The most agile and high-performing organizations understand that focusing on people will lead to increased profits. It’s the people who interact with customers and clients, it’s the people who brainstorm the next generation of company products and services, and it’s the people who drive business results. But for the people to accomplish all those tasks, the organizations must inspire and engage them to push the boundaries of what’s possible.

Learning and development (L&D) professionals are in the people business. They contribute to the professional growth and engagement of employees across the organization and fuel innovation that will enable organizations to thrive in a competitive market. And I had the pleasure of being surrounded by 450 incredibly talented and passionate training professionals at the 2019 Training Industry Conference & Expo (TICE) last month. Their energy and passion to create learning programs that make a difference was inspiring, to say the least. It’s this dedication that creates a culture of learning, exploration and innovation.

Whitney Mortimer during her keynote

In the opening keynote session, Whitney Mortimer of IDEO said, “Innovation happens at the intersection of people, business and technology.” We must keep people in the equation to drive change and innovation. She stressed that “living in beta” will allow organizations to be more agile and creative by acknowledging that the work is never done and we can always strive to become better.

This emphasis on people, purpose and passion was echoed throughout the conference workshops and networking conversations. These characteristics are the foundation for creating a culture that can effectively embrace and navigate change. “In order to have a strong culture, you need a list of core values that you’re willing to hire and fire on,” said Erica Javellana of Zappos, in her keynote session. These values must be exemplified in all employees — from top-dog executives to entry-level employees.

When you invest in culture and engagement, business results and profits will follow, said Javellana. When you put profits over people, the business ultimately suffers. You create a disconnect between the employees and the business, resulting in a lack of employee motivation to reach business goals.

Understanding your culture will help you become more creative in your employee development endeavors. In a panel discussion, Stephen Walker and Chrystal Herndon of Levity Live stressed understanding your culture and audience to effectively inject purposeful humor into training. Knowing when to use a funny meme or a short quip from a comedy series is crucial to remain aligned with the core values of the business. Transforming a boring check-the-box compliance training into an engaging format can elevate learners’ engagement and retention.

TICE participants laughing

At the end of the day, L&D professionals are change agents. They have a platform to inspire and engage employees to create innovative solutions that will drive their organizations forward. Conferences like TICE bring together like-minded individuals with a common goal. Being able to witness the drive and passion of so many training professionals was a rewarding experience, especially as an editor who covers the industry. It’s important to meet the people “in the trenches” and hear their challenges first-hand to ensure that Training Industry continues to publish the most relevant and applicable content possible.