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Does Your Business Need a Chief Learning Officer?

by / ⠀Blog Startup Advice / August 30, 2022
chief learning officer

With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic came a movement commonly referred to as the Great Resignation. Workers everywhere left their jobs for greener pastures, finding themselves unwilling to work for starvation wages. Or, they found themselves in toxic and exploitative working environments. But workers didn’t just quit because of low pay or poor working conditions — a lot of them quit because they had no opportunity for advancement. That’s where a chief learning officer comes in.

As many business owners will be quick to tell you, it costs a lot more in terms of time and money to hire and train a new employee than it does to retain an existing employee. From a financial standpoint, it often makes business sense to do everything you can to retain an employee.

Data has shown that companies with a strong learning environment retain their employees at a much higher rate than those without. And to foster and develop that strong learning environment, you could stand to benefit from having a chief learning officer on hand.

What a Chief Learning Officer Does

In short, a CLO is responsible for managing and facilitating employee growth and learning. It’s a CLO’s job to make sure your employees have all the skills and information needed to excel in their positions. Additionally, they make sure employees obtain the knowledge to help them move up in the company.

To do their job well, a CLO needs to be in alignment with your company’s values and direction. Since they’re in charge of developing employee skills, they are by proxy helping the company to develop as well — so it’s important to know what direction that is.

As part of their position, a chief learning officer will create a learning strategy that’s in line with your company’s goals. Then they assess your employees to not only see how they’re doing within their roles, but how best to develop their skills. The ultimate goal is to keep employees feeling engaged and valued while on the job. Plus, it’s to give them the resources they need to move up in the company.

Hiring (or Becoming) a Chief Learning Officer

If you’re looking to hire (or become) a chief learning officer, you should know it’s not a field for newcomers. Although the career itself developed in 1990, an individual seeking to become a CLO will need an established history in their field. Relevant corporate experience, particularly in training and teaching, is essential to being an effective CLO. Most companies will be looking for a candidate with more than a decade of experience in the business world.

In order to succeed, a CLO needs a broad skill set, including:

  • Strong communication skills. This includes the ability to clearly detail one’s ideas and strategies.
  • Organizational skills. Being a CLO usually involves a great deal of multitasking, and must have skills in project management and be able to adhere to both timelines and budgets in order to keep the process flowing smoothly.
  • Leadership qualities. A major part of being a CLO is motivating others. Then, bring them along with your vision for employee and company development.
  • Creativity. Developing a strategy isn’t a by-the-book process; needs can vary wildly from one company to another. For this reason, CLOs need to be able to think creatively and come up with new and unexpected solutions.

Because of the robust skill set needed, most chief learning officers will have a doctorate in education, giving them the background they’ll need to be effective at transforming your business.

Why Your Business Might Need a CLO

So does your company need a chief learning officer?

While opinions differ, a common guideline in the business world is that a company with over 1,000 employees could stand to benefit from having a CLO. Once your business reaches that size, it’s important to start developing a formal architecture and strategy for growth and development. On top of that, finding someone who can implement and refine that strategy.

Having a CLO can also prevent the stagnation or loss of employees and business knowledge. This keeps your company moving forward instead of standing still. The ultimate goal of a CLO is to help your company thrive, both financially and in terms of its culture. So if you find you’re losing employees, or the development of your company seems to be at a standstill, the hiring of a chief learning officer might be just the shot in the arm your company needs.

Another closely related reason why your company could benefit from having a CLO on board? It may help you to clarify and narrow your focus when it comes to your company’s goals. Not every business owner knows exactly how to keep a company moving in a positive direction. This is also true when it comes to providing employees with advancement opportunities. A CLO’s job is to look at your company’s vision and develop a plan to make that vision come to life. Additionally, they help get your employees on board to help make that happen.

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