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Learning & Development in the Age of Pokémon Go

Dick's Sporting Goods is a Shaker client. Founded in 1948, Dick's is a Fortune 500 American corporation in the sporting goods and retail industries. We recently sat down with Patty Beard, vice president of Learning and Organizational Development for Dick's, to get her thoughts on the field.

What are a few key lessons you have learned along the way in your career?

  • Know your trade, know your business, but most of all know yourself.
    I often am asked what I believe to be the most important leadership quality. Early in my career, I was part of a women’s organization with the primary objective of helping women advance their careers. It was there I first learned the importance of self-awareness as a first step to development and advancement. I continue to see how critical it is every day in my work with others; it’s an ongoing theme in the executive coaching work that I do as well.

  • Manage your brand.
    In my core work, I spend time with people helping them understand and action their 360 survey feedback. People often don’t agree with the feedback they receive. We talk about the power of perception and how each of us as leaders is only as good as the perception of us. I equate this perception with popular and unpopular consumer brands, and they immediately get it. Every one of us every day in all that we do and say is creating our personal brand for others to evaluate. I learned early on that if you want to be successful you need to consciously manage your brand and sometimes reinvent it, too.

  • Don’t ask for advice, ask for coaching.
    I used to believe that the best way for me to grow my career was to ask for advice from people I admired and then to follow in their footsteps. After some hard knocks and disappointments, I realized that I needed to stop asking for advice and start asking for coaching. So I reached out to people who were interested in helping me and could ask me the kinds of questions that would allow me to explore what I wanted to do and what was best for me. This was so impactful for me early in my career that I have taken steps to become a certified coach to help others in this same way.  

What trends do you see that are having an impact on the talent acquisition/development community?

  • There is no going back to more traditional ways of learning.
    No one has time anymore to spend hours or days in a classroom. There isn’t patience, and there is too much lost opportunity when you are out-of-pocket in training. People want to learn like the character Trinity did in The Matrix when she needed to know how to fly the helicopter. I’ve seen this accelerated learning trend become even more pronounced in the last five years. Leadership and development professionals need to continue to explore the modern learner and meet the needs of their learners where they are versus where we want them to be or where traditionally we have expected them to be. Content curation is huge, as is self-service. Think about how often you search for something on the web in a day. That is how I see associates wanting to consume learning as well—more just-in-time, at-my-fingertips options to choose from.
  • The reasons people stay with companies are changing/The war for talent is real.
    There has been a lot of research about millennials and how they are different than other generations. My experience is that all the generations are looking at work and careers much differently than they used to. Companies realize that they need to make changes to attract and retain talent, especially millennials, and these changes have, in turn, benefited all generations and are giving them more options in their careers. For instance, your company doesn’t offer flexible work arrangements? You can find many that do all around you. Interested in focusing on your personal development? Most companies are providing more development in response to millennials’ request, but everyone can take advantage of it. If you aren’t getting it, you can certainly find a company that will provide more of what you want. Bottom line, I think in some ways people shop companies like they shop technology: what are the cool features, what are the benefits for me, what do other people think of it? People think this is an HR challenge. I think the challenge spans well beyond HR to include every leader in every business.
  • More and more, people expect to be entertained as a part of their learning.
    So much research says attention spans are shorter and technology is contributing to that dynamic. Leadership and development professionals have to grab attention quickly and work harder than ever to keep learners engaged. Video is really moving to the forefront, as are learning games/apps. Who hasn’t heard of Pokémon Go? It may seem like a fad, but I don’t think any L&D professional can discount it. I believe this is the type of stuff that is setting the bar really high for learning professionals, as well as public school systems. We just created an online course about hazardous waste that included zombies. Five years ago I would have told you that would never happen.