Friday, May 28, 2004

(Untitled and unpublished article about ASTD 2004)

Learning & Innovation – May 28, 2004
By Moje Ramos-Aquino

This column is a little delayed because the program I used in the USA can not be accessed from our computers here. Ngek!

The participants at the American Society for Training and Development Conference & Exposition (ASTD 2004) that ended yesterday are satisfied with their new learnings, affirmations of what they are already doing and upbeat about doing more for their respective organization, but I suspect a little scared.

It was a week filled with learnings, analyzing, reflections and sharing. It was also venue for networking with fellow human resource and organization development (HROD) professionals around the world, 10,000 strong!, exchanging notes and email addresses. The Asian participants outnumbered other non-USA delegations; although, the combined number of European, Latin American and African participants is only a head or two less. I think there were only seven of us Filipinos.

HROD people are a studious and curious bunch. They listened well, asked a lot of questions and openly shared their own experiences and thoughts. The session rooms were always full. The speakers are experts in their own topics and are the epitome of an “A” presenter. Nonetheless, some friends from Panama, Mayra Baez and Miriam Samaniego with daughter Irene, managed to take their picks at the special sale at Filene’s and Hecht’s before the stores closed at night.

The popular topics are still web or e-learning, training measures, performance improvement, leadership, career development, and training techniques & methodologies like coaching and mentoring. neurolinguistic programming, music and humor.

It seems like everything is changing but nothing has changed.

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and The Washington Post report about serious and drastic cost-cutting activities by a number of big businesses here, notably Verizon and Warner Music. Wall Street Journal’s Ethan Smith and Martin Peers wrote, “The group of investors led by Edgar Bronfman Jr. that bought Warner music Group earlier this year faced a daunting challenge—change a culture of financial excess that is as old as the modern recording industry. As soon as the deal closed, Mr. Bronfman made deep cuts: laying off 1,200 employees, slashing at least $250 million in overhead and whacking salaries across the board by as much as 50%.”

I wonder what the HROD person at Warner is thinking and doing right now. Attending ASTD? These are big challenges and opportunities for the HROD professional to earn a seat at the table.

The buzzword for the whole conference is “a seat at the table.” Sun Total’s Kevin Oakes said that for the most part, HROD professionals have lamented that they don’t have the ear of the executive management because individuals in the profession have rarely talked with confidence about what executives want to hear: increased revenue, tangible productivity, and improved business performance. He discussed how learning technology can help HROD peeps shed their academic image and not only gain “a seat at the table,” but make management view it as one of the most strategic seats they have. He suggests speaking the language that senior management understands, addressing main issues that most concern them, apply learning technology to effect real organizational change, and to demonstrate business results and bottom line impact of learning.

(Please join Moje offer prayers of thanksgiving for the continued success and happiness of her lovable sons, Adrian (May 28) and Ronjie (June 20), as they celebrate their birthday this year. She welcomes your sharing with our readers your effective cost-cutting initiatives via

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