Why Learning Leaders Are Perfect For HR Roles

Although the titles change, the skills to lead remain the same.

Learning leader is kind of a niche position. At least, it was. But increasingly what once required a singular focus on and deep expertise in learning and development strategy has morphed into a complex role with touch points on some areas that were once solely HR’s province.

Now it’s not uncommon for savvy CLOs to advance their careers by stepping into a CHRO role, or something similar. Tamar Elkeles, chief people officer for Quixey, spoke with Chief Learning Officer about her own evolution into such a role, and why it makes perfect sense.

Kellye Whitney: These days it’s not uncommon for CLOs to migrate into top human resources roles. You did. Why is that progression a good fit?

Tamar Elkeles: The key to career progression for CLOs is to be in a strategic place in an organization, despite the title or functional area. In many organizations the CLO function is a strategic role that can effectively leverage a learning executive’s expertise. In some organizations the more strategic area is as head of HR. Learning leaders are uniquely qualified to deal with the talent issues and opportunities in an organization, and their skills are critical in HR leadership roles.

Key responsibilities for CLOs are managing talent, developing and coaching leaders, leading organization development and culture initiatives and addressing strategic business challenges. That skill set is essential to be an influential HR business partner and problem solver across the organization. The skills I used as CLO were the same strategic skills I needed to be an effective Chief Human Resources Officer.

Whitney: What are some of the challenges associated with that kind of transition?

Elkeles: As CLO for Qualcomm I was on the HR senior executive team, so the evolution to chief people officer at Quixey was easy for me. There are many similarities in the roles. For example, in my role as CLO I focused on executive coaching, talent management and development, organization change and strategic organization initiatives. In my role as CPO I’m doing the same. The key differences are in some of the employee relations as well as day-to-day compensation and benefits areas.

As CLO I was less focused on assessing pay equity, and I rarely dealt with benefits questions. In my role as CPO, it was really important for me to have a good team of experienced HR specialists to provide expert guidance in those areas.

Whitney: If you had one key piece of advice for a CLO aspiring to be a CHRO or a chief people officer, what would you say?

Whitney: Some say the CLO role is being slowly phased out as learning and talent management are increasingly intertwined. What do you think?

Elkeles: I think it’s a matter of semantics. Whether you call it a Chief Learning Officer, Chief Talent Officer or Chief People Officer it doesn’t matter. What’s most important is the role itself. I do believe there is a lot of consolidation in the strategic learning, talent, engagement, performance work that’s being done in organizations. It’s leaders with the skills to lead those initiatives that will ultimately have the most impact.

Kellye Whitney is the Chief Learning Officer associate editorial director. Comment below or email editor@clomedia.com.