Twenty Basics to Becoming a CLO

The goal of every professional trainer should be to become a CLO. If this is not your ultimate aspiration, you may very well be in the wrong profession.

The goal of every professional trainer should be to become a CLO. If this is not your ultimate aspiration, you may very well be in the wrong profession. To succeed in employee training, learning and development, you must look forward to doing it every day.

Here are 20 basics to becoming a CLO:

Create a Vision and Mission for Training
A vision and mission statement are the stepping stones to articulating and clarifying why training, learning and development initiatives exist and are necessary within the organization. These tools will help you define what you aspire the training enterprise to be in five, 10, 15 or 20 years, as well as articulate the true purpose of the training enterprise.

Align Your Endeavors With the Strategic Imperatives of the Organization
In order to become a CLO, you must be able to connect every training endeavor you create, implement or facilitate to the primary business goals of your organization. Your CEO is not necessarily interested in the number of people who did or did not attend your training workshops — he wants to know how it will affect the bottom line, increase customer loyalty and create greater employee engagement.

Create a Strong Alliance of Internal Customers
Find ways to increase awareness, support and involvement at every level of the organization from senior executives and mid-managers to supervisors and line staff. As a training, learning and development professional, these are your customers. Make it a point to know their likes and dislikes and be flexible enough to adequately develop your programs and workshops around what is important to helping them reach their business and financial goals.

Don’t Expect the HR Director to Plan Your Career
Becoming a CLO is a journey that starts with self-motivation and self-development — if you wait for someone to notice your work, you will be behind the learning curve. Remember, CLOs are visionary thinkers who proactively stay ahead of the organization, always looking to the future to determine not only what the organization needs in order to grow and be more effective but also looking internally at their own professional and personal gaps and seeking ways to close them.

Learn More About the Operations Aspect of Your Organization
If you stay in the ivory tower of training and never venture out into the operational areas of your work environment, your ideas concerning improving performance — if you have any — quickly will become obsolete. Get out from behind your desk and get involved in what’s going on in the operation.

Read, Read, Read
Commit to reading a minimum of one business magazine or newspaper a week and one business book a month. In spite of your busy schedule with work and home issues, this is a professional imperative in your journey to becoming a CLO. It will improve your vocabulary and business and financial acumen, and it will keep you attuned to what’s important to the CEO and senior leadership.

Create a Learning Library for Your Organization or Business Unit
Use a small portion of your training budget to buy books: hardbacks, paperbacks and those on tape. As you read exceptional business books, create a recommended reading list for your leaders. In progressive learning organizations, the CEO and senior executives tend to read a lot, so involve them in creating the reading list. They will be honored that you asked, they most likely will buy into the concept and they will encourage their managers to use the learning library.

Recognize and Benchmark Best Practices in Training
Make it a point to recognize individuals within your organization who are exemplary departmental trainers and use their practices as the benchmark for the rest of the organization. When you have proven examples of training, learning and development successes within the rank and file, everyone tends to take notice. If your organization is large enough to have a cadre of departmental trainers, you should get them together over coffee or lunch to share their best practices and ways to ensure the training and learning and development experiences are consistent for every employee.

Expand Your Knowledge Base
Expand your knowledge and expertise as a training, learning and development professional through continuing education. Seek out industry certifications that will increase your expertise in the field. Whether you decide on obtaining a master’s degree, a doctoral degree or an industry-specific certification, commit yourself to lifelong learning.

Create a Learning Execution Strategy
All CLOs understand the importance of a training strategic plan — it is the road map for how learning will occur and be executed within the organization. Directing training initiatives without a strategy is like traveling to a new destination without a road map — it wastes valuable time and money, and it creates frustrating reworking for all involved. Your training strategic plan (better known as a learning strategy) should outline what training interventions will be developed and implemented, and how it will affect the primary objectives of the organization.

Keep a Notebook of Special Ideas and Projects
Great CLOs are visionary leaders who are always on the prowl for new, effective ways to improve leadership effectiveness, employee development and their organization’s production capability.

Use Every Communication Tool Available to Reinforce Training’s Value and Contribution
Once you have established the vision, mission and objectives of training, use every communication tool available to share them with all levels of the organization. If your organization has an employee intranet, a newsletter, bulletin boards, etc., these are perfect tools to tout the function and purpose of the training enterprise. This is also a great opportunity to recognize work areas that are doing an exceptional job of fostering learning environments.

Establish and Differentiate the Function and Purpose of Training
A CLO clearly knows the difference between training’s purpose and the function of training. This is a trait that separates seasoned training professionals from novices. Clearly defining the purpose of your training enterprise is the first step in clarifying its mission, vision and business objectives.

Join and Become Active in Professional Organizations
Professional organizations allow you an opportunity to network with others and increase your visibility within your field of work. The American Society for Training and Development and the Society for Human Resource Management are great organizations to consider being part of. Also, don’t settle on being another member in the crowd — work your way up within the organization, just as you would in a career, with the ambition of eventually becoming a board member.

Continually Improve Your Public Speaking Skills
The mark of an effective CLO is the ability to present information to employees at every level of the organization from line-level staff to mid-managers to senior executives, all with ease. To develop or refine your public speaking and presentation skills, consider joining Toastmasters or the National Speakers Association or co-facilitating workshops with a senior leader with excellent communication skills. More importantly, the more you present and train, the better you will get at it.

Create a 30-, 60-, 90-Day Plan
Proactive planning is the key to successful implementation of training, learning and development initiatives. This ensures you stay on track and that your training activities are aligned with your already-established learning strategy. What always drives managers crazy is when training is ad hoc, with no forethought or consideration for the operation. This makes it hard for managers to properly plan to cover the department while others are out attending training workshops. At a minimum, effective CLOs plan 90 days out.

Find a Mentor
The best CLOs can recall a specific person in their career whom they admired. Select role models and mentors who possess leadership traits you would like to emulate — people who are smart, educated, knowledgeable, consistently practice good business etiquette, communicate extremely well and are well-liked by many. Also, consider individuals who will provide you with timely, honest feedback and will help you improve blind spots of which you might not be aware.

Look and Act the Part Now
Along with business and financial acumen, the trait of savvy CLOs is their professional appearance. Whether you are an entry-level trainer, a training manager or the director of training and development, start to look and act the part you want to achieve. Remember: Whenever we enter a room, our appearance and mannerisms are on display.

Pay Attention to Details
Everything you do speaks volumes about you, whether you are creating a training manual, writing a memo or newsletter article, giving a presentation or implementing a new intervention. While the most effective CLOs might not be perfectionists, they check every detail to ensure there is a flawless execution.

Stay Focused
Stay focused on a learning strategy and philosophy that will help the organization achieve its strategic imperatives. It is so easy to get lost in the minutia and misdirect your efforts on training endeavors that do not add value.

Bottom line: To become a CLO, you must start thinking like a CLO today

Theo Gilbert-Jamison is CEO of Performance Solutions by Design and the author of the book, “The Six Principles of Service Excellence.” Before launching Performance Solutions by Design, she was vice president of training and organizational effectiveness with The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. She can be reached at