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ATD Blog

One Thing TD Execs Should Do Right Now: Act on What They Learn

Monday, September 21, 2020

The intersection of the pandemic and the movement toward greater social justice has created a unique time for businesses. We are learning things about our colleagues, our organizations, and ourselves that we never knew before. We have learned more about sanitation and safety than we ever thought we would. We have learned that some people are much more adept at using the technology needed for remote work than are others. We see that some people can create a separate workspace at home and for others this is not as easy since they may be juggling roles of employee, parent, and teacher.

We understand better that work-life balance was never about creating boundaries between work and the rest of our lives but about finding ways to integrate work and life in a way that nourishes both. We are learning that connections are critical and that self-care is essential.

We are also learning that inequity remains pervasive and, however unwittingly, systemic in our organizations.

It is imperative that we act on what we learn. We are already listening, communicating, and worrying more about connections and about the emotional and the physical health of our fellow employees. Companies are conducting town halls and focus groups to listen to their employees without judgement and learning things that have rarely been publicly acknowledged. That is a great start; but we have to do more. Big changes require new rules and new tools. And because the talent development function has always been deeply involved in helping (and even leading) organizations in the process of change, we need to step forward now.

As talent leaders it is our responsibility to ensure our organizations and HR teams act on what they learn. It has always been our role to point out when training, or training alone, was not the answer. Whether it is the launch of employee resource groups, or holding leadership more accountable by making diversity goals part of their annual performance goals, or initiating an audit to ensure an equitable compensation structure exists across the organization, we have to ensure this is not an exercise of holding a few town hall meetings and a checking the box activity.

We can help organizations make the structural changes that will leverage what we are learning. We are already at the forefront of enabling remote work. We can also lead in enabling new structures for employee well-being and social equity.

Talent development can lead in defining new approaches to the entire employee life cycle, from onboarding to compensation to performance management to job design to succession. And, of course, we can reconsider the who, what, when, where and how of developing talent.

Organizations are discovering new high potentials and new heroes during these trying times. The TD function can learn from them, tap into their newly discovered expertise, and spread critical knowledge and skills across the organization.

For organizations to act on what they are learning, changes in leadership may also be required. How we assess the quality of our leadership may need to include new requirements with new measures. As the crisis grows, many organizations are cancelling or deferring their leadership development programs. This offers the TD function the opportunity to rethink what gets taught in such programs and who the participants ought to be.

This is an opportunity not to be missed. The environment will never be more open to new ideas. Change has been forced upon us, but we have broad agency and opportunity in deciding how we respond. If our goal is to move forward and not to snap back to the old ways of thinking and working, this is our window. The key will be for us to act on what we learn.

About the Author

Jayne Johnson is former vice president of enterprise learning and development for Alkermes. She started her professional career at GE, where she held a series of leadership positions, starting in IT and eventually transitioning into HR, where she has dedicated the majority of her career. She spent time in quality, strategic staffing, global employer of choice and learning & development, the last six years of which were at GE’s John F. Welch Leadership Centre, also known as Crotonville. While there, she was responsible for GE’s leadership development curriculum and the Customer Education Team, providing strategic consultative services and training to GE’s customers.

She moved to Deloitte in 2010, where she customized learning at the firm’s new Deloitte University for high-potential partners and principals, building a deep bench of experienced leaders with the capabilities required to deliver Deloitte’s strategic and financial targets. She also supported Deloitte’s global member firms with their efforts in leadership development and deployed a consistent succession management process for the Partner population.

She also held roles at Keurig Green Mountain and Vertex Pharmaceuticals prior to joining Alkermes in February 2018. Excited to be part of the biopharmaceutical industry, she is helping to shape Alkermes’ approach to talent management and development.

Jayne has been a member of a few boards, including the Institute for Corporate Productivity’s (i4cp) Chief Learning & Talent Officer Board, the Southern Connecticut chapter of ATD as well as the Executive Committee of The Conference Board’s (TCB) Executive Council for Talent and Organizational Development. She is a mentor for Women Unlimited and also had the pleasure of serving as a Girl Scout troop leader for her daughter until recently. She lives in the Boston area with her husband and two children.

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