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 and their L&D team?
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 L&D has the potential to become more instrumental than ever before to the success or failure of their organizations.
The Key to Reinventing the CLO Role – How Do We Get There?
Data. Data. Data. The key to making the CLO job look more like this “imagine scenario,” making the whole L&D team shine, and delivering on the fullest potential of the L&D 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 L&D 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 the entire L&D department 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, the “language” spoken in the c-suite. What’s the knowledge P&L? What are the quarterly knowledge results?
Today’s CLOs need data that:
- Validates engagement and mastery at the application level
- 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, L&D can begin to validate, with data, the efficacy of training initiatives and the best uses of future training resources. And as a result, CLOs can better position themselves as valued strategic leaders on par with other c-suite executives and the raise the profile of the entire L&D department.
Better Data Is Just Around the Corner
To give L&D the data it needs, we recently launched Fulcrum Snapshot. This new product gives CLOs a “snapshot” assessment of employee knowledge – pinpointing the depth and degree of what each individual knows down to a single competency or skill – without having to first create an entire learning program.
Below you can see how Fulcrum’s Snapshot demonstrates the progress, proficiency and knowledge of an individual employee across a variety of learning objectives. The units in bold represent job critical competencies. Here you can see that Patrick Jones’ proficiency is “good” and above the group average, which means that he understands the material and will likely be able to apply it accurately on the job. The units that are not in bold reflect secondary or tertiary skills that, while not job critical, offer additional insights into Patrick Jones’ strengths and natural inclinations. L&D departments can use this information to coach employees toward more personally-fufilling career paths.
Using the group Snapshot report, L&D can also asses the performance of the entire workforce’s to identify high-level trends and knowledge deficiencies. The first report below demonstrates the performance of a group within a specific unit. This report shows which components are most well known (green dots), and which need additional remediation (red dots). From here, they can drill down into each component to determine exactly which learning objectives pose the greatest challenges (report 2 below). Armed with this information, L&D can better target training and remediation activities to address specific areas that have the highest need.
Armed with this vital information, L&D can:
- Assess current training initiatives and learner mastery of core competencies
- Identify and target critical content and curriculum gaps
- Remediate knowledge gaps, enhance skills and improve accuracy of knowledge application
- Evaluate the impact of current learning systems against L&D strategic objectives
All off which will solidify their seat at the c-suite table and make the entire L&D team look good.
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.