Thursday, May 26, 2011

ASTD 2011 Recap: One Man’s View



It has been an interesting few years for training departments – with advances, setbacks, technologies, and emotions. All of which were reflected in this year's ASTD ICE Annual Conference. Although I didn't attend EVERY session, visit EVERY booth in the Exhibit Hall, or eat at EVERY restaurant (though I tried), here is my own "Top 7 Observations" – this is just my take… Feel free to add to it and turn it from MY list into OURS…


  1. Web 3.0 is going to make an impact – We're just not sure what it is.

    Is Web 3.0 actually more of a web-enabled-device shift… from desktop to tablets? Is it an internet-experience transformation, in which our phone passes information to our computer so that we can pick up where we left off? Is it an unseen-but-expected evolution of social media… Is it less? More? Quite frankly, after speaking with other session attendees, it seems nobody knows.


  2. Time and HUMAN resources are needed more than ever – and they're more scarce.

    I can't even tell you how many times over the last week I have met "The Department" personified by a single human. The most bizarre report I got was from a Training Director who was solely… And I mean SOLELY responsible for every aspect of training for a company of nearly 40,000 people. No names being given, but that company should be put on "Learning Probation"… The greater message, though, is that the ratio between training staff and employees is widening uncomfortably. Even when their responsibilities are growing.


  3. The youth movement has started, but is on hold.

    At ASTD 2008 I attended a session about the youth movement – the kids were taking over. Actually, it was supposed to be by THIS YEAR that the churn would be complete. If I'm remembering correctly the average age of a training professional was supposed to be 27 by this year. Just like the "rapture" it didn't happen. The "old guard" is holding stronger than ever, actually, and even in new-hire case the amount of 50+ hires is beating anyone's prediction.


  4. Social & Informal Learning is a focus – but only for the bold

    Informal & social learning is taking many forms. Community forums, experiential intranet destinations where learners can share their experiences and knowledge nuggets, and (of course) the ubiquitous Facebook & Twitter references were running around ASTD as rampantly as the anoles in the parking lot of our hotel. But in the words of one insurance-industry training professional "We don't touch it (informal learning), there is just far too much information we'd have to screen and control to ensure it aligned with our goals and values".

  5. The effective application of eLearning is still confusing

    In the Exhibit Hall our company was showcasing some new eLearning modules. It was our first crack at it. The reviews were mixed – not on the content or design – but on eLearning itself. It was clear that several of you have been burned with bad courses or systems. And that confusion gets much sharper when the discussion turns to "soft skills" eLearning. The jury is STILL out on the effectiveness of eLearning in certain topical areas, and it has been that way for a decade.


  6. Soft skills are the most important – but are quickest to the back burner

    Asking trainers what they want to work on, and what the company could most use, the answers came quickly. Leadership Development. Mentoring. Management Skills. Sales. That mirrors everything we read in T&D Magazine or any other "training opinion" report. But then ask what the budget has been built around and you hear a similar chorus, but to a different song. Compliance training. Technology Training. Required safety…. And the end result for busy training professionals is to do what they know they HAVE to do, at the expense of what they think the organization needs most.


  7. It's time to change the vernacular of our departments.

    Training is an expense. You cost money. And for those of you (like me) who want or need to attend conferences… well, we cost even more. A great session I attended talked about the transition from "Training" departments to "Learning" departments, and from "Learning" Departments to "Performance Improvement" Departments. These evolved departments can effectively diagnose issues, tie them to business needs, determine if/to what extent training can help, and recommend solutions – regardless of the training or learning involvement.



Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Biggest Little City Hosting the Littlest Big Businesses

The Institute of Management Consultants (IMC) plays host once per year to a conference that mirrors the slogan of the "FUBU" Clothing brand… To paraphrase, CONFAB 2010 is For Consultants, By Consultants. For more information on the conference you can go to or

Every October this gathering of some of the best and brightest business consultants descends upon Reno, Nevada. The conference is equal parts recruiting push, educational seminars, and just a good reason for old friends to get together. Truth be told, most of these consultants have been around the block so many times that it's hard to fathom that they need any "education" on consulting practices, other than perhaps to figure out how to make Twitter a vital part of a 40 year old Process Engineering Consultancy.

For the past 4 years I've attended the conference as an exhibitor, showcasing the consulting tools that HRD Press carries and hoping that a few may see some promise in these tools for their own businesses. However although the conference was successful for us, I also found myself increasingly drawn to the sessions themselves. As a consultant here in Massachusetts (actually, the only IMC Member in the western part of the state) there were always wrinkles I found myself wanting to add. Sometimes through sessions, but also quite often simply through conversations with other members and attendees.

I hope to see some of you out there. This conference is perfect for a consultant looking to get started, or just looking to share some ideas for the emerging new-world marketplace in 2010 and beyond.

Best Wishes,
Mark Snow

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Hmmm… Do You Really Need That Training?

Let me start with the obvious. I sell training. Training courses, training books, training aids, training everything.

My company, HRD Press, has been at it for nearly 40 years. We've got one of the most established brands in the industry. I love this industry and what it does for those it serves.

My question today, though, is one that has been the source of debate for as long as there has been a "Training Industry"…

…Do you need it?

We'll start (and attempt to finish) there. Because if we meander into the other popular questions we'll be here for far more than my self-imposed 500-word limit. So "Do you like it?", "Do you deliver it well?", "Does it work?" are posts for another day.

I spoke at a Training Industry event not too long ago, and accidentally made a room filled with training professionals and vendors cringe in fear and repulsion (especially the vendors) when I put forth an idea that drew me one of the most cricket-loudening moments I've ever had on stage. There I was surrounded by people who make their livings by creating, facilitating, selling, or designing training courses. I opened my big mouth and said:

"I wholeheartedly recommend that each one of you go back to the drawing board. If you don't know EXACTLY why you perform a training – with a SPECIFIC & MEASURABLE tie to a SPECIFIC & MEASURABLE business objective, then take out with the morning's trash and don't look back." I didn't expect applause, but I didn't expect the amount of pensive glances I saw tossed around the room either. I was alone, but I won't back off.

Training departments exist for a reason. To make a difference – not to hide behind soft measures and status quo's… which would be a strange existence indeed. Training departments that continue to deliver ineffective courses make us all look bad. Training departments that bend to the whim of employees without asking the question "Why should we do that?" make us all look bad.

That legacy course, you know – the really expensive one - the one that has not changed in 50 years but has been delivered to every manager your company has ever hired. Why are you performing it? Because you always have? Do you know where the organizational effect shows? Do you know how to measure it? No? Garbage. Trash it.

I don't care if the desired outcome for a training is knowing how to install a window, or how to increase your emotional intelligence. If you're going to put on a course, perform a training needs analysis. Do the following and you've got a good chance to get it right the first time:

Step One – Get Focused: Determine the goals and scope of the evaluation itself. This should include your most important stakeholders as you are eventually going to want their endorsement, accountability, and access to resources. If you can't get that ahead of time, you're in for trouble down the road. Guaranteed.

Step Two - Make a Blueprint: What data will be collected during the analysis? Who or what will be your data sources? What methods will you use to collect the data you need? When will you be collecting it? Knowing now will save you from a mess later.

Step Three – Taking Action: Now you've got to perform the analysis utilizing the methods determined to be most appropriate. Next you'll dig in to your data. Tabulate it. Share it with your accountable stakeholders. Make recommendations for new courses, and replace any programs that you discover are missing the mark.

Step Four – Evaluate the Evaluation: This might be the most neglected stage of the entire process. By running this evaluation you can determine how to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of subsequent evaluations, after all, we're not doing this as a one-time event. It can also aid in the accountability of results for those stakeholders.

Mark Snow is the Vice President of the Performance Technology Group at HRD Press. He is a certified facilitator of several workshops and assessments published by HRD Press, a world leader in human resources training material. For More information on the please call Mark Snow directly at 1-800-822-2801 xt 125

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Resolving Conflict Starts With a Little Understanding

Don't get mad at me for saying this, but you need some work.

  • Here's a bit of what's going on in regards to workplace conflict, and the issues it can create:
    An article on legal website reported that Fortune 500 executives spend 20% of their time dealing in litigation activities.
  • The national compensatory average for lawsuits of employment liability has crested $220,000, with 10% of suits costing over $1 Million.
  • More than 50% of Organizations report having been sued by employees…

… Not enough scary math?

  • The average manager spends between 25 and 40% of their time dealing with workplace conflicts
  • Workplace conflict issues, not skill gaps, account for between 60 and 80% of difficulty in the workplace
  • According to reports, 87% of employees have taken sick days to avoid bullying by a co-worker or supervisor

It doesn't have to be this way, does it? How do we make it better?

First – Hi, My Name is…
As with needing to improve upon anything, step one is admitting you have a problem. If you're convinced that you are firmly entrenched as the 1% of businesses that have no issue with workplace conflict than you've either completely lost touch with your organization, or you're a solo practitioner. Maybe you have your blinders on. Maybe you stand firm with a "Not Us" mentality. Maybe you're hoping to duck out of the way of a $360 BILLION dollar problem (That's just a moderate percentage, based on missed man-hours due to bullying). Burying your head in the sand won't save you. It's an issue… worldwide. And it's effecting your bottom line.

Second – Getting to Know YOU…

Everyone has a preferred conflict handling style. Maybe you tend to compete, and choose to attack conflict situations as something to be won or lost. Or you may avoid conflict, choosing instead to steer clear of any trouble until it has a chance to blow over. Some folks tend to move immediately to compromising, and will negotiate where they may be willing to soften in their stance depending on what you are willing to give up in return – while others simply accommodate those whom they are conflicting with, giving in at almost any cost in order to save relationships and move on. Or perhaps you look to collaborate, moving to the same side of the table in order to work together on an optimal solution. Chances are you're some of each, the key is knowing which to call upon.

Third – Rate the Case…
None of those styles should be used exclusively. Yes, as humans we all feel a proclivity towards one (of a few). But in truth, the most crucial step in the conflict management continuum is to take a realistic and unbiased view of the conflict situation itself. When faced with a conflict, or when mediating conflict between others, ascertain the importance of the task at hand versus the importance of the relationship to the other party. Selecting your conflict handling style keeping those factors in mind will help to de-personalize the conflict and lead to better results.

Mark Snow is the Vice President of the Performance Technology Group at HRD Press. He is a certified facilitator of the Dealing With Conflict Workshop, authored by Alexander Watson Hiam and published by HRD Press, a world leader in human resources training material. For More information on the Dealing With Conflict Trainers Kit please to go or call Mark Snow directly at 1-800-822-2801 xt 125

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Establishing the Value of Training: Part One - ADDIE

by Mark Snow
HRD Performance Technology Group
Everyone knows that there is value in training... even the beancounter looking down his nose at you will grudgingly say that training is worthwhile... perhaps through gritted teeth.

The challenge Mr. BeanCounter has laid out for you in 2010 is simple. Prove it. Just like a salesperson has to prove it by closing a deal. Just like manufacturing has to prove it by actually creating a physical product.

So lets shove a bit of ol' fashioned medicine down his throat - Let's prove it. Over the next few blog posts we'll begin to establish why training has value... if it (gulp) does indeed add to the bottom line. Let's get to work.

Instructional Design (or ISD) is classified as "the practice of maximizing the effectiveness, efficiency, and appeal of instruction and other learning experiences"... Sounds good. No bean counter in his right mind would argue with that - but we need more concrete for our foundation. What does it all MEAN??

ADDIE is a simple formula, and one that people in the training industry pay plenty of lip service to, and then spend their time trying to circumvent some aspect or another. The acronym breaks down like this:

Analyze -
What's the problem?
Is Training the answer?
Who needs to be trained in order to fix the problem?

Design -
What are the objectives of the learning?
What is the course/learning structure?
What is the proper medium for the learning?

Develop -
Draft your materials
Pilot test with a target audience
Revise and finalize

Implement -
Conduct the training or implement learning objects
Complete follow up activities
Chart the process of determining learning and impact

Evaluate -
Which "level" of evaluation is appropriate?
How are the training needs analysis and evaluation linked?
How is an effective evaluation for the course/learning conducted?

By involving your bean counting and non-bean-counting stakeholders throughout the ADDIE process you'll have a much better sense, and argument, for:

1)Why the training should happen in the first place.
2) What impact it has on the organization
3) The what/when/why/where/how of measuring the overall effectiveness of your efforts.

Put into form, and slid under the nose of Mr. BeanCounter, a properly ADDIE structured course gives you some solid footing and metrics to work from.

Now let's skip ahead a bit to Phase Two and start thinking about how to answer the two crucial questions that link the beginning (training needs analysis) and the ending (evaluation of results) so that you can show - on paper - the seedling beginnings of ROI.

A thorough needs analysis answers the question
"What good will training do?"

Of course, the question seems simple - but the answer is not likely to be quick or easy to discover. You'll need to work a bit to get to the heart of the needed correction.

A thorough evaluation answers the question
"What good did training do?"
You need to consider environmental factors, stratify where you can, and determine to the best of your abilities (and your Bean Counter's signature) what has changed.

OK - Now Listen Up...

A truly effective evaluation simple CANNOT be conducted if you haven't done a proper training needs analysis. You can't even hope to determine what was accomplished with a learning event without first defining specifically what it was designed to accomplish. Your training needs analysis provides a numerical baseline of what your eventual judgement should be measured against.

Stay tuned for the next blog post, "When ADDIE Meets Kirkpatrick"...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Three Things the Market is Telling Independent Consultants... Are YOU Listening?

By Mark Snow
Despite economy-based perceptions to the contrary, demand for your services is growing. In organizations between 500 and 1,000 employees, our research shows that the time spent on management & leadership training will nearly double in 2010 – and at the same time training staffs in organizations of that size are shrinking.

That’s right. More training, less internal employees to do it. So that sound you hear is opportunity knocking… That’s the good news.

The bad news? You just can’t charge for it the way you used to. Here’s why;

1) Because Google knows the answers too.
Time to face it, folks. Information doesn’t carry the dollar value it used to. The Encyclopedia Britannica model of selling information is dead and gone. No answer is too hard to find anymore as long as you have an internet connection or cell signal. You need to bring more to the table if you want to get paid – at all.

2) Because they aren’t lying about their purse strings
Companies and budgets have been cut back, and are being watched like never before. It’s not that anyone begrudges you the living you want to make – but the universal switch to pay-for-results has begun. You can hop on, or get left out at sea without a raft. Consultants unwilling to be flexible about their pricing model won’t have to worry about it for long.

3) Because the other gal is hungry too
We, as consultants, all have our unique qualities and qualifications. But at the end of the day the only thing that matters is your client’s pain and your ability to solve it. Between now and the end of 2012 your competition will have doubled. Retirees, laid-offs, and jobless college graduates will turn to working independently – chewing on the corners of your established relationships, and racing you for new ones. If you shy away from competition you may want to consider posting your resume.

Consultants willing to provide extra value, show pricing flexibility, and position themselves ahead of the field are going to come out of our financial doldrums stronger than ever. That’s what our marketplace has announced to you. Are you listening?
Mark Snow is the President of the Performance Technology Group at HRD Press - A multi-national publishing house located in Amherst, MA.