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5 Biggest Takeaways from ATD 2021 International Conference & EXPO

International Conference and EXPO

With a growing need for innovation and engagement across virtual, hybrid and on-location environments, these were the key takeaways from my attendance and WDHB’s speaking session at the largest talent development conference in the world. Many of these can be put into practice immediately

1. Commit to Virtual Learning

Adapting to virtual work environments was originally seen as a challenge, and now, it has provided endless opportunities to connect and inspire your organization.

Experiential learning in a virtual setting can produce powerful outcomes with innovative approaches that empower your teams to tackle new projects, bounce back from failure and maintain a growth mindset. Effective leaders realize these qualities while also encouraging their team members to immerse themselves in the culture of their work environments.

Whether it’s weekly progress reports or casual Zoom meetings, providing effective communication channels for productive, meaningful collaboration will set great teams apart from good ones.

2. Deliver Highly Engaging Virtual Training

Do something different. As a leader, you can challenge your team members to expect the unexpected and give unconventional ideas without fear of failure.

Focus on the mindset that high customization leads to high engagement. By targeting your organizations’ challenges with unique approaches and tailormade solutions, innovation will prosper among team members. Taking on a high degree of unexpected methods results in a powerful, long-lasting outcome.

In a session by Sardek Love, he encouraged trainers to think and act outside of the box. Whether it’s unexpected or surprising, doing something new or trying something old in a new way, all of these methods provide opportunities for proactive, sustainable skill practice.

3. Anticipate and Create Hybrid Work Environments

Setting your team up for growth begins by encouraging and modeling adaptability. In Ken Blanchard’s session, “Leadership in the New Hybrid Work Environment,” he provided a three-step process to implementing a hybrid workplace:

  • Creating an engaging picture of the future with clear connections to current roles and responsibilities
  • Locate and address concerns using a high-involvement strategy that brings people into the process
  • Measure and communicate results through a well-designed follow-up and measurement plan.

As we enter a new era of hybrid work environments, leaders must strategize successful re-entry plans to propel themselves towards their future vision. With flexibility and resilience, your teams will make their ambitions a reality.

Hybrid work should not be seen as an obstacle, but rather an opportunity to combine your in-person and virtual skillsets to create a successful outcome. With the modernization of virtual settings and the on-location application and action of working in-person, hybrid experiences drive teams towards their goals. These work environments contribute to unique learning experiences that create unconventional, successful combinations.

4. Create a Culture of Accountability

In New York Times best-selling author Pat Lencioni’s session, he said, “The first dysfunction of a team is a lack of trust.” Developing a level of trust in your team members, both in their personal and professional capabilities, drives effective collaboration and powerful products.

Fostering a culture of accountability instills confidence in team members to encourage creativity and innovation. As a leader, setting up expectations of accountability reinforces a productive, open work environment where team members strive for more.

Lencioni provided a metaphor that team-building is not effective if there are the wrong people on the bus or the right people sitting in the wrong seats. Effective leaders must ensure that their teams are comprised of people willing to take risks, and if they’re not, the leader must strive to encourage risk-taking by practicing resilient leadership during times of uncertainty and encouraging new projects that may take team members outside of their comfort zone. You can cultivate collaboration and personal development by holding your team members accountable for their contributions and ensuring that every voice is valued.

5. Future-Proof Your Learning Organization

Being future-focused prepares an organization for roadblocks before they appear in your sight.

The concept of the Learning Organization is centered around moving from an idea to a reality. Developing an effective Learning Organization ensures that your team is open to failure to achieve success with resilience and adaptability.

Sunil Narang, our President & CEO, delivered a discussion on Peter Senge’s Learning Organization. His session,” Building the Learning Organization: Modern Interpretations of an Established Concept,” provided leaders with insightful tips on how to transform and future-proof their learning styles to propel themselves into the modern era of L&D.

This session brought up an essential skill for modern leaders—working in the now and focusing on the future. Inspiring your team members to prepare for what’s next with a growth mindset will result in empowering, lasting outcomes.

To download a free copy of our Learning Organization report, visit


Keri Bennington

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