Everywhere from the exhibition halls to workshop rooms to the main conference hall, TICE 2019 was alive and buzzing with excitement as learning professionals and thought leaders from across the globe converged in Raleigh, North Carolina. Their mission: to listen, learn, engage and collaborate in order to improve their workplaces.

This year’s Training Industry Conference & Expo offered ample opportunities for building connections with fellow learning leaders and discovering innovative technologies and training methods. Workshop speakers shared insights from their learning and development (L&D) journeys, and keynote speakers inspired attendees with thought-provoking presentations on creativity, the respective value of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and humanities proficiencies in the workplace, and company culture.

We listened to attendees’ questions, responses and experiences, and, since attending every workshop session was impossible, we’ve compiled tips, tricks and trends that our attendees were most excited to take back to their organizations. This year, our attendees came to TICE to discover how to become effective, innovative leaders in their workplaces, as well as how to build a company culture that supports personal and professional development.

Effective Leadership Begins with Brain Health

The attitudes and behaviors of an organization’s leaders have a significant impact on employee performance and productivity. If they are disengaged or consistently demonstrating negative behavior, their employees are less motivated to perform tasks that drive business success. In his session, Ben Weber, director of human resources and training at Vendor Resource Management, shared that emotional intelligence and brain health are the foundation of the engaging, effective leadership that employees value.

Ben Weber presenting his TICE session

Defining core objectives and goals for employees is integral to effective leadership. However, leaders’ ability to perceive their employees’ emotions and reactions, as well as their ability to regulate their own mood, highly influences workers’ efficiency and effectiveness. In an article for TrainingIndustry.com, “The Leadership Success Formula,” Weber writes, “As brain health decreases, so does brain reserve, which is the ability to manage stress, maintain constructive optimism and demonstrate resilience. A lack of brain reserve increases a leader’s propensity for moodiness; causes fatigue; and reduces memory, emotional and social awareness, impulse control, and much more.” For leaders, maintaining habits that promote brain health, such as getting a full night’s sleep, following a healthy diet and exercising regularly, is vital to company success.

Effective leaders are, first and foremost, healthy leaders. By emphasizing brain and personal health, leaders can improve the productivity and work environment of their organizations.

Innovatively Engage Your Learners and Workers

Facilitators and learning professionals often struggle to engage learners and employees in meaningful ways that ignite behavioral change. In her popular session, Laura Harris, training and development manager at University of Colorado Boulder, shared with learning leaders a few liberating, interactive structures to use in a wide range of situations, from training programs to brainstorming sessions.

Despite engaging in multiple liberating structures, attendee questions and responses during the session indicated they were most impressed by the troika consulting method. Troika consulting requires three participants, two of whom act as consultants, while the other acts as the client. The client presents his or her problem to the consultants and then turns away as the two consultants brainstorm aloud. Each member of the group has the opportunity to act as the client. Troika consulting allows participants to receive “practical, imaginative help from others immediately,” Harris said. While the activity is structured, the participants are free to share ideas, and the participant must keep an open mind and refrain from making comments that may shut down creative solutions.

Lauren Harris, CPTM, presenting her TICE session

Unique, innovative structures for facilitation engage learners far more effectively than traditional facilitation methods. Glancing around the workshop space, I saw that there was not a single attendee who was not fully engaged in a conversation with his or her group or partner. Liberating structures are a great addition to any leader’s or facilitator’s portfolio.

Culture of Service

A clinical definition of company culture is the “assumptions, norms and concerns shared by people.” Erica Javellana, speaker of the house at Zappos Insights, and Zappos itself, describe culture as how people complete tasks without thinking about it — or “how you are when no one’s looking.” Attendees were all ears as Javellana shared her closing keynote on developing and integrating a company culture of service, as well as Zappos’ journey toward strong company culture and the core values that fuel that culture.

When it embarked on this journey, Zappos turned to its employees to define its culture and the 10 core values they wanted to see consistently demonstrated in the workplace. Once they defined and established those values, the organization committed to hiring and firing based on them. Employees left or were terminated based on their inability to adhere to the Zappos culture, and qualified job candidates were passed over due to behaviors and interactions that did not exemplify the Zappos culture. This level of commitment to culture is vital to integrating a meaningful culture that employees will uphold. Once they’re immersed in a culture, it becomes infused in their every action and interaction.

In addition to methods for establishing and committing to culture, Javellana highlighted Zappos’ commitment to the pursuit of growth and learning as an integral means of retaining employees. Javellana shared that nearly “half of the employees [it has] today started in [its] call center” so they could fully understand what service means to Zappos. Through internal training and apprenticeships, employees are progress in their professional development without leaving the company. Javellana shared that it is important to make sure your employees feel they’re “not just [in] a dead-end job.” By encouraging workers to grow, learn and take risks — another Zappos core value — you will retain talented employees who value their own development and the development of the company.

Javellana also shared with attendees the importance of loving what you do and the place you do it in. She said that, at Zappos, “We want people to be their whole selves” at work. For years, people have talked about the importance of work/life balance. However, Zappos believes in work/life integration. Its leaders hold firmly to the belief that employees should be themselves, because when you “get rid of the word ‘work,’ it’s just ‘life.’”

At TICE 2019, attendees gleaned valuable insights on the foundations of effective leadership; actionable tips for engaging employees and learners; and valuable lessons on the importance of a company culture that supports empathy, learning and innovation. By promoting brain health, leaders can respond appropriately to their employees and promote productivity. Facilitators and leaders can engage and excite learners with unique liberating structures that encourage creative problem-solving and open dialogue. Lastly, by building a strong company culture of service, learning and risk-taking, organizations can retain talent who drive personal and company growth.

TICE banner outside the Marriott Crabtree