On September 9, Tina Sung, ASTD's president and CEO, spoke at a
meeting of the Training Officers Conference at Ft. McNair in
Washington, D.C. Founded in 1938, the Training Officers Conference
provides federal trainers with a way to learn about key training
issues. Below are excerpts of her speech.
I'd like to share my views about trends in the learning and
workplace performance field and what opportunities they present as
we look to the future. Let's start with what we all know: We know
that skilled workers are needed to drive growth and success.
Whatever else may occur in the future, we know the need for
learning will remain.
As we move from the New Economy to what is now known as the Next
Economy, we can expect an even greater emphasis on learning and
performance in the workplace. More emphasis; more need; more
scrutiny. And, more expectation of a solid return-on-investment.
In the Next Economy, learning will still be a continuous process.
But the cycle, or the half-life, of what we know will be shorter.
So, people will need to learn and develop their skills at a much
faster pace. At the same time, people's commitment to a single
organization is changing. People move from job to job, company to
company, agency to agency. Their skills, therefore, will need to be
not only relevant and marketable, but also transferable.
We are seeing a renewed interest in leadership development and
coaching. This is coming about as more organizations recognize the
need to develop the next generation of leaders. Along with this
interest in leadership development is the emergence of executive
coaching as a distinct discipline within the learning profession.
This, for many of us, is a new specialty, calling for an even
higher level of business acumen along with knowledge of change
management and strong communication and interpersonal skills.
In the Next Economy, the organizations that succeed are more likely
to be those that are in tune with these broader developments that
are taking place - organizations that have the foresight to look
beyond their current needs and to project what their long-term
needs will be as well.
Let me give you one example. Everyone in the United States at some
point in their lives will interact with the Social Security
Administration. And many of you know that I worked for SSA for many
years. SSA currently issues some 43 million benefits checks every
month. In the next five years some 60 percent of the 65,000
employees working in SSA will be eligible to retire. So, this
government agency can conceivably lose as many as 36,000 employees,
many of them mid- and senior-level managers.
Several years ago, the commissioner and deputy commissioners
recognized this enormous "brain drain" heading their way. Wisely,
they created a strategy to upgrade the skills of their workers to
fill the gaps as senior-level employees began to retire. The agency
also began systematically to recruit the next generation of claims
representatives and benefit authorizers. To train those new
employees, the agency used an interactive e-learning model to
deliver training in half the normal time and at half the normal
I know many federal agencies are confronted with the same
demographics. And that the number one initiative on the President's
Management Agenda is the strategic management of human capital.
ASTD's Public Policy Council recently published Human Capital
- frames the human-capital challenge faced by public- and
- explains how organizations are responding with innovative
recruitment, retention, leadership, learning, and measurement
- identifies key questions leaders should address as they make
human-capital management and development a priority.
I met with Marta Perez, associate director for human-capital
leadership and merit systems accountability at OPM, and she said
these questions were exactly what the Chief Human Capital Officer
Council was addressing. In particular, she said many agencies want
- the role and function of the CLO with an emphasis on
transitioning into this position and leading effectively
- what successful practices and techniques are necessary for
conducting a workforce assessment.
Diversity, beyond the way we have traditionally thought of it, is
beginning to re-emerge. Today, when we talk about diversity, we are
also talking about diversity of ideas, of thought, of people, of
culture, of points of view, of experience, and of skills. I'm not
alone in believing that the real winners of this century will be
those who prove with their actions that they can be both profitable
and socially responsible.
Recently, one of our members said to me, "Tina, in every
organization there are hundreds of people focused on the
financials, on the systems, on the 'hard stuff' of the
organization. But, only we in our profession focus on the people.
We are special." And she's right!
Yes, we are enablers of business outcomes. But we're more than
that. After all, we chose this profession because of our interest
in people, our desire to help others to realize their potential,
our desire to make a difference. We are the ones who look not only
at the bottom-line and agency mission, important as they are. We
are the ones who can help bring harmony and improved performance
through learning. It is not too much to say that through our
efforts we help to create a world that works better.
We do have a special calling. And I can think of no other time when
the world has been more in need, not only of skills and knowledge
in the workplace, but also in need of understanding, of tolerance,
and of mutual respect.