyn Balling, manager of Professional Development for the Northern California Human Resources Association. Learners tend to remember about 10 percent of what you teach them, but usually not the same 10 percent, she notes. During instruction, try concentrating "on a few related, consistent concepts or skills, and make sure they are learned well or mastered"; tie content to their jobs and company strategy; and have participants "observe each other in practice situations and give constructive coaching and feedback."
>> At "Bringing the Learning to Work," day two's morning keynote address from IBM's Vice President of On-demand and Sales Learning Nancy Lewis, the use of technology to reach an increasingly dispersed workforce with the knowledge they need, when they need it, was up for exploration. More than half of IBM's employees are based outside the U.S., Lewis explains. How widely they're dispersed hasn't impacted how much they're valued, she stresses. "Our biggest innovation is not the many patents [we were] awarded this year; our biggest innovation is the IBMer."
>> David Metcalf of the Institute for Simulation and Training at the University of Central Florida spoke to the increasing usefulness of mobile learning (m-learning), or learning via mobile devices such as MP3 players and personal digital assistants (PDAs). Its ability to reach learners in the field, in their hands, on-demand, is "perfect for performance support," he says. The growing popularity of m-learning can be attributed to its ease of use; its expanded access to learning; the convenience it affords harried employees, such as traveling sales reps; and improved technology, including increased mobile coverage and battery life.
>>"The Science of Happiness" was on the agenda at a keynote given by Dan Gilbert, Harvard College professor of psychology and author of "Stumbling on Happiness." Gilbert shared anecdotes and research related to his study of how well the human brain can predict what will make it happy.
>>"Gallup Analysis: How Diversity and Inclusion Drive Business Outcomes" with Amy J. Zuckerman, performance consultant for The Gallup Organization, expounded on the importance of an engaged workforce. Engaged employees result in lower absenteeism, turnover, and shrinkage (loss or theft of goods), and higher safety, productivity, profitability, and customer engagement. According to Gallup, 25 percent of the workforce is engaged; 55 percent are not engaged; and 20 percent are actively disengaged, meaning they're spreading their unhappiness.
>> Christine Pope of Christine Pope Consulting, LLC, offered attendees a view of life as a training consultant in "Kiss Corporate Goodbye! Evaluating Independent Consulting." You may be consultant material if you're comfortable taking calculated risks, content to work alone much of the time, are methodical and organized, outgoing and able to discuss your strengths, and can motivate yourself throughout long projects.
>> Annabelle Gurwitch, the author of "Fired: Tales of the Canned, Canceled, Downsized, & Dismissed," who also produced a made-for-TV film based on the book, told audiences in a keynote presentation of her personal journey after getting fired by her idol, Woody Allen. Gurwitch, who gathered stories from friends on the subject of job loss, advised the audience to think of layoffs in philosophical terms: the universe's way of saying you were meant to do something else.
>> Ajay M. Pangarkar, president of workplace learning and performance solutions provider CentralKnowledge, and co-author of "Building Business Acumen for Trainers: Skills to Empower the Learning Function," spoke to participants about "Integrating Learning Strategies into the Balanced Scorecard (BSC)." The BSC maps an organization's strategic objectives into performance metrics from a financial, internal process, customer, and learning and growth perspective. He encouraged trainers to ask how their department's strategic initiatives contributed to a change in company performance.
>> "Igniting the Creative Spark" was on the agenda when Lyn Heward, former president, creative content for Cirque du Soleil, presented the last keynote of the conference. Employees need to be challenged, she says, to "move beyond analysis and mechanics, and into the moment." Heward, who described Cirque's hiring and audition process, says the company "hires not for who they are now, but who they may become." A high value also is placed on collaboration.