Can you offer any career advice to someone hoping to advance in the learning field? I’d like to be a CLO one day.
I get asked this question a lot. There is no one path to becoming a CLO or advancing in the learning field. Some come from education backgrounds and others come from business. That said, CLOs are businesspeople first and learning people second, so acquiring business skills is essential for advancing in the field. The best CLOs can innovate and execute, take a broad perspective and focus on connecting the work they do with the strategies of the organization. I suggest obtaining experience and knowledge about all the learning disciplines: professional development; management, leadership and executive development; functional development; organizational development; performance consulting; learning technologies; learning measurement and evaluation; and learning theory. Anyone aspiring to become a CLO should acquire both business and functional skills from academic programs — degrees or continuing education — as well as direct business experience. Don’t pass up any opportunities to work on interesting projects or assignments. Remember that the more you learn, the more opportunities will come your way. And finally, it is important to work hard, be strategic and implement successfully to advance in the learning profession.
According to new research, many organizations aren’t tracking informal learning. Why do you think that might be? And have you come across efficient, cost-effective methods to do so?
I have seen lots of research on tracking informal learning and personally struggle with the concept. Instead of tracking it, I am a big fan of facilitating informal learning across organizations. I am not convinced that tracking informal learning is very beneficial or adds much business value. Tracking any learning in an organization should be based on business need, not the learning department’s need to justify budget or head count. Too often I have come across learning professionals who are trying to defend staff or dollars and use the volume of training that they are managing as a justification. I fear that tracking informal learning can assist with that justification. The reality is that all employees learn through informal methods — and they have been doing so for years. I am not sure why learning professionals are now discussing the need to track this type of learning. Many current LMSs claim to track informal learning, but I am not using my company’s for that purpose and have no plans to do so.
During tough times, one of the first programs to get bumped from the budget is executive coaching. What are some ways to keep it on the priority list?
Tough times or not, executive coaching budgets and programs deserve a lot of scrutiny. I believe that external executive coaches are being overused. While there is value for executives in receiving external feedback, the more we use a third party to provide performance feedback, the more we enable internal managers to delegate that responsibility. A large part of the role of management is to collect and provide performance feedback to employees as well as coach them to perform better in their current and future roles. If we hire external people to continue to provide this service, we are minimizing managers’ roles. During the past few years in my role as CLO, I have reduced the number of external executive coaching assignments across the company and instead provided specific programs to develop managers’ skills in giving employee feedback, coaching for optimal performance and having employee development discussions. I know it is difficult to engage executives in providing feedback, but as learning leaders we are responsible for building great leaders in our organizations — and a key part of a leader’s role is providing coaching and feedback to his or her staff.