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What even Is a Chief Learning Officer?

What exactly does a Chief Learning Officer do, and why has this role become so crucial in today's corporate world?

30th January 2024

What even Is a Chief Learning Officer?
Nowhere more than corporate hierarchies love a TLA - Three Letter Acronym. New titles and roles emerge as fast as the industries themselves change. One such title, gaining increasing prominence, is that of the CLO - Chief Learning Officer. But what exactly does a Chief Learning Officer do, and why has this role become so crucial in today's corporate world?

The Genesis of the CLO
The role of the Chief Learning Officer first emerged in the late 20th century as companies began to realize the importance of continuous learning and development for their employees. Traditionally, learning and development (L&D) were seen as subsidiary functions, often tucked away in the human resources department. However, with the rapid pace of technological advancement and the increasing value of intellectual capital, the need for a dedicated executive position focusing solely on learning became evident.

The Role and Responsibilities
At its core, the CLO's job is to oversee a company's learning strategy. This role includes but is not limited to:

  • Developing Training Programmes: Crafting and implementing training programmes that align with the company's goals and objectives.
  • Fostering a Learning Culture: Promoting a culture of continuous learning and development within the organization.
  • Staying Ahead of Trends: Keeping abreast of the latest learning technologies and methodologies to ensure the company's learning strategy remains relevant and effective.
  • Measuring Impact: Assessing the effectiveness of training programmes and their impact on business outcomes.
  • Talent Development: Working closely with HR to identify and develop high-potential employees for leadership roles.

Why is a CLO is Essential in Today's Business Environment?
The need for a CLO stems from several modern business realities:

  • Rapid Technological Change: With technology evolving at a breakneck pace, companies must ensure their employees' skills remain up-to-date. Specifically think about the remote workforce, the advancements in AI and the emergence of Virtual and Mixed reality.
  • The War for Talent: In a highly competitive job market, the ability to develop and retain talent can be a significant differentiator.
  • Globalisation: As businesses expand globally, the need for a cohesive learning strategy that transcends cultural and geographical boundaries becomes critical.
  • Changing Workforce Dynamics: With the rise of remote work and a multi-generational workforce (generally speaking people are retiring later in life), learning strategies need to be more adaptable and inclusive.

CLOs in Action - Real-World Examples
Some notable CLOs have made significant impacts in their organisations. For instance, the CLO at General Electric played a crucial role in transforming its Corporate University, Crotonville, into a global learning hub. Similarly, Microsoft's CLO has been instrumental in developing a learning culture that supports continuous growth and innovation. 

The Future of the CLO Role
What does the future look like for Chief Learning Officers? Well the role of the CLO is expected to become even more strategic. As artificial intelligence and machine learning start to play a larger role in corporate training (and indeed operations), the CLO will need to navigate these technologies' integration into learning strategies. Moreover its expected that with the rise of AI in the workplace the focus on soft skills like leadership, communication, and empathy grows therefore CLOs will have to ensure that these are being effectively cultivated within the organisation.

So in summary the Chief Learning Officer is more than just a fancy title. More than just another TLA. The CLO is a pivotal role in the modern corporate world. As businesses continue to grapple with rapid change brought about by new technologies and global competition, the CLO stands at the forefront of ensuring that the workforce is well equipped. And well equipped not just to cope, but to thrive. In this era of constant evolution, the CLO isn't just a luxury – it's a necessity.

If you are looking to improve your training activities in your organisation why not take a leap forward by using Experiential Learning Tools to connect your people remotely? Sound interesting? Give our 6 week mini programme for communication skills a browse and if this looks like something you can benefit from in your organisation get started with ELT today.

Michael Hayes @experientialLT

Head of Product at Experiential Learning Tools

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