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2018 HCI Learning and Leadership Development Conference:  Recap of the Challenges (and Opportunities) for Learning Professionals

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This year, I was fortunate to attend HCI’s Learning and Leadership Development Conference, where Ariel presented a panel on true influence. If you attended and are looking for follow-up resources, or if you missed it and want to catch up, read on.

To me, the conference highlighted a fundamental shift in our role as learning professionals, which I expand upon below.

Common themes

  • Succession planning: Most organizations today will admit they have a leadership gap. What are we doing to remedy that?
  • Company culture: Culture can be an all-encompassing term, but we heard it time and time again in relation to feedback, development, innovation, change, engagement, and more. How do you create (or change) an entire organization’s culture? Hint: It’s not just HR’s problem.
  • Change management: Disruption is the new normal in the workplace–and it’s usually not easy from both the employer and employee perspective. Is your organization prepared to deal with constant change?

Some valuable sessions

The Science of Talent

“What are we missing, that feedback is still such an issue?” –David Rock, PhD, CEO and Founder, NeuroLeadership Institute

Everyone knows that feedback is crucial to company culture and employee development. But in this keynote, David Rock shared his research that it’s also terrifying for people to provide on-the-spot feedback, and that neither party enjoys the process. In fact, processing feedback is more taxing on the brain than multiplying six-digit numbers!

Instead of making your organizational culture one of giving unsolicited feedback, make it one of asking for specific feedback. This eliminates the natural, unavoidable defensiveness that receiving unsolicited feedback brings about, and it also allows the giver more time to prepare a thoughtful response that focuses on specific aspects.

Leadership in the VUCA Era: How to Harness VUCA to Produce Radical Innovation

Ironically, change (agility) is a part of how organizations innovate today, but it’s also a major reason why your employees feel disengaged and stop innovating altogether.

In her keynote, Sunnie Giles reinforced what we already know: Change isn’t going anywhere.

To keep your teams engaged, leaders must create a safe environment by effectively self-managing, and communicating clearly any and all changes and how they affect each person’s role. By controlling these factors, your leaders can create a safe space for employees.

A great analogy Sunnie presented: Think of a job as a game. Your employees are all playing the game, but disruption is the equivalent of you changing the rules on them. If you don’t clearly communicate the new rules, it’s not fair. People are fine losing a game as long as they know the rules; if they don’t know the rules, they won’t even play in the first place.

Democratizing Leadership Development in the Digital Age

Perhaps one of the most shocking revelations, pointing to where we have the most work to do is this:

“71% of companies do not feel their leaders are able to lead their organization into the future.” –Shelley Osborne, Head of L&D, Udemy

In this keynote, Shelley Osborne presented jaw-dropping statistics about the leadership gap and the accompanying development gap. With all the new technologies available, why haven’t we changed the way we help our leaders grow?

Improving leadership development in today’s world looks like this: build the culture, create the network effect, open the gates, and make it social.

Start developing your leaders earlier in their careers. Let people create and personalize their own learning journeys with their managers—and don’t mandate what you think is relevant for everyone. Develop a mentor program.

Most importantly, don’t think of your leadership development program as static. As the world changes, your program needs to change too.

Empower Your Current and Future Leaders to Develop True Influence

“How do you influence change? [Especially] when people who oppose the change and are not used to being changed have to lead that change? It’s about the relationships.” –Barbara Gamm, Global Leadership Development Manager, Ford Motor Company

Success in today’s organizations is dependent on influencing others. It’s simply not enough to just get work done–people have endless opportunities and endless information at their fingertips, and they want to be inspired.

Leaders need to ensure that they are constantly working on building or strengthening their relationships, being authentic and motivating, and communicating strategically.

Final thoughts on the 2018 HCI Learning and Leadership Development Conference

Did anything specific resonate with you, either from the conference or from this blog? If you’re looking for additional resources to go along with what you learned, or if you’re ready to get to work on your organization’s communication and leadership development, contact us!


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