As business professionals, we are faced with the challenge of keeping up with the times. This isn’t an easy task given how fast the world is changing. I visit websites like TheMindsetList.com and realize so much change has occurred in a relatively short time.
That being said, it does seem somewhat unrealistic to think that, if the business world around us is changing, the professional associations around us would stay the same. Our professional membership organizations have to keep up with the same changes we do.
One such organization is the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD). At this year’s international conference and expo, they announced a rebranding effort that includes a name change to the Association for Talent Development (ATD) as well as future changes to their Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) credential.
I had the opportunity to chat with Tony Bingham, president and CEO of ATD, to get some insights about this rebranding initiative. But I also wanted to get his take on how an established organization successfully creates change.
Tony, what happened to make ASTD realize a branding change was necessary?
There wasn’t one definitive moment or event that led us to make a branding change. In fact, for the past 30+ years, the question of the organization’s brand has been something the board of directors has addressed repeatedly. We continually evaluate the profession, who our members are, what our customers are asking for, and whether we are positioned well to serve all of those needs.
Clearly the broader profession has changed dramatically in the 70 years since the American Society for Training Directors (our original name) was founded. As importantly, the world of work – global business – has had tremendous impact on how we work and learn and collaborate. With a continuing increase in international members and engagement around the world, and with the growing and dynamic nature of the impact the profession has, the board determined two years ago that it was time to consider the organization’s brand and its name.
Can you share with us the reasoning behind the change from training to talent development?
We see that the work of the broader profession extends far beyond training. Those who are tasked with developing the knowledge, skills, and abilities of others are really developing talent – the people of the workforce. When that talent is developed with the aim to help organizations achieve business objectives and goals – higher performance is achieved and organizations grow. Talent development describes the myriad ways professionals in this field work to impact the development of people.
One example of what I mean is the 10 Areas of Expertise in our Competency Model. Those ten areas include things like training delivery, learning technologies, performance improvement, evaluating learning impact, and change management. When you view talent development as the umbrella over which each of these functions exist, you can see why we chose talent development as a term that describes a broadening of what it means to develop people across the lifecycle of their time in the workforce.
Part of the rebranding includes the CPLP credential. What can you share with readers about current and future credentialing?
The CPLP – the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance – credential was launched in 2006. It remains the premier credential for people who do the work of developing others to help them achieve their potential and in so doing increase performance that impacts business positively. The process of learning and the outcome of that learning – improvements in performance – are fundamentally part of what it means to be a talent development professional.
We want to make the CPLP even more of a global credential and have begun the work of researching what that means in terms of added knowledge and skill proficiency. We will be surveying our current CPLP credential holders for their input into the process of defining the future of the credential, as well as working with thought leaders and experts from different countries to help us more deeply understand what a global credential needs to have to be relevant internationally. I’m very excited about what the future holds for the CPLP credential – and more importantly for the incredible community of practitioners who have earned it.
Do you see the rebranding having an impact on ATD’s culture? Why or why not?
The impact of the rebranding on the organization’s culture will be positive, I believe. When we talk about developing talent – that commitment to the idea that investing in people and in growing their knowledge, skills, and abilities – we’re talking about investing in an organization’s most precious resource: people. It goes beyond training events. It goes beyond compliance measures. It goes beyond learning – and it’s even broader than improving performance. It’s about changing the way we view what people bring into an organization and helping them achieve their potential.
There are numerous studies that show when people feel valued they are more engaged in their work. More engaged workers perform better in their roles. A more knowledgeable and skilled workforce often achieve better performance for the organization, and increased performance can positively impact the bottom line and other key metrics that are meaningful to the business.
The ATD vision statement is “Create a world that works better.” You can’t get to that vision without starting with people. It all starts there – developing talent. And when we realize that the people who do the work of developing talent – whether their title is trainer, or coach, or instructional designer, or front line manager – need resources and support, the impact on the organization can only be positive. The work of the practitioners in this profession has never been more important and has never before had the impact that it does today.
Lastly, any advice for organizations who are considering a rebranding initiative?
My advice for organizations considering a rebranding initiative is to be cognizant of the fact that today’s global business climate and the power of the Internet make a rebranding initiative complex and fascinating. As we did, be prepared to spend countless hours of time reviewing data and conducting the research necessary to understand your current and potential new brand and how your brand is perceived by members, customers, partners, volunteer leaders, current and future employees, and other key audiences.
If you are an international organization, consider how the name and brand will translate in other languages and conduct the necessary due diligence to file for trademark protection of key assets. In addition, proactively develop change management plans and provide resources to help your staff, customers, and audiences who represent the organization better understand the background of the change, and provide tools they can use to implement the new brand.
It’s important to remember that not everyone will agree with or like the change, and that’s understandable. As many change management experts will tell you, change is not easy nor always comfortable, and it takes a lot of time to see the process through. In our case and for our 120 local chapters, changing over our brand will take an entire year through a deliberate, phased-in approach. Communicating regularly – and in multiple channels – about the transition process is important and helps people better understand how the change is occurring and when they will see different parts of the business change. This helps create familiarity with the new brand and helps build a positive relationship with key audiences.
Many thanks to Tony and the team at ATD for sharing this information with us. It’s very easy during times of change to feel out of the loop. And I believe when people don’t have answers, sometimes they can rely on misinformation or fabricated information to fill in the blanks.
Managing change is hard. It’s especially difficult in organizations that we look to for stability when the business world around us is moving at lightning speed. But practically speaking, they need to change too because the change will make the profession stronger.1