#lt12ukAnother year, another train, another exhibition hall and yes, another trade conference. I was in London’s Olympia for the Learning Technologies and Learning and Skills 2012 Conference. Most ‘industry events’ act, at the most superficial level, as a kind of barometer: the level and enthusiasm of those in the hall can speak volumes, even if you don’t listen to the actual words.

Encouragingly, the event was packed: unless vast droves of the HR and L&D professions are fearing imminent redundancy and are taking any opportunity to network furiously, the implication is that learning has not fallen either from fashion or from organisational budgets. It would, however, be unwise to overlook the ‘jackdaw’ effect of technology. In the learning arena, this effect is arguably doubled – the possibilities of each new technology as a medium for learning (and for quite a wide range of present participles, come to think of it …) brings the possibility of fresh excitement to existing themes, while the possibility of delivering learning (and yes, that does make it sound like milk or groceries) to a large, geographically dispersed audience without travel costs, with fewer trainers and no travel budget understandably brings a rare glint to the usually steely eyes of budget holders.

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Pictures from an Exhibition - 1In November last year, I wrote about my contrasting reactions to the CIPD Annual Conference in Manchester and the HR Unconference in London. One conclusion that it was hard not to draw was to question quite what the CIPD Annual Conference was attempting to achieve, and whose benefit it was attempting to achieve it for. As I remarked at the time, footfall and attendance both seemed to the reasonably eagle-eyed attendee to be surprisingly low: it was difficult to avoid the suspicion that those paying handsomely for exhibition space might be questioning the wisdom of their investment.

While it was evident even before I arrived that the Learning Technologies 2011 & Learning and Skills 2011 event, held at London’s Olympia on 26-7 January 2011, was not going to be a small, informal, grassroots/bottom up even in the style of the Unconference, I’ll admit that I was interested to see just how busy the event would be. As it turned out, and as some of the photos illustrating this post demonstrate, it turned out to be very busy indeed.

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It’s amusing sometimes how different parts of your life can chime together. CIPD’s Next Generation HR has been calling for HR professionals to address HR much more as a core element of business and to use the language of business. Meanwhile, many corporations are hiring in ‘business professionals’ to head up HR functions, seeking to address ‘the great divide’ from their respective sides of the chasm. As ever, there is much talk of revolutions and new paradigms. Meanwhile, the TV news drones on in the background. Watching a programme about the American half-term elections and the country’s issues of the day recently, I found myself commenting at the telly to my partner’s amusement. The basic gist was that, given the august documents that seemed to surface most regularly were The Bible (Oxford standardised text: 1769), The US Constitution (1787) and Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (1776), it was one thing to talk about returning to the 80s, but that returning to the 1780s was taking things too far. Received wisdom has its moments, but wisdom has chronological context. Sometimes, even the most venerable, august and respected ideas or organisations need to move on.

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Recessions come and, thankfully, go. The challenge for organisations is that employees and talent don’t echo the tidal shifts in the economy: HR professions enjoy the sand between their toes on holiday like everyone else, but part of their purpose is to ensure that the workplace never becomes beached. Talent management and development is, of course, an eternal issue. Katherine Thomas, Group Talent and Leadership Director at BT, expressed that sentiment in an article in the October 2009 issue on The Grapevine:

Retaining talent is no different in a recession to any other time in the economic cycle – it is simply about focusing on the relevant things and executing these well.”

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The Human Resource Management supplement distributed with The Daily Telegraph today includes an interview with ASK’s Managing Director, Robert Terry. In the article, Growing a business through talent management, Robert stresses the importance of follow-through to ensure that the enthusiasm and learning generated during development events is not just taken back into the workplace, but also applied and sustained. (more…)

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