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Talent Development and Human Performance Improvement

Updated on June 2, 2015

Training and Development Needs

“It’s about the transformation, not your transmission”; ASTD (2014).

Increasingly as IT and Training and Development (T&D) in organizations continue to be less responsive to learning and development needs, “…individuals and teams are bypassing IT and T&D to solve their own training and performance problems quicker and easier by sharing their knowledge and collaborating with one another in new ways” (ASTD, Chpt 6). The Enterprise Social Network (ESN) program Yammer being one example.

Paradigm shift to Learning and Talent Development

While organizations still grapple with what Learning Management System (LMS) they will use, the T&D community has just about moved on from the past 50 years or more of T&D based on behavioral methodologies and looking ahead to Learning and Development (L&D), Talent Development (TD), Talent Management (TM), ESN, and Enterprise Learning Networks (ELN). Even Competency Based Learning (CBL) and learner centric (LC) are getting makeovers. However, rather than spend a lot of time discussing those specific topics, the time might be better spent understanding the methodologies and theories behind them like integrating the learning into the workflow and T&D as a partner in many facets of the organization’s success.

Talent and Development core principals

To see where T&D is going, let’s reflect on some past initiatives and ask the question – what should be T&D’s core principles? Figure 1-1 below gives a snapshot of past T&D, its theoretical underpinnings and social influences.
Fredrick Taylor (“the Father of Scientific Management”) had great influence on industrial efficiency, worker movements and subsequently how training was eventually to be conducted for years. For example, his principles as a working manager that shaped the late 1890s to early 1900s:
1. Replace rule-of-thumb work methods with methods based on a scientific study of the tasks.
2. Scientifically select, train, and develop each employee rather than passively leaving them to train themselves.
3. Provide "Detailed instruction and supervision of each worker in the performance of that worker's discrete task"
4. Divide work nearly equally between managers and workers, so that the managers apply scientific management principles to planning the work and the workers actually perform the tasks.

The Talent Development Professional

The Talent Development Professional
The Talent Development Professional | Source

Social Influences and Talent Development Methods

As one can see, social influences facilitate new theoretical assumptions and underpinnings followed by new T&D methods (cognitive discord and liberation). Seems for some time now, however, T&D methods have been stuck in the 1950s B.F. Skinner behaviorism mode endorsed by top management’s direct involvement in T&D which appears to see it as a separate and distinct activity—not directly integrated into the worker rationale, workflow and performance; the “training package”/transmission and not worker performance become the focus of the staged activity! While CBL and LC theory attempt to underpin new T&D methods—slow dialog and acceptance of these paradigms has seen more new paradigm shifts come and sadly go; the question then becomes how does the T&D community “leap ahead” of these paradigm shifts to transform the new T&D, L&D, TD, ESN and ELN?

The Learning Development Toolbox and Moral Enterprise

Recalling also the work of Robert Mayer, who proposed an instructional objective model with four components (A,B,C and D); Audience, Behavior, Condition and Degree. This model describes specific observable behavior that the training should accomplish. As one can see, the T&D profession is not wanting for concepts, principles and tools-- only maybe professional use of them. For example, professionals counsel clients regarding “customized courses” and are not relieved from delivering a morally and ethically good product supported by the data; i.e., Training Needs Analysis (TNA) based on “the greater good,” i.e., “Mega and The Ideal Vision,” affecting both the “internal and external bottom lines”.

Teaching is supposed to be “the moral enterprise,” that noblest of professions that always seeks the greater good and conduct; in the writer’s opinion, we have gotten way too far from the basic moral premise of teaching and T&D—the core moral principles and concepts. Is it any wonder that Plato once berated teachers for being less than so? There’s a real need to look at the value of sound core principles, theories and methodologies for T&D to give structure and purpose instead of only satisfying “Quasi assessment needs”. One royal recently suggested that a company must have the mind of business and the discipline of a soldier; T&D is no different-- the mind of Mega, The Ideal Vision and discipline of a soldier. A look at some emerging L&D core principles as follows may be instructive about such a future:


  • It means that thinking about “learning” is not constrained by a dedicated learning platform (or LMS) that underpins the traditional training approach.
  • It means that all the knowledge and experiences shared in training are not locked away in a separate “learning” system.
  • It means that it’s not just about internal experts telling people what they should do or know but about peers sharing their thoughts and experiences and learning from one another.
  • It means that “learning” is no longer seen as a separate activity from working, and that for the first time it can be truly embedded in the workflow.

(ASTD, Chapter 6)

The job of the Training Managers

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Training Program Needs

Training program needs of the past have been manifested by external forces like industry and social events; e.g., the apprentice, journeyman and master craftsmen regimes that led to guilds and were eventually affected by events like the industrial revolution and behaviorist theories in T&D. Additionally, the internet, millennial mindsets and virtual learning initiatives seemed purposeful, influential and driven by both regional and global conditions—also affecting T&D methodologies; some regions seemingly decades ahead of others. What type of future training regimes do the aforementioned suggest for the future of L&D, TM, ESN and ELN? Seems business needs to think beyond internal tactical good intent (short term) and increased ROI, but also think about the external strategic costs and longevity?

Now, in the era of requirements brought about by integrated technologies, virtual systems and competing complex interests require even more from T&D, L&D, TD, TM , ESN and ELN professionals. There are many tools which a trainer or facilitator might have in their toolbox; e.g., Malcolm Knowles, most notably known for adult learning in the 1970s suggested adults learn differently, although apparently not the first to suggest so; Edward C. Linderman as far back as 1926 may have done so. Knowles is, however, credited with the term andragogy. Also in this toolbox is Robert Gagnes’ model, who along with Leslie J. Briggs wrote principles on instructional design and nine events; then there was the Swiss Psychologist Jean Piaget’s pivotal constructs hypothesis. The L&D profession is replete with foundational theories and practitioners may do well to acquire and master them before mucking up the L&D profession altogether.

Training and development timeline, world wars to present



In conclusion, T&D may well be at another cross-roads; a decision point about what the profession will stand for—the greater moral good? At its very core, L&D “…focuses on identifying, assuring and helping develop, through planning, learning, the key competencies that enable individuals to perform current and future jobs” (ASTD, Chpt 1). Thanks for reading, more to come.



Biech, E. (2014) ASTD Handbook: The Definitive Reference for Training & Development (2nd Edition). Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press.


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