This past month has been a busy one.  I have found myself in discussions with a number of companies that are seeking a Chief Learning Officer (CLO), or the equivalent.  Many of the discussions have originated with the company’s need to move their internal training; up from some ad hoc structure into a more highly systematized educational system.

What has surprised me is the hesitancy of the companies in taking the ‘step’ to a true training program, and hiring the CLO who would be responsible for it.  It seems that many of these firms [and their management] look at training as a ‘cost center’ and has minor or irrelevant impact on the profitability of the firm.   They could not be more mistaken.

It has been my response to point out the four main attributes to a high-end training program.  These attributes are often overlooked and lost on management.  The reasons for the short-sightedness may be many, but seem to cluster around:

1) Rapid ramp-up for new employees — getting them up-to speed in dramatically quick fashion.  Far to many companies do not recognize or even tracking the value of taking new hires and fail to measure the value in  reducing the time it takes to make them proficient and revenue creating.  Far to many management teams treat this function as an HR program.  Wrong, wrong, wrong.  This is a sales and marketing matter.  Improving the time it takes to making an employee a revenue generating component is not only measurable but valuable to the bottom line.

2) Systematized and consistent training programs are almost none existent.  Most internal programs are thrown together by various departments.  These ad hoc programs have little or no metrics attributed to the training courses. Sometimes these are management by the HR department, but are usuallyslapped together by some HR person with involvement of the other departments (sales, customer support, development, etc.). By creating a consistent program, companies have the ability to cross-pollinate skills, successful attributes and actions, and best practices.

3) Linking training with business goals. Since most of these companies programs are not systematized, nor tracked, it becomes close to impossible to link the training with ongoing business goals.  A structured training program allows for true alignment between what is taught to the staff and their business and revenue objectives.

Finally, 4) the employee development is just overlooked.  Most ‘act’ as if employee development will happened organically without any assistance.  What a shame it is that these companies fail to improve and enhance their single most valuable asset… their people.  A primary goal is for CLOs to encourage their employers to investigate what competencies will make them successful and then align development programs with their strategic objectives.

The role and primary responsibility of a Chief Learning Officer is to manage these 4 primary responsibilities for the corporation.  By creating and managing the training program, new hire preparedness is rapidly improved and productivity is achieved earlier by a consistent and systematized program.  The CLO, by systematizing the training, will insure that every employee has a universally approved introduction to the company and to the culture that it offers. They work to insure that all staff  are equipped to perform their job functions at a base-line that is measurable and manageable.  By creating the metrics with performance and training, the CLO insures that training is aligned with the overall business goals of the company.

The CLO position is NOT a sales management position, nor is it primarily a HR position.  It should be thought of as the compliment, ‘the training yang to the sales yin’.  One without the other is incomplete.  They feed and build on each other.  Once a company’s management understands this, the ability to take the step towards true growth, in people and revenue, are accelerated.

Copyright  Bryant Nielson. All Rights Reserved.