Setting & Communicating Vision for your Talent Development Team

*Jargon alert*

Vision. Mission. Purpose. Core Values. Strategy. Goals. Business Drivers. Competencies…….what do they mean? How are these concepts similar? How are they different? Do they matter? How do they work together to move an organization forward? What do they mean to a Talent department?

It goes without saying that Talent leaders need to find a way to cascade these organizational aspirations, often proclaimed from the highest levels of the organization, down to their teams and help them establish and maintain a connection, a “direct line of sight,” to those top-level messages. It starts with making sure we understand the vision ourselves. But that’s really not enough….

We need to translate that organizational vision into an inspiring, realistic vision for our teams.

If it all starts with a vision, how do we create and communicate it? Unfortunately, not everyone is “visionary” by nature, but it is a necessary quality for effective leaders to possess and demonstrate. If this isn’t a strength for you, don’t fret…it is a LEARNABLE skill!

For years, I’ve been saying that measuring and evaluating the success of Learning & Development programs must include a deliberate blend of quantitative and qualitative data. Simply put, we need to balance “the head and the heart” to ensure that we are truly adding value. Setting and communicating a vision takes a similar mindset.

Sure, we need to consider HOW we achieve or realize our vision (the quantitative “head”), but it all starts by getting your team to feel, embrace and yearn for the vision (the qualitative “heart”).

It’s emotion. It’s passion. It’s in your gut. It’s what kicks us out of our complacent routines and makes us remember why we do what we do.

I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts in the car today that really got me thinking about just how important this is. They shared an incredible quote from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (my high school French teacher would be so proud) that sang to me (so much that I rewound that bit of the podcast 3 times to listen to the quote again and again):

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

Dang, that’s good.

How often do we get caught up in the details? The tasks? The budgets? The busy-ness? Without realizing it, that’s the message we send to our teams, which is about as UNinspiring as it gets, amiright?

We’re burning them out instead of setting them ablaze.

The podcast episode I was listening to, “4 Steps to Communicating Vision,” on the Lead to Win podcast with Michael Hyatt, went on to share these tips for creating a vision. I’ve added a few thoughts to how we, as Talent, HR and L&D leaders, can really make these come alive with our teams:


>>>A statement of culture

The podcast suggests that this statement (which may be more than a single sentence), answers the question, “Who are we?” For our teams, this should clarify the value we add to the greater organization.


“The Talent Development team at ABC company are professionals, serving professionals, helping all ABC employees learn, grow and succeed.”


>>>A description of product

Your team needs to have a really, really laser-focused understanding of what you do, and what you don’t do. If my years of experience have taught me anything, it’s that whenever there is an issue with the business, the “training team” is often on speed dial (whether or not it truly IS a training issue…can I get an “Amen”?). Start with your team, then evangelize across your organization.

  • We assess business goals, needs and projects to identify the learning needs of all stakeholders.
  • We are skilled content creators and training facilitators, dedicated to developing top-quality programs, materials and resources that aid strategic, just-in-time learning.
  • We are experts in establishing, nurturing and maintaining an engaged, skilled workforce dedicated to our mission of serving customers.


>>>A concept of the market

Who do you serve? In some organizations or teams, this might be a relatively simple question to answer. But with today’s increasingly complex business landscape, this might be more of a challenge. Global, matrixed, disbursed companies = an even greater need to help teams understand the market.

A leader at a company I used to work for was often quoted as saying, “There’s no such thing as an internal customer.” What he meant was, there was one customer. The person buying your products or services. (He referred to “internal customers” as “business partners.”)

Okay – I see his point. But in the Business of Talent, we are often (not always) a step removed from the true CUSTOMERS. So we need to understand how we align to and serve them, even if indirectly. I know that I can draw a connection to a customer, but can my team make the same association? Simplify this by articulating who you serve.


“The Talent Development team at ABC Company provides training, employee development programs, learning tools and resources to all employees.”


>>>A desired impact

I could come up with my own words, but the post from the podcast episode said it best, so I’m just going to take it and run with it….a desired impact answers the question:

“So what?”

By the time we’ve identified who we are, what we do and who we serve, it’s only fair to specify WHY we do it and what the result will be if we deliver on our promise.


“Through our programs and resources, all ABC Company employees may have the tools they need to be successful in their current or future roles, effectively serve our customers and drive tangible business results.”


Let’s stitch these 4 pieces together:

The Talent Development team at ABC company are professionals, serving professionals, helping all ABC employees learn, grow and succeed.

We assess business goals, needs and projects to identify the learning needs of all stakeholders. 

We provide training, employee development programs, learning tools and resources to all employees.

Through our programs and resources, all ABC Company employees may have the tools they need to be successful in their current or future roles, effectively serve our customers and drive tangible business results.


This would be an excellent exercise to share with your fellow Talent/HR/Learning leaders for a team retreat or strategic planning meeting. Naturally, you’ll want to expand this with your own priorities, leadership qualities and behaviors that drive personal, team and organizational results. Play around with the concept and discover what fits for your culture, team and company! Check out the show notes from the podcast for some killer examples.


My challenge to you, friends, is to set a vision and use every opportunity to make your vision come alive with your team. Use it to showcase the value you bring to your organization!

Your turn: What are your thoughts on setting and communicating a vision with your team? Have you done this in the past? How will you use this information? Please share a comment, or share this post with a colleague!


Why Managers Need a “GPS” to Navigate the Employee Development Journey

Why managers need a GPS

Unless one is in the business of “talent,” it could be confusing to recognize what “talent” really means. After all, what differentiates talent management, talent acquisition, talent development, talent shows….okay, I’m kidding on that one. But kidding aside, it can be confusing to people who DO work in a talent-focused role, so it’s no surprise how complex it might seem for anyone else or to understand how their role intersects with the “business” of talent.

People managers, regardless of your industry or department, this one is for you: Your role in developing talent is critical. You are the linchpin. The one who is most likely to encourage – or stunt – an employee’s growth, development and ultimate success within your team and in your organization. And yes, it may be only one of many functions listed on your job description, but it is arguably the most important aspect of your role.

If the end destination is an engaged, successful long-term employee, how do managers navigate the career path – especially when every employee is unique and at different points along the journey, and there are so many different route options to follow?


Successful navigators, whether in travel or career, follow a roadmap or GPS.

Throughout the employment journey, a manager should be tuned into employee development needs at every turn:

  • When interviewing and hiring
  • During the onboarding period
  • While career planning
  • Through the succession identification and planning process
  • While promoting an employee (and re-onboarding after that promotion!)
  • When an employee prepares to leave the business


Lou Russell, Brittney Helt and I have spent the past several months diving into the manager experience during each stage of employee development and built a simple road map to guide managers’ paths. We are thrilled to launch our new book, Talent GPS: A Manager’s Guide to Navigating the Employee Development Journey, a practical guide for managers to chart their course through this complex process.

Talent GPS cover image 2


Remember, an employee’s success hinges on the support provided by his/her manager. Our job as Learning & Talent Development practitioners is to help managers navigate the journey.  

Whether you manage people, or support people who do, you will benefit from having this resource in your collection.

Learn more and order your copy today!

Why “Lean In” Made Me Step Back for a Moment

Over the past few years, the Lean In movement has become a highly influential, inspirational voice for professional women around the world. As a professional female, I appreciate the message and encouragement. As the mother of a teenage son (today, at the time of this writing, is actually his 15th birthday!) and a college-aged daughter, I appreciate that these conversations are happening, to hopefully provide an equal, empowering career experience for her, and that my son has an educated perspective as well. I’ve read the book and follow posts on social media. I would say that I’ve been in agreement with most of the points I’ve seen.

Until last week.

If you know me, you know that I am hardly a confrontational person. This blog, while sometimes a source of tough love for hiring managers and those who are responsible for creating learning experiences, is not typically a platform that seeks out debate because, quite frankly, it’s exhausting, it rarely yields change, and it’s just not my style. However, in defense of my passionate stance for the new employee experience, I was unsettled by a post and New York Times article I read the other day on the Lean In Facebook page:


Specifically, this line from the post:

Office Housework.PNG

Please hear me: I am not disagreeing with the overall premise of this article. I fully believe that women often do more “office housework” than their male counterparts. I have seen (and experienced) it time and time again during my 20+ years in the workforce.

My issue, and what struck such a nerve with me, is that this post described “training new hires” as OFFICE HOUSEWORK, suggesting that it is an inconvenience. A mindless task. A chore.

Then I thought, “Okay, Michelle. Before getting all worked up over a Facebook post, maybe you should read the article and then form an opinion?” So I did.

And in the first paragraph, I read this:



Right there, among suggestively trivial items like helping improve a presentation and planning a holiday party, I saw it: “trained several new hires…”

Now, I can accept that fact that whoever wrote the Facebook post, and the authors of this article probably did not intend to minimize the importance of onboarding. Of the thousands of people who read the post/article, I am probably the only one who is reacting so passionately to something that wasn’t even the main point (I could argue how sad that is, but I’ll let it slide). But since the Lean In organization has such influence over so many professionals in countless organizations and industries (and kudos to them for it), I am distressed over the notion that such cavalier word choices may cause readers to dismiss an organization’s need for intentional, results-driven onboarding.

If you treat onboarding like an inconvenience or a low-priority task, then don’t be surprised if your new employees aren’t feeling connected to your organization.

A study by Aberdeen has shown that as many as 87% of new employees aren’t fully committed to a new job for the first six months. Eighty-seven percent. Let’s put it this way: out of 100 newly-hired employees, 87 of them are still subscribed to emails from Indeed and Glassdoor and may still be following up about other submitted job applications or calls from assertive recruiters. Those talented employees that you have invested time and money to hire and train are not entirely sure that they want to stick around for the long haul. If your partners in the onboarding process don’t realize how important their job is, then it is your job to communicate it.

Who are your partners?

Regardless of who “owns” the onboarding experience for your organization, there are a number of key stakeholders who should be involved in the new employee experience. Just a few include:

  • HR/Talent Acquisition
  • L&D/Training/Talent Development
  • Hiring Managers
  • Peers and teammates
  • Support staff (IT, administrative roles, etc)
  • Executives and senior leaders
  • Clients and vendors

Everyone involved touches a new employee’s experience in some way. If they treat this responsibility like an inconvenience, an afterthought or a “nice-to-have” during a busy time, then your new employees feel it. It potentially stunts their development, performance, engagement, and connectedness. You must educate your organization on how onboarding impacts the bottom line of your business.

Wait, what? You don’t know how onboarding impacts your business?

Find out.

What story is your company’s data telling about your new employees’ performance, retention and engagement? 

Depending on your organization’s goals and priorities, some essential metrics could include:

  • Sales within the first 30-60-90 days of employment
  • Number of errors or accidents on the job
  • Reasons employees leave within the first year (exit interview data is a gold mine for this!)
  • Number of internal promotions within the first year
  • Productivity – particularly for those in a very metric-driven role (think call center data, customer service, assembly line, etc)


Onboarding and new employee training can make a significant impact on business results – during Orientation, in a training environment and through on-the-job experience. People, male or female, who are involved should know how THEY are contributing to the bottom line. Give them a chance to take ownership of their role and recognize onboarding as a need-to-have. To lean in to the privilege of serving and contributing to a new employee’s success (see what I did there?).

Am I going to stop following Lean In because of this? No, of course not. The mission and work of this organization is important; it invites productive conversation and adds immense value to our professional society. In fact, had it not been for confidence gained through the stories of passionate female leaders and influencers, maybe I would not feel comfortable sharing my opinion through this platform? Who knows…

As a champion of learning in the workplace, I firmly believe that we need to pay attention to the direct and indirect messages we are sending, and use our influence to shape learning experiences for employees in the organizations we support. This article was a powerful reminder.


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Heading to #ATD2016 this month?


It’s May – are you heading to Denver for ATD’s International Conference & Expo (ICE) this month? I am – and I couldn’t be more excited! ICE is the biggest event of the year for L&D folks, and I’m ready to absorb every possible idea or nugget of wisdom along with 10,000+ of my fellow colleagues. Plus, I’m on the docket to present this year, which is such a tremendous privilege. 


If this is your first time attending ICE, you should know that this is not an event you just show up at, sans-plan. With so many session options, it’s important to map out some options ahead of time. I’ve been working on my game plan for the past few days. While it is definitely subject to change, here are a few of the sessions I’m considering:

Sunday, May 22

8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. – Chapter Leader Breakfast, Chapter Leader Day

1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. – (SU205) Flip & Drip Approach to Leadership Development: Accelerating Learning Transfer

3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. – (SU314) The LeaderShift: How to Engage & Develop the Next Generation of Leaders

4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. – (SU408) Keys to a (Really) Successful New Supervisor Training Program

Evening – ATD-Central Indiana Member Meetup!

Monday, May 23

8:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. – (General Session) Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Come Together and Others Don’t

2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Chapter Leader Power Hour

3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. – (M212) Cracking the Code for Kirkpatrick Levels 3 & 4

4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. – (M3318) Creating and Launching Sales Onboarding in 90 Days or Less 

Evening – TBD

Tuesday, May 24

1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m – (TU200) Redefining the Future of L&D with 70-20-10 and Beyond 

4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. – (TU416) 70-20-10 Onboarding: How to Engage, Empower & Develop New Employees (My session – join me!)

Evening – TBD

Wednesday, May 25

10:00 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. – (W201) Keeping Learning Alive Through Social Media & Learning Communities

1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. – (W304) Ending the ROI Void: What You Should Measure Come Monday

There are still several open spots on my agenda…this is why careful planning is necessary! There are so many intriguing sessions being offered, it’s tough to play the Sophie’s Choice game to decide which to attend. I’ll be narrowing the list over the next week or so, but I still fully expect to call a few audibles here and there.

First time at ICE?

Fear not! The conference website has a handy session planning tool that will let you review the session lineup and bookmark your favorites. Some folks in the L&D blogging community have also shared their own tips for a successful ICE experience. Here’s a great one by JD Dillon – 5 Tips for Making the Most of #ATD2016. He’s also shared his #ATD2016 schedule – check it out!

Will I see you there?

What’s on your must-see list while at ICE? Share your can’t-miss sessions in the comments below! 

Looking for some good conversation while you’re in Denver? Let’s catch up and talk shop over a cup of coffee! Drop me a note – let’s meet up!

When does onboarding become too much of a good thing?

Ah, c’est l’amour.

For several years, countless tourists in love made a pilgrimage to the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris to pledge their undying devotion by attaching a padlock, a “love lock,” to the metal grating on the bridge.

So. Many. Locks. 

The love lock tradition has spread to a number of other cities around the world. Like the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City:
I saw the Brooklyn Bridge locks last summer when I was in New York with the family. Even enterprising street vendors were trying to capitalize on bridge-crossers in loooove by selling padlocks along the bridge. It’s definitely a thing.

The idea of love locks has brought mixed reactions among Parisian tourists and locals. Some saw it as a romantic gesture, an homage to everlasting love….others, including preservationists and city officials, saw it as a cluttered mess, ruining an otherwise historic landmark. Last year, an estimated one million locks were cut from the Pont des Arts bridge, thus ending the Love Locks tradition.

What started out as good intentions – a sweet gesture – quickly spun out of control.

If we’re not careful, the same thing can happen with our onboarding programs. We invest time, energy and resources into creating a memorable experience for our newly-hired employees – but without proper management, even a great “idea” can go awry.

Be aware of these red flags…does your onboarding program:

  • Focus on training, rather than on performance?  Spending too much time “teaching to the test,” or mastering hypothetical, simulated content, instead of preparation for real-world experience can be risky. Ensure that your content is aligned to the true working environment, and that there are ample opportunities for application and assessment.
  • Have too much show, but not enough substance?  We want our Orientation and onboarding experiences to be pleasant. We want our new employees to enjoy themselves and have them walk away feeling they made the right decision in joining our organizations. Free lunch! Scavenger hunt! More swag! All good things. Just ensure that the fun elements have purpose. 
  • Set unrealistic expectations of how amazing your organization is? Onboarding is a process that bridges the gap between the sometimes-idyllic first impressions set during the recruitment and pre-boarding process and the reality of everyday life in the company. If your new employees are pinching themselves because things are just too perfect, beware. Showcase your organization’s strengths, but keep it realistic.
  • Encourage long-term reliance on a training facilitator, rather than a supervisor, peers and resources?  In cases where “new employee training” lasts several days or even weeks, training participants often look up to their primary training instructor and view him/her as an expert. While that may be true, it is important for the primary focus to shift away from the training environment and move toward the job environment. Make an effort to enable new employees to utilize self-directed learning resources, leverage peer coaching, participate in on-the-job training and (most importantly) build a solid relationship with his/her direct supervisor.

Having a hand in the new employee experience is a privilege. Creating an experience that balances learning, engagement, immersion, relationship building and yes, fun, requires thoughtful planning and ongoing attention. Just like the locks prevented visitors from experiencing the beauty of the bridge, don’t let your organization’s heavy “locks” outweigh the value your program adds.

Your turn: What are you doing to make that experience a memorable one in your organization? Share your tips in the comments below!

Madonna, Snapchat, and the Art of Knowing Your Audience


There was some interesting news in the music and tech industries this past week: Madonna previewed her new Living for Love video. Via Snapchat.

Now, depending on your musical tastes, demographics and social media preferences, you may or may not have paid any attention to this headline.

As one who is snugly nestled in that little generation between Baby Boomer and Millenial, I was intrigued by this. Partially because I have adored Madonna for as long as I can remember – I’m laughing while remembering the time I got in trouble for singing the lyrics to Papa Don’t Preach a little too loud-and-clear in front of my conservative dad – I was about 11 years old at the time and really didn’t understand what the song was about. If you remember that song, chances are you’re laughing at why it made my dad so uncomfortable!

And now, here we are in 2015 – where I am in equal parts awed and jealous that she is so ridiculously fit for a 56-year old woman (do you *see* those arms in that photo above? Holy biceps, Batman.)

I’m also awed that she continues to put herself out there, blazing trails and being just so….Madonna.

So, that brings us to last week’s video release. The decision to release her video via Snapchat was met with mixed reviews. Are you on Snapchat?

Me neither. But my kids are.

Do my kids care about Madonna’s newest video? Probably not. In fact, I don’t know that my 13-year old even knows who that is. So, releasing the new video through that channel was an interesting call.

Did it convert other Boomers and Gen Xers to join Snapchat? Did it entice current Snapchat users to watch the video to see who this Madonna person was? Well, as I was learning about this, I caught wind of this tweet, sent from the Twitter account of the Material Girl herself. It made me laugh:


So, there must have been some feedback from people who had no idea how to use the app, so Madonna took it upon herself to act like Snapchat Tech Support and help them locate and launch the video. This tweet got me thinking about the situation, and reminded me how important it is to know our audiences when we develop and deliver workshops, training classes and other sessions.

Friends, one of the most important parts of what we do is to ensure relevance, so our participants can carve out a meaningful learning experience to help them be more effective in their job today…or prepare them for wherever their career might take them in the future. To set the stage in our sessions (the 10% of 70-20-10!) for participants to carry the content out to the job, so they can apply it in the real world (the 70%!) and work with others to master the content and build context (the 20%!).

Was the decision for an artist with primarily a non-Millenial fan base to release a video through a Millenial-heavy channel a risky one? Sure. Did it pay off? I think the jury is still out on that. Am I going to start Snapchatting now? Nah. But I can certainly appreciate the fact that technology is changing the way we do things and the way we learn.

As learning professionals, we need to remember that – and like Madonna, blaze our own trails, continuously evolve, and shatter the status quo in our organizations.


Your turn: What are your thoughts on how Madonna launched her new video? In your opinion, was it a hit or a miss? Share your comments below!

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Learning Professional = Change Agent


Did you happen to catch the big announcement from ASTD yesterday?

ASTD, the American Society for Training & Development, is getting a new name and logo! The organization will now be known as Association for Talent Development (ATD). You can learn all about the change here.

One of the hats I wear is sitting on my local ASTD (umm, ATD…that’s going to take some getting used to!) board as Director of Social Media, so I was tuned into the live stream of the announcement so I could share the big news on our chapter’s social channels. As I soaked in the news and followed the stream of reactions through the #ASTD2014 and #ASTDnews, it made me think about change.

This new name, the new logo and branding, it really confirms something we already knew: It’s not just about the training. The organization is remaining true to its roots, recognizing that training is still an important part of developing people…but there’s so much more to it than that. We are in the business of developing people. Of communicating. Of collaborating. Of learning.

(By the way…what a privilege, amiright?)

ASTD – the American Society of Training & Development – was founded over 70 years ago. Think of how many changes our industry has seen in that time, how businesses have changed, how communication has changed – heck, how the WORLD has changed. Naturally, our largest association (and each of us) must embrace those changes and evolve as well.

This timely change is a great opportunity for each of us to pause and reflect upon our roles with the organizations we support. How are we acting as change agents for the businesses we support? How can we immerse ourselves to truly understand organizational change and use our platform to influence others?

Take a moment and think about how you can embrace change and support progress within your organization – whether progress at the organizational level, with your team or even personally. Be the change, friends!

Your turn: I’m curious about your thoughts about ASTD/ATD’s name change…please take a moment and answer the poll below, and then share your thoughts about this change and the evolution of workplace learning in the comments below!


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