What then should a chief learning officer be thinking about? Well, for one thing, job-related effectiveness is not simply the sum of the talent and ability of people in work-related situations. Indeed, people are much more complex than that, and their performance is dependent on other factors as well. For example, personal problems like parenting, getting along with a spouse, depression, anxiety and the like all affect an individual’s ability to perform in the workplace. So in charting a new course for the chief learning officer, many more complex issues should be addressed and indeed the position should be the most productivity-critical one within an organization. The following areas include some that are often neglected and others that are typically considered as the job description of the CLO.
Technical Training Skills
Of all the areas of corporate learning, technical skills have always been the easiest to justify. If an individual needs certain skills to conduct the most obvious aspects of his job tasks, training is clearly needed. A welder must weld; a salesperson must know the technical specifications of the product she sells.
Soft Skills Training
An area more recently accepted as critical for organizational success is related to soft skills training. Whether this is the ability to deal effectively with customers, the ability to establish relationships that lead to sales or the abilities associated with managing people, all have become the domain of the chief learning officer.
Future Skills Needed for Success
The successful chief learning officer must create systems that ensure the flow of qualified candidates to staff the organization in the years ahead. This could include, but is not limited to, building alliances with universities, creating high-potential talent pools and ensuring access for all employees to ongoing learning opportunities.
Efficient Learning Systems
More and more, the chief learning officer must create organizational learning. This might include organizational policies that foster learning, technology that enhances opportunities to learn and overall makes learning cost-effective within the organization. Stand-up training opportunities must be balanced with technology-driven training to create a blend that maximizes effectiveness with efficiency. In short, the chief learning officer must run a business, and like other businesses, its ultimate survival depends on its value in the “marketplace.”
This area is perhaps the one that creates the greatest controversy. What is meant by “organizational climate” cannot only consider the learning of technical and soft skills. More importantly, organizational climate must deal with every individual and his or her total life. People clearly do not work unaffected by other aspects of their lives. Parenting issues, interpersonal problems, depression and anxiety, to name a few, dramatically affect an individual in the workplace. To isolate these aspects of an individual’s life is short-sighted and naïve. Employee assistance programs, employee benefits and work/life benefits all provide programs that attempt to deal with outside-of-work issues. Yet in most cases, the chief learning officer has little to do with these programs.
In the future, the chief learning officer will be tasked with a broader overall responsibility. It will include not only professional skills and how these can be learned most effectively within the organization, but personal skills as well. Furthermore, the responsibilities will include quantifying and justifying the expense. Whether it be turnover, absenteeism or productivity, the responsibility of the chief learning officer will include a more complete integration of the individual within the world of work. We are not there yet.
Dr. Cabot L. Jaffee Sr. is the chairman of AlignMark, a company offering products and services to the Fortune 1000 in the area of human resources. Previously, he was the founder and CEO of companies sold to John Wiley Publishing Company and The Thomson Corp. The author of many books and articles, he is a recognized expert in the areas of selection, training, performance management and employee enhancement. He holds a doctorate in psychology from Florida State University. E-mail Cabot at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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