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ATD Blog

Forum Spring Lab: The Perfect Fit

Sunday, May 21, 2023

The ATD Forum met to leverage collective wisdom, practices, and experiences.

Build or buy? That’s a critical question pertaining to whether L&D teams design, develop, and deliver the learning experience themselves or obtain it from outside the organization. Which is preferable?

It depends on your personal situation: Do you have the expertise? The bandwidth? Would your time be better spent solving other challenges—that is, from a cost-benefit analysis does it make more sense to hire someone? How do you come up with the answers? And, if you ascertain that buying is the best solution, how do you determine whom to partner with and ensure the relationship is a perfect fit?

The ATD Forum’s 2023 Spring Lab was the venue for sharing tips and best practices to help participants gain insight into this issue. The Forum is a consortium in which senior talent development professionals connect and collaborate to leverage collective wisdom, practices, and experiences.

Whether you build or buy, the conversations you have with potential partners and the relationships you develop affect the success of your L&D program. The Spring Lab helped Forum members understand what questions to ask and prepared them to have meaningful conversations at the EXPO hall during ATD23.

Spring Lab Activities

The Forum Lab on Saturday, May 20, featured a case study with member Hilti and its strategic partner for leadership, the Center for Leadership Studies. It was followed by small-group discussions, large-group sharing, a presentation by thought leader David Vance, and a final capstone project. Taking advantage of the largest training exposition in the industry, attendees leaned into the supplier availability, amassing a listing of vendors other Forum members currently use as well as companies that members are interested in speaking with at the EXPO. As a group, they developed a checklist of questions to ask the suppliers.

The Forum staff provided resources for attendees ahead of the Spring Lab—including Terrence Donahue’s CTDO article, “Recruit a Partner, Not a Vendor,” which describes the difference between transactional relationships and true strategic partners—to help them prepare for the discussion on build or buy. In the article, Donahue, corporate director of learning at Emerson Electric, shares that in strategic relationships, the L&D professional’s role is to help their partner understand the specific performance need, how that need was determined, and how they see the supplier as helping to address that need.

“When you have a true strategic partnership,” writes Donahue, “something called the ‘pain and gain principle’ starts to surface. Essentially, we accomplish more together than we would have on our own. As long as the program hits the mark, we both win. But if it misses the mark, we both feel the pain.”

Beyond the build or buy learning, Forum staff shared resources to help members make the best of their learning life, whether in San Diego or virtually. “Start by addressing your personal BIG WHY for attending the conference and, subsequently, the specific sessions,” writes MJ Hall, Forum content manager, in her blog, “Living Our Best Learning Life.”

She continues: “As you clarify your purpose and consider what you want to be able to do differently as a result of your participation in the conference, think about what you will do there. How may you use the conference to expand your network, gain skills for collaborative decision making, and be more prepared for solving your current business challenges as well as those unexpected ones down the road?”

Benefits of Belonging

A core element of the Forum gatherings—whether its labs, exclusive online virtual events, small-group virtual cohort discussions, or on-demand benchmarking surveys and consultation service—is the collaboration and sense of connection. They are opportunities to learn from colleagues in an open, friendly, noncompetitive environment.

“The Forum is a space for peer-driven community learning. It’s a place for our members to get better at getting better,” Hall explains.

Conference attendees can get a sense of the hands-on nature of Forum gatherings by attending one of several sessions during ATD23, including “Applying AI Across the Talent Ecosystem,” “Learning in the Flow,” “Reflection Practices: From Thinking to Doing,” and “Game Changer: Learning Experiences Redesign.” Search the program guide by ATD Forum under Session Type for more details including times and locations.

About the Author

ATD23 News is your source for news, updates, and session coverage for ATD’s 2023 International Conference & EXPO.

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