The New CLO

The challenges are mounting for CLOs. The upcoming retirement of the baby boomer generation will bring significant knowledge gaps, and the incoming generation of employees has a very different learning […]

The challenges are mounting for CLOs. The upcoming retirement of the baby boomer generation will bring significant knowledge gaps, and the incoming generation of employees has a very different learning style. Most enterprises will expect people to develop new competencies at a faster pace than ever before as product life cycles get shorter and organizations become flatter.

Executives in all industries want to leverage the untapped talent of their people, and they are turning to the CLO to ensure that this talent is energized and engaged. It is not enough to deliver traditional classroom learning in isolation. Too much is at stake, and the 21st century offers exceptional opportunities to deliver learning through cutting-edge tools.

Learning must be integrated into the execution of strategy, developed collaboratively, extended through both time and geographies with rapid execution, and it must demonstrate valuable bottom-line results. A new CLO role has emerged involving a number of significant areas.

Learning Governance
It is critical to engage business leaders, IT leaders, and HR and learning leaders to develop and shape a vision for learning and jointly make decisions. This support will optimize the implementation and adoption of new initiatives in today’s complex enterprises.

Build an Employer Brand
A company brand is one of the most important assets of an organization. Investments in people learning and development can help enhance the employer brand and position the organization as an employer of choice. The CLO must play an active role in making this a reality.

Performance Management Practices
Performance management has emerged as a strong area of focus for most enterprises. The learning function must be involved in a number of areas, including developing competency frameworks, mapping courses to competencies and designing individual knowledge assessments. This enables employees to build personal learning plans and keep track of learning completions.

Learning and Collaboration Platform
An enterprise-wide learning and collaboration platform provides access to knowledge and learning, the capacity to track and report learning activities, and the opportunity for people to share knowledge through communities of practice and expert networks.

Provide Decentralized Capabilities
Previously, learning programs were mostly centrally developed and delivered for people throughout the organization. In today’s world, it is expected that information and knowledge flow through the entire enterprise bottom-up, horizontally and top-down. Universal access to the tools and applications that enable distribution of knowledge and sharing of expertise within the organization is mandatory.

Value Proposition and Measurement
Enhancing learning capabilities requires significant investments that only can be approved if a sound business case is communicated. To retain investment levels year over year, it is important to show the business impact the investments have achieved. The good news is that the CLO can leverage and blend a broad portfolio of different learning methods and tools to support the business and people development, including classroom programs, self-paced e-learning courses and live virtual classroom sessions, podcasts, webinars, PDA and mobile-based learning, online job aids and performance support tools, online books, access to rich knowledge repositories, coaching and mentoring (both live and online), communities of practice, expert networks, online skill and competency assessments and career-development planning tools.

The primary resource to be engaged in the execution of strategy is the skills, knowledge and energy of the people. Maximizing the capacity of each individual through targeted learning and development over time is crucial to excellence. With a seat at the strategy table, there is a requirement that learning creation and execution are linked specifically and intentionally to the business goals of the organization and that the language of business is spoken.

As CLOs, do we speak the language of business?

Nick van Dam, Ph.D. is global chief learning officer for Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu. He is founder of the e-Learning For Kids Foundation. He can be reached at