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ASTD Announces Name Change - Now ATD


As you may already be aware, The American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) is now the Association for Talent Development (ATD).The name change was first announced by CEO Tony Bingham as part of a special presentation on May 6, 2014.

Why the (seemingly) minor tweak?

And was the reaction good, bad or ugly from the training community?

The re-branding initiative is explained as having several reasons behind it and one of the strongest has to do with the evolving nature of the people management profession moving in the direction of becoming trusted advisors to business who bring more to the table than the term "training & development" might be taken to imply (usually the image of a classroom with neat rows of desks arranged before a school teacher pointing to something on a dusty old chalkboard, or perhaps worse — a PowerPoint).

Although training will remain at the heart of the association's focus, "talent development" is bigger and wider in scope, reflecting the advancement and broadening of the function's areas of expertise over the past few decades. Bingham refers to the 10 Areas of Expertise in their Competency Model. In an interview with Sharlyn Laub (HR Bartender) he points out: "Those ten areas include things like training delivery, learning technologies, performance improvement, evaluating learning impact, and change management. When you view talent development as the umbrella over which each of these functions exist, you can see why we chose talent development as a term that describes a broadening of what it means to develop people across the lifecycle of their time in the workforce."

Also, there was the problem with the word "training" itself, which often comes with a certain degree of "baggage," as the Chief Learning Officer of SAP, Jenny Dearborn, explains:

"For a long time people would say the word 'training' and they'd put it in a really narrow sort of box and they'd think of it as a classroom experience. And even to this day, when I say the word training or even learning -- they're immediately saying 20 people x $2000 per person for a flight and hotel and I'm saying no, no, no, wait. Just because I said the word learning or training does not equate to a plane ticket. Changing (training & development) to talent development completely broadens the mindset or our clients — our business partners... that word (training) was just so narrow that it really triggered a strong reaction with our clients and they immediately thought of something that was from the 1970s or the 1980s that was very narrow and very expensive. So when we say talent development it's just a much more holistic, all-encompassing phrase that broadens us and I think it really reflects where it currently is."

The name change had a mixed response by those in the training community. For starters, most thought it was a good idea to drop the AS (American Society), since ASTD has an international presence. But the word "talent" was not entirely embraced by all. Although Dan Pontefract described it as "refreshing" in the Huffington Post, another Dan — Dan Steer writing in his blog — notes that the reaction from various conference attendees thought the new name did not say what it ought to and expressed disappointment that members' opinions were not sought out prior to the announcement.

Some see it as a missed opportunity for L&D (learning and development) to embrace and move towards the business unit's ultimate mandate: performance (L&P). This sentiment was captured by Clark Quinn, author of "Revolutionise Learning & Development," on his Learnlets blog:

"To me, Talent Development is focused only on developing people instead of facilitating overall organisation performance. And I think that’s falling short of the opportunity, and the need. Don’t get me wrong, I laud that ASTD made a change, and I think Talent Development is a good thing. Yet I think that our role can and should be more. I wish they’d thought a little broader, and covered all of the potential contributions. So, maybe, Association of Performance & Development or APD. Regardless, it’s a dynamic organisation that offers a lot. I just wonder who’s going to fill the gaps."

For more reaction and related articles on the change, feel free to check out the links below: 

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Theo Winter

Theo Winter

Client Services Manager, Writer & Researcher. Theo is one of the youngest professionals in the world to earn an accreditation in TTI Success Insight's suite of psychometric assessments. For more than a decade, he worked with hundreds of HR, L&D and OD professionals and consultants to improve engagement, performance and emotional intelligence of leaders and their teams. He authored the book "40 Must-Know Business Models for People Leaders."

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