No organization wants to lose their best employees. And one of the main reasons workers quit is due to lack of advancement. In fact a survey by Robert Half found a strong learning culture led to a 30 to 50 percent higher retention rate in companies. That’s why it’s important to look at developing your key employees so they remain engaged and give your company an edge over the competition. So how do you ensure learning takes center stage within your organization? You hire an individual who oversees this process, a Chief Learning Officer (CLO).
There has been a lot written lately on the role of a Chief Learning Officer, so you may be wondering what exactly a Chief Learning Officer is, what purpose they serve, and why they are needed within an organization. And once you have a clear understanding of their role, how do you determine if you should hire one for your company? Let’s start by looking at where this role originated and why it was created.
What is a Chief Learning Officer?
This job role was first started in 1989 by then CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch. He hired Steve Kerr, then a consultant for the company, to be the Chief Learning Officer overseeing employee development. This led to Kerr running GE’s 59-acre management training center. Since this time, the role has evolved but the core definition remains the same. A Chief Learning Officer is a senior level executive who oversees a company’s learning program and strategy by supporting its overall business goals. Usually larger organizations hire this person as an extension of human resources. Chief Learning Officers report primarily to CEOs or Talent Officers and may be referred to as Chief Knowledge Officers as well.
Roles and responsibilities
A Chief Learning Officer wears many hats within a company. Some of the core responsibilities include:
1. Align with organizational goals
A Chief Learning Officer is a C-suite employee so he or she needs to be steering the learning of the organization in the same direction as the overall goals of the corporation. One of the CLO’s main goals is to develop key skills of the employees, but also to advance the company as a whole.
2. Create a learning strategy
Next the CLO needs to create a learning strategy based on what the company’s goals are. Each employee needs to be assessed as to their roles within the organization and how best to strengthen their skill sets to meet these outlined goals. On the flipside, it’s important to discuss with each core employee their individual learning goals so that they remain fulfilled and engaged on the job.
3. Assess current employees
After outlining a companywide learning program, a Chief Learning Officer needs to assess if they have the right employees to properly execute the strategy. If there are holes within the organization, the CLO will need to hire these individuals. This may also mean shuffling around responsibilities within the organization to the strongest employees. And if there are employees unwilling or unmotivated to execute this new learning strategy, these employees may need to be let go.
4. Evaluate and make changes
A Chief Learning Officer needs to be flexible and creative. Since he or she will be implementing a new learning platform, they can’t be rigid. The program they put in place also can not be static. Tweaks and changes need to be made often based on employee feedback. Plus, this person needs to stay on top of trends within the industry in terms of learning management systems, training design, and technological advancements.
5. Analyze results
Lastly, it’s important for the Chief Learning Officer to analyze how the program is progressing in order to convince their organization that their plan is effective. This needs to be both on a personal level and a numbers level. This person needs to ask themselves some key questions:
- How are my employees responding to our new learning culture?
- Are my learning objectives translating into business metrics?
- How is the new learning culture adding value to the employees?
- How is the increased learning culture helping our customers?
Hiring a Chief Learning Officer
Now that you know some of the responsibilities you want in a Chief Learning Officer, the next question you may ask is do I really need one? If so, where do I find one? And how much will this cost my organization?