The chief learning officer, by whatever title fits the individual corporate structure, spends his or her day thinking about the education and development of others. That’s the nature of the position, of course. But this month, I’m going to ask you to spend some time pondering your own education, your own career path—your own future.
Let’s do some leadership development—some succession planning. Let’s look at our roles as chief learning officers and examine what skill sets the next generation of learning leaders will need to succeed. How will tomorrow’s CLO ascend to the role? How can this next generation prepare for the challenge?
Not exactly small questions, but from this exercise I’m hoping we all come away with a better understanding of the past, present and future of the still-evolving position of chief learning officer.
I bring this up because I recently joined an international cadre of learning leaders hosted by the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education and Wharton Executive Education for a summit titled “Preparing Leaders in Work-Based Learning Programs.” The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the development road that leads to the position of the chief learning officer. About 30 leaders in workforce education attended the meeting. At issue was the role of the CLO and how best to shape the next generation of learning executives.
Unlike many corporate roles, there is no standardized path for the current generation of chief learning officers. Our own CLO Profile feature bears this out. Over the past few years, we have chronicled the careers of chief learning officers with backgrounds in business, experience in training and education, or both.
The only commonality has been a passion for their roles, and that’s certainly priority one for success in any job, at any level.
Naturally, the role of the CLO differs from company to company, but the very fact that the chief learning officer position exists is evidence of the growing importance of workforce development to the enterprise. The fact that University of Pennsylvania and Wharton are considering the issue supports the growth of the position and legitimizes its place in the future.
So, what’s next? Should the chief learning officer role be developed more completely, with a structured learning path set forth for future leaders? Is a post-graduate degree in corporate education the logical first step? Is there a need for an executive MBA program? Will a certificate program help launch an aspiring manager into the leadership position of the CLO? What are the key elements needed to build a program for tomorrow’s learning leaders?
We had some great debate on that at our meeting. Our group boiled it down to four areas of leadership:
I won’t linger on the debate—I’m more interested in your input. What do you think the chief learning officer’s role will look like in the future? What skill sets do you feel the next generation of learning leaders will need to possess?
The dialogue started in Pennsylvania, but let’s continue it here. Think about these things, and please do share your thoughts. As always, you can reach me at norm@CLOmedia.com.
Editor in Chief
- 5 Forces Shaping the Future of HR
- Why ‘Leaders Eat Last’
- Congratulations to the 2020 LIP Award winners!
- 5 things to stop expecting from a mentor
- Politics, values and the election in the workplace
- New benchmarking tool for higher ed seeks to address workplace soft skills gap
- Who leads your DEI function, and how do you support them from an organizational perspective?