Thrive and Grow: Transforming L&D to deliver Business Impact

The theme of the 2018 Irish Institute of Training and Development conference was Thrive and Grow: Transforming L&D to deliver Business Impact. A range of speakers throughout the day created a narrative focussed on the steps needed to create a new approach to learning and development in the workplace, and The Learning Rooms was proud to be one of the main sponsors of this year’s event. Following a successful day in Croke Park, we’ve summarised some of the key learnings from the event.

Learning and Development in Ireland Now

The conference kicked off with Ibec CEO, Danny McCoy, setting the tone for the presentations to follow: Ireland is in a different type of economic boom and it is time to harness its potential. While the Celtic Tiger was credit driven, the current economic climate is cash drivenand is fuelled by an intangible asset; intellectual property. Intellectual property is at the front of what corporations are driven by in Ireland, so L&D is front and centre in the development of staff to harness as much of their potential as possible. As worker’s develop and grow, so to should Ireland’s attractiveness to investors and large corporations.

Danny McCoy was joined on stage by Christian Kinnear (Hubspot), Emmet Browne (Nuritas) and Tara Doyle (Matheson) for a panel discussion around understanding a leader’s perspective on the importance of capability development and how it links to the strategic business agenda. One of the biggest takeaways from the initial discussions was around the idea of “general athletes”: people who can adapt with their roles and to new work challenges. Businesses have to be prepared to develop as industries grow or newly emerge. Workers that are capable of facing new challenges in changing environments show a greater ability to succeed and help the business grow. It was suggested that there needs to be a significant investment in the staff of organisations, with a particular focus on resilience as a key desirable skill. Many workers entering high pressure workplaces may not have the appropriate skills for coping with stressful and intense situations, often from a lack of exposure and training. Developing these skills will lead to a stronger workforce and productivity within the organisation.

Before the panel wrapped its discussion up, there was a question from the audience with reference to age bias. The panellists discussed this, and noted that ageism is alive and well. While the information technology industry is relatively young, there must not be a bias against older applicants as their knowledge and life skills are invaluable. Some organisations are providing returner programmes for employees returning to the workforce.

Transforming Engagement through L&D

The conference continued with Tracey Waters from Sky UK outlining the struggles their organisation was experiencing. They approached their L&D problems with an Agile methodology. They discovered, however, that learning needed to be human centred and not HR centred. This would involve breaking rules and experimenting to achieve effective results in their L&D process. The consensus was that effective training required a personal touch relevant to learners. They implemented a flexible, accessible and personalised training experience. Reinforcing this message, Sinead Marron of GSK spoke about transforming engagement with learners. They identified a need to help sustain the learnings throughout the entire change management process.

Concluding the morning sessions were five hotspot pitches around learning best practice, specifically regarding branding, evaluation & metrics, gamification, VR / AR, and social learning.


Cillian Fennell from Stillwater Communications discussed Using Stories as a Vehicle for Transformation: a masterclass on the power and impact of stories.Storytelling is an effective approach to presentations and learning experiences as it increases engagement with the user. Storytelling is one of the oldest methodologies of information sharing, and modern versions of storytelling can be viewed as interpreting data. Fennell outlined the six personal stories: Who am I, Why am I here, My vision, Values in action, Teaching, and I know what you’re thinking. These stories are how learners, and people, view themselves and the world around them. Most great stories start in an ordinary world and follow this structure; a call to adventure, refusal of the call, crossing the threshold, road of trials, seizing the Grail, and the Return. This simple process of which thousands of stories are based upon can be harnessed to fulfil the potential of staff and organisations.


The final presentation of the conference seen Jane Daly of Towards Maturity speaking of the transformation journey. Their organisation are analysts who drive organisations to Analyse, Activate and Accelerate. Some of the most interesting information they found was around the methods learners find most useful, with 91% of those asked found collaboration with teammates as essential. Jane also spoke about a high performing learning organisation. This is established with a clarity of purpose, supported by a holistic people experience, a thriving ecosystem, an agile, digital infrastructure, continual engagement, and intelligent decision making.

The presentation continued by outlining that L&D transformation is more like a series of S curves than a linear process. To achieve a high performing learning organisation, these S curves follow a path of optimising training, taking control, letting go and sharing responsibility. These processes involve a number of tough choices, but is an effective way of transforming performance in an organisation.

Moving Forward

The IITD conference 2018 was an opportunity for learning and development organisations and practitioners to come together and discuss current and future trends. From a reinforced message about how the landscape of Ireland is changing and how our beliefs need to match this change, to storytelling and outlining ways that positive change can be made in an organisation, it was a narrative itself encompassing a passion for learning, personal growth and development. The conference included a very special performance by The Holy Family Deaf Choir, that encompassed the message of perseverance, adaptability, and talent that will drive the Irish workforce into the future.