All the glitz and glamour is gone, the paparazzi are no longer following me, and I’m back to just being a regular CLO. While I will miss the VIP treatment and fame, my time as Chief Learning Officer’s CLO of the Year has come to an end. As I reflect on this year, I realize how proud I am to be a CLO and how grateful I am to have had this memorable experience. It’s been a year of tremendous change and growth, both personally and professionally.
We are living in a time where input and information are overwhelming our employees. The pace of our workplace is exceedingly fast, and we are continuously facing unprecedented business challenges. CLOs have so many new opportunities to impact organizations.
Today’s CLOs are preparing a workforce for a future that cannot be described. It’s uncertain and complex; roadmaps are ambiguous and increasingly take new turns. Executive leadership changes, economic changes, technology advancements, government influences and changing business models are driving uncertainty in organizations and among our employees. I believe this is the biggest challenge on the CLO agenda today because if we don’t know where we are going, how can we prepare our employees to get there?
Disruptive technologies, industry consolidation and market forces are altering the organizational landscape, and we are faced with the responsibility of developing the skills of this rapidly changing workforce. We are forced to ask, is learning about gaining knowledge or making connections? Our employees have taken control of their own learning, so what is our role?
I believe our role is focused on building the skills of our employees to help them learn. We are no longer able to manage content or access to content. Content is everywhere and employees are finding it when they want it, whenever it’s convenient for them. The No. 1 website employees access during work hours is an external Internet search engine, not your internal learning website. Social networking, content creation, filtering content and self-broadcasting are all skills our employees need to be successful in today’s business environment. We need to develop their skills in these areas to increase their competitiveness and their ability to quickly obtain information and knowledge.
Our employees have built their own personal Web tools to support their learning and share information. Independent of the learning organization, they are learning, and sharing learning across the company and around the world. It is out of our control. Employees have created personal learning networks, groups of people who they use to help them learn. These are not necessarily people we recommended to them. They are self-selected mentors, coaches, colleagues, experts — people around the globe who can answer questions, offer guidance, share experiences and provide knowledge to our employees.
The amount of communication and collaboration occurring across today’s workforce is astounding. It’s driving innovation, new ideas, new ways of working and new thinking, and it’s all happening independent of the learning organization. It’s happening because employees have a need to get information and knowledge, and we haven’t been there to give it to them fast enough.
CLOs are responsible for creating a personal learning environment for employees — an environment that encompasses their personal Web tools and personal learning networks and provides context for them. We can be facilitators of their personal learning environments and provide a formal context for their learning experiences and learning content. We are no longer the content providers, and we don’t control their Web tools or networks.
They have defined how and what they want to learn, from who and when. They will continue to develop and grow without us unless we play a significant role in creating their learning environment.
Providing connections, communication, collaboration and context to enable our employees to grow and be heard is essential. In a time of great uncertainty, the only certainty is that there are lots of challenges and opportunities ahead for CLOs.
Tamar Elkeles is chief learning officer and vice president of learning and development at Qualcomm and the author of The Chief Learning Officer: Driving Value Within a Changing Organization Through Learning and Development. She can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.
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