Beginning the Conversation:
The Institute’s Point of View

The Journey So Far

Last summer, the national board and staff of CSTD embarked on an ambitious change journey. While CSTD had enjoyed many successes as a professional association, including strong membership growth (CSTD nearly doubled in sized over the past 10 years) and a professional designation that has become the de facto standard in Canada, we felt that CSTD needed to do more and be more.

We needed to evolve our brand so it better reflected our vision, mission and the diversity of our membership. We needed to create a member experience that would attract and retain new members while at the same time engaging our most tenured members whose careers had led to demanding leadership roles. We needed to promote the profession and its value beyond the membership, especially to organizational leaders, government and individuals looking for a dynamic, creative and well-paid career. And we needed to become thought leaders and curators – presenting the latest trends in the profession and doing our own research rather than relying on others.

In response and with input from members across the country, the national board of directors and staff collaborated to create “Aurora”, a five-year plan that lays out eight priorities for change. We felt strongly that an important starting place was creation of a point of view for The Institute and, by extension, the profession. We felt a point of view was important for three reasons. We wanted to excite our members around the possibilities of who we are and what we can become as a profession. We wanted to evolve our thinking around the breadth of our profession whose boundaries exist at the intersection of many different streams of activity and perspectives. And we wanted to elevate this important dialogue to a national level and have it serve as a starting point for determining how we should influence organizational strategy and government policy related to workplace performance and learning.

We started modestly with a small working committee made up of our national board chair Allison Patterson CTDP, board members Christine Duplesix CTDP, Mary Brodhead CTDP, and Rob Pearson, CTDP, CEO of The Institute. This article is the result of our many conversations over a period of six months. We offer this point of view (POV) not as a manifesto or fait accompli, but as the beginning of an evolving conversation among our membership, a conversation that will continue to shape the POV against the backdrop of a rapidly changing world and profession.


Where do we find ourselves?

Canada is one of the most respected and wealthiest nations on the planet. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Canada’s GDP ranks near the top of all OECD countries. Our formal education system is considered one of the best in the world with among the highest rates of tertiary education and students who perform near the top of their peer group on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) scores in mathematics, science and reading. Yet there are persistent skill shortages within certain labour markets. Canada is near the bottom of OECD nations in terms of investment in R&D, and significantly lags behind the United States (and most other developed counties) in terms of labour productivity (the Conference Board of Canada), leading some pundits to suggest that the biggest drag on our prosperity is falling productivity and declining investment in innovation. Where everyone agrees: in an increasingly competitive world, the key differentiator among nations will be the diversity, resourcefulness, and skills of their citizens.


Who are we as a profession?

Against this backdrop, workplace performance and learning professionals are poised to make an even greater contribution to improving Canada’s prosperity. Canadians spend most of their lives learning at work, not learning in school. Through training, performance support, coaching and many other means, our profession enables employees to perform at their best.

We are a thriving and growing community of professionals dedicated to excellence in the design, creation and implementation of workforce solutions.

Our solutions engage, enable and inspire adults to perform at their best and make the organizations where they work more successful, innovative and productive. We have championed the power of workforce performance and learning to enrich lives, enhance productivity, foster innovation, and fuel organizational results.

A workforce that is engaged, skilled and motivated works faster, smarter and safer; has safe and healthy and loyal customers; outperforms the competition; is less likely to be sick or leave for another job.

We are designers, problem solvers, business leaders and change agents. We see ourselves as professionals who view the work we do as a calling more than a job. We are rigorous in our practice, informed by deep experience, grounded by standards of excellence, and informed by the latest science.

We are a diverse group.

We call ourselves trainers, instructional designers, clinical educators, performance consultants, e-learning developers, leadership specialists, organizational design consultants, coaches and more.

We work in mines, colleges, hospitals, financial institutions, retail, government, businesses that deliver solutions to clients from every business sector and more.

We train workers to do their jobs safely. We orchestrate powerful informal learning environments. We create organizational systems that engage and enable employees. We design eLearning programs that can be accessed just in time and any time. We develop and coach future leaders. We orient and inspire new hires. We level the playing field by developing essential skills. We impart our deep expertise and experience to novices.


Who are we as The Institute for Performance and Learning?

We demonstrate and promote that workforce performance and learning is a mission critical profession that improves the productivity and prosperity of Canadians and Canada.

The Institute is Canada’s only not-for-profit, member-based organization representing workforce professionals. For decades, we have improved the lives and careers of hundreds of thousands of Canadians while helping Canadian organizations excel.

With our national office, The Institute supports a rapidly growing membership of 3,000 members with a robust network of 17 Chapters across the country.

  1. We are a hub and catalyst that identifies and disseminates evidence-based best practices that enable and inspire our members and elevate the standard of professional practice.
  2. We set the standards for excellence in professional practice through a competency framework, code of ethics, and two sought-after professional designations.
  3. We promote the profession to the world and to Canada’s best and brightest: high school students, college and university graduates, and mid-career professionals looking for a new challenge.
  4. We connect our profession with the broader Canadian context to influence government policy and organizational strategy.


What do we believe?

  • Everyone is a life-long learner and most of what we learn in our lives happens in and around the workplace. We all seek to better ourselves by accumulating knowledge, skill and wisdom through formal and informal experiences. This makes learning one of the most fulfilling, rewarding and value creating human endeavours.
  • Our profession is an important contributor to the health, productivity, and prosperity of Canadians and Canada. An organization’s investment in workforce performance and learning is mission critical and not a cost of doing business.
  • Given the importance of our profession to Canada’s prosperity, our work as is a critical input to successful corporate strategy and government policy.
  • Our professional practice is guided by theory from a variety of fields including, but not limited to: organizational development, facilitation, neuroscience, education, instructional design, coaching, the arts and change management.
  • We are committed to maintaining an evolving framework of evidence-based principles that promote effective, leading edge practice.
  • As professionals, we adhere to an ethical code of conduct and standards of professional practice.
  • We aspire to be a sought after career destination for early and mid-career employees as well as the best and brightest high school, college and university students.
  • As design thinkers, we see our solutions as part of a complex system, created iteratively and rooted in an understanding of the needs of an organization and its members AND ultimately, of what success will look like and how it will be measured in terms of organizational and individual impact.
  •  The best solutions viscerally engage and stimulate the learner. The affective element of our work is as important as the cognitive.
  • The best solutions are multifaceted and woven into the fabric of an organization, not isolated events disconnected from the workplace.
  • Digital communication technology is a powerful enabler of our work, connecting people and learning in ways that are constantly evolving.


What should we advocate?

As a profession and professional association, where do we see the need for change beyond our membership and what can we do to make change happen?

Should government funding for all skill-development programs require adherence to our professional standards?

Should Canada be a leader in the preparation of workplace learning professionals?

Should Canada be a leader in workplace R&D?

Should Canada be a leader in methods to measure the organizational impact of workplace learning?

Should … ?


Where to next?

This is only the beginning of a broader conversation about our POV and the kinds of change we should be advocating, as a profession and the Institute.


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