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ASTD-HKIHRM session highlights need for new management skills for radically changing workplace

Conferences organised by the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) are widely recognised for their range of topics and cutting-edge insights into the trends having the most impact on the corporate world.

Human resources professionals who took part in last week's ASTD-HKIHRM 2013 Post-Conference Sharing Session in Hong Kong can feel confident about being up to date with all the latest themes and thinking, and in a position to shape their own companies' training and development strategies that much more effectively.

The seminar featured winners of ASTD Excellence in Practice Awards who shared details of the planning and execution of initiatives designed to improve learning outcomes and, as a result, enhance operational efficiency and increase job satisfaction.

The second part of the session provided the chance to hear from a number of internationally respected "gurus", who spoke on their specialist subjects via a webinar link.

One of the key participants, Alfredo Castro, president of MOT Training and Development, dealt with the subject of "Management Development: Innovating Learning in a New Workplace".

He highlighted the new challenges involved in training corporate leaders with a global mindset and the essential topics to take into consideration when delivering management programmes.

"With the social and economic changes in our society, we have to figure out how to prepare leaders for the future workplace," Castro says. "Ten key factors have emerged from my studies as likely to influence and impact leadership development in the new cultural and multi-generational environment."

Those factors include a good balance between behavioural and technical knowledge; the capacity to think globally; and an understanding of the broad concept of diversity.

According to Castro, it will also be increasingly important for executives at every level to be good ethical models, have the ability to build partnerships and influence others even without authority, and to know when and how to change leadership style.

"If we design programmes which take account of these factors, we will provide a good platform for the future," Castro says. "Because of multi-culturalism, the workplace is seeing a change in the scope, concept and mission of leaders, so trainers must understand which issues are becoming more important."

He adds that, to maximise their use of human capital, companies must have a systematic approach to adopting diversity concepts in core business practices and also make more effort to raise awareness, via training, of the legal, commercial and social implications of globalisation.

"People are hungry for new formats and new ways of designing and delivering leadership and development programmes," Castro says. "We have to consider new competencies such as how to lead virtual teams and different generations in the same workplace."

Another expert, David Vance, executive director of the Center for Talent Reporting, addressed the topic of talent development reporting principles (TDRP) and explained why HR professionals should use clear standards and targets to measure the effectiveness of their training programmes.

His concern is that HR professionals in charge of training are too often unable to quantify intended outcomes and actual results. Received wisdom says there is no reliable method, but Vance sees no reason to accept that viewpoint.

Other areas of business - accounting, for example - comply with international standards and, with the help of TDRP, it also becomes possible to measure the effectiveness of training and, hopefully, justify the costs.

"TDRP can be used anywhere around the world in the same way," Vance says. "For most companies, it takes two to three years to implement. It is a big change, but there are clear steps to follow, and it has met with a warm reception from companies in countries like South Africa, Singapore and the United States."

Reflecting on the success of this year's seminar, Francis Mok, president of the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management (HKIHRM), notes that, in an ever-changing business environment, it is incumbent on training and development professionals to stay ahead of the curve.

"It is essential to know about best practices from other parts of the world," Mok says. "In Hong Kong, we are clearly leading in a lot of ways, but we must always be open to new ideas and influences."