The 3 Levers Of A Successful Chief Learning Officer

The 3 Levers Of A Successful Chief Learning Officer
Summary: How can the success of a Chief Learning Officer (CLO) be measured in an organization?

Measuring The Success Of A Chief Learning Officer

Instead of trying to solve individual problems, the job of the Chief Learning Officer is to take a bigger picture view of their organization. In this article, we’ll take a look at the 3 areas a CLO can have a strong impact on.

eBook - Three Levers Of A Successful CLO
All you need to know about measuring the success of a Chief Learning Officer.

1. Performance Transformation

Transitioning From Trainers To Performance Consultants

27% of CLOs are deeply concerned that their learning strategies are not aligned with business objectives, according to a Chief Learning Officer survey. Those CLOs are concerned because if their learning strategies are not aligned with business objectives, they cannot transform the performance of the business.

As CLOs know, L&D playing the role of performance transformation is not as easy as it sounds. Most L&D organizations consist of people who have been rewarded on their ability to get learners to consume training, and as an added bonus, they create training programs that learners enjoy.

In other words, they have been trained to improve the performance of their training programs and not the performance of the people who consume the training.

Changing the overall mindset is only half the battle. Once the L&D department has aligned their goals with the transformation of business performance, the team still needs a deeper understanding of very specific functions. They need to be able to advise and guide the sales team on how to improve sales conversion, counsel the customer service team on how to acquire listening skills when dealing with irate customers, or empower the technology team to quickly deal with security breaches.

It’s Time For L&D To Own Business Transformation

CLOs may want to see an overnight transformation, but that may not be possible if the vision and mission of the Learning and Development department are not in sync with those of the company. The L&D function is usually restricted to conducting learning and training and does not have a role in aligning learning strategies with the core business strategy. In order for that to change, learning has to establish itself as an agent of organizational change.

Over the past 4-5 years, organizations have just started to scratch the surface of the role that L&D has in performance transformation.

It is up to the CLO to continue driving this issue center-stage by making it a pivotal part of their success criteria. Not only do they need to transform their own department into change agents, but they also need to evangelize the ability of L&D to make drastic impacts on performance across any department.

Key Takeaways:

  • L&D needs to function as a change agent in the business.
  • L&D needs a deep understanding of functions across the business.
  • Aligning the L&D organization with this strategy is not an overnight process.
  • L&D needs to transform into performance consultants.

2. Learner Experience

Match The Demands Of Today’s Learners, Or Someone Else Will

Around the world, customers—irrespective of the service they consume—expect their experience to be consistent, personalized, responsive, and convenient. Your learners are no different. Learners have 4 expectations:

  • A consistent learning experience, irrespective of the channel or mode of training delivery.
  • A responsive mechanism that answers queries immediately or within the defined turn-around time.
  • Differentiated training experience delivered in a way that appeals to the unique personality of each learner.
  • A simple path to access and consume content.

Historically, the primary source of learning content for an employee was the material provided by their company. But today, the internet and social media are brimming over with educational content that is not only incredibly engaging, but it is available anywhere, on any device, and can be accessed as quickly as you can say “Google”.

Many L&D organizations are struggling to keep up with rapidly changing learner expectations, which has resulted in incredibly sharp declines in content consumption.

This decrease in consumption has caught the attention of many CLOs because it has a drastic impact on the return on investment for content production. To counteract decreased consumption and increase engagement, many are investing more in the quality of content, instead of producing more content. In this hunt for increases in engagement, the market has started to define what is known as the “Learner’s Journey”. These Journeys define what the experience is for learners across all the potential touch points for consuming learning content.

Create Learning Journeys, Not Events

Per the latest research from digital marketing organizations, consumers (and learners) go through 6 phases in their journey to consumption – research, consider, purchase, use, re-purchase, and advocate.

6 Phases of the learner’s journey: 

  1. Research.
    Find the best options to consider for their engagement and loyalty needs.
  2. Consider.
    Identify the company or solution they want to work with.
  3. Purchase.
    Enter into the best partnership agreement to gain peace of mind in decision.
  4. Use.
    Use the service and experience the promise personally.
  5. Re-purchase.
    Re-use the service as a re-affirmation of the positive experience of first-use.
  6. Advocate.
    Advocate the service in the social ecosystem.

CLOs are starting to put these learning journeys at the center of their universe and demand that every piece of learning content is looked at as a single touch point along an individual learner’s journey. Of course, this is stretching the skills and abilities of the L&D function, which has never operated in this fashion, leading many L&D organizations to partner with their marketing organizations, who have lived and breathed engagement their entire career.

To ignore the learning experience is to ignore the largest customer base for CLOs, which naturally makes it an important metric for success. It is also an important metric for CLOs because it has an enormous impact on the return on investment for content production and procurement activities created by the L&D department.

Key Takeaways:

  • Engagement significantly impacts the ROI of content production.
  • Understand how all learning events are connected across the learner’s journey.
  • Changes in learner demographics require changes in engagement strategies.

3. Operational Efficiency

If You Have To Do More With Less, Efficiency Is The Key To Success

The operations of L&D are complex and require the integration of several moving parts. While other departments can streamline efficiency with software and machines, the L&D department is in the “people” business, which leads to highly manual processes. That isn’t to say there haven’t been innovations in technology to simplify these processes (Learning Management Systems, Training Management Systems, etc.); certain processes, such as the global roll-out of a compliance training program, remain overwhelmingly complex. Aside from the logistical challenges of getting learners and facilitators in the right location, at the right time, in the same classroom, there are also language translations, cultural considerations, and differences in employee labor laws that can leave people with the blackest of Six Sigma belts to feel overwhelmed.

These people, processes, and technologies all have dollar figures attached to them and, as the CLO knows more than most, the dollars start to add up quickly.

For the CLO who is continuously asked to do more with less, creating more operational efficiency is crucial to the success of their entire department because every dollar saved in these low-level tasks frees up resources for more value-add areas. In addition, these processes create severe headaches for CLOs and their teams who would rather focus on more strategic initiatives, instead of spending time fighting fires.

Leveraging Business Partnerships Can Be A Quick Win For The CLO

It is no surprise that outsourcing Training Administration is becoming one of the most popular outsourced activities, especially for companies that operate across several locations. Not only is it less expensive to outsource, but it also gives the CLO more visibility and accountability from their training operations. If nothing else, outsourcing these functions (Training Administration, Facilitator Management, etc.) provides the CLO a single point of contact that they can call upon to research any single operation across the entire organization.

Key Takeaways:

  • L&D Operations have become exceedingly complex and diverse.
  • Increasing operational efficiency can free up resources for more high-impact areas.
  • Outsourcing L&D operations can help simplify L&D operations for the CLO.


As the benefits of investment in Learning and Development continue to be signaled to the market, Chief Learning Officers will be taking center-stage in the transformation of their organizations. The success of these CLOs will be measured in three core areas; transforming the business performance of learners, creating learning experiences that engage learners and promote content consumption, and improving the operational efficiency of the department by cutting production and fulfillment costs.

Related articles:

1. eBook: Three Levers Of A Successful CLO