The New C-Suite Rock Star, The CLO?
Imagine this: a c-suite meeting at a large successful company, a prominent seat reserved for one of the most-valued and revered members of the team, the Chief Learning Officer. This CLO we speak of is empowered with a substantial budget and autonomy. Their department is staffed up with L&D experts trusted to deliver another strong quarter of result. Their corner office is worthy of a Fortune 500 CEO – complete with access to the company’s private jet and an in-office Jacuzzi.
Sound too good to be true?
Yeah, the jet and Jacuzzi, those might be a stretch. But what would it take to achieve the rest? What are the necessary conditions to get a sufficient budget, autonomy, a kick-ass staff and the respect as a true c-suite partner (not just in name)? What would it take to unleash the true potential of the CLO?
The Time Is Right
There’s never been a better time for CLOs to dream big and make a push. We’re in an era where CEOs are embracing continuous learning models. Skills have a short shelf life. Employees need (and want) more training opportunities. And CLOs have the potential to become more instrumental than ever before to the success of failure of their organizations.
The Key to Reinventing the CLO Role – How Do We Get There?
The key for CLOs making their job look more like this “imagine scenario,” and delivering on the fullest potential of their profession (helping prepare employees for the future of work and organizations for the future marketplace), is not just results, but data to back up those results. Data verifies success; it also let’s us know where and what to improve. Just as Unilever marketing executives leveraged customer insights to develop Dove’s wildly successful “Real Beauty” Campaign or Ford Motor Company evaluated purchase data to refine its line of vehicles to compete in a modern market, so too can CLOs leverage insights from learning data to drive success and transformation.
According to LinkedIn’s 2017 Workplace Learning Report, only 8% of CEOs see the business impact of L&D programs, and just 4% see the ROI. No wonder CLO’s can’t get that Jacuzzi, or the authority they need to be more effective (just 60% of CLOs say they have a “seat at the table” with the c-suite).
But, when CLOs are able to demonstrate – clearly and easily – how training programs have saved time and money, and prevented loss, waste and even liability, they’re speaking the language the CEO needs to hear. Demonstrating these kinds of business impacts also makes it easier for CEOs to buy-into training initiatives – communicating their significance, modeling desired behaviors and fostering a culture of learning. It also helps CLOs gain credibility in areas that are harder to measure like improved culture, job satisfaction and even employee retention.
Step One: Data on Training Efficacy & Course Efficacy
To engineer real change and be on the same playing field as their peers in the c-suite, CLOs have to quantifiably demonstrate the improvements made by their department. In the same way that a business unit leader might share quarterly earnings, CLOs need to translate knowledge gains into hard figures. What’s the knowledge P&L? What are the quarterly knowledge results?
Today’s CLOs need data that:
- Validates learner mastery and engagement
- Demonstrates how much and how well employees are learning
- Predicts which learners will be able to apply the training back on the job
- Recognizes learner strengths so management can place employees in areas that maximize their existing skills
- Refines courses to be more effective
Armed with information like this, CLOs can begin to validate, with data, the efficacy of their training initiatives. And as a result, they can better position themselves as valued strategic leaders on par with other c-suite executives.
To transform the role of the CLO – and experience all the benefits of this evolution, like increased budget, autonomy, respect and buy-in – CLOs need tangible proof of the impact of their programs. But demonstrating training efficacy and improvement is just step one in the transformation of CLOs into c-suite rock stars. CLOs also have to tell the story of how learning data bridges into larger workplace data and impacts business outcomes. That’s step two – and it’s what we’ll be covering next.