High-profile CLOs are prominent because they’re proactive. Instead of building learning solutions for pre-established corporate strategies, these leaders outline the development dimension of various business plans during the decision-making process.
By offering insight about strategies’ talent implications before they’re chosen, influential CLOs have shown their perspectives can improve performance before workers take a single class.
CLO Dave Groff offered this outlook to Allstate Insurance Co. leaders during his first few months at the business, which led Allstate to elevate its interactions with education, said Karen Scott, senior manager of the human resources education department.
“One of the things Dave and his colleagues have done for us is involve learning in what we refer to here as a ‘talent decision framework,’ which is really stepping it up above learning at the transactional level, the project level, to cause leaders to take a look at the talent implications of the strategies and initiatives that they have going on,” she said.
Changing the way senior leaders think and talk about learning is critical to integrating development into conversations about corporate objectives, Groff said. And it’s the CLO’s responsibility to show senior line managers how learning relates to their strategic goals and teach them their role in the development process.
“You’re trying to get everybody thinking along the same lines, from the top of the house to the bottom of the house, about issues that are in the learning and development space,” he said. “You have to create a common mindset on how you draw conclusions about talent implications of various strategies. So, it’s not just about getting a handle on a goal and then doing something in the learning and development space with it — it’s developing an understanding among the senior managers.”
Effective CLOs must extend this interactive approach into lower levels of business, as well. Groff said the best learning leaders know how their strategic initiatives are playing out in every part of their business and can discuss both big-picture plans and front-line challenges in depth and at ease.
“CLOs — all the ones I know at other companies — have multiple, often competing or conflicting levels of interest that they have to have a hand in,” he said. “They have transactional issues at the bottom end of the pyramid, operational process issues in the middle of the pyramid and strategic issues at the top of the pyramid, and on a given day, they’re going up and down that pyramid dealing with different issues.”
To help them deal with the challenges they face on a daily basis, CLOs need to develop strategic thinking and consulting skills, the ability to influence and strong business acumen, Groff said. They also need to be able to communicate with their business partners, evaluate their concerns and help them understand the broader performance implications of their business plans.
And although taking courses and reading instructional books can help CLOs improve these skills, the best way to become a high-profile learning leader is to seek advice from those who are getting it right.
“They ought to meet other people who are doing it well — I think networking is one of the biggest single sources of developing people who are early in their careers,” Groff said. “They need to get engaged in networks of professionals, particularly those that include the companies or people that are at the top of their game.”
— Tegan Jones, firstname.lastname@example.org